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Positive Train Control Still A Work In Progress For Metra

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The National Transportation Safety Board continues to investigate what caused Thursday's deadly commuter train crash in New Jersey. The accident is prompting questions about train safety here in Chicago. Could something called "positive train control" have prevented this?

The crash in Hoboken, New Jersey, killed a woman and injured more than 100 other people. Sources told CBS News a high rate of speed played a major role in the crash.

Investigators were looking into whether something called "positive train control" could have helped. It's an automatic braking system that kicks in when a train exceeds the speed limit.

At the Hoboken station where the train crashed on Thursday, positive train control was not installed on the tracks.

In the Chicago area, positive train control is a work in progress for Metra, which recently applied for a $20.2 million federal grant to install positive train control in its Milwaukee North and West lines.

DePaul University transportation professor Joe Schwieterman said Metra faces many other challenges besides implementing positive train control, as required by the federal government.

"In our region, we're seeing many of the problems sort of stem with other things. We have so many highway crossings that there's just regular loss of life that may be a higher priority. That's tough to sell people when they see accidents like this, and they think we need this one big technological solution. There's just so many different risks," he said. "There's so many things that affect railway safety that you end up investing in one, and sometimes the real problem next time is in something else. So it's, for commuter railroads, this is just a hugely difficult problem."

Metra already has spent about $95 million on positive train control. It expects full implementation to cost $350 million to $400 million.

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