On Wednesday, Congress moved to extend the Positive Train Control (PTC) deadline by three years, clearing the way for railroads to continue operations as they work to properly install, test, and fully implement the new safety network.
The bipartisan legislation that was worked out between House and Senate committee staff was attached to the Surface Transportation (“Highway bill”) extension. While some lawmakers wanted the bill to be part of a larger, longterm bill, many in Congress and throughout the industry were worried about approaching the deadline too closely. Railroads had been warning lawmakers that, as the deadline got nearer, they would be forced to begin to shutter or cancel service in preparation for a full stop.
In July, TCU joined with SMART in calling for the Senate to extend the PTC deadline. TCU members understand the need for enhanced safety on the railroads, but not at the expense of their jobs. The new deadline also comes with various caveats for railroads: they must complete new plans, meet new reporting requirements, and improve transparency surrounding their progress in installation.
“We’re happy the railroads will remain open. We’re also disappointed that it came to this,” said TCU National Legislative Director Ron Kloos. “We reluctantly accept the reality of the situation, and while we would like to have seen greater progress and investment from the railroads at this point, it’s clear the deadline needed to be pushed back to give carriers the requisite time to get PTC installed and online.”