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Light rail to resume service at airport today


Light rail will resume operations at Baltimore-Washington International Airport today, reopening a station that has been outfitted with an emergency braking system and other safeguards after a train accident last month.

The BWI station has been closed since Aug. 15, when a train overran its final stop and slammed into a steel barrier. It was the second such accident in six months. Altogether, 45 people were injured in the two crashes, some seriously.

Transit officials have installed $1 million worth of safety measures, including five "trip stops," magnetic devices along the tracks that will automatically slow a train if it's coming into the BWI station too fast. Such emergency brakes have also been installed at the final stops at Hunt Valley, Cromwell Station and Penn Station.

Before reaching the BWI station, train operators will be required to stop at a red light, manually select a track and slow to 12 mph. If they fail to do so, the train will be stopped by the automatic brakes.

At the end of the tracks is a stronger, better-cushioned barrier, but a temporary one. Transit officials are waiting for an even stronger one they belatedly ordered after last month's crash. Federal investigators had recommended replacing the barrier after the first accident in February.

The Mass Transit Administration is also proceeding with a tough new policy of firing employees for drug offenses. The agency plans to get rid of any train operator or mechanic who tests positive for alcohol or drug use after an accident or even "reasonable suspicion" by a supervisor - if the employee had failed a similar test.

In both accidents, the train operators had previously tested positive for cocaine use. Both returned to their jobs after completing drug rehabilitation. They were fired after the accidents.

Light rail service to BWI will resume during the evening rush hour today, officials said.

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