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Quigley, Newhouse, Lipinski and Rail Industry Leaders Urge Immediate Action to Extend PTC Deadline

Oct 21, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL05), a member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development appropriations subcommittee, Dan Newhouse (WA-04), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, and Dan Lipinski (IL-03), a member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, along with leaders of the rail industry urged Congress to act immediately to extend the upcoming deadline for implementing positive train control (PTC) safety technology and prevent a shutdown of the nation’s passenger and freight rail system.

“The consequences for inaction on positive train control are too great. The time Congress has to avert an economic disaster is too short,” said Rep. Quigley. “While the deadline for PTC implementation is December 31, preventing a major disruption of rail service requires Congress to act much sooner. Shutting down the nations’ rail network involves more than simply flipping a switch – it involves complex logistics and will take weeks to complete. Therefore, Congress cannot afford to wait until the last minute to act and should explore all legislative options to get the job done as soon as possible.”

“The economic damage caused by a shutdown of our nation’s rail network would be as grave as it would be unnecessary. Food prices would spike sharply as impacted farmers would be prevented from effectively transporting products to market. Farmers would face increased costs procuring necessary fertilizers and pesticides,” said Rep. Newhouse. “Positive Train Control is a vital safety technology, and our nation’s rail networks require a clear timeline for reasonable implementation. Failure to extend this deadline within the next few weeks will have devastating impacts on all Americans who rely on our nation’s rail networks. I urge my colleagues in Congress to act on this commonsense measure to extend the deadline to implement PTC.”

“I’m pleased that House and Senate negotiators have come to an agreement on an extension of the Positive Train Control (PTC) mandate that sets the bar high for safety and holds the railroads’ feet to the fire,” said Rep. Lipinski. “This extension would provide an additional three years for railroads to install the technology and obtain bandwidth, but for any further extensions the railroads must meet benchmarks that demonstrate serious progress and investment.  Congress must closely track the progress of the railroads to ensure that they are making sufficient investments in PTC so that they will complete installation as quickly as possible.  Now that we have an agreement, we need Congress to pass this extension without delay.”

(From left to right) Kirk Dillard, Chairman of the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA); Chris Jahn, President of The Fertilizer Institute; Rep. Dan Newhouse; Rep. Dan Lipinski; Rep. Mike Quigley; Rep. Bill Foster; Rep. Brad Ashford; Martin Oberman, Chairman of Metra; Don Orseno, President and CEO of Metra; Rep. Bob Dold (not pictured is Edward Hamberger, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of American Railroads)

The event was also attended by Edward Hamberger, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Association of American Railroads; Martin Oberman, Chairman of Metra (Chicago commuter railroad); and Chris Jahn, President of The Fertilizer Institute, as well as members who signed the bipartisan letter led by Reps. Quigley and Newhouse to House leadership urging an extension of the PTC implementation deadline.

“Nitrogen fertilizer is fuel for agriculture’s high performance engine and makes it possible for our nation’s farmers to produce $225 billion worth of crops annually,” said The Fertilizer Institute (TFI) President Chris Jahn. “Without speedy action to extend the PTC implementation deadline, growers will be denied reliable access to an essential tool of food production.”

Today, the members and rail industry leaders explained that despite the investment of billions of dollars by passenger and freight railroads towards PTC implementation, implementing PTC nationwide by the statutory deadline at the end of this year is simply impossible. Without congressional action, hundreds of thousands of passengers who rely on commuter rail to get to work every day will have to find alternate means of travel, crowding already congested roads, increasing costs to local communities, and disproportionately affecting low income Americans. Shutting down the country’s freight network would also have devastating consequences to the nation’s economy, affecting thousands of businesses across a wide spectrum of industries and producing shortages of essential goods.

Earlier this month, Reps. Quigley and Newhouse sent a bipartisan letter to House leadership signed by over 160 Members of Congress urging Congress to extend the upcoming deadline for implementing PTC, showing the overwhelming support for action.

When Congress mandated PTC implementation by 2015 in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, there was no off-the-shelf technology available to achieve these safety objectives for all railroads. Our nation’s railroads have had to develop it, and they’ve had to do that with little help from the federal government. 71 percent of commuter railroads will not achieve full PTC implementation before the statutory deadline of December 2015. Half of the country’s commuter railroads are being forced to defer other safety and capital improvements in order to afford the costs of PTC.