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Rail News: Positive Train Control

Senate committee passes PTC deadline-extension bill

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation yesterday approved a bill that would extend the deadline for railroads to comply with positive train control (PTC) implementation by five years.

Sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and 11 other senators, the Railroad Safety and Positive Train Control Extension Act (S. 650) would extend the current federally mandated Dec. 31, 2015, deadline to Dec. 31, 2020. It also would provide the U.S. transportation secretary with limited authority to extend the deadline for two more years on a case-by-case basis if safety and operational risk warrant it, according to an American Public Transportation Association (APTA) "Legislative Alert."

The bill included an amendment that would require Class Is and intercity and commuter-rail passenger roads to submit reports updating the U.S. transportation secretary on the status of their PTC projects until the secretary certifies their completed PTC systems.

Although APTA and Association of American Railroads (AAR) members have been working to install PTC, the associations have expressed concerns to Congress for the past several years that railroads would not be able to implement the safety technology by the current federal deadline. Budget constraints, still evolving technology, access to necessary radio spectrum, timely approval from the Federal Communications Commission and other factors have complicated railroads' efforts to meet the deadline, they have said.

The PTC deadline-extension bill will give freight and passenger railroads the time they need to install, test and certify interoperable PTC systems, said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger in a prepared statement.

"This bill recognizes that, despite $5.2 billion spent by the industry to date, much remains to be done before PTC can safely operate coast to coast," Hamberger said.

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More News from 3/26/2015