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Growing Calls for Railroad Probe in Wake of Station Crash

  • Associated Press

FILE - This photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board on Oct. 1, 2016, shows damage done to the Hoboken Terminal in Hoboken, N.J., after a commuter train crash.

FILE - This photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board on Oct. 1, 2016, shows damage done to the Hoboken Terminal in Hoboken, N.J., after a commuter train crash.

New Jersey's commuter railroad is facing growing calls for more scrutiny at federal and state levels amid questions about its safety after one of its trains crashed into a station last month, killing a woman on the platform and injuring more than 100.

New Jersey legislators on Thursday are scheduled to consider granting themselves subpoena power as they begin to look into the Sept. 29 crash at Hoboken Terminal.

The Democrat-led Assembly Judiciary Committee is expected to consider the issue. If approved, lawmakers could compel officials to testify and provide documents.

It's unclear whether the subpoena power would be used, and the Assembly is planning to work with the Democrat-led state Senate to investigate the crash.

A Senate oversight panel hearing is set for Friday.

Meanwhile, New Jersey U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez and Cory Booker on Wednesday asked federal officials to investigate safety and funding issues within NJ Transit.

The Democrats wrote U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to probe whether there are additional safety issues and whether lack of funding impaired NJ Transit from addressing safety needs.

Lawmakers from the New York and New Jersey region and beyond last week called on the federal government to step in to help address safety concerns.

They asked the government to fulfill the transit agency's $10 million request to help it install the GPS-based positive train control system. The transit agency said in a filing in June that it hasn't made any additional progress on installing the system while approaching a December 2018 deadline.

Foxx said at a news conference in New York last week that he wasn't ready to commit to the $10 million, but that the government believes very strongly in positive train control.

Trains run by NJ Transit, which operates the nation's second-largest commuter railroad, have been involved in 157 accidents since the start of 2011, three times as many as the largest, the Long Island Rail Road, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from January 2011 through July 2016.

NJ Transit had a significantly higher accident rate during that span than the rest of the nation's 10 largest commuter railroads, ranked by weekday ridership, and had the highest rate of accidents attributed to human factors, such as speeding and drug impairment. In all, the accidents have caused more than $6 million in damage and injuries to 13 passengers.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said positive train control was one of the things they're looking at in their review of the Sept. 29 crash, in which a train was traveling more than double the speed limit before crashing into the station.

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