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Metro-North slammed by Blumenthal for sitting on $1 billion

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NEW HAVEN – Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) is steaming because Metro-North Railroad, loaned nearly $1 billion dollars of federal money to implement a train safety technology, is sitting on that money and will miss the Federal Railroad Administration’s year-end deadline to put it in place.

With 145 train accidents resulting in 300 deaths in recent decades, Blumenthal said Wednesday he doesn’t understand why Positive Train Control technology wasn’t in place long ago.

“We’ve known about this technology and there’s been calls to implement it since 1969, when a crash in Darien took four lives,” said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

In a recent report, the FRA stated nearly all of the nation’s railroads will fail to meet the December 31 deadline.

“Tragically, our own Metro-North is failing to set a definite deadline for adopting it, which is unacceptable,” said Blumenthal.

Metro-North says the safety technology will be fully operational in 2018. All railroads not in compliance by the end of this year could be fined tens of thousands of dollars per day, until they adhere to the mandates.

A Metro-North spokesperson says “forcing fines on the MTA and other railroads, that have worked closely with the FRA to establish safe implementation timelines, distracts from our joint goal of installing PTC expeditiously.”

But, $1 billion dollars of federal money should get the wheels rolling much faster, according to passengers.

“What are they doing with the money?” asked Donielle Camerato of Branford. “Why are they waiting so long? There’s an awful lot of train accidents.”

In West Haven, in the spring of 2013, Robert Luden, of East Haven, who was a rail worker, was killed while working on the tracks.

“He would be alive today if this system had been in place because that train would’ve been stopped before it hit him,” said Blumenthal.

Shoreline East, Connecticut’s other commuter railroad, has an earlier version of Positive Train Control already in place on its tracks, which are operated by Amtrak.

To read the Federal Railroad Administration report in its entirety, click here.