December 18, 2014

PTC extension introduced by committee

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation introduced a positive train control (PTC) extension bill. The bill seeks to extend the statutory deadline for PTC implementation by five years to Dec. 31, 2020, as well as provide another optional two-year extension on 60,000 miles of track across the country. Shortline railroads that operate on PTC-mandated track would receive an extension of five years if approved by the FRA.

Right now, the PTC implementation deadline is Dec. 31, 2015. The bill is based upon findings of the FRA in 2012 that identified several technical and programmatic problems with the implementation of PTC.

Passenger and freight railroads have expressed concern over meeting the current 2015 deadline, claiming they may be forced to stop operations to implement PTC or risk breaking the law by continuing to operate without it.

SMART Transportation Division National Legislative Director James Stem testified before the committee June 19 on PTC, as well as other issues.

“If Congress chooses to grant a blanket extension for PTC, the railroads that are behind on their implementation schedule today will further slow their progress, or just stop the process until that new extension expires,” Stem said.

“Any extension for PTC implementation should be on an individual basis, short in duration, six to 12 months, and only after identifying the reasons that the current implementation date is not obtainable.”

Some railroads, including Amtrak, BNSF and Metrolink in California, have announced they will be able to meet the statutory deadline and are continuing the implementation and testing of PTC components.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) introduced the bill.