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It was supposed to open last November. Then the opening was moved to March 30. And as that date approached, the opening was delayed indefinitely so that we now don’t have an official opening date for Capital Metro’s MetroRail. And yet, earlier this week, we almost had our first fatality from the system. Last night, locan news station KXAN ran the story of Jamel Houston, who claims to have been crossing the tracks at MLK and Airport Boulevard when, without warning, a MetroRail train passed inches in front of him.

For those of you following the MetroRail story, you’ll know that this isn’t the first issue that the line has had with safety issues. The line was originally slated to open in November 2008, but safety concerns moved that date back. During the demonstration of the line, several cars were trapped on the rail tracks by crossing gates until people manually moved the gates. Then in March, the Federal Railroad Administration cited Capital Metro and its contractor Veolia for additional safety related issues.

Concerns have also arisen about Veolia, Capital Metro’s contractor of choice. Veolia, it turns out, is the parent company of Connex, the company that run’s Los Angeles’s troubled rail line. You might remember that a Connex train operator was found to have been texting at the time of a horrific crash, and now Los Angeles appears ready to cancel the Connex contract for its safety concerns.

I don’t want to sound to hard on Capital Metro. I’m actually excited about the MetroRail line opening and am cautiously optimistic about its success and expansion. But it has to be done safely. We can’t cut corners on safety and put Austinites at risk just to get it running.

If you’re interested in the KXAN story, you can watch the video here:

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