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Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced changes to regulations governing positive train control (PTC) installation aimed at providing railroads additional flexibility and reducing their implementation costs.
The revisions stipulate that railroads no longer will be required to conduct risk analyses to obtain Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) approval to not install PTC on certain lines. In addition, railroads won’t need to complete other costly risk mitigation measures on an estimated 10,000 miles of track that will not be used to transport passengers or poison inhalation hazard (PIH) commodities after December 2015.
Railroads impacted by the federal mandate are expected to save about $335 million over the first five years and up to $775 million over the next 20 years by implementing safety measures other than PTC, where appropriate, USDOT officials said in a prepared statement.
“These changes will provide significant regulatory relief, while ensuring that safety remains our highest priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Earlier this year, President Obama called for a government review of regulations to identify those that needed to be changed or removed because they were deemed unnecessary, out of date, excessively burdensome or overly costly.
“As a result of this review, the revised regulations will provide greater flexibility to railroads and save hundreds of millions of dollars even as they improve rail safety,” said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo.
The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandates that dozens of U.S. freight and intercity or commuter railroads install PTC systems by 2015’s end on lines used to transport PIH materials and passengers. A few federal surface transportation bills proposed earlier this year included provisions to extend the PTC deadline by two or five years.
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) welcomed the announcement that the USDOT is providing railroads the ability to install PTC based on 2015 rail traffic patterns instead of traffic patterns from 2008.
“Ensuring the safest possible transport of all rail passengers and commodities, particularly highly toxic chemicals, remains the freight railroads’ highest priority,” said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger in a prepared statement. “We look forward to continuing to work with the FRA as implementation of PTC progresses.”