A piece of legislation recently introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon, along with six co-sponsors, would appropriate $2.6 billion for the installation of positive train control (PTC) technologies on railroads across the country. The move comes amid a continuing concern regarding rail safety that was sparked by last month’s Washington Amtrak derailment, an accident that killed three passengers and injured dozens more.
PTC, which experts agree would have likely prevented the unfortunate derailment, uses satellite technology to slow trains in the event that an engineer fails to brake when needed.
The bill would also disallow new rail passenger routes without PTC technologies and require Amtrak to provide quarterly safety reports on its routes, including state-owned rail operated by Amtrak. In a letter released earlier this month, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson guaranteed that the passenger rail service will install PTC on its Cascades line, on which December’s derailment occurred, “during the third quarter of 2018.” The company claims to have implemented PTC equipment on 51% of its trains.
Representative DeFazio, the bill’s primary sponsor, hopes to expedite the implementation of safety controls across the country: “No more delays, no more extensions, no more excuses from railroads who have had 10 years to implement PTC technology,” said the Congressman, who serves as the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
While the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended the use of PTC over forty years ago, Congress extended a 2015 deadline that required PTC’s installation. Rail operators now have until December of this year to comply with the safety requirements.