TRANSIT: Foxx says no to positive-train-control extension

Railroad companies must have improved safety technology installed by Dec. 31

February 13, 2015

Railroads looking for an extension on the Dec. 31 deadline to install positive train control (PTC) will not get their wish, according to U.S. DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx. The federal government is contemplating a series of measures to help railroads implement the technology in the near-term.

PTC is a safety technology that will automatically slow a train down in the event of an emergency, even if the operator does not do so manually. The technology utilizes radio towers and Wi-Fi signals on a dedicated radio frequency to provide location data.

PTC was federally mandated in the 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act, which was itself spawned following a fatal collision between a commuter train and a freight train in Los Angeles. The technology has received pushes from similar incidents recently, including the derailment of a Metro-North train in New York in December 2013.

Congress and the Obama administration have a number of proposals in the works to help fund PTC adoption over the next several years. The administration’s fiscal 2016 budget features a proposed $825 million for PTC through 2018, and the president’s camp has proposed spending an additional $3 billion over six years for the cause.

Meanwhile, in Congress, a piece of House legislation reauthorizing passenger rail service could contain a provision allowing PTC loans for commuter railroads under the $35 billion Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing program. That legislation was expected to be approved shortly.