News Wrap: NTSB Preliminary Report; USACE Study; NYC Crane Age Limit; NYBC Study; Cooper Union
NTSB Releases Preliminary Train Derailment Report
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released on Jan. 14 a preliminary report on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Metro-North train derailment in the Bronx that killed four and injured 59 others on Dec. 1. The report says the train, with seven passenger cars and one locomotive that was traveling from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., to Grand Central Station in New York City, derailed in a six-degree, left-hand curve where speed was limited to 30 mph. The train's speed when it derailed was about 82 mph.
Other findings in the report state that a detailed inspection and testing of the signal system, train brakes and other mechanical equipment did not identify any anomalies. An inspection of the track in the derailment area also failed to turn up any pre-accident anomalies.
NTSB investigators have completed the on-scene work in the Bronx, but investigative work will continue at NTSB headquarters in Washington, D.C.
MTA Metro-North said in a statement that it remains "a party to the NTSB investigation, and we will continue working closely with [the agency] as this investigation continues." Metro-North adds that it has made "immediate improvements" to assure safety of customers and employees, including installing signal system modifications to enforce the 30 mph speed limit at the site.
Corps Study: Some Pre-Sandy Measures Helped
While Superstorm Sandy dealt its most powerful blow to the Eastern Seaboard from Maine to Virginia, it also affected regions as far south as Florida and as far inland as the Great Lakes, says a Dec. 19 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study. But risk-reduction measures completed before the storm at several Corps coastal project sites helped mitigate damage at those locations.
"It appears that the overall damage from the storm would have been much more severe if these projects had not been in place," the Corps said. The Hurricane Sandy Coastal Projects Performance Evaluation Study evaluated 75 constructed coastal storm risk-management projects in the Corps North Atlantic division; 31 projects in its Great Lakes and Ohio River division; and nine in its South Atlantic division. To download the full study, visit www.nan.usace.army.mil/SandyPPE.
NYC Issues Crane Age Limit Proposal
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a proposal in December for a 25-year age limit on cranes operating in the city. If it passes, mobile and tower cranes would be removed from service based on the original date of manufacture or on the age of the crane's oldest component, depending on which is greater. In addition, crane owners would be required to outfit all cranes with load cycle counters to record every lift performed.
Opponents argue that the age of a machine is not an indicator of its safeness, citing a 2007 study in California that reached the same conclusion.
But, says Building Commissioner Robert D. LiMandri, "Imposing a limit on the age of cranes will bring our policy in line with the reality of advances in safety and technology in the crane industry."
NYBC Study: More City Residents Are in Construction
The number of New York City residents working in the construction industry rose 3% in 2012 to 185,233, up from 179,814 in 2011, according to a New York Building Congress analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. About 70% of the total live in Queens and Brooklyn.
The survey adds that median earnings for surveyed construction workers rose 2.4% in 2012, while all workers saw earnings drop 1%.
Staten Island residents, who made up 8% of the surveyed group, had the highest median earnings of $47,236. Those in the Bronx, with 14.4% of the total, had median earnings of $27,466.
Cash-Strapped Cooper Union Opts for Tuition Charge
Trustees of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, New York City's prestigious art, architecture and engineering college, said Jan. 10 that the school will stick with a plan announced last year to end its long history of free tuition, starting with the 2014 freshman class.
The board opted not to accept a plan from a group of students, board trustees, faculty and others that offered other financial options, contending that requiring students to cover 50% of tuition was the only alternative to deal with its budget challenges. One published report estimated the student cost at $20,000. "We believe that the contingencies and risks inherent in the proposals are too great to supplant the need for new revenue sources," said the board in a statement. "The recommendations cannot—by themselves—be prudently adopted ... to assure the institution's financial sustainability into the future."
While the school may offer financial aid to students in need for the first time, opponents of the tuition approach say it will detract from the school's mission in place since 1859 and impact applicant quality, says a Jan. 13 story in Inside Higher Ed.
The college faces a $12-million annual deficit, even after leasing a former building site for a mixed-use tower, recently completed. A $111-million academic building that includes engineering school space was finished about five years ago. The school also named a new engineering school dean last August.