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BNSF puts safety features in place



From Alma to Brownsville to Ferryville, several train derailments have caused disruptions on the Upper Mississippi in recent years.

One major railroad, however, has spent big money on safety technology to keep trains running smoothly.

BNSF’s $2 billion investment over the past decade has led to a system called Positive Train Control (PTC).

BNSF spokeswoman Amy McBeth explains how GPS and computers help avoid accidents.

“Essentially,” she said, “what it is doing is constantly communicating in real time on those routes with PTC — where the train is, evaluating where it should be and the speed at which it should be traveling.”

She says the technology has been designed to help guide trains from many companies that use the same sets of tracks.

The feds mandated installation of PTC on specific routes in Minnesota and northern Illinois, but not in Wisconsin.  However, the same system also has been installed along some Wisconsin tracks.

“We have all of those routes in place already,” she said, “but there are additional routes where we have installed and are operating trains with those PTC protections, and that includes our routes through Wisconsin.”

The safety system appears to be in use on most of the Amtrak Empire Builder route, which passes through La Crosse between Chicago and Seattle.



A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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