It was the site of the Philadelphia Amtrak derailment in May that left eight people dead and over 200 others with injuries. Amtrak 188, transporting passengers from Washington D.C. to New York, was going in excess of 100 miles-per-hour when it hit a curve behind a WalMart in north Philly and derailed. The speed limit in the area: 50 miles-per-hour.
A New York Times piece delved into the most dangerous stretches of track in the Northeast Corridor (NEC), which connects D.C. to New York, then continues on to Boston. One of the more dangerous curves mentioned in the piece is in the Bronx, where a Metro-North train derailed in 2013. Three of the top eight most dangerous curves are in Connecticut, where a high tech safety system called Positive Train Control (PTC) has been implemented to make sure that trains traveling to and from New England don’t hit curves with too much speed.
The Times found the curve at Frankford Junction to be the sharpest of any stretch of track between D.C. and New York*. That stretch of track is used in hundreds of millions of passenger trips every year, and yet PTC has not been implemented anywhere south of Connecticut. Instead, the older and more rudimentary Automatic Train Control (ATC) system was installed at Frankford Junction immediately after the May derailment in an effort to prevent similar accidents. Amtrak says the whole NEC route will have PTC by the end of the year.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has also stepped in to improve safety in the wake of the Philly Amtrak derailment by asking Amtrak and other commuter rails traveling the NEC to institute new rules concerning how trains negotiate curves. In addition to the recommendation, the FRA initiated a project called NEC Future, which could decide to bypass some of the dangerous curves along the Connecticut coast. This, of course, will depend on many different variables like public input, environmental review and, perhaps more than anything, the battle for government financing.
*The Times article excluded curves at rail stations, where trains have to slow down regardless to let passengers on and off the train.