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The U.S. Senate yesterday passed a short-term surface transportation funding extension that includes a long-term extension of the positive train control (PTC) implementation deadline. The Senate's action followed the House's approval of the bill on Tuesday, and President Obama is expected to sign it.The legislation reauthorizes funding of transportation programs through Nov. 20, and pushes back the Dec. 31 deadline for railroads to install PTC safety technology to Dec. 31, 2018, and as late as 2020 under certain circumstances.The deadline extension will ward off a nationwide shutdown of railroad services, which industry leaders said would occur after Jan. 1, 2016, if the deadline wasn’t postponed. Most railroads would have missed the Dec. 31 deadline, and many indicated they wouldn’t operate in violation of federal law.Railroad industry leaders praised yesterday's congressional action."Members of the House and Senate are to be commended for taking the responsible action to extend the PTC deadline," said Association of American Railroads President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger. "This provides the certainty American industries and businesses need to serve the millions of Americans who rely on rail every day."Freight railroads already have spent close to $6 billion on PTC development, and remain committed to being accountable and transparent in completing PTC installation, Hamberger said."The industry expects to spend up to $4 billion more before this complex technology is fully operational across the United States," he added.Commuter railroads also are committed to implementing PTC technology, according to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The extension will give them the time to ensure it is developed, installed and tested successfully and safely, said APTA President and CEO Michael Melaniphy in a press release."This three year extension of PTC implementation avoids the risk of an economic crisis that would occur if the nation's commuter and freight rail systems were force to shut down at the end of the year," Melaniphy said.Also yesterday, the Senate confirmed President Obama's nomination of Sarah Feinberg as the next administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). A former chief of staff to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Feinberg has been acting administrator since January.She succeeds Joseph Szabo, who served as FRA administrator from April 2009 to Jan. 9 of this year, when he resigned to become a senior fellow for transportation policy at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.
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