MIDTOWN— The MTA may receive a $1 billion loan from the federal government to install a sophisticated monitoring system to help prevent crashes like the derailment that killed four people in December 2013, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday morning.
The new positive train control system, which is expected to roll out on 1,400 Metro North trains, would monitor the location of every train and automatically slow down trains that are moving too fast.
Cuomo touted the low-interest federal loan that would pay for it at a breakfast for the Association for a Better New York on Friday.
"It's a safety device that can override human error or excessive speed," said Cuomo. "It is the state of the art."
The loan, which will have an interest rate of under 3 percent and a 22 1/2-year payment plan, is still waiting approval from the Federal Railroad Administration and the MTA board.
In the December 2013 accident, investigators found that the Metro-North train that derailed just north of Spuyten Duyvil — killing four and injuring dozens — was traveling 82 mph or more than 50 mph over the speed limit when it hit a tight curve and flipped off the track.
Train engineer William Rockefeller failed to hit the brakes because he had dozed off, investigators found.
The new system will make trains safer for commuters, MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast said.
"It provides a level of safety that is second to none," Prendergast said. "It virtually eliminates over speed incidents of trains and as well as collisions and takes over in the event the engineer doesn't do his or her job."
Installation of the system is required by law, but the cash-strapped MTA has struggled to come up with the funds to do it. The agency is still grappling with a $14 billion deficit in its $32 billion five-year capital plan.
"The dialogue is ongoing," Prendergrast said when asked about the gap in the capital budget.
The state has already set aside $1 billion from its budget for the MTA's capital plan, including $250 million for four new Metro-North stations in The Bronx which Cuomo expects will transform the borough.
During the breakfast at the Grand Hyatt, Cuomo also announced Prendergast will continue at his post for another two-year term.
He also said he plans to unveil an "extensive redesign" of LaGuardia Airport soon — calling New York airports "almost laughable" and pointing to Vice President Joe Biden's comment that LaGuardia looked like it was in a "third world country."
After Cuomo's speech, Edward Cox, chairman of the New York State Republican Committee, said it was "mostly fluff."
"There is still a huge capital deficit for the MTA. He did not talk at all about how he was going to close that gap," Cox said.