U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) has proposed the Commuter Rail Passenger Safety Act to help commuter railroads, such as MTA Metro-North Railroad, fund and implement positive train control (PTC) systems.
Maloney announced he would introduce the legislation earlier this week after touring the site of Metro-North’s deadly derailment in the Bronx, N.Y. On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) confirmed that PTC would have prevented the crash, Maloney said in a press release.
"This strategic investment is critical to protecting the hundreds of thousands of riders that travel on Metro-North and systems like it every day," he said. "Installing positive train control systems in our commuter-rail systems is the single most important step towards reducing human error and saving lives — the safety of our neighbors and families is too important to wait."
The proposed bill would explicitly allow commuter railroads to apply for loans and loan guarantees to invest in PTC systems for their existing lines through the Federal Railroad Administration's Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program, which provides direct loans and loan guarantees of up to $35 billion to finance development of railroad infrastructure.
In addition, the legislation would reauthorize the Railroad Safety Technology Grant Program and increase the total investments to half a billion dollars over the next five years. This program funds the deployment of train control technologies, electronically controlled pneumatic brakes, rail integrity warning systems, switch position indicators and monitors, and other new or novel railroad safety technology, such as PTC. The program expired on Oct. 1.
Meanwhile, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) yesterday called on Congress to fund PTC implementation.
The commuter railroad industry is aggressively implementing PTC, said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Melaniphy in a prepared statement.
"All commuter-rail systems in the United States have developed PTC implementation plans and as of June 2013, have spent at least $458 million in installing PTC," he said. "It is estimated that the cost of full implementation of PTC will be at least $2.75 billion. To date, Congress has only appropriated $50 million for PTC for this critical safety program."
Appropriating $50 million does not begin to address the costs of PTC implementation, Melaniphy added.
"It is APTA's long-standing position that Congress needs to authorize and appropriate funding for PTC implementation for commuter railroads that will cover 80 percent of the implementation costs," he said. "Congress needs to do its part to make sure the PTC implementation can occur as soon as possible. Without additional funds, most commuter rail systems, which are all public agencies, will be constrained in their ability to proceed as quickly as possible."
In addition, APTA has asked for an extension of the federally mandated Dec. 31, 2015, deadline for PTC implementation not only because of cost, but to address the "significant technological challenges" required for PTC systems.
Also, APTA has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide free radio spectrum for commuter railroads as a public safety priority. To date, the FCC has not acted on that request, so APTA has called on Congress to direct the commission to provide free radio spectrum, Melaniphy said.
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