On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3819, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015, by voice vote. This legislation will extend the surface transportation authorization from Oct. 29 through Nov. 20, 2015. Due to funds already appropriated and being collected through the gas tax, no additional revenue was required for this authorization. Lawmakers are hopeful, with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reporting out their six-year authorization bill earlier this week that this will provide enough time to reconcile differences in both chambers' bills in conference.
The bill includes a bipartisan agreement extending the deadline for installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) from Dec. 31, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2018. It requires revised plans within 90 days of enactment outlining implementation plan details. After this three-year period, the legislation gives the Transportation Secretary authority to extend, on an individual basis, a deadline for an additional two years. Such extensions would require a more detailed alternative schedule and sequence on implementation of PTC.
Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) stated, “H.R. 3819 also recognizes that failing to extend the Positive Train Control deadline now will have devastating economic impacts. Not only will railroads stop shipping important chemicals critical to manufacturing, agriculture, clean drinking water, and other industrial activities, but passenger and commuter rail transportation will virtually screech to a halt. A PTC-related rail shutdown would pull $30 billion out of the economy in the first quarter and lead to 700,000 jobs lost in just one month. It's our responsibility to extend this deadline now, and avoid shutting down much of our rail system.”