The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has created a Blue Ribbon Panel of six railroad and transportation experts to examine the circumstances behind recent safety-related incidents at Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and New York City Transit (NYCT).
The experts will study the causes behind those incidents, examine the agencies’ maintenance and inspection programs and ensure they promote a culture of safety within the MTA.
“These six experts are widely respected in their field and uniquely qualified to review maintenance and workplace practices, protocols and strategies that may have a relation to these recent incidents,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast. “We want to learn lessons so these particular problems never happen again, but also we also want to make sure the MTA has a rigorous safety culture that ensures every employee works to prevent unforeseen problems in the future. These panelists are some of the best in the business and we want their scrutiny to make us better, as well.”
The six members of the panel are Louis Cerny, former executive director of the American Railway Engineering Association (AREA, now known as AREMA) and executive director of the Association of American Railroads Engineering Division; Mortiner Downey, former U.S. deputy secretary of transportation and former MTA executive director and chief financial officer; Jack Quinn, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York who served on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Conrad Ruppert, Jr., senior research engineer at the University of Illinois and 35-year veteran of Amtrak; Rodney Slater, former director of the Federal Highway Administration and U.S. secretary of transportation in the Clinton administration and William Van Trump, former senior assistant vice president of engineering at Union Pacific and director and past president of AREMA.
Metro-North, LIRR and NYCT have each experienced derailments in the past several months, with track-related defects identified as either a potential cause or a contributing factor. In addition, an employee fatality on a section of Metro-North track that had been closed to train traffic has pointed to a need to review safety procedures and the overall safety culture. The Blue Ribbon Panel will pay particular attention to track maintenance practices and will determine whether any system-wide improvements to agency track and infrastructure programs would prevent future occurrences.