NJ Transit officials to face lawmakers over crash, safety
TRENTON -- Lawmakers investigating September's deadly New Jersey Transit train crash could finally get a chance to question the top agency officials who skipped out on an oversight hearing last month.
NJ Transit says new executive director Steve Santoro and other key leaders will testify before the legislative committee on Friday. They likely will face questioning about NJ Transit's poor safety record and high breakdown rate.
Lawmakers also want information on the agency's finances, how it is responding to victims of the Sept. 29 crash and the status of a project to install sophisticated train control technology that could have prevented the wreck.
One woman died and more than 100 people were injured when a packed NJ Transit train going twice the 10 mph speed limit slammed into a bumping post at Hoboken Terminal.
Legislators said NJ Transit officials gave short notice that they would be missing the earlier hearing to meet with federal regulators and threatened to issue subpoenas if they did not agree to testify on Friday.
An Associated Press analysis of federal safety data from January 2011 through July 2016 found that NJ Transit trains have been involved in 157 accidents since the start of 2011, three times as many as the largest commuter railroad, the Long Island Rail Road.
According to federal data, NJ Transit trains break down about every 85,000 miles, compared with more than 200,000 miles for the LIRR and the Metro-North Railroad.
NJ Transit board chairman Richard Hammer told the oversight committee last month that NJ Transit would meet a December 2018 installation deadline, with testing scheduled for next year on a 6-mile stretch of the Morris and Essex Line.
He said NJ Transit would look into whether the technology should be installed at Hoboken Terminal. Federal regulators had given the agency an exception for the station.
After the crash, NJ Transit lowered the speed limit at Hoboken Terminal to 5 mph and ordered conductors to stand in the front of the train and act as a second set of eyes for engineers when entering the station.
Hammer said that NJ Transit has gotten more scrutiny from federal regulators than other railroads because it counts all incidents and accidents and not just those required to be reported by federal guidelines. All of the incidents reviewed by the AP appeared to meet federal reporting criteria.
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