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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

DeFazio bill would speed up PTC implementation

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio
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Following a deadly Amtrak Cascades derailment in Washington state last month, a bill has been introduced in Congress to accelerate positive train control (PTC) implementation.

Introduced by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the proposed Positive Train Control Implementation and Financing Act (H.R. 4766) would give railroads until Dec. 31, 2018, to implement PTC and would prevent the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) from granting extensions to railroads that want more time to implement the crash-prevention technology.

DeFazio, who is ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, announced last month that he would introduce the bill, after an Amtrak Cascades train derailed off an overpass, killing three passengers and injuring dozens more. The accident occurred on a stretch of track where PTC was not yet installed.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating the accident, noted that train was traveling at 79 mph in a 30 mph stretch of track when the derailment occurred. Had PTC been implemented, it likely would have prevented the train from exceeding the speed limit.

In a Dec. 28 letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, DeFazio and U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.) requested a detailed status update on railroads PTC implementation.

"It has been nearly a decade since passage of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which required freight, commuter and intercity passenger railroads to implement PTC by Dec. 31, 2015. That deadline was later extended to Dec. 31, 2018," the lawmakers wrote. "We understand that PTC is complex but there is no excuse for it taking this long and for some railroads to be lagging so far behind, as indicated in the progress reports submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration."

Although Congress extended the PTC deadline to Dec. 31, 2018, it also allowed railroads to request a two-year extension under certain circumstances.

The proposed legislation would provide $2.5 billion in grants so that commuter railroads and intercity railways are able to implement PTC, according to TheHill.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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