Pressure Ratchets Up on NJ Transit After Hoboken Crash — It Could Face Subpoena
TRENTON — Pressure could increase for New Jersey Transit for a look into its safety and financial practices.
Assemblyman Jack McKeon, who has been outspoken about of NJ Transit's safety record since the Hoboken Terminal crash that injured over 100 people and killed one, could be granted subpoena power by Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto to investigate the agency's safety and financial practices.
Preieto will post a bill on Friday, A-185, authorizing McKeon's Assembly Judiciary Committee to open an inquiry or investigation and subpoena power to compel the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of documents. A copy of the bill was made available by Prieto before it was filed.
“Public safety must always be the priority at NJ Transit, but recent events call into question whether the agency and the administration have been committed to that all-important principle. The public deserves a thorough and professional investigation that answers all its questions, but most of all it deserves this — a safe NJ Transit," Prieto said in a statement.
Two days after the crash, the Federal Railroad Administration said NJ Transit's trains have been involved in more than 150 accidents that caused more than $4.8 million in damage to tracks or equipment since 2011. McKeon said that is "outrageous and unacceptable" and called for all of the FRA's NJ Transit data to be made public.
NJ Transit said they had no comment on Prieto's bill.
As reported by Townsquare Media, no NJ Transit trains have positive train control, a system that authorities say could have prevented several train crashes in recent years, including a PATH train crash at the Hoboken station in 2011. It is still unclear if PTC would have prevented the recent Hoboken crash.
Townsquare Media's David Matthau reported earlier this month that while train systems face a 2018 deadline to install PTC, NJ Transit has zero positive train control on any locomotives, zero PTC on any track segment and zero positive train control connected to radio towers that send the frequencies to stop a train if it’s going at excessive speeds. Officials blamed the lack progress on both a lack of funds and a lack of leadership at the agency
An Associated Press analysis of federal safety data showed NJ Transit saw more accidents and paid more in fines for safety violations than any other commuter railroad in the country over the past five years.
A week after the Hoboken crash, put into effect a new rule that a conductor must be in the front cab with the engineer to act as a second set of eyes when approaching the Hoboken and Atlantic City terminals. NJ Transit did not offer further comment on the rule.
NJ Transit declined a request by New Jersey 101.5 to discuss training and oversight of its engineers.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report Thursday that it has scheduled additional testing after finding that the electronics controlling the train's brakes and propulsion system were destroyed in the Sept. 29 crash at Hoboken Terminal.
Investigators say other tests showed the train's air brake system working as designed. The engineer has told federal investigators he has no memory of the crash.
David Matthau and the Associated Press contributed to this report