FL: Tri-Rail: New Technology Wouldn't Have Stopped Monday's Collision

Posted on January 6, 2016

By: Jorge Millian

Tri-Rail was up and running Tuesday, a day after the commuter service suffered major delays following a crash between a train and a city garbage truck near Sixth Avenue in Lake Worth.

There appears little that could have been done to avoid the collision that sent 22 people to the hospital with minor injuries.

Even if the Tri-Rail train had come equipped with positive train control (PTC), a safety system that stops a train before certain types of accidents take place, a crash would have likely occurred.

PTC is a GPS-based technology capable of preventing train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments and train movement through switches left in the wrong position. The system controls train movement in case of human error and can even bring a train to a safe stop in the event of a natural disaster.

The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015 mandates that all of America's freight railroads put PTC in place by Dec. 31, 2018. That includes Tri-Rail, according to spokeswoman Bonnie Arnold.

All Aboard Florida, the passenger-rail system that will operate between Orlando and Miami beginning in 2017, will also be equipped with PTC.

But PTC won't cause all accidents involving trains to vanish. That includes the collision Monday in Lake Worth that took place after the garbage truck stalled on the tracks just before 7 a.m.

The driver was able to escape it just before the train struck, the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said. The northbound train, carrying about 90 passengers, smashed into the cab of the garbage truck, carrying the rear of the vehicle about 300 yards before the train came to a full stop.

PTC wouldn't have stopped any of that from happening because the system will not keep vehicles from driving around lowered gates or stop pedestrians from making their way onto the tracks.

"PTC will avoid some collisions from happening," Arnold said. "But a car on the tracks, no."

Arnold said the Tri-Rail train that crashed Monday was traveling 72 mph on a corridor with a speed limit of 79 mph. Arnold said there are no on-board devices that could have alerted the train's engineer more quickly about the impending collision.

The sheriff's office continues to investigate the crash, spokeswoman Teri Barbera said Tuesday.

Work on the damaged signals at the Lake Worth train crossing extended into Tuesday. That caused delays of between 10 and 20 minutes as trains slowed to go through the area, Arnold said.

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