NJ Transit Steps Up Emergency-Braking Project With Deadline Nearing

(Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Transit has made swift progress on a lifesaving emergency-braking project, but remains among five U.S. railroads, including Amtrak, that risk missing a Dec. 31 installation deadline, according to federal regulators.

Almost 20 percent of locomotives owned by NJ Transit, the nation’s second-biggest commuter-train operator, lacked the technology mandated by Congress. The agency, though, said its contractor has added work shifts and facilities to get the job done on time. It also trained 1,827 employees -- more than double the target -- and almost has completed installing antennas, signal messaging units and other electronic equipment.

In all, 88 percent of the job is finished, compared with just 12 percent in January, according to agency spokeswoman Nancy Snyder. The statistics were the latest as of Nov. 14, she said.

The updated NJ Transit statistics, on a project that had lagged for years, were a rare bright spot for a railroad whose New York City-area riders have suffered years of crowding, delays and breakdowns as a result of budget starvation. Starting this month, some riders’ monthly passes have been discounted 10 percent to compensate for service cuts while locomotives were sidelined and outfitted with technology called positive train control.

Twenty-four railroads have finished the project, designed to prevent trains from colliding or derailing at high speed, and 11 are at least 95 percent done, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. In addition to Amtrak and NJ Transit, the at-risk operators are Caltrain and the Altamont Corridor Express, both in California, and the Metro in Austin.

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