Train technology deadline extended

Just a day after concerns about the how the implementation of positive train control (PTC) technology could impact rail service in Huntingdon County, the U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday approved legislation extending the deadline for installing the technology.
 
The Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015 (House Resolution 3819) was introduced by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA 9), Ways and Means Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee ranking member Peter DeFazio (D-OR).
 

“Not only will railroads stop shipping important chemicals critical to manufacturing, agriculture, clean drinking water and other industrial activities, but passenger and commuter rail transportation will virtually screech to a halt,” Shuster said. “A PTC-related rail shutdown would pull $30 billion out of the economy in the first quarter and lead to 700,000jobs lost in just one month. It’s our responsibility to extend this deadline now, and avoid shutting down much of our rail system.”Shuster said the legislation was passed by the House Transportation Committee last week and “recognizes that failing to extend the PTC deadline now will have devastating economic impacts.”
 
The issue came up locally during a meeting of the board of directors of Huntingdon County Business and Industry (HCBI) Monday. HCBI executive director Amy Wise said without an extension of the deadline, the potential existed that Amtrak would be forced to cease operation on certain rail lines, including the Keystone West, because of the cost of installation of PTC.
 
Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz provided The Daily News with a brief fact sheet on PTC.
 
The fact sheet explains PTC is “a safety technology designed to match train speed to track conditions for improved safety.”
 
The sheet added installation and maintenance of PTC is the responsibility of the railroad that controls the track.

 

 
On the local line, while Norfolk Southern would have been responsible for the operation, Amtrak would not have been able to continue to operate on the line without the technology.
 
Earlier this month, Norfolk Southern announced that starting Dec. 1, its rail operating subsidiaries would no longer accept shipments of Poisonous-Inhalation Hazard commodities and that passenger and commuter trains operated by Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express and Metra will be prohibited by law from operating after Dec. 31. Both changes were directly related to the original deadline for PTC implementation.
 
“We remain hopeful that Congress will grant the railroad industry an extension of the PTC deadline and appreciate the consideration elected officials and regulators are giving this issue,” James A. Squires, Norfolk Southern chairman, president and CEO said at the time. “However, in order to conduct lawful operations Jan. 1, 2016, and beyond, we must plan ahead to clear affected loaded and empty freight cars from our system.
 
“Norfolk Southern sincerely regrets the inconvenience that customers, passengers and commuters could experience,” Squires said. “Our strong hope is that Congress will act quickly and decisively to allow us torestore full access to our rail network.”
 
Squires added Norfolk Southern is working to install the technology as fast as is safe and practical.
 
The legislation also funds and extends the authorization for federal highway and transit programs through Nov. 20. The resolution now moves to the Senate.
 
Candy can be reached at cprice@huntingdondailynews.com.