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Rail News: Positive Train Control

New Senate bill seeks to extend PTC deadline to 2020's end

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) on Aug. 1 introduced a bill (S. 1462) that would extend the federally mandated deadline for positive train control (PTC) implementation by five years to Dec. 31, 2020.

Referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, the bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).

"This bill ensures that safety for rail passengers and secure freight transportation remains a priority while the [Federal Railroad Administration] moves forward in implementing PTC," said Thune in a prepared statement. "This bill is a starting point and I will continue to work with my colleagues, the FRA, railroads and industry stakeholders to ensure that PTC is implemented in a safe and timely manner."

Since legislation was enacted in 2008 requiring PTC implementation by 2015's end, dozens of U.S. railroads have "devoted enormous human and financial resources" to develop a fully functioning system by the deadline, and progress to date "has been substantial," according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

But due to technological and non-technological challenges that have arisen throughout the implementation process — including radio spectrum, design specifications, server and dispatch availability, track database verifications and budget constraints — railroads have determined it isn't possible to have a fully interoperable nationwide PTC system up and running by 2015's end, AAR officials said earlier this year.

AAR officials believe the deadline should be extended by at least three years, to Dec. 31, 2018, with flexibility given to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to consider additional extensions if they're deemed necessary. American Public Transportation Association officials also support a deadline extension.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/5/2013