AirTrain Back On Track (Almost) – QNS.com

AirTrain Back On Track (Almost)

The Port Authoritys $1.9 billion AirTrain system could begin limited service as early as this summer, according to Charles McClafferty, the agencys chief financial officer.
Originally slated to start running between JFK Airport and Howard Beach at the end of last year, the system met a disastrous setback in late September, when a train derailed during a test run, killing 23-year-old driver Kelvin DeBourgh Jr.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently investigating the accident.
Pasquale DiFulco, a Port Authority spokesman, did not confirm McClaffertys asserted time schedule, published in a recent Daily News article, but he was optimistic about the projects progress.
"Were certainly hoping to open the system to the public this year," he said. "We dont have a date yet. Were still awaiting the results of the investigation."
Much of the systems infrastructure is near completion, including the Howard Beach station and airport terminal stops. The Jamaica station is about half complete.
Since the September accident, all testing has been suspended along the light-rail line, although workers have been operating the cars manually, at low speeds, within the maintenance yards near the entrance to the airport.
Before any service gets underway, testing along the 8.1 miles of track will have to resume.
"We have to pick up where we left off in September," said DiFulco. "Our priority is to ensure the safety and security of the system."
DeBourgh, an employee of the Canada-based Bombardier Transportation, was crushed by several heavy, unsecured concrete blocks used to simulate the weight of passengers that shifted forward when the train rounded a curve on the line near JFKs Federal Circle.
Officials with Bombardier, the builders of the 32 AirTrain cars, have admitted that the train was nearing its top speed of 60 miles per hour, even though the limit for such a curve is only 25 miles per hour.
In early December, a lawyer for the DeBourgh family filed a $50 million notice of claim with the Port Authority. DiFulco declined to comment on "pending litigation."
Currently, the AirTrain system terminates at Jamaica station, where travelers headed to Manhattan will have to transfer to subway or Long Island Rail Road lines. As the redevelopment of lower Manhattan gets underway, the Bloomberg administration is discussing an extension of the AirTrain to a transportation hub near the World Trade Center site.
These plans, however, are still in early stages.
"We look forward to working with all relevant agencies to make the mayors ambitious goals a reality," said DiFulco.

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