On September 30, 2015, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders introduced bipartisan legislation to extend the deadline by three years for railroads to implement Positive Train Control (“PTC”) technology. The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) mandates that PTC be implemented across a significant portion, approximately 60,000 miles, of the Nation’s rail lines by December 31, 2015. Lines requiring PTC are essentially Class I railroad main lines that handle any poisonous-inhalation-hazardous (PIH) materials, and any railroad main lines over which regularly scheduled intercity passenger or commuter rail services, such as Metra and Amtrak, are provided. The proposed bill would extend the compliance deadline to December 31, 2018, with a discretionary additional 12-month extension if railroads can show “good faith efforts” to implement PTC.
“Completion of the Positive Train Control mandate by the end of the year is not achievable, and extending the deadline is essential to preventing significant disruptions of both passenger and freight rail service across the country,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, one of the sponsors of the Positive Train Control Enforcement and Implementation Act of 2015 (H.R. 3651). “Railroads must implement this important but complicated safety technology in a responsible manner, and we need to give them the necessary time to do so.”
“This extension will ensure our nation’s railroads can continue to function and hold them accountable to implement necessary safety measures on a public timeline,” said Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham, also a sponsor of the bill. “Passenger and freight railroads have stated they can’t meet the current deadline and will shut down later this year. This includes ACE in my district. We must protect communities across the country from a railroad shutdown, which would damage local economies nationwide.”
Without the three-year extension, railroads will be prohibited from operating trains without PTC. Freight shipments will be suspended and the majority of commuter lines will cease operations. If the shutdown occurs, the impact on Chicago will be very significant. On a daily basis, Metra operates over 750 trains, over 500 freight trains run through Chicago, and Amtrak operates over 60 trains.