Amtrak names Chicago control center after former FRA chief

Amtrak names Chicago control center after former FRA chief
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Amtrak has named its Chicago rail control center after former Federal Railroad Administration chief Joseph Szabo

Szabo resigned from the FRA at the beginning of the year after nearly six years at the helm of the FRA, which has come under fire from lawmakers for its oversight of the nation’s railroads after a series of commuter rail accidents such as an Amtrak derailment in North Carolina on Monday. 

The agency congratulated Szabo for being honored by Amtrak on Tuesday afternoon. 

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“FRA congratulates Joseph Szabo on Amtrak's dedicating its Chicago railroad operations center as the Joseph C. Szabo Chicago Control Center,” the agency tweeted.

Szabo has not been replaced by a full-time chief at the FRA since his departure. The agency is currently being led by Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg, who was appointed by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx in January. 

The FRA and Amtrak are in the spotlight again after Monday’s Amtrak crash, which involved a train on the company’s “Carolinian” route between Charlotte and New York City collided with a truck at a railroad crossing accident. 

The train was carrying 212 passengers at the time of the crash, which occurred near the North Carolina-Virginia border. 

About 50 passengers were injured in the accident, according to reports, but Amtrak has said that none of the injuries thus far have been life-threatening. 

The North Carolina accident was similar to crashes involving collisions between trains and vehicles on New York’s Metro-North and California’s Metrolink commuter railways. 

Lawmakers have questioned the safety of railroad crossing intersections since the spate of accidents began, and the FRA has increased its effort to warn drivers about the dangers of being hit by trains. 

Amtrak said in blog post last year that its Chicago Control Center “is one of five Amtrak dispatching offices that dispatch 2,500 trains carrying nearly 900,000 passengers each day.

“Chicago’s dispatching bureau oversees nearly 560 train movements carrying almost 130,000 people daily in Chicago Union Station, on the Michigan Line and in New Orleans,” the agency wrote of the facility that is now named after the former FRA chief. 

“Each day, Amtrak movement offices personnel oversee the movement of signals and switches for nearly 2,500 trains, which keeps your trains moving safely from city to city,” the FRA blog post continued. “As you can see in the photos above, the Chicago Control Center team uses state of the art software to provide passengers, engineering teams, conductors and engineers the very best service possible.”