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Congressman Mike Quigley

Representing the 5th District of Illinois

The Hill: Railroads get federal funds to install train safety tech

May 31, 2017
In the News

The following article was published on May 31, 2017. A link to the article can be found here.

By MELANIE ZANONA​

More than a dozen rail systems around the country have received federal funding to help speed up their efforts to install a major train safety technology that many railroads have struggled to adopt.

The Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that it doled out nearly $200 million in grants to assist commuter railroads in implementing positive train control (PTC). 

The technology, which will eventually be required by law, automatically slows a train that is going over the speed limit and can prevent derailments, collisions and improper track switching.

The Transportation Department said that 17 projects in 13 states were awarded federal funding after the agency received requests totaling $455 million — more than double what was authorized by lawmakers. Congress created the grants in the 2015 highway bill.
"The number of passengers depending on rail has increased dramatically, which means PTC is needed now more than ever," Patrick Warren, executive director of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), said in a statement. 

"This funding will get us closer to PTC implementation on some of the most significant railroads in the country that transport several million passengers to and from work every day."

The grant recipients include the Florida Department of Transportation, Illinois Metra Rail and New Jersey Transit — where a deadly train crash took place last year that put the lack of PTC technology in the spotlight.

“Implementation of Positive Train Control is a vital step in ensuring our rail systems are as safe and reliable as possible,” Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) said in a statement.

“Metra plays such an important role in the Chicagoland region, and this much-needed funding will help guarantee that one of the busiest commuter rail systems in the nation continues to provide for residents.”

Congress originally gave commuter and freight railroads until the end of 2015 to install the technology. But as railroads struggled to meet compliance deadlines, lawmakers pushed back the PTC implementation date to at least Dec. 31, 2018.

One of the chief obstacles for rail systems is the cost of implementing the technology. The federal government has kicked in over $800 million in federal grants to assist passenger railroads with installing the technology, as well as provided a $1 billion loan to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Railroads have slowly been making progress, but the latest data from the FRA shows that some are still lagging behind. Seven railroads also missed their self-planned deadline for having PTC fully implemented by December 2016, though two of them were noted as being very close.