Richard Brzozinski, 78, is remembered as a compassionate man and model employee of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) in a recent story by Newsday.
“A veteran Long Island Rail Road conductor on the Babylon line, Brzozinski made a habit of learning the names of all of his regular passengers and their spouses. He’d arrive to work every morning in a freshly pressed uniform. And Brzozinski would always ensure that a seat was saved for his elderly passengers,” Robert Brodsky of Newsday wrote.
The story further gives accounts of praise from passengers who wrote to MTA about Brzozinski and recounts two separate incidences where Brzozinski was called upon to save passengers’ lives with the use of CPR.
SMART-TD Alternate Vice President Anthony Simon is quoted, saying, “Richie was always a professional and always demanded perfection from his co-workers. He wore his uniform impeccably and made sure his crew members did the same. He prioritized the safety and service to our customers, led by example, and received the respect of everyone he overlapped because of those principles.”
Brother Brzozinski began his membership with UTU Local 645 (Babylon, N.Y.) in August 1961, following in his dad’s footsteps as a conductor for the LIRR. He worked for a time with his father John and younger brother Jack (retired LIRR engineer). He retired with 38 years of service in 1999.
Brzozinski died in his home Nov. 19, 2019, after a three-year battle with heart disease. He is survived by his wife Mary; two sons; brother Jack; sisters Joanne, Linda and Sharon; and two grandchildren Jack and Jenna.
According to an analysis done by northjersey.com, Metro-North, New Jersey Transit (NJT) and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) have been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2013.
Before the companies’ lawyers negotiated for lower fines, Metro-North had been assessed more than $1 million in penalties and NJT more than $700,000. After the fines had been negotiated down, Metro-North paid $859,375; NJT paid $576,175 and LIRR paid $131,725.
Fines were assessed for safety violations involving track, signals, locomotives, equipment and train crews; as well as for alcohol and drug testing, employee hours of service, and railroad operating practices.
Northjersey.com notes that alcohol and drug testing violations — of which Metro-North had the most infractions — does not necessarily mean that crew members are reporting to work under the influence.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued three urgent safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), acting upon the agency’s findings in two ongoing railroad accident investigations.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) received one urgent safety recommendation based on NTSB findings in the agency’s investigation of the Feb. 4, 2018, collision of an Amtrak train and a CSX train near Cayce, S.C. The conductor and engineer of the Amtrak train died as a result of the collision. The NTSB issued two urgent safety recommendations to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) based on findings from its investigation of the June 10, 2017, Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) accident in which a roadway worker died near Queens Village, N.Y.
In the investigation of the train collision in Cayce, South Carolina, investigators found that on the day before the accident, CSX personnel suspended the traffic control signal system to install updated traffic control system components for the implementation of positive train control (PTC). The lack of signals required dispatchers to use track warrants to move trains through the work territory.
In this accident, and in a similar March 14, 2016, accident in Granger, Wyo., safe movement of the trains, through the signal suspension, depended upon proper switch alignment. That switch alignment relied on error-free manual work, which was not safeguarded by either technology or supervision, creating a single point of failure.
The NTSB concludes additional measures are needed to ensure safe operations during signal suspension and so issued an urgent safety recommendation to the FRA seeking an emergency order directing restricted speed for trains or locomotives passing through signal suspensions when a switch has been reported relined for a main track.
“The installation of the life-saving positive train control technology on the CSX tracks is not the cause of the Cayce, S.C. train collision,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt.
“While the collision remains under investigation, we know that signal suspensions are an unusual operating condition, used for signal maintenance, repair and installation, that have the potential to increase the risk of train collisions. That risk was not mitigated in the Cayce collision. Our recommendation, if implemented, works to mitigate that increased risk.” said Sumwalt.
During the investigation of the LIRR accident, the NTSB identified an improper practice by LIRR roadway workers who were working on or near the tracks. LIRR employees were using “train approach warning” as their method of on-track safety, but they did not clear the track, as required, when trains approached and their “predetermined place of safety” did not comply with LIRR rules and procedures.
The NTSB is concerned LIRR management is overlooking and therefore normalizing noncompliance with safety rules and regulations for proper clearing of tracks while using “train approach warning” for worker protection. The two urgent safety recommendations to the MTA call for MTA to audit LIRR’s use of “train approach warning” for worker protection, and, to implement corrective action for deficiencies found through the audit.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that two commuter railroad terminal accidents in the New York area were caused by engineer fatigue resulting from undiagnosed severe obstructive sleep apnea.
The Sept. 29, 2016, accident on the New Jersey Transit railroad at Hoboken, New Jersey, killed one person, injured 110, and resulted in major damage to the station. The Jan. 4, 2017, accident on the Long Island Rail Road at the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, New York, injured 108 people. Both accidents involved trains that struck end-of-track bumping posts and crashed into stations.
The NTSB found the two accidents had “almost identical” probable causes and safety issues. The board also determined that these safety issues were not unique to these two properties, but exist throughout the country at many intercity passenger and commuter passenger train terminals.
When operating a train into a terminating track, the engineer’s actions, or lack thereof, solely determine whether the train stops before the end of the track. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), there are currently no mechanisms installed in the U.S. that will automatically stop a train at the end of the track if the engineer is incapacitated, inattentive or disengaged. Some railroads have overspeed capabilities, including New Jersey Transit and the LIRR. However, as shown in these two accidents, once the engineer slowed the train to the prescribed speed, the system did not stop the trains before they reached the end of the track.
In addition to recommending safety-sensitive personnel be screened for obstructive sleep apnea, the board recommended the use of technology, such as positive train control (PTC), in terminal stations and improving the effectiveness of system safety program plans to improve terminal operations. The NTSB made two recommendations to New Jersey Transit, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (the parent company of the Long Island Rail Road) and two to the FRA.
“Today’s new recommendations, if acted upon, have the potential to eliminate end-of-track collisions,’’ Sumwalt said. “That translates to protection for passengers on trains, and for people standing on terminal platforms.”
The complete accident report will be available in several weeks. The findings, probable cause, safety recommendations, Chairman Sumwalt’s prepared remarks and PowerPoint presentations used in a board meeting are all available at https://go.usa.gov/xnscj.
The New Jersey Transit Hoboken accident docket, containing more than 1,100 pages of supporting factual material, is available at https://go.usa.gov/xnAGJ.
The Long Island Rail Road Brooklyn accident docket, containing more than 1,400 pages of supporting factual material, is available at https://go.usa.gov/xnAGe.
New Jersey Transit train #1614 after crashing into the NJT Hoboken Terminal, Sept. 29, 2016. (NTSB photo taken by Chris O’Neil)
Retired Alternate Vice President and General Chairperson Edward Yule Jr., 81, died August 10.
As general chairperson of GCA 505, Yule was instrumental in working on agreements with Long Island Rail Road and even led UTU members in a 45-hour strike in 1994 in an effort to get the members an equitable agreement. Yule was a member of Local 645 in Babylon, N.Y., and a member of the Alumni Association. He was also a veteran of the U.S. Army.
Yule is survived by hi wife, Beatrice; sons, Kenneth (Donna) Yule and Gregory (Tracey) Yule; sisters, Carole (JK) Murray and Pamela (William) Blank; and many grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son Edward (Victoria) Yule.
Local 29 member Michael Gregory Ollek, 51, was tragically killed by an oncoming LIRR train while doing track work for the railroad, June 10. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident.
Ollek served in the Marine Corps as a staff sergeant stationed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside, Calif. for four years. After which, he served in the reserves for many years. After his service in the military, Ollek hired out with Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) as a track man and then later worked as a track foreman.
Ollek loved spending time his two sons, Michael and Daniel, sailing and riding dirt bikes. He also loved skiing and was a history buff.
Ollek is survived by his mother Patricia F. Link; two sons Michael and Daniel; one brother Kevin Link; cousin Chris Taylor and many other friends and family.
A memorial service is being held June 13, at Clair S. Bartholomew and Son, 302 Bedford Ave., Bellmore, NY 11710, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. A short service will follow from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
One of two Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) commuter lines reopened this morning following the crash that occurred Saturday night when a commuter train sideswiped a work train that was blocking the track. Read the complete story from NYDailyNews.com.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officials Tuesday began the process of breaking through the floor of Grand Central Terminal in New York City, marking the start of construction on one of several access points that will connect the terminal to a new concourse for Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) passengers being built below.
That concourse is part of the East Side Access construction project, which will bring LIRR trains into Grand Central, MTA officials said in a press release.
Michael Horodniceanu, president of MTA Capital Construction Co., struck the concrete floor with a pickax, signifying the start of work to remove the section of floor to make way for new escalators and stairways. He was joined by MTA Metro-North Railroad President Joseph Giulietti and LIRR President Nowakowski, along with East Side Access project and construction staff.
HARTFORD, Conn. – Federal transportation officials and the Metropolitan Transportation Agency have agreed on a nearly $1 billion federal loan to install technology that could slow trains when necessary on Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Railroad.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Wednesday the Federal Railroad Administration and Metropolitan Transit Authority agreed on a $967 million loan to install Positive Train Control technology. It automatically slows the train if the operator or a malfunction places it in jeopardy.
Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the MTA, said Metro-North and the LIRR are putting in place the system, which includes installing on-board components for 1,455 rail cars and transponders.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced April 24 that the Federal Railroad Administration has approved a loan of $967.1 million to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the improvement of the safety of the signal systems used by the MTA’s two commuter railroads, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad. The loan, which is the largest and lowest-cost financing for the MTA, will finance the installment of positive train control, a technology designed to remove the potential for human error that can lead to train-involved accidents.
“This loan is a dramatic investment in the MTA – one that will make trains safer for all riders on Metro-North and the LIRR,” Gov. Cuomo said. “With this infusion of funding, crews will be getting to work on individual cars and along hundreds of miles of track to install state of the art technology that can save lives. This loan could not have been possible without the hard work and support of U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Acting FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg, and I thank them on behalf of all MTA commuter rail customers for helping us make this important advancement possible.”
MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said, “We are delighted to have been able to work with the Federal Railroad Administration to make this historic, and extremely important award possible. The most important thing we do each day is strive to ensure the safety of our passengers, our employees, and the public at large. This award will help us enhance that effort in a very significant way.”
Positive train control is a technology that allows computerized systems to automatically control certain aspects of train movement. It is intended to prevent train-to-train collisions, trains accidentally traveling into areas where track workers are working, or derailments caused by excessive train speed or the movement of a train through an improperly aligned switch. The technology can address situations like the Spuyten Duyvil derailment in the Bronx, where a train was going faster than its maximum allowable speed. Congress mandated the installation of positive train control in 2008 for all commuter railroads in the U.S.
Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road are in the process of implementing the technology, which includes the installation of on-board components for 1,455 rail cars and transponders alongside 588 route miles of track. In November 2013, the MTA awarded a contract to a joint venture of Bombardier Transportation and Siemens Rail Automation to act as a systems integrator that will provide the design, furnish equipment and ensure that the system functions as intended. LIRR and Metro-North forces and some third party contracts will support installations of wayside, office, communications and on-board equipment. Installation of positive train control on Metro-North territory in the State of Connecticut will be funded by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
The loan is the largest to have been made through the FRA’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program and remains subject to MTA Board Approval on April 29 and final closing in May. The MTA will issue its Transportation Revenue Bond directly to the Federal Railroad Administration and will repay the obligation over 22½ years at a fixed interest rate of 2.38 percent. MTA’s Transportation Revenue Bonds are rated “AA-” from Standard & Poor’s, “A2” from Moody’s, and “A” from Fitch.
U.S. Rep. Charlie B. Rangel said, “Nothing is more important than ensuring the wellbeing of New Yorkers. I applaud Governor Cuomo’s commitment to improving safety measures on Metro-North and LIRR, so that all commuters in our great State can ride knowing they are in secure hands.”
U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel said, “MTA services are an indispensable part of my constituents’ everyday lives. Thousands of commuters rely on the MTA daily to travel to work, home or school. They expect – and should receive – a safe train ride. Implementing positive train control is a critical step making this expectation a reality. The tragedies that occurred at Spuyten Duyvil in 2013 and in Westchester earlier this year may have been avoided if this life-saving technology had been in place. While we cannot assuage the pain and grief that these accidents have caused, we can make every effort to create a better railroad moving forward. I applaud the DOT and the Federal Railroad Administration for recognizing the need for this technology in the MTA system, and am very pleased that all rail travelers can experience a safer ride.”
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey said, “I’m pleased that MTA’s application to install positive train control technology has been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration. Securing this funding would help ensure that disastrous events like the December 2013 Metro North accident never happen again. Over the last year, I have worked tirelessly to highlight the need for additional resources to help commuter railroads install PTC, and I will continue to work with federal and state officials to ensure that MTA gets the resources it needs to keep its riders safe.”
U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks said, I’d like to thank Governor Cuomo for prioritizing the modernization and improvement of the Long Island Railroad and Metro-North Railroad’s 1500 railcars and hundreds of miles of track along our country’s busiest commuter rail system. This unprecedented investment of nearly $1 billion in the LIRR and Metro will improve safety for riders public, transit workers for decades to come.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Israel said, “This federal loan is a vital step to improving railway safety. I applaud the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Department of Transportation on their hard work to secure this loan, and I will continue to fight for federal resources for critical New York infrastructure.”