OpEd: Long Island Rail Road Is Safer Than Ever, Ready For 2021

Long Island Rail Road Station. (Photo by Joe Abate)

By Phil Eng, MTA LIRR President

With 2020 over and with the Covid-19 vaccine distribution underway, I know we’re all hopeful for a fresh start in 2021. 

And I’m proud to say that going into the new year, the Long Island Rail Road is the safest it’s ever been. In December, the Long Island Rail Road, alongside our sister railroad Metro-North, successfully completed a nationally mandated safety project called Positive Train Control, designed to protect against human error while operating trains to help prevent accidents. 

This effort could not have been done without our incredible PTC project team, led by Debbie Chin and Andrew Arenth, whose leadership, expertise, and innovative thinking ensured that we met the federal deadline amid a year of unprecedented challenges. 

This team worked tirelessly to install equipment on 305 route miles across the entire LIRR territory, along with equipment on 1,055 train cars, 151 wayside interface units, 108 communication locations, and more than 4,200 transponders. More than 3,000 LIRR personnel are now trained on this PTC system, ensuring a safer ride for all. 

This important accomplishment adds to the roster of recent safety improvements we’ve made, including the installation of new safety measures at all 289 railroad crossings; the first-of-its-kind partnership with GPS navigation app WAZE to alert motorists to upcoming railroad crossings; and the continuing efforts to modernize infrastructure and our signal systems, along with concrete tie replacements, enhanced rail testing, and the installation of continuous welded rail. 

As we embark on new infrastructure activity for 2021, flowing into the spring months, we are looking forward to another successful year of delivering critical projects, and will continue to keep safety at the forefront of everything we do. 

Despite all the new challenges we faced and had to overcome in 2020, I’m thankful for all the significant accomplishments that we have been able to deliver. Looking ahead, all of us here at the railroad remain committed to continuous improvement for our customers and our employees. 

Let’s all watch out for each other, have a safe and healthy holiday season, and a promising start to 2021.

This op-ed first appeared on amNY.com.

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