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Pelosi Says America's Trains Should Have Advanced Safety Technology, But Don't

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) --  Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi said America's trains - including commuter trains like the one that crashed Thursday morning in Hoboken, New Jersey - should be equipped with the latest safety technology, or not run.

House Minority Leader Pelosi (D-CA) said trains not equipped with positive train control (PTC) technology should not be running in New Jersey, or elsewhere.

Positive Train Control is a system designed to prevent train collisions and derailments by enabling GPS-based, real-time information sharing between trains and, if it senses a possible collision, activates the trains' brakes.

After expressing her condolences to those who were killed or injured when a New Jersey Transit commuter train crashed into a train station waiting area during rush hour Thursday morning, Pelosi expressed her frustration with Congress for allowing private railroad companies several more years to make costly safety enhancements.

"Well, I don't think we should have extended the deadline. The trains were still running. If you're going to extend the deadline, then stop the trains because the risk is there," Pelosi said. "Because we know that where it [PTC] exists, safety is greatly improved."

All passenger and major freight railroads were to be equipped with the safety technology by the end of 2015. But that year, Congress and President Barack Obama passed a three-year extension giving railroads until the end of 2018 to comply. The law also allows railroads to request a 2-year extension after that deadline.

According to the most recent U.S. Department of Transportation progress report, no New Jersey Transit trains have yet to be equipped with PTC technology.

National Transportation Safety Board Vice Chairman Bella Dinh-Zarr said Thursday morning that PTC has been a longtime priority for the agency.

"We know that it can prevent accidents," Dinh-Zarr said.

Southern California's Metrolink trains are among a few American train systems that have already started to use PTC technology.

But the freight lines on which most transit trains run haven't implemented the technology yet.

The Association of American Railroads maintains on its website that the 2015 deadline for "this unproven technology" was "arbitrary and unworkable."

The association spent roughly $70 million on lobbying efforts from 2008 to 2015, according to the Center For Responsive Politics.

"Railroads advised Congress for years that they would not be able to meet the deadline. As the deadline approached, railroads and freight rail customers made it clear that there would be serious consequences for the nation if the deadline was not extended," the Association of American Railroads states on its website.

By Hannah Albarazi - Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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