By Mike Hellgren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Safety on the rails. Federal regulators say most railroads are not on track meet a deadline to install safety technology to prevent deadly crashes, such as the one in Philadelphia that killed three people who had ties to Maryland.

WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren with the equipment that could save lives.

It can slow, even stop, the train if there’s an emergency. Amtrak now says it will have the technology fully installed in our area by the end of the year.

MARC says it will have equipment installed on trains, but it’s up to CSX to make sure it’s working on the tracks.

Amtrak Train 188 went through Baltimore before surging in speed, then derailing in Philadelphia and killing three people with Maryland ties.

A technology called “Positive Train Control,” or PTC, could have prevented the catastrophe. Using sensors on the train that communicate with satellites in the sky and more sensors on the tracks, it can stop a train in an emergency.

“It will reduce the number of collisions that we have,” said Dr. Allen Zarembski, University of Delaware. “There are 200,000 miles of railroad track in the United States.”

Yet the Federal Railway Administration says most railroads will not meet the deadline to install PTC by the end of the year.

“We think it’s worth every penny. How can you put a price tag on people’s lives?” said Jeff Lustgarten, Metrolink. “We think it’s the most important life-saving technology you’ll see on the rail system for years to come.”

WJZ wanted to know–will Maryland’s trains be among those on track to meet the deadline?

Amtrak says they will here in the Northeast Corridor, but not everywhere else.

MARC tells WJZ it will meet the deadline, too, but it does not own the tracks–Amtrak and CSX do. A government report shows CSX may not have the system installed by the end of the year.

The Federal Railway Administration promises substantial daily fines for any railway that’s not in compliance.

“I travel back and forth from Baltimore to D.C., so I need this train,” said Lorraine Ramsey, regular MARC commuter. “They need to get their safety stuff together.”

And prevent dozens of tragedies, including the 1996 MARC-Amtrak crash that killed 11 people in Maryland.

Regulators warn it could be years before PTC is fully operational across the country.

A MARC representative says several published reports that said MARC trains they would have to suspend service if they didn’t meet the deadline are not true.

Installing Positive Train Control costs $50,000 a mile. More than $5 billion has already been spent.

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