With just under two weeks to spare, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that New Jersey Transit has officially met the deadline set by the Federal Railroad Administration to have Positive Train Control fully implemented on all railroads.
“This team checked every box,” Murphy said Friday. “They have completed installation of PTC equipment on hundreds of locomotives and along all 12 commuter rail lines serving 116 municipalities and covering more than 1,000 miles of track.”
NJ Transit, with the state’s PTC contractor Parsons Corp., has been working throughout Murphy’s time in office to implement PTC, which is a processor and communication-based system that is designed to help prevent accidents. The system can stop train-to-train collisions, overspeed derailments, incursion into an established work zone and movement through a main line switch in the improper position.
Murphy applauds the efforts of NJ Transit, and notes that his administration inherited a pretty tough situation when it came to trains.
“When our administration took office, the installation of PTC stood at only 12% complete,” he said. “Even though they had eight years in the administration before us to get the job done. No one, and I mean no one, thought NJ Transit was going to make the federally mandated deadline. … It wasn’t easy, but they got it done.”
As of today, every NJ Transit rail line has met all requirements for installation, training, testing of PTC, state officials said. The state officially received its certification from Ronald Batory, an administrator for the FRA.
Batory emphasized the importance of the people operating the trains regardless of the PTC.
“I want to recognize the men and women of NJ Transit that operate, maintain and lead its network system on a daily basis,” he said. “PTC does not replace safety. Safety resides with the people that operate a railroad. PTC is a risk-reduction system that, should a person take place, the risk reduction system will overtake and correct that mistake.”
This approval from the FRA will allow NJ Transit to train and deploy more rail engineers, order millions of dollars’ worth of new cars, hire new bus operators, buy new buses, and will assist in efforts to receive the federal government’s partnership in the completion of the Portal Bridge project.
Murphy is particularly excited by that last bit of news.
“I look forward to working with the Federal Transit Administration and our Congressional delegation to finalize a full funding grant agreement,” he said. “NJ Transit has provided all the documents and has obtained board approvals required by the FTA. Congress is currently, as we speak, undertaking its 30-day review.”
In terms of what this will mean for NJ Transit’s millions of daily customers, Murphy thinks that they will be pleasantly surprised at what they see once commuters return in higher volumes in the coming year.
“What (commuters) will find is an NJ Transit that spent the past months preparing for their return,” Murphy said. “No one is going to have to wonder how NJ Transit spent the time; they will literally be able to see it.
“This has been nothing short of a Herculean task for NJ Transit and the Parsons teams.”
Murphy also used his media briefing to announce that the state of emergency put in place Wednesday due to Winter Storm Gail ended at 1 p.m. Friday.
New Jersey is reporting 3,975 new positives and 44 newly confirmed COVID-19 deaths. In hospitals throughout the state Thursday, 397 COVID patients were admitted, while 461 others were discharged.
While these numbers are still concerning, Murphy noted an interesting change in the data.
“This is the first day in a long time that each of those numbers were better than yesterday,” he said. “I don’t think that makes a trend by any stretch of the imagination, but I think we should celebrate with all of our hospitals those numbers.”
Other hospital numbers:
- In hospital: 3,582;
- In ICU: 715 ;
- On ventilators: 480;
- Rate of transmission: 03;
- Positivity rate: Just over 10%.