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Rail News: Positive Train Control

Metra, Illinois Democrats call on Congress to fund PTC

Illinois members of Congress joined Metra officials on Monday to call for additional federal funding for the implementation of positive train control (PTC) technology and other rail safety improvements.

U.S. Reps. Dan Lipinski and Mike Quigley and Sen. Dick Durbin, all Democrats, met with Metra representatives at LaSalle Station in Chicago to call on Congress to provide additional funding for PTC, which Congress has mandated that Class I and commuter railroads like Metra implement by Dec. 31.

Lipinski, Quigley and Durbin noted that PTC technology would override human errors to prevent train accidents like the recent Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight passengers.

However, most railroads, including Metra, have indicated they will not be able to meet the deadline due to a number of factors. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently announced that railroads that don’t meet the PTC deadline could face fines of up to $25,000 a day per track segment.

Lipinski — a member of the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials — said an FRA official told him during a recent subcommittee hearing that the agency might shut down railroads that don’t comply with the PTC mandate.

"Representing a district with a vast number of passenger and freight rail lines, I have always made rail safety a top priority on the Railroad Subcommittee," said Lipinski in a press release. "That is why back in 2008 I included language in a bill to create the Rail Safety Technology Grant program to help railroads install life-saving PTC more quickly. Unfortunately, Congress never fully funded this program and commuter railroads like Metra have not been able to implement PTC."

Earlier this year, Lipinski and Quigley introduced the Reassuring Adequate Investment in Lifesaving Systems (RAILS) Act, which reauthorizes the Rail Safety Technology Grant program to assist railroads in meeting the PTC deadline. The RAILS Act would provide $200 million for each of the next five years for PTC safety technology, rail integrity safety systems and a system for electronic communication regarding hazardous material rail shipments.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/8/2015