January 11, 2018

Kilmer, Washington Democrats and Top Transportation Democrats Introduce Legislation to Better Fund Positive Train Control Implementation, Prevent Further PTC Extensions

WASHINGTON, DC –Today, Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) joined the Democratic members of Washington state’s Congressional Delegation and leading Democrats on the House’s Transportation and Infrastructure to introduce legislation that would provide $2.5 billion in grants for intercity and commuter passenger railroads to implement Positive Train Control.

“Positive Train Control saves lives, and the deadline to implement it matters,” Representative Derek Kilmer said. “In the coming weeks, I will urge Congress to pass this bill and to exercise its oversight role to make sure the job gets done as fast as possible.”

In addition to the major increase in funding, the bill would require Amtrak to report its progress towards installing PTC on routes that are unowned by Amtrak, but are operated by the railroad, such as the Amtrak Cascades line. It would also prohibit commuter and intercity passenger railroads from beginning new service on a route unless PTC is fully implemented and operational.

Positive Train Control is a technology designed to automatically slow trains traveling faster than a safe speed. While the National Transportation Safety Board has not yet issued a final report on last month’s derailment of Amtrak #501, the NTSB’s preliminary report said: “in this accident, PTC would have notified the engineer of train 501 about the speed reduction for the curve; if the engineer did not take appropriate action to control the train’s speed, PTC would have applied the train brakes to maintain compliance with the speed restriction to stop the train.”

Since 1969, the National Transportation Safety Board has investigated 148 railway accidents that it determined PTC could have prevented. These accidents resulted in 298 deaths and 6,763 injuries.

The deadline to implement PTC is December 31, 2018. This deadline is the second chance for the railroads to get the job done. In the leadup to an original 2015 deadline, the Government Accountability Office issued a report to Congress which found most railroads would not make the 2015 deadline for a variety of reasons including low funding and the complex challenge of integrating PTC technologies. The report formed the basis for Congress’s decision to extend the implementation deadline to the end of this year.

Kilmer joined the other co-sponsors of the bill including the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Peter DeFazio (D-OR); the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Michael Capuano (D-MA); Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY); and the entire Washington State Democratic delegation including Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Denny Heck (D-WA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), and Adam Smith (D-WA).