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Train Accident

When Amtrak Train 188 derailed in North Philadelphia on May 12, 2015, just 100 miles to our north, eight people died and over 200 were seriously injured. Many think that a new technology, positive train control (PTC), would have prevented the accident and resulting carnage. PTC was supposed to be put in place by December 31, 2015, but the requirement to carry out this needed technology has been delayed. While the Northeast Corridor, since the Philadelphia accident, has implemented PTC on tracks in many areas, some railroads were given leeway not to meet the completion deadline, which was December 31, 2015. Last fall, Congress extended the deadline to December 31, 2018, under H.R.38 19 – Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015. This fact means a lot of tracks used by both passenger and freight trains will not be protected by PTC for at least three more years. Even then, although many aspects of PTC could be finished by the end of 2018, it will be 2020 before all our railroad track miles will be PTC-operational. Training for nearly 100,000 employees will also not be completed until the end of 2020. What Is Positive Train Control? PTC automatically stops a train[…..]

Off the Tracks

Commuter Train

On May 12, 2015, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC), the stretch of tracks that run from Washington, DC, to Boston, suffered one of its worst accidents ever. Amtrak Train 188 derailed and overturned in Philadelphia’s Port Richmond neighborhood, killing eight people and injuring over 200. More than 240 passengers were on the train at the time of the crash. When a horrific event such as this one occurs, we must step back and consider possible causes, if only to prevent future accidents. Amtrak by the Numbers The NEC is the busiest stretch of train tracks in the U.S., carrying more than 11.4 million passengers during Amtrak’s fiscal year (FY) 2013. Amtrak operates more than 2,200 trains daily over some portion of the NEC. It has carried more than three times as many riders as the airlines have between Washington, DC and New York City alone. Washington, DC, is the second busiest station, and Baltimore is the eighth busiest, with millions of riders. Because of this traffic load, it should be no surprise that the NEC has the most derailments of any area in which Amtrak runs trains. Three Deadly Accidents It’s safe to say we have a lot of trains rolling[…..]

Are We Asking for a Frackastrophe?

Railcar Carrying Explosive Materials

On December 1, a number of Baltimore residents attended an environmental hearing to weigh in on the potential danger of railroads in area neighborhoods being used for the transport of millions of gallons of crude oil. Houston-based Targa Resources has applied to expand its existing export pier in South Baltimore to store, handle, process and ship more crude oil to East Coast refineries. In fact, according to Chesapeake Climate Action Network, under the proposal “9.125 million barrels of oil every year would be exported out of Baltimore — which means some 12,766 rail cars annually. Broken down further, that’s one train of 35 cars every day running right through the city.” Record volumes of Bakken crude oil, produced through a controversial process known as “fracking” (read more about the dangers of fracking) are being transported by rail to refineries along the East Coast. According to the American Association of Railroads, there were 9,500 rail cars carrying crude oil in 2008; by 2013 that had increased to more than 400,000. It appears that Baltimore is poised to be a stop along the Bakken byway. What’s the Problem With That? The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Association (PHMSA), a division of the[…..]

Train Accidents: Statistics and Tips for Prevention

There are unfortunately many types of accidents that can occur on the open roads in Maryland, but train accidents are one of the more dangerous types of collisions that can occur and can endanger not only those aboard, but anyone in the surrounding vicinity. A train, or railroad, accident can involve train derailment, collisions with other trains, equipment failure, or pedestrians or vehicles being struck by this mass transit vehicle. Though the causes of train accidents are diverse, the devastation this type of accident can cause is not unique, including catastrophic injuries, fatalities, and severe property damage. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) reports that on average more than 3,000 train accidents occur in the U.S. every year, and national statistics show that every two hours there is a train accident in the nation. In addition, half of all railroad accidents occur at crossings that are inadequately protected, and the FRA states that 80 percent of railroad crossings in the nation do not have ample warning signals and devices. With these alarming statistics in mind, the following are safety tips for MD residents to avoid a dangerous train accident: Walking down a train track is dangerous and illegal, and never assume[…..]

Investigation Underway in DC Metro Crash

In a statement released Monday, June 22, 2009, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) declared that: “The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a go-team to investigate the collision of two Metro trains in Washington, DC…. …Railroad Investigator Ed Dobranetski is Investigator-in-Charge and is leading the team, which includes two specialists from the NTSB Office of Transportation Disaster Assistance. NTSB Member Debbie Hersman will serve as the on- scene spokesman. Terry Williams is the press officer accompanying the team.” It has been reported in an article that Metro trains are equipped with a fail-safe computerized signal system that is supposed to prevent train collisions. On-board computers control the rate at which the train travels and its braking system, while another system detects the location of other trains in the area in order to maintain a safe distance between the trains. In the event that the trains get too close, the trains are supposed to be automatically stopped so as to prevent collision. Peter Goelz, former managing director at the NTSB, discussed the crash in an online forum. Questions dealt with the cause of the Washington D.C. train accident near Maryland and which preventative safety measures should have been set in[…..]

9 Confirmed Dead in DC Metro Crash

Authorities have confirmed that 9 passengers involved in the May 22, 2009 D.C. Metro train collision have died.  Though the identities of all victims has not been revealed, the age range for those victims who have been identified ranges from age 23 to age 64. The operator of the train, Jeanice McMillan, 42, was among those killed in the D.C. area crash.  Metro spokeswoman, Candace Smith reported that, of the nine confirmed dead, seven victims were women and two were men. It still remains unclear as to which train the deceased passengers were on – the train that was stationary or the train that was mobile. At the time of the report, it was stated by Washington Mayor Adrian Fenty that two people, of the total 76 victims who were treated at local area hospitals, remained in critical condition. A third victim has been upgraded from critical condition. The accident that caused these injuries resulted when two D.C. Red line transit trains collided.  Though the specific causes of the accident remain unknown, it is speculated that the train’s computerized signal system failed. The system is supposed to automatically slow trains down and come to a complete stop to prevent them from[…..]

Washington D.C. Metro Train Accident Kills 6, Injures Many More

A terrible Washington D.C. metro train accident has occurred today. The Associated Press recently reported that two, Red line transit trains collided in Washington D.C., severely injuring upwards of 70 people. At least six people have been confirmed dead as a result of the accident. Investigators have not determined the cause of the crash, although it is known that both trains were traveling on the same track. According to the D.C. Emergency Management Agency, “all passengers have been removed from the trains.” Alan Ettner, District of Columbia fire spokesman described the event as a “mass casualty event.” Cars from one train jackknifed into the air, and fell onto the other train. The crash, which took place at the height of evening rush hour, occurred in the Washington D.C. area just outside of the Maryland border, in between the Fort Totten and Takoma Park stations. The two collided trains had to be cut apart in order to rescue passengers, many of whom were in visible shock. The crash is the deadliest in D.C. Metro history. Passenger Jodie Wickett, a nurse and one of the passengers, remained at the scene to help out however she could. According to Wickett, “Lots of people[…..]