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Metra's board determined yesterday that the Chicago-area commuter railroad will cease service after Dec. 31 unless Congress extends the federal deadline for railroads to install positive train control (PTC) safety technology.The board acted after recommendation from its attorneys that advised Metra should not operate trains after the deadline. Operating after Dec. 31 would subject the railroad to potential Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) enforcement actions brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, including substantial civil penalties, issuance of compliance or emergency orders, and injunctions or criminal penalties, Metra officials said in a press release.FRA Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg has said the agency must enforce the PTC deadline, which was set by Congress in 2008. A majority of U.S. freight and passenger railroads will not be able to meet the PTC deadline due to operational, technological or financial challenges. Metra's timeline for full PTC implementation is 2019, although the agency expects several lines to be completed before that date.Metra's board also passed a resolution calling on Congress to give Metra and other railroads more time to complete their PTC implementation plans."This board will do all it can to avoid this crisis within the confines of the law as it exists today and continue to work with members of Congress on legislation that is needed to extend this unattainable deadline,” said Metra Chairman Martin Oberman.
Metra will ensure an orderly shutdown of its system and communicate with riders with enough time for them to consider alternative transportation plans after Dec. 31, the resolution states. The railroad also pledged to work with its Chicago-area transit partners to provide alternative transportation options.