U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, along with Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) today introduced the bipartisan Positive Train Control (PTC) Extension Bill. This legislation would extend the statutory deadline for PTC implementation on approximately 60,000 miles of railroad track across the country by five years to December 31, 2020 and provide another optional two-year extension if Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) approval is granted. Short line railroads that operate on PTC-mandated track would also receive a five-year extension.
In 2012, the FRA identified several technical and programmatic reasons for delays in implementing PTC, including complex and often costly issues involving communications spectrum, design specification, server and dispatch system availability, track database verification, installation engineering, reliability and availability of system technology, budget constraints, and stakeholder capacity. Despite working to meet this upcoming deadline, passenger and freight railroads have also expressed concerns about their ability to meet this deadline, and about the potential safety risks that would come from diverting funds from other maintenance and capital improvements in order to implement PTC by 2015.
Without extension, many passenger and freight railroads will be unable to meet the current unrealistic deadline of December 31, 2015, and would be forced to decide between stopping service and operating in violation of the law. The FRA could also be exposed to liability if it were to allow railroads to operate without PTC after the deadline. Legislation extending the deadline passed the Senate last year, but was not enacted.
"This bill ensures that safety for rail passengers and secure freight transportation remains a priority while the FRA moves forward in implementing PTC," said Thune. "I understand that 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."
The Association of American Railroads and the American Public Transportation Association both support a PTC extension.