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Cost of safety system for NJ Transit may rise

Amtrak officials say New York tracks may be off limits to NJ Transit commuter trains following a costly and delayed safety system installation. The safety system, which is designed to stop a train operated by a driver who does not obey speed limits or signals, has already cost $320 million and may cost at least $12 million more. Known as Positive Train Control, the system might have prevented a 2016 accident that left one woman dead and over 100 injured when a speeding train hit Hoboken Terminal.

That $12 million price tag is linked to a contract with HNTB Corporation, a consultant that offers technical review along with program management and specialized engineering. However, a spokeswoman for NJ Transit would not say whether that would push the overall cost higher.

Amtrak and federal officials have criticized NJ Transit's delays in installing the PTC. There is a Dec. 31 deadline for completing the installation, and NJ Transit's progress has been so slow that it does not qualify for a two-year extension according to Federal Railroad Administration officials. An additional $32 million paid to the company that is designing and installing the PTC was specifically cited by officials from NJ Transit as buying a commitment from the company to complete the project by December 2018. However, that company has still fallen behind schedule.

Railway workers may benefit from improved safety on the train since they do not enjoy the same workers' compensation benefits as other employees. Protected instead by the Federal Employers Liability Act, railway workers can only collect benefits after an injury if it can be demonstrated that the injury is the fault of the railway. Railway workers who are injured on the job may want to consult an attorney who has a background in area of the law since FELA claims differ significantly from a regular workers' compensation case.

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