2007_04_trackwork2.jpgAfter two transit-worker deaths in five days, NYC Transit Authority President Howard Roberts wrote what the NY Times called an "emotional letter" to the thousands of transit workers.

Referring to his 20-year career in the United States Army, the transit president, Howard H. Roberts Jr., recalled the time he served as a paratrooper with the 101st Airborne Division, where staying alive was a matter of following safety rules.

“The only difference between being a paratrooper and working many jobs at NYC Transit is that jumping out of planes was a lot safer,” Mr. Roberts said in the letter.

Mr. Roberts, who started the job in mid-April, said he was taking the deaths last month of the two track workers, Daniel Boggs and Marvin Franklin, in accidents five days apart, “personally” and said that he felt “responsible for everything that happens or does not happen at NYC Transit.”

Boggs died when a southbound 3 train hit him on the Columbus Circle tracks and Franklin died while transporting a dolly across active G tracks; Franklin's co-worker Jeffrey Hill was injured when the G train hit them. The Daily News notes that Roberts also wrote that workers must follow the rules "for the sake of yourself and everyone that loves you." (The NYC Transit Authority also issued a 60-page safety guide to remind workers to be very careful.)

The investigations into both deaths continue as non-essential track work remains suspended; in Boggs' death, it seems that alarm boxes may have failed and that when his crew members tried to cut power, they found "the emergency equipment was broken." And it's believed that a supervisor told Franklin and Hill to carry the dolly across active tracks, instead of using a longer and safer route.

The NYC TA is working closely with the Transit Workers Union on communicating the importance of safety with employees. TWU has appreciated Roberts' comments and reaction so far, and TWU president Roger Touissant told the Times, "This is certainly a harsh introduction to the harsh realities of life in Transit.”

Photograph of track workers by sgoralnick on Flickr