Quigley’s “Mike on the Move” Tour Highlights Positive Train Control Implementation
CHICAGO — Today, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD), took his “Mike on the Move” transportation initiative to Metra’s rail system to see firsthand Metra’s work to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) safety technology on its rail system and discuss the December 31st congressionally mandated deadline.
“Today’s tour of the 49th Street Metra facility gave me a close-up look at the complex and costly process involved in implementing PTC and the important work Metra is to doing to ensure Chicago’s commuter rail system employs the most advanced safety technology,” said Rep. Quigley. “Implementing PTC is vitally important to ensuring that our region’s rail system provides the utmost level of safety for over 150,000 passengers who use Metra every day. Congress has mandated this important rail safety technology but has refused to help our nation’s cash-strapped commuter railroads fund its costly implementation. With the deadline for implementation just months away and passenger rail service around the country in jeopardy, it’s time for Congress to act and provide commuter railroads with the necessary time and funding to implement this important safety technology.”
During the tour, Rep. Quigley walked through Metra’s PTC implementation efforts at its 49th Street facility. The tour provided Rep. Quigley with the opportunity to see the installation of PTC firsthand and understand the costs, complexity, and labor involved with installation. Rep. Quigley toured a passenger cab car and a locomotive that are being outfitted with the PTC system.
“Safety is always our highest priority and Metra is doing everything it can to install this important but extremely complex safety technology on our system for the benefit of our riders,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “We are extremely grateful to Rep. Quigley and others in our Illinois delegation who understand the cost and complexity of this technology and have been doing all they can to assist us with its funding and implementation.”
Metra Senior Director for Operations Jim Derwinski, Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno, and Rep. Quigley (from left to right) discuss Metra’s PTC implementation process at the 49th Street facility.
When the 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act mandated PTC implementation by 2015, there was no off-the-shelf technology capable of achieving 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. In fact, Congress has included funding for PTC in the nation’s annual budget in only one year since it was mandated. 71 percent of commuter railroads will not achieve full PTC implementation before the statutory deadline of December 2015. Without federal funding for PTC, these already cash-strapped commuter railroads will begin being fined by the Federal Railroad Administration when they do not meet the deadline.
Implementing PTC in Chicago is a more complex task because so many railroads operate in the city and share tracks. Therefore, everyone’s PTC systems need to talk to each other: freight, passenger and commuter. PTC implementation is expected to cost Metra more than $350 million. To date, Metra has allocated $133 million towards their PTC capital costs. Metra is relying on anticipated state and federal funds to provide the remaining dollars. However, given the uncertainty in both Washington, D.C. and the Illinois State Capital, those sources remain unclear. They are currently targeting 2019 for PTC to be fully implemented and interoperable, although PTC should be running on the UP and BNSF lines before that time.
Rep. Quigley’s “Mike on the Move” initiative emphasizes how the federal government can support transportation and infrastructure investments. Previous “Mike on the Move” events highlighted CTA Red and Purple Line renovation sites, the 606 bike and pedestrian trail during construction and shortly after it opened, Chicago’s Metra system’s century old switching tower and Amerail passenger car rehabilitation project, innovative bike and pedestrian trails around the city, large road construction projects, and Chicago’s notorious rail congestion.
As Illinois’ only member on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Quigley has pushed for a long-term surface transportation bill and prioritized Chicago-area infrastructure investments as a member of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD). Most recently, Rep. Quigley joined Senator Durbin and Rep. Lipinski to urge Congress to help fund implementation of PTC for commuter rails in light of the rapidly approaching deadline. He also joined Rep. Lipinski in introduced the Reassuring Adequate Investment in Lifesaving Systems or the RAILS Act, which reauthorizes the Railroad Safety Technology Grants Program to provide critical funding for train safety technologies. The bill would provide $200 million for each of the next five years for positive train control safety technologies, rail integrity inspection systems, a system for electronic communication regarding hazardous material rail shipments, and other new rail safety items. On the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Quigley has also offered amendments to increase PTC funding and helped make $80 million in the FY14 omnibus available to fund the Railroad Safety Technology Grants Program. He has helped secure $35 million in Core Capacity grants to benefit CTA and over $100 million for projects to ease flooding in Cook County. Most recently he fought for increased funding for the TIGER grant program to benefit both highways and pedestrian projects.