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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

House passes PTC deadline extension, short-term transportation funding bill


The House of Representatives yesterday approved a three-week extension of surface transportation funding and a three-year extension of the deadline for railroads to implement positive train control (PTC) technology.

The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015 (H.R. 3819) would extend the authorization for federal highway and transit programs through Nov. 20, and would prevent a shutdown of the U.S. rail system by extending the PTC deadline though 2018. The current PTC deadline is Dec. 31. Existing legislation that authorizes transportation funding expires Thursday.

The measure was introduced and passed last week by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

The bill will ensure that states can continue to pay for transportation projects while Congress continues to debate on a longer term bill, said T&I Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) in a press release.

"H.R. 3819 also recognizes that failing to extend the positive train control deadline now will have devastating economic impacts," he added. "Not only will railroads stop shipping important chemicals critical to manufacturing, agriculture, clean drinking water, and other industrial activities, but passenger and commuter rail transportation will virtually screech to a halt."

Most railroads have said they will not be able to meet current PTC deadline. As a result, many have also said they will have to cease operations after Jan. 1 in locations where they do not yet have PTC systems installed. The Federal Railroad Administration has said it will enforce the Dec. 31 deadline, which was set by Congress in 2008.

"A PTC-related rail shutdown would pull $30 billion out of the economy in the first quarter and lead to 700,000 jobs lost in just one month," Shuster said. "It's our responsibility to extend this deadline now, and avoid shutting down much of our rail system."