New Jersey train crash reignites local fears about train safety

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The crash in New Jersey has Chicago commuters concerned about rail safety in the Chicago area.

"You put your life in someone's hands assuming they know what they're doing," said commuter Dave Rudzin.

Riders' concerns come as Metra tries to comply with a federal mandate to equip their trains and tracks with Positive Train Control, or PTC, technology.

Officials investigating the crash said the New Jersey Transit train did not have PTC, as some criticized lawmakers for delaying the installation deadline. Congress pushed the deadline back to 2018 after extending it three years from the original deadline of December 31, 2015.

"The sooner the better. Anything we can do to help these transit agencies put in Positive Train Control means avoided accidents and death," said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).

Metra was already in the process of installing PTC in September 2015 at the cost of $400 million. PTC is a highly complex system that would automatically slow or stop a speeding train.

Critics question its effectiveness and cost, but there were similar calls for the safety technology after the CTA Blue Line crash at O'Hare International Airport in March of 2014, which left dozens injured.

The Chicago Transit Authority did reevaluate its safety safeguards, but it is not required to install PTC because it's an electrified rapid transit system.

That brings little comfort to those riding a rail system without a way to stop a runaway train.

"Our technology is extremely advanced and I'm just surprised that they don't already have precautions or a type of system that could prevent accidents like that," said commuter Patrick Ryan.
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