Challenger Chris Day says more needs to be done to make railroad safer
BY BILL DEMAREST
Originally published by Nyack Free Press
NEW CITY – Chris Day, R-New City, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-Rockland/Westchester, in her re-election bid, criticized Lowey this morning what Day said was using the fatal December Metro-North derailment for political gain.
Day is referring to Lowey’s comment to a report that pressure to keep Metro-North trains running on time was placed over passenger safety.
“The truth is Ms. Lowey has never made any effort during her tenure to help make Metro North or any of our local public transportation means safer,” Day said in a statement today. “Her recent comment rings hollow and sadly takes political advantage of a situation that resulted in a loss of life.”
Day also criticized Lowey as a member of the House Appropriations Committee for doing little to deliver needed funding to her district to ensure that commuters are safe.
“As a commuter myself, I understand firsthand the need for safe reliable travel to work,” Day said. “Ms. Lowey has been absent on this issue as our representative in Washington and for her to capitalize now after a tragic accident is wrong. She should apologize immediately.”
“Every day, millions of commuters and other travelers around the country put their health and safety in the hands of mass transit agencies on our roads and rail system,” Lowey said. “The top priority for mass transit agencies – second to none – must be responsible operation in order to keep commuters and other travelers safe.”
Following the December 1 Metro North derailment that killed four passengers, including a constituent of Lowey’s, prior derailments, and the deaths of rail workers in various recent incidents, Lowey said she took action to require the Federal Railroad Administration to expeditiously evaluate and report to Congress on Metro North’s operations. Major concerns revealed in the report include:
· An overemphasis of on-time performance, cutting corners to keep trains running on-time;
· A poor safety culture with no clear safety advocate to ensure safety issues are addressed; and
· An ineffective training program to ensure the highest qualification standards across all Metro-North Departments, especially the track department.
Lowey said Metro North must take aggressive action to improve its employee training and to instill in employees a paramount commitment to safe operations to protect themselves and the passengers Metro North serves.
“Safety must be the top priority, period,” she said. “On-time performance is no excuse to cut corners that could put passengers at risk.”
Lowey said she believes the federal government can and should help Metro North and all commuter railroads improve their safety. By law, railroads are expected to implement positive train control (PTC) systems, which prevent collisions and derailments by ensuring that trains are not travelling at excessive speeds, by December 31, 2015. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Foxx testified on Wednesday before Lowey in the House Appropriations Committee that many will not meet this deadline. Lowey urges passage of the President’s request for $825 million in mandatory funds to assist commuter railroads in implementing this vital technology.
REPUBLISHED WITH PERMISSION