Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., introduced legislation this week that would delay the federal deadline for positive train control by five years to 2021.
The railroad industry has repeatedly said that implementing the costly crash-avoidance technology by the end of 2015 deadline was infeasible because the enormity of the task and much of the technology is still untested. The unfunded mandate is expected to cost the freight rail industry roughly $12 billion, and the Class I railroads have already spent more than $2.7 billion on PTC systems. Through the proposed bill, passenger and freight railroads would have to fully implement the technology on about 60,000 miles of tracks by December 31, 2020.
“This bill ensures that safety for rail passengers and secure freight transportation remains a priority while the FRA moves forward in implementing PTC,” Thune said in a statement. “I understand that this bill is a starting point and I will continue to work with my colleagues, the FRA, railroads, and industry stakeholders to ensure that PTC is implemented in a safe and timely manner.”
Congress called for passenger and freight railroads to build their PTC systems after Metrolink and Union Pacific trains crashed in 2008, killing 25 people, near Los Angeles. A texting passenger train conductor was the cause of the accident that spurred the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.