Metra says it cannot install safety control until 2020

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It will be several more years before Metra is ready to install life-saving technology on its trains and tracks.

Last May, a speeding Amtrak train jumped the tracks outside Philadelphia. Eight people died and more than 200 were injured. That train was travelling 100 mph as it approached a curve at twice the speed limit.

The crash added new urgency for the push for something called Positive Train Control, a system that would automatically slow or stop speeding trains.

Back in September 2015, Metra showed us its efforts to install positive train control - or PTC - on its trains. Back then, the commuter railroad admitted it would miss a deadline to have its entire fleet outfitted at a cost of nearly $400 million.

"That's an unfunded mandate, which means Metra has to pay for that out of fares and things. That's a very big challenge for us," said Don Orseno, Metra CEO, at the time.

The original deadline was Dec. 31, 2015. But after it became clear that virtually no railroad in America would meet it, Congress extended the deadline to 2018. Now, it's being pushed back again to 2020 - four years from now.

A Metra spokesperson released a statement Wednesday saying:

"Metra will meet the legal deadline... The legislation allows railroads to file an alternative schedule for implementing PTC 'as soon as practical,' but no later than 2020."

That means four more years without a back-up system to stop a runaway train.

Metra is not alone in not being able to fully install the system until 2020. Canadian National, CSX, Norfolk Southern and several other commuter rail lines have notified the government they won't be able to meet the earlier deadlines either.
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