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FRA, AAR agreement would reduce route miles affected by PTC mandate


Last week, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Association of American Railroads (AAR) reached an agreement under which the FRA will issue a new proposed rulemaking to reduce the number of route miles requiring positive train control (PTC) systems by about 10,000 miles.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandates that more than 40 U.S. freight and commuter railroads by Dec. 31, 2015, install PTC on about 73,000 miles of track used to transport hazardous materials and passengers. However, the AAR filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit seeking a review of the FRA’s final rule governing PTC implementation because the FRA used 2008 haz-mat traffic patterns as the basis for the rule instead of projected traffic patterns by 2015’s end, when PTC is required to be fully implemented, the AAR argued. About 10,000 miles of track used to transport hazardous materials in 2008 are no longer expected to be used for haz-mat moves in 2016, according to the AAR.

The court postponed an oral argument proceeding scheduled for today because the parties reached an agreement during "good faith negotiations." The FRA’s new proposed rulemaking to reduce the number of route miles affected by the PTC mandate is projected to cut railroads’ overall installation cost — which currently is projected at about $12 billion to $13 billion — by several hundreds of millions of dollars, the AAR estimates.

In February, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced a bill (S. 301) that proposes to reduce the number of route miles requiring PTC systems by about 10,000 miles. At the time, AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger said the bill was an important first step in bringing “common sense” to PTC implementation because of the proposed change in traffic pattern years, and that the AAR was “eager” to work with the FRA to implement a “realistic blueprint” for PTC installation.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/7/2011