Railroad safety measures approved
Fatal Calif. crash spurred changes
WASHINGTON - Spurred by the recent train crash that killed 25 people in Los Angeles, the House passed sweeping rail safety legislation yesterday requiring more rest for workers and technology that can stop a train in its tracks if it's headed for collision.
Either measure could have made a difference in the Sept. 12 head-on collision between a freight train and a commuter train - the nation's deadliest rail crash since 1993.
Lawmakers scurried to reach agreement on the safety bill in the wake of the disaster, which happened when a Southern California Metrolink commuter train failed to stop at a red light and ended up on the same track as an oncoming freight.
"I'm heartened that we're considering this bill now and I hope it's offering some small degree of comfort to the families that are suffering after the recent Metrolink disaster in California," said Republican Representative Bill Shuster, of Pennsylvania, before the House passed the legislation by voice vote.
It now goes to the Senate, where prospects for passage are uncertain in the dwindling legislative hours before Congress adjourns for the election at the end of this week.
Investigators are looking at engineer fatigue as a possible factor in the Metrolink crash, and the Federal Railroad Administration says that so-called positive train control technology would have prevented the crash.
The technology can engage the brakes if a train misses a signal or gets off-track. The bill requires it to be installed by 2015 on all rail lines that carry passengers and on freight lines that carry hazardous materials.
That date may be too soon for the railroad industry, which says it supports positive train control but opposed a congressionally mandated timeline, but not soon enough for some lawmakers eager to move quickly on safety in the wake of the Los Angeles crash. The package wraps in legislation reauthorizing Amtrak for five years and provides $13 billion, including money to help states establish or expand service.