Despite an ongoing weekend shutdown of World Trade Center service, PATH may miss its own safety program deadlines, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal by Ted Mann (March 21). The 45-weekend shutdown is needed, PATH said, to allow it to meet deadlines to install “positive train control” (PTC) technology by December, 2015. The advanced safety system was mandated by Congress for commuter railroads after a fatal train wreck in California in 2008, attributed to engineer inattention. Proponents say that wreck, and other accidents such as a recent fatal derailment on Metro-North in the Bronx, could have been prevented by PTC.
After announcing the shutdown, PATH conferred with the PTC contractor, Siemens Rail Automation, who informed PATH that the goal was optimistic and that PTC was likely to be ready for less than half of PATH’s system by the deadline. PATH said that they expected to find a way to meet the deadline anyway. If PATH is able to complete the PTC installation on time, it would be one of the few commuter railroads in the US to meet the deadline. Meanwhile, PATH customers and local officials expressed anger at the lack of weekend service to downtown New York; service to 33 Street in midtown Manhattan continues, although there is no service at Exchange Place in Jersey City, which is on the World Trade Center line. Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop characterized the service interruption’s impact as “tremendous; it has a real impact,” he said. For its part, PATH operator Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it was looking at alternatives, including ferry service between Manhattan’s World Financial Center and Paulus Hook in Jersey City.