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FRA's proposed PTC rule would 'impose a financial burden beyond what Congress intended,' AAR says


Yesterday, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) urged the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to “faithfully follow” the Congressional statutory mandate that requires railroads to implement positive train control (PTC) on certain portions of the national freight-rail network.

However, the FRA's proposed PTC implementation rule would “impose a financial burden above and beyond what Congress intended, potentially adding hundreds of millions of dollars in additional cost to the railroads as they face using private capital to pay for the federal mandate,” AAR officials said in a prepared statement.

"By proposing substantial expenditures beyond what Congress is requiring, the proposed regulations would undermine the ability of the railroads to continue to provide the public benefits of rail,” said AAR Senior Vice President of Safety and Operations Robert VanderClute.

The AAR objects to the FRA's proposal to base PTC implementation on 2008 traffic patterns, require dual displays in locomotives, and allow regionals and short lines to operate locomotives unequipped with PTC over PTC-equipped tracks. The federal mandate requires railroads to implement PTC by Dec. 31, 2015, on certain mainlines used to transport passengers or hazardous materials, including toxic-by-inhalation (TIH) chemicals.

"It does not make any sense that Congress would mandate PTC for TIH routes that existed in 2008, knowing that those routes would be subject to change in the years to come," said VanderClute. "Given FRA's cost-benefit analysis and the adverse consequences of extending the mandate beyond what Congress required, the FRA should use Dec. 31, 2015, as the date governing the extent of the railroads' mandatory PTC obligation.”

In addition, the FRA's proposed requirement for dual-displays in the locomotive could cost the rail industry as much as $200 million for equipment that would serve no additional safety purpose, AAR officials believe.

"[And] surely Congress did not require Class I railroads to spend billions of dollars on PTC systems only to allow Class II and III railroads to operate trains without the technology on our tracks equipped with PTC," said VanderClute.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/14/2009