log in to manage your profile and account
- Create your account
- Receive up-to-date newsletters
- Set up text alerts
Published: Tuesday, December 19, 2017 @ 11:14 AM
— The Amtrak train that derailed Monday in Washington state was not using a safety technology system that Congress mandated nearly 10 years ago.
The system, called Positive Train Control, possibly could have prevented the crash that killed at least three people and sent more than 100 to the hospital. According to National Transportation Safety Board officials, the train was traveling at 80 miles per hour along a section of track that calls for a 30 mph speed limit. PTC is a system designed to slow or stop trains that are moving too fast.
The president of Amtrak, Richard Anderson, said Monday that the PTC system was not in use on the stretch of track where the train derailed.
What is PTC and could it have prevented Monday’s crash? Here’s how it works.
A head-on crash between a freight and passenger train near Los Angeles in 2008 that left 25 dead spurred Congress to enact the Rail Safety Improvement Act. The act required all major U.S. rail lines to implement the PTC system. That process – installing the system on trains and rail lines – was to be completed by the end of 2015.
What Congress did not address at the time was the cost for the system. The Association of American Railroads estimated the cost of the PTC system at $22.5 billion over 20 years – making the requirement the costliest regulatory expenditure ever imposed on rail systems.
Congress was persuaded to extend the deadline by three years for most companies (some by five years if certain measures were met), giving rail companies until Dec. 31, 2018, to have the systems in place.
PTC has been fully implemented on only 456 miles of rail tracks.
What is positive train control and how does it work?
The system, using GPS to monitor a train’s location as it moves along its route, is designed to slow down or stop a train to avoid a collision with another train or a derailment if the train is going too fast for the area or conditions.
The system uses a connection between a train's onboard computer, 'ping' points along a rail route and dispatch stations. Before leaving on its trip, the train’s computer system downloads information about speed limits, construction areas or any other possible hazards along its route.
As the train travels along its route, the “ping” points along the rails keep the train’s computer in contact with a dispatcher. The system transmits information about the train such as its speed and any problems or conditions that would require the train to slow down.
If there is a problem, the train’s conductor is alerted. If for some reason the conductor does not or cannot respond, the train can be slowed or stopped by the system via the onboard computer.
Why wasn’t it in use to prevent Monday’s Amtrak derailment?
Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick told CNN that while PTC was in place on segments of the track that the Amtrak train was using, the system was not fully implemented. Sound Transit, which owns the track where the train derailed, said the target date for full implementation of its PTC system – tracks and trains -- is the second quarter of 2018.
How many trains and how much track does has Amtrak have equipped with PTC?
As of the second quarter of 2017, Amtrak has equipped 49 percent of its locomotives and 67 percent of its tracks equipped with PTC. The PTC safety plan submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration for approval has been conditionally certified.
As of March 2017, freight railroads had spent $8 billion on PTC systems and passenger lines had spent $3.5 billion on the system.
Here, from the AAR, is a list of the complexities involved with implementing the PTC system:
Developing PTC Technology: Much of the technology PTC requires did not exist when the mandate became law in 2008. Railroads had to develop the required technology for locomotives, wayside interface units and back office systems from scratch.
Deploying hundreds of thousands of technology pieces: PTC involves the deployment of hundreds of thousands of technology pieces — from onboard locomotive systems to switch position monitor — across the nationwide rail network.
Geo-mapping 60,000 miles: The approximately 60,000 miles of railroad right-of-way on which PTC technology will be installed and 486,000 field assets (i.e. mileposts, curves, grade crossings, switches, signals, etc.) must be precisely geo-mapped for PTC technology to work correctly. This mapping forms the basis for the system’s track database used by the back office server.
Interoperability is essential: To function properly, PTC systems must be interoperable so that any train operating on another railroad’s network can communicate with the host railroad’s PTC system.
Equipping 1,900 “dark territory” switches with power: Some long stretches of track in remote areas use only one main line without any signalization. To make these areas PTC compatible, railroad switches must be upgraded and electrical power must be brought to the site.
Phased rollout is critical for safety: Implementation of PTC must occur in phases and location by location, starting with less complex areas and proceeding to the more operationally complex areas with lessons learned incorporated at each step to ensure that the system functions safely.
Required testing software is not available: Once all testing of individual PTC components is complete and those components have been installed, testing of the entire system as a whole can begin.
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 3:04 AM
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday wades into one of the more controversial policy matters of the Trump Administration, as the Justices will hear arguments on the merits of the revised effort by President Donald Trump to block certain foreign nationals from traveling to the United States, what critics often deride as his “Muslim ban.”
Before the Court is the third version of the Trump travel order, which began just a week into his Presidency, as an effort to stop travel to the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.
After the first two versions were blocked by the courts – this third one would limit visits to the United States by people from Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Somalia, and slow down the number of refugees accepted into the U.S.
“As President, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people,” Mr. Trump said as he issued the third version of the travel order in September of 2017.
Lower courts have ruled against the Trump plan.
The travel order is being challenged by the state of Hawaii, which has tried to use the President’s past statements and tweets about the threat of Islamic terrorism against the travel order, which the Supreme Court allowed to take effect while the case was being litigated.
“The arguments against the travel ban come from every corner of our country,” says Neal Katyal, who will carry Hawaii’s case before the Justices.
“It comes down to who we are as a nation,” Katyal wrote.
Interest in the case has been strong, as the line for public seats began forming on Monday outside the U.S. Supreme Court.
The arguments on the Trump travel order come as lower courts are still duking it out over efforts by the President to terminate the DACA program from the Obama Administration – that question is expected to reach the Justices in coming months.
On Tuesday evening, a federal judge in Washington, D.C. became the third to block the President’s effort to end DACA, the program which allows younger illegal immigrant “Dreamers” to temporarily stay in the U.S. and avoid deportation proceedings.
“DACA’s rescission was arbitrary and capricious because the Department failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful,” wrote Judge John Bates, though he gave the feds 90 days to better explain the decision.
As with the Trump travel order, the President’s effort on DACA could be on the docket next term for the Justices.
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 2:53 AM
ATLANTA — A woman with multiple sclerosis says Delta Air Lines employees tied her to her wheelchair because she can’t sit up on her own and they didn’t have the chair she needed.
Maria Saliagas travels to Europe with her husband every year. When she was diagnosed with MS five years ago, she didn’t want to break her tradition of traveling with her husband.
She said Delta normally accommodates her by making sure staff members have a proper wheelchair that has straps to help her sit up straight.
When she flew out of Atlanta on April 1 and arrived in Amsterdam, Delta didn’t have a chair with straps, so employees tied her to a regular wheelchair with someone else’s blanket, said her son, Nathan Saliagas.
“They took a dirty blanket and tied her forcefully with it, and she has bruise marks on part of her arm because it was so tight and she started crying. That’s when that picture was taken,” Saliagas said.
A Delta representative sent WSB-TV a statement about the incident, saying:
“We regret the perception our service has left on these customers. We have reached out to them, not only to resolve their concerns, but also ensure that their return flight exceeds expectations.”
The family returns to Atlanta on April 30.
When the family complained to Delta, they said the airline offered them 20,000 free SkyMiles, but they said that's not enough.
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 2:06 AM
CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — A 6-year-old child was abducted early Tuesday after two car thefts at a Georgia day care, authorities said.
About five minutes after the car thefts, the child was seen on surveillance video walking back to the Childcare Network Daycare, Clayton County police Sgt. Ashanti Marbury said. It’s not known where he was abandoned.
Three men are sought in connection with the crimes at the day care, located in the 6000 block of Fayetteville Road in Riverdale, police said.
About 7:25 a.m., Clayton County police were called to the day care in reference to two stolen vehicles left running and unattended.
Surveillance video showed a silver Nissan Altima parking next to a gray 2016 Chrysler 300. A man in the front passenger seat of the Nissan jumped into the Chrysler’s front passenger seat. Moments later, the Chrysler drove away.
Not long after the theft, the Nissan drove to another location in the day care parking lot and made an abrupt stop at a white 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe, Clayton County police said. The Hyundai, which had a 6-year-old inside, was also left running and unattended.
A person in the back seat of the Nissan hopped out, got into the Hyundai and sped away, police said.
In under a minute, all three cars were seen on surveillance video leaving the day care parking lot.
Shortly after, the child was seen walking back to the day care and was reunited with his mom. He was not injured.
Police later found the Hyundai Santa Fe at the intersection of East Faytetteville Road and Evans Drive — less than a mile from the day care. The Chrysler 300 has not been found.
Earlier this year, Clayton County police rescued two girls after someone stole an SUV with them inside from a gas station. A baby and her 4-year-old sister were dumped on the side of the road miles apart in freezing temperatures. Authorities arrested Khyree Swift and a 16-year-old in connection with the crime.
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2018 @ 1:39 AM
MILTON, Mass. — Now that summer is just around the corner, experts are warning that ticks will be coming back in full force.
One tick expert in New England told Boston's WFXT that the warmer weather will cause what he called a "tick explosion."
The tiny, pesky and possibly harmful arachnids are about to spring into action, and everyone should be extra vigilant.
"They're up and looking for a host hoping something will walk by that they can latch on," said Dr. Thomas Mather, aka "The Tick Guy."
Mather said this season is prime for ticks, and his website, tickencounter.org, shows the type to watch out for in New England this season is the deer tick because it spreads Lyme disease.
"It's very important because around here it's the worst for Lyme disease more than anywhere else in the nation," Mather said.
The website also lists high tick activity in most of the eastern United States, as well as the Midwest, Plains states and West Coast. Deer ticks are the most prevalent species in the Northeast and Midwest, while Lone Star ticks dominate in the Southeast and much of the Central U.S. Wood ticks are more common in the Mountain region, and Pacific Coast ticks are prevalent on the West Coast, the site said. Learn more here.
Stephen Novick of Boston-based FlyFoe said his business is extremely busy since the ticks never really went away.
"We had a mild winter, didn’t freeze too much, and because of that, the animal populations were active longer, and that enabled the tick populations to be active," he said.
Deer, chipmunks and rodents all carry ticks. Spraying is one way to keep ticks out of your yard.
You may even opt for a garlic-based, organic repellent or a store-bought pesticide.
"The pesticide is the lowest rated by the EPA, so it’s also super safe," Novick said.
The pesticide is used for flea and tick collars for pets.
Spraying has to be done once a month to keep ticks at bay, but for many it's the best alternative as it provides peace of mind.
Ticks usually hide in tall grass, so if you go hiking or walking in the woods, make sure to wear long-sleeve shirts and pants or get tick repellent clothing, use bug spray and always check yourself for ticks after being outdoors.
Checking for ticks is always important because if you happen to have been bitten, the quicker you remove the tick, the less likely it is that it will transmit any diseases.