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Maloney Renews Rail-Safety Push Following Valhalla Metro-North Deaths

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney Photo Credit: File Photo

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring) is making a new push for railroad safety following the fatal Tuesday crash of a Metro-North train into a vehicle in Valhalla.

In a phone press conference on Wednesday, Maloney brought up his continued support for legislation to fund what is called Positive Train Control (PTC), which would allow for the use of WiFi and GPS technologies to help control trains in the event of emergencies where people inside them are unable to do so.

The congressman suggested that PTC could be expanded to include warning systems, including sensors at crossings, that are paired with automatic braking, which would give trains more time to stop.

Maloney explained that PTC legislation was passed during the last Congress. His current PTC proposal is part of a broader federal legislative package and calls for $35 billion in federal funding. He also suggested that PTC could be helpful in connection with trains that move oil and in the event of a terrorist attack.

Additionally, Maloney announced that he has introduced legislation that would reauthorize a program to give federal funding to state and local governments so that they can pay for structural changes to grade crossings.

The congressman's legislation is called the Commuter Rail Passenger Safety Act and would give reauthorization to the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program, which is under the umbrella of the Federal Railroad Administration.

The program has not been reauthorized since 2009, Maloney explained, adding that even when it was there was not enough funding, with money ranging from $20 million to $35 million.

“In other words, it's a good idea that's never been fully implemented," he said.

Maloney, whose district includes large portions of Metro-North's Harlem and Hudson Lines, proposes about $100 million in annual funds and a federal match component.

For Maloney, there is a local connection to commuter-rail tragedy. A member of his staff, Philipstown Councilwoman Nancy Montgomery, lost her husband in a Metro-North train derailment in Spuyten Duyvil, an incident that made headlines in late 2013.

Montgomery, who joined the staff after the tragedy, is also a neighbor of Maloney's and their kids go to school together, according to the congressman.

Asked by a reporter about reception from the other side of the aisle in Congress for his initiative, Maloney was optimistic.

“I think you'll see considerable bipartisan support for this and I think we'll be able to act quickly," he said.

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