Metra Trains Getting a Pricey Upgrade In Order to Save Lives

The largest rail system takes it to the next level

By Adriana Correa
|  Wednesday, Mar 24, 2010  |  Updated 9:49 AM CDT
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Metra, the suburban rail system that serves Chicago and its suburbs plans to install a high-tech warning system designed to help avoid major train collisions. 

The new $100 million system known as PTC or positive train control is made up of a network of computers, GPS devices, radios and other communication equipment so advanced it could override a distracted train engineer that might miss or ignore warning signals, the Chicago Tribune reports.  The system can also take over when the train fails to slow down just before a track change over or if they exceed the speed limit.

"I think we're ahead of the curve," Metra Executive Director Phil Pagano said to the paper.

The new PTC system will be funded from Illinois’ State Capital Program and is expected to be up and running as early as the year 2015.

The National Transportation Safety Board called for PTC as far back as 1990.

Such safety systems would have prevented accidents such as the September 2005 derailment of a Metra train in Chicago’s South Side in which two women were killed and 117 others were injured and could have helped avert the incident in North Chicago last weekend

The new PTC system will replace the less-advance Electronic Train Management System on the Rock Island line that Metra began to installing early in 2007.

The region handles over 1,300 passenger trains and just over 500 freight trains a day. 

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