New Jersey Transit will meet federal PTC deadline, avoid penalties

NJ Transit (AP file photo)

NJ Transit (AP file photo)

New Jersey Transit will meet a federally mandated deadline to install positive train control, an automatic braking system, by the end of the year, officials announced Monday.

Gov. Phil Murphy said late trains and curtailed schedules that riders experienced over the last year as officials rushed to meet the Dec. 31 deadline should ease up as the transit agency begins testing the equipment.

“NJ Transit can now focus its energies on improving communications and conditions and on on-time reliability and service,” Murphy said at a Monday press conference.

Meeting the deadline means New Jersey will avoid federal penalties for not installing PTC on time, a worry that many state officials held until earlier this month.

Positive train control, an automatic braking system, stops trains that engineers have allowed to exceed the posted speed limit. Congress had already extended the deadline for all passenger lines once, postponing it from the end of 2015 to 2018.

Murphy, a Democrat, praised transit officials and workers for their efforts over the last year to finish installing a system that had been only 12 percent complete.

He blamed his predecessor, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie, for not aggressively implementing the system to meet a deadline that would occur once Christie left office.

“The prior administration’s efforts on PTC installation had dragged interminably for quite literally years, despite everyone knowing this deadline was looming and the consequences if it was missed,” Murphy said. “And the consequences were dire.”

Yet just because NJ Transit has met the federally mandated deadline for installing PTC, that does not mean the job is done.

Over the next two years, the agency will finish installing equipment on its remaining 158 locomotives and cab cars — those vehicles not in regular rotation — and it will train hundreds of additional employees on the system.

It will also have to test PTC equipment statewide to ensure it functions properly ahead of a full system implementation by the end of 2020.

NJ Transit executive director Kevin Corbett said testing the PTC system should not result in any additional delays for riders.

“We’ll be doing a lot of it at night. There may be some on weekends,” Corbett said. “But we’ll be able to do that testing in a way that minimizes the impact on our regular service.”

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