In September 2008, a Metrolink commuter train blew through a stop signal because the engineer was allegedly sending a text message. The train hit head-on with a Union Pacific freight train, killed 25 people.
In part because of that accident, the federal government passed a law the next month requiring transit agencies to install Positive Train Control systems to automatically detect dangerous situations like this and prevent these types of accidents.
Last week, SEPTA awarded a $98.7 million contract to install such a system. The good news? It will prevent these types of accidents it the future. The bad news? SEPTA could have used that $100 million to rebuild the City Hall station (or other improvements) which, for now, will continue to be placed on hold.
The financially strapped transit agency will spend much of its capital budget over the next three years to pay for the train-control system, said Luther Diggs, assistant general manager of operations.
“We won’t have one bridge, or substation, or station until we get this paid for,” Diggs said. “It just means we won’t do a lot of other things.”
As PlanPhilly’s Anthony Campisi writes, local unions are angry at giving such an important contract to a company that plans to use non-union labor.