Newhouse, Quigley Urge Congress to Extend PTC Deadline, Avoid Rail Shutdown

September 29, 2015
Press Release
Lead over 150 Bipartisan Members of Congress in Letter to House Leadership

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Dan Newhouse (WA-04), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, and Mike Quigley (IL-05), a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD), led a bipartisan letter to House leadership signed by over 150 Members of Congress urging Congress 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 statutory deadline for the full implementation of PTC safety technology is rapidly approaching, and it is clear that our nation’s passenger and freight railroads are unable to meet the deadline,” the members wrote. “To avert a major disruption of passenger and freight rail service that will have far reaching consequences for American commuters, businesses, and our economy, Congress must act now to extend the upcoming PTC deadline with a clear timeline that keeps railroads accountable and allows for the responsible implementation of this critical safety technology.”

In their letter, Reps. Newhouse and Quigley explained that despite the investment of billions of dollars by passenger and freight railroads towards PTC implementation, a recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirms what commuter railroads, the freight industry, and numerous government agencies have warned for years: implementing PTC nationwide by the statutory deadline at end of this year is simply impossible.

They warned that unless Congress acts soon to extend the deadline, passenger and freight railroads will have to shut down operations across the country. Without congressional action, the 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 our nation’s economy, affecting thousands of businesses across a wide spectrum of industries and producing shortages of essential goods. The shutdown could make it difficult for cities to purify drinking water without the availability of chlorine and for farmers to tend to their crops without access to fertilizer.

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.