Transportation Secretary Chao urges railroads to complete PTC this year

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FRA
WASHINGTON — Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao on Jan. 2 sent letters to executives of 47 railroads and transit agencies urging them to take “all possible measures” to meet the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline for implementing positive train control.

“The coming year is filled with an agenda of safety-oriented initiatives, and among the most important is advancing the implementation of positive train control,” Chao's letter states. “Upon review of latest data provided by the industry, we are concerned that many of the nation's railroads must greatly accelerate their efforts to achieve the congressionally mandated requirements.”

Data that the Federal Railroad Administration released in September show a wide gap in the degree of compliance freight and passenger railroads have achieved so far, from nearly 100 percent down to near zero.

In 2008, Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed, the Rail Safety Improvement Act that set a December 2015 deadline for PTC implementation. When it was apparent that railroads would not meet the deadline, lawmakers extended it three years with the warning there would be no further postponement. The rail industry tends to view a December 2020 alternative deadline for railroads showing good faith progress as the ultimate deadline to meet.

“The coming year is filled with an agenda of safety-oriented initiatives, and among the most important is advancing the implementation of positive train control,” Chao writes in her letter.

Chao said the FRA leadership has been directed to work with railroads “to help create an increased level of urgency ... of meeting the existing timeline expectations for rolling out this critical rail-safety technology.”
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