Mike Rogge

Federal rail crisis looming

By Mike Rogge

Capitol Update, Oct. 16, 2015 Share this on FacebookTweet thisEmail this to a friend

Under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, railroads that transport passengers and ship certain chemicals face a December 31, 2015 deadline to install Positive Train Controls (PTC). PTC is a GPS system designed to monitor and control train movements to provide increased safety when railroads ship toxic inhalation hazard chemicals such as chlorine, anhydrous ammonia, hydrogen fluoride.

It is now clear that the deadline will not be met. No Class 1 freight railroad will be in compliance with PTC by December 31. Some major railroads have stated that they will halt large portions of rail service unless the deadline is extended. A shutdown of large segments of the nation’s freight rail network would have broad and long lasting consequences. A major disruption of freight service would have cascading impacts on food, energy and water supplies, as well as transportation, construction manufacturing and nearly every sector of the U.S. economy.

A recent economic impact analysis concluded that rail service disruption lasting only one month would result in a 2.6 percent reduction to U.S. real GDP growth during the 1st quarter of 2016. Many of our members felt the effects of the recent West Coast port disputes and we need congress to act to prevent similar, if not more severe, economic impacts from occurring.

CMTA recently joined many other California associations in signing a letter to U.S. Senator John Thune, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Technology to support the extension and move this legislation forward rapidly. California Senators Feinstein and Boxer were also asked to assist in expediting this action. We urged Congress to ensure PTC is implemented on a workable timetable that will allow the railroads to install this complex technology and prevent a nationwide rail service shutdown.

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