New Jersey Transit has made enough progress on installing a federally mandated emergency braking system to meet a year-end deadline, Gov. Phil Murphy said Monday. At a news conference at NJ Transit’s maintenance yard, the Democratic governor said the transit agency has made enough progress on outfitting locomotives, cab cars and tracks with positive train control to qualify for a two-year extension.
NJ Transit now has until the end of 2020 to conduct live testing of the system and finish training its employees. “There’s still a lot of work left to do on PTC, but this is a major step forward as we continue to rebuild our mass transit system,” Murphy said. When Murphy and NJ Transit Executive Director Kevin Corbett took over early in the year, NJ Transit had installed PTC on 35 of its 440 locomotives and cab cars and hadn’t completed any of its 11 rail lines. The Federal Railroad Administration required that by Dec. 31 the system be installed on at least 282 locomotives and cab cars.
The completion of the work to meet the deadline hasn’t come without pain for commuters. NJ Transit was forced to reduce service this fall so it could remove cars and locomotives to be outfitted. Over the summer, engineer shortages and unexcused absences led to further service cancellations that had riders fuming daily on social media. NJ Transit has said regular schedules could resume next month. The disruptions may not be completely over, however. Live testing on the system is expected to begin next spring, and some glitches are still possible.
In a statement, Corbett thanked riders “for their patience and understanding in helping us reach this milestone.” In the aftermath of a 2008 commuter rail crash in California that killed 25 people, the government required commuter and freight railroads to have PTC installed by the end of 2015. That deadline later was extended three years, and railroads were given the chance to request extensions to the end of 2020 if they met certain benchmarks by the end of this month.