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American Public Transportation Association

 Senate Commerce Committee Passes Bill To Extend Positive Train Control (PTC) Deadline

3/25/2015

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This afternoon, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation passed legislation sponsored by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and eleven other Senators to provide for an extension of the deadline to comply with the positive train control requirements set forth under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. Senator Blunt's legislation, S. 650, The Railroad Safety and Positive Train Control Extension Act extends the current December 31, 2015 Positive Train Control implementation deadline to December 31, 2020 and provides the U.S. Secretary of Transportation with limited authority to grant extensions on a case by case basis —based on safety and operational risk—for up to two additional years.  

In response to the bill's introduction, APTA sent a letter to the leadership of the Senate Committee on Commerce detailing PTC implementation barriers, requesting PTC installation funding and access to radio spectrum, and advocating for the U.S. DOT to have authority to extend the PTC implementation deadline on a case-by-case basis.

The Committee included an amendment (modified in Committee) offered by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to the bill which added annual reporting requirements for railroads during the extension period covered by S. 650. Under the Blumenthal provision, beginning 6 months after the date of the enactment of the bill, and annually thereafter until its positive train control system is certified by the Secretary of Transportation, each Class I railroad carrier, and each intercity or commuter rail passenger railroad will be required to submit a progress report to the Secretary on the status of the plan, and that progress report shall include:

  • A section describing the total number of positive train control components required, the number of components that have been installed, equipped, or deployed as of the date of the progress report, the number of components that remain to be installed, equipped, or deployed, and an estimated completion date for full positive train control system completion;
  • A section summarizing the number of employees requiring training under section 236.1041 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations, and the status of the training activities; and
  • A section summarizing the remaining challenges to full positive train control system implementation, including testing issues, interoperability challenges, and certification challenges.
Senator Blumenthal indicated during the markup that he would continue to seek changes to the bill, as it proceeds forward in the legislative process.

Recent Rail Legislation Introduced Addressing Positive Train Control (PTC) Implementation, Environmental Streamlining For Rail Projects, and Railroad Infrastructure Finance

Representatives Lipinski and Quigley Introduce PTC legislation
H.R. 1405, The Reassuring Adequate Investment in Lifesaving Systems Act (RAILS) was introduced by Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Mike Quigley (D-MA) on Tuesday, March 17. The bill authorizes $200 million dollars per year in 2015-2020 for PTC installation, testing, and other related implementation costs. This is a fourfold increase compared to previous annual authorization levels for federal railroad safety technology grants.
 
Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL), Danny Davis (D-IL), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Robin Kelly (D-IL) also joined Representatives Lipinski and Quigley in introducing the legislation.
 
Senators Blunt and Manchin Introduce Legislation To Streamline Environmental Process For Rail Projects
On Wednesday, March 18 Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced S. 769, The Track, Railroad, and Infrastructure Network (TRAIN) Act. This bill extends MAP-21 environmental permitting streamlining reforms for rail projects. The bill sponsors contend that streamlining the environmental permitting process could reduce costs and prevent delays for the rail industry. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) is an original co-sponsor of this bill, and it has been endorsed by the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
 
Railroad Infrastructure Financing Improvement (RIFIA) Act Introduced To Improve RRIF Loan Program
On Thursday, March 19 Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced S. 797, the Railroad Infrastructure Financing Improvement Act (RIFIA) which makes changes to the railroad rehabilitation and improvement financing program (RRIF) providing a more flexibility to the program. Specifically the bill would:
  • Facilitate financing arrangements that include both RRIF and private-sector loans;
  • Establish new creditworthiness criteria focused on the merits of the project, and authorize master credit agreements to cover a large program of projects like Amtrak's Gateway Program;
  • Extend the maximum period for loan repayment from 35 to 50 years, and permit payment deferrals until projects ramp up and become operational;
  • Unlock the potential for financing transit-oriented development;
  • Streamline the application process and improve transparency; and
  • Authorize appropriations to assist applicants in paying the federal costs of loans.
For questions or comments on any of the provisions referenced in this Legislative Alert, please contact Brian Tynan, Director of Government Affairs, at btynan@apta.com.   
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