Metrolink Trains Getting GPS-Based Safety Devices

April 3, 2012

All Metrolink commuter trains will be outfitted with GPS-based tracking devices by next year, two years ahead of a federally mandated deadline for the safety system, Metrolink officials said.

The $200 million system, known as positive train control, will be the first of its kind among U.S. passenger railroads, The Ventura County Star reported.

It monitors speed and location and can detect whether a train is on the wrong track or has missed signals to slow down, and if so, can automatically stop the train safely.

The system is on an accelerated pace thanks to a $20.9 million grant from the California Department of Transportation.

“That grant will save lives,” Metrolink Board Chairman Richard Katz told the newspaper. “We cobbled together the $200-plus million to fund this project from member agencies and state and federal grants, and this grant from Caltrans, one of the last funding pieces, was an important part of it.”

If the rail system had positive train control in place at the time of the 2008 crash in Chatsworth that killed 25 people, the accident might have been avoided, Katz said.

The grant was part of $203 million in Proposition 1B funding that Caltrans recently awarded to transit systems and cities around the state for more than 80 projects to improve public transit. Approved by California voters in 2006, Proposition 1B provides $3.6 billion over a 10-year period for transit projects.

Katz said positive train control became a higher priority in Washington after the Chatsworth crash that injured 135 people. California’s U.S. senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, introduced legislation later signed into law mandating the installation of GPS-based systems on all of the nation’s commuter railroads and some freight lines by 2015.

A portion of the Caltrans grant to Metrolink will go toward ongoing sealed corridor safety measures, including the installation of fences to keep people and vehicles off prioritized tracks, Katz said.

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