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Illinois Senate OK's legislation over CTA Yellow Line crash

Jeremy Gorner, Chicago Tribune on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO — Following a serious collision last year between a Chicago Transit Authority train and a snowplow near the city’s border with Evanston, the Illinois Senate unanimously approved a measure on Friday that would mandate various transportation agencies to issue annual reports for the public that detail the most up-to-date federal rail-safety recommendations.

All 59 state senators — 40 Democrats and 19 Republicans — voted in favor of the measure that would require the yearly reports from the CTA, Illinois Department of Transportation, Regional Transportation Authority and Metra that specify the safety recommendations made over a one-year period from the National Transportation Safety Board, as well as the statuses of their implementation.

The reports, which would detail the recommendations and the agencies’ progress in following them by Dec. 31 of each year, must be viewable to the public online as well as to the Illinois General Assembly.

The bill, which would go into effect on July 1 if it becomes law, now moves to the House for consideration.

“Rail accidents can be prevented if our rail transit systems are regularly implementing federal safety recommendations and keeping those up to date and viewable to the riding public,” said state Sen. Mike Simmons, a Democrat from Chicago who represents a swath of the city’s far North Side, and the main sponsor of the legislation. “I want rail transit riders to feel safe as they commute. As a regular rider of CTA myself, I know how important it is that riders have confidence that the rail system is reliable and will safely and smoothly get them to where they need to be.”

At least 16 people were taken to hospitals, including three who were critically injured, after the Nov. 16 crash between a Yellow Line train and a snowplow that was on the tracks for scheduled training.

 

The CTA has said seven of its employees — six on the snowplow and the passenger train operator — were among those hurt. The passenger train, also known as the Skokie Swift train, was approaching the Howard Street station, near the border of Chicago and Evanston, when it slammed into the “snow-fighter” track-plowing train.

The crash also caused about $8.7 million in damage to equipment and led to multiple lawsuits.

The NTSB last year said it found the train’s operator tried to brake before the crash, and a system designed to reduce sliding by the train’s wheels while braking had activated. The train was made up of two, nearly decade-old 5000-series cars, which is the CTA’s most common model rail car.

The NTSB has also said the Yellow Line signal system, which controls train movement, was old, and if it were designed today it would have to allow for a longer stopping distance for trains. The agency has also said there was residue on the tracks and that the train’s wheels slipped as the operator tried to brake, and the NTSB had been examining “organic material” on the tracks that can include leaf debris.


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