A delegation of state representatives from the Lower Hudson Valley demanded the Metropolitan Transportation Authority get up to speed implementing positive train control safety technology with a deadline for the MTA quickly approaching.
A letter to MTA chairman Joe Lhota from assemblymen Kevin Byrne (R-Mahopac) and David Buchwald (D-White Plains), a Republican and Democrat, it stated commuters deserve assurances that “everything humanely possible” is being done to implement positive train control. Starting in 2008, the federal government mandated positive train control, but the MTA was granted an extension until the end of 2018 along with a $1 billion loan from the federal government.
“It appears that this expected timeline is no longer a reality,” the letter stated.
Missing the deadline, Byrne and Buchwald wrote, is contrary to what MTA managing director Veronique Hakim told lawmakers six months ago at a hearing when she stated the MTA was “on track” to complete the project on time.
“The MTA’s recent attempt to move the goal posts and assert that it is sufficient to qualify for an extension of the deadline is simply unacceptable,” the letter stated. “The deadline is as much set by public expectation and we know of no waive process for the commitment the MTA has effectively made to our constituents.”
Byrne and Buchwald wrote they find it “extremely troubling” that broken promises continue to come from the MTA.
In an interview, Byrne said many lawmakers have fought to get the safety technology completed by the end of the year and it’s an issue that’s been in the forefront of many elected officials’ minds. The public expectation is not in line with what the MTA is doing, he added.
“(The MTA) is using the word alternative schedule rather than the word extension,” Byrne said.
Overall, nine other assembly members signed the letter to express support, including Sandy Galef, Thomas Abinanti, and Steven Otis, whom all represent residents in Westchester and Putnam.
United States Senator Charles Schumer held a press conference in New Rochelle blasting the MTA earlier this summer. In July, the MTA stated it would hit certain thresholds and request a deadline extension before the end of the year.
“Metro-North expects to be in full compliance with the federal PTC regulations. The railroad is maintaining complete transparency, updating the public every month with detailed reports highlighting project status, progress and risks,” the MTA told The Journal News. “We are working hard to get this done, and have used every possible tool available to expedite PTC implementation.”
The letter from Byrne and Buchwald ended by stating the two lawmakers look forward to hearing from the MTA.
“If the MTA could only demonstrate its commitment towards meeting its goals for project completion rather than just project extension, our worries and the worries of our constituents could be put to ease,” Byrne and Buchwald wrote.