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Yesterday, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced winners of its first annual Rail Safety and Security Excellence Awards, which recognize North American transit-rail agencies for excellence in safety and security programs and operations.The awards were presented earlier this week in Philadelphia, where APTA was holding its annual Rail Conference.Winning in all three award categories was New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which received two Gold Awards. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) earned a Gold Award for safety in the light-rail category."Safety and security are the top priorities in the public transportation industry," said APTA Chairwoman Flora Castillo. "The winners of this year's Rail Safety and Security Excellence Awards are role models for the rest of the transit-rail industry."The award recipients are:• MTA New York City Transit (NYCT), which won the Gold Award for Safety In the heavy rail category for its FASTRACK program that calls for shutting down segments of subway lines to perform maintenance. By providing traffic-free zones, the program enhanced worker safety and increased maintenance productivity, APTA officials said. NYCT also received a Gold Award for implementing its EAGLE Team anti-graffiti program that has reduced graffiti vandalism and criminal activity.• MTA Long Island Rail Road, which was recognized in the commuter/intercity/regional rail category for developing an aggressive approach to safety in its Maintenance of Equipment Department. The approach has helped set new performance records and improved the organization's overall safety performance, APTA officials said.• LACMTA, which was recognized in the light-rail category for adopting a safety initiative that entails the "three E's": engineering, education and enforcement. The agency drafted and trained qualified retirees as "ambassadors" to be deployed at strategic locations to observe the behavior and patterns of motorists and pedestrians as they crossed tracks.The following agencies also received recognition: the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, a certificate of merit for safety in heavy rail; Chicago Transit Authority, a certificate of merit for security in heavy rail; New Jersey Transit, a certificate of merit for safety in commuter/intercity/regional rail; Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, a certificate of merit for safety in light rail; Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, a certificate of merit for safety in light rail; and Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, a certificate of merit for security in light rail.