What is Positive Train Control?

One of the issues WAWG has been following is Positive Train Control. PTC uses GPS and other communication and sensors to enhance the safety of train operations. Invention and installation of this sophisticated system was mandated by Congress in 2008, after a tragic commuter train crash.

Congress has set a deadline implementation for railroads of Dec. 31, 2015.

Though the railroads have been making great efforts to implement PTC, there have been a number of challenges along the way that have made it impossible to have the technology fully implemented by the current statutory deadline. As such, the broad agricultural community has engaged in efforts to request Congress extend the deadline for enforcement.

Though it appears very unlikely that such an extension will be included on a Continuing Resolution (which will be needed by the end of September to continue funding the federal government into the new fiscal year), a different potential vehicle for an extension could be the transportation/highway bill; transportation programs are currently operating under a short-term extension that expires at the end of October.

If an extension is not granted, railroads will have to decide to continue operating in violation of federal law or to suspend operations. A suspension in rail service could severely impact the Pacific Northwest agricultural industry which relies heavily on shortline and mainline rails to move product to shipping terminals on the West Coast.