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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Four senators introduce bill to extend PTC deadline until 2020's end


U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) yesterday introduced the Railroad Safety and Positive Train Control Extension Act (S. 650), which proposes to extend the federally mandated deadline for positive train control (PTC) implementation by five years from 2015's end to Dec. 31, 2020.

The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

"We must work to do everything we can to improve train safety and accident prevention without burdening our nation’s freight and passenger rail industry," said Blunt — the bill's lead sponsor — in a press release. "Unmanageable deadlines could result in higher costs and a disruption of service. This bipartisan bill will help ease the positive train control deadline to give railroads ... enough time to fully and safely implement this new technology."

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) — which has stated freight railroads wouldn't be able to meet the impending deadline due to radio tower/communication, technology development and other issues — welcomed the legislation.

"America's freight-rail industry … appreciates the senators' recognition that the existing mandate to have a fully interoperable, nationwide PTC system tested and safely operating by the end of 2015 is simply not possible and must be changed," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger in a statement. "[We] believe the new deadline set by the legislation is a reasonable and responsible extension, and provides the freight- and passenger-rail industries the time needed to fully install, test and approve PTC."

The freight-rail industry has spent $5.2 billion to date on implementation and although progress has been substantial, much remains to be done before PTC can safely operate around the nation, he said.

"This bill provides railroads the time necessary to fully and safely implement PTC without having to navigate an arbitrary and infeasible statutory deadline," said Hamberger.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/5/2015