Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) introduced legislation Jan. 11 aimed at speeding up the implementation of positive train control (PTC) technology that could prevent catastrophic human-caused rail accidents.
Rep. DeFazio is a ranking member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rep. Capuano is a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.
The proposed legislation, entitled as the Positive Train Control Implementation and Financing Act, comes in response to the Dec. 18, 2017, derailment of Amtrak Train 501 in Washington, which killed three and injured others.
The National Transportation Safety Board reported last week that the accident could have been prevented by the use of PTC.
“Since Congress first passed legislation to mandate PTC implementation in 2008, some railroads have been diligent in implementing PTC while others have clearly been dragging their feet. Two years ago, Congress granted them more time, pushing the PTC implementation deadline to Dec. 31, 2018,” DeFazio said.
DeFazio said that as the deadline approaches, he does not believe many of the railroads are on track to meet the PTC mandate.
“Enough. No more delays, no more extensions, no more excuses from railroads who have had ten years to implement PTC technology,” DeFazio said. “This legislation requires that PTC be installed by the end of the year, prevents future extensions of this life-saving technology, and provides critical grants for cash-strapped commuter and intercity passenger railroads to implement PTC.”
Rep. Capuano said PTC implementation will significantly improve passenger safety and added that its full implementation must be made a priority.
“This legislation will ensure that PTC is done as quickly as possible and makes resources available to help certain railroads meet this obligation,” Rep. Capuano said.
Members of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Reps. Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), and the entire Washington State Democratic delegation including Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Denny Heck (D-WA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Adam Smith (D-WA), have co-sponsored the legislation.
The legislation would mandate that the final deadline for implementing PTC be on Dec. 31, 2018. The legislated also would prohibit the U.S. Department of Transportation from granting railroads further extensions on the implementation deadline.
The officials said the bill includes more than $2.5 billion in grants to help passenger railroads meet the deadline for intercity and commuter and passenger railroads to implement PTC.
The legislation would also prohibit commuter and intercity passenger railroads from beginning new service on a route unless PTC is fully implemented and operational, which officials said was also in response to the recent Amtrak derailment.
The legislation also requires that Amtrak report its progress toward installing PTC on routes that it does not own, but are operated by the railroad, such as the Amtrak Cascades line.