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Feds To MTA: Update Metro-North Signals, Add Second Operator On Trains

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The Federal Railroad Administration on Friday issued an emergency order telling the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to take steps to update its signal system to insure that Metro-North trains keep within speed limits.

And until it does, it will have to have two operators working in the cab of every train where there are major speed restrictions.

The order comes as federal investigators continue to probe Sunday's derailment that killed four and injured dozens.

Engineer William Rockefeller was alone in the cab of the 5:24 a.m. from Poughkeepsie Sunday while traveling 82 mph as it approached a 30 mph curve near the Spuyten Duyvil station in the Bronx.

His attorney and union representatives say he "lost focus" or dozed off or suffered from "highway hypnosis" just before the derailment.

It would seem if another operator had been alongside, the crash might have been avoided.

The Railroad Agency also gave the MTA until Tuesday to come up with a list of track locations where trains have to slow down significantly to avoid accidents.

The MTA will also have to submit an action plan by the end of the year, with target dates for updating signal system improvements.

The U.S. Transportation Secretary says these additional steps will help ensure that other Metro-North trains travel at safe speeds.

The MTA also heard from Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday.

In a letter, he said he wants the agency to speed up the process for installing the so-called PTC system, or positive train control.

It's designed to slow trains in restricted areas if the motorman does not respond in time.

In response to the federal order the agency said, "The MTA is working closely with the Federal Railroad Administration to review our policies and procedures in light of Sunday’s tragic derailment, and we will of course comply with whatever requirements the FRA directs us to follow. We are examining many other possible steps we can take to improve the safety of our railroad operations, and will continue making every effort to enhance customer and employee safety."

Meanwhile, two victims of the derailment were laid to rest Friday.

Family and friends gathered Friday to say their final goodbyes to a Putnam County man who died in last weekend's derailment.

James Lovell was mourned during a service at Our Lady of Loretto Church in Cold Spring, N.Y.

The married father of four was on his way to work in Manhattan on Sunday when the train came off the tracks.

"There will be tears, there will be sadness, there will be this sense of loss, but we take this time to thank God for the gift that Jimmy was to us, and that he was able to be an example of all things to us," said the Rev. Brian McSweeney, the former pastor at Our Lady of Loretto.

A sound and lighting expert, Lovell was en route to Rockefeller Center to prepare the Christmas tree for this week's lighting.

Wednesday's broadcast of the ceremonial lighting on NBC was dedicated to Lovell's memory.

Also, 54-year-old paralegal Donna Smith was memorialized at Brooks Funeral Home in Newburgh.

Friends and family remembered her as an active member of her church and other civic groups.

She was going to hear her sister sing with a choral group on the day of the accident.

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