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MTA wants 2 engineers on trains

September 25, 2008|By Jason Wells

LOS ANGELES — City and county officials Thursday called on Metrolink to immediately staff locomotives with a second engineer, establish a safety review panel and implement automated anti-collision technology as soon as possible.

The officials — who sit on the board of directors for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority — voted unanimously Tuesday to send a four-member delegation, which includes Councilman Ara Najarian, to Metrolink’s board meeting today with the directives.

MTA is the largest of the five county agencies that oversee and fund Metrolink.

The MTA board also directed its staff to identify $5 million to help fund the safety master plan, which includes installation of video cameras to monitor crew members and a feasibility study on passenger seat belts.

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“Any improvement, even if it’s minor, would be better than nothing,” MTA board Chairman and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said.

The call to action comes two weeks after Metrolink 111 collided head-on with a southbound Union Pacific freighter near Chatsworth, killing 25 people and injuring 135 others.

Among the dead were three Burbank workers, a Glendale school counselor, and the Metrolink train’s engineer, Robert Sanchez, a La Crescenta resident.

MTA’s plan essentially calls on Metrolink to expand an existing “automated train stop” technology, which brings red-light-signal violators to a “controlled stop,” to its entire rail system.

The 40-year-old technology is active only on a rail line in Orange County, officials said.

The automated train stop system would not be as advanced as the so-called positive train control, which disables errant trains via automated braking systems and global positioning satellite technology.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein last week introduced legislation to make the technology mandatory for all major rail lines by 2012.

A compromise bill — introduced in part by Rep. Adam Schiff, whose district includes Glendale and Burbank — passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The legislation, which is scheduled for a Senate vote today, would require all shared passenger and freighter rail lines to install positive-train-control systems by 2015.

But MTA board members said Thursday that the proposed federal deadline was too distant, and that a way to expand the existing automated-train-stop system should be explored in the meantime.

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