"The tragic accident was a wake-up call," said Frommer, who
represents Glendale. "We have not increased spending in rail safety.
We are one of the worst states in the country in terms of accidents
and rail safety."
The legislative package includes bills to create a task force on
improving freight train safety, increase penalties for drivers who
violate rail-crossing laws and allocate $25 million more in funding
for rail-safety programs in the state.
"These are important steps to protect train crew and passengers
who ride Metrolink and other passenger trains," said John Bentley,
spokesman for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. "It's very
traumatic for the train crew to witness these incidents firsthand."
Frommer also announced that he will chair a new Assembly Special
Committee on Passenger Rail Safety created by Assembly Speaker Fabian
The committee will study the "push-pull configuration" for trains,
"In terms of safety, it's always better to have the locomotive
pulling as opposed to pushing," Bentley said.
Pushed trains are more likely to derail because the passenger
cabins, which are lighter, can be pushed off the track more slowly,
Metrolink, however, stands by the push-pull configuration, saying
it gets its data from the Federal Railway Administration, which calls
the configuration safe, Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell said.
The Federal Rail Administration, National Transportation Safety
Board, Public Utilities Commission, Metrolink and the company that
makes Metrolink passenger cabs have all been invited to testify at
the committee's public hearing.
The $25 million would fund a rail-safety study that would look
into ways to close off dangerous grade crossings from the public,
"It would provide extra protection that would enhance safety,"
Frommer also wants to hear public safety officials' opinions.
"We want to talk to police and firefighters, many of whom are
first responders, and try to get their wisdom, what they have
learned, find out ways we can deal with it," Frommer said.
Metrolink also announced last week that it is considering fare
increases of 4.5% to 9.25%, which, if approved, will go into effect
July 1, Tyrrell said.
"We're having a significant increase in the cost of fuel and
insurance," she said.
The cost of the ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel used by Metrolink
trains has increased 30% in the past year, she said. Metrolink
ridership increased by 7% in the first quarter of this year, with 10%
of new passengers citing rising gas costs, she said.