Denham Statement from Hearing on Positive Train Control Implementation
Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials
Hearing on “The State of Positive Train Control in the United States”
September 13, 2018
(Remarks as Prepared)
Our hearing today focuses on the implementation of Positive Train Control in the United States. This important, life-saving technology is one of the most complex safety mandates ever undertaken by the railroad industry.
Positive Train Control, or PTC, is a radio- or GPS-based system designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, over speed derailments, incursions into work zones, and the movement of a train through a switch left in the wrong position.
From its inception a decade ago, Congress and stakeholders anticipated that the PTC mandate would be a daunting undertaking. PTC had never been implemented on such a large scale, and has never required such a high level of interoperability.
Since the 2008 mandate was enacted and the 2015 bipartisan extension was passed, freight, passenger, and commuter railroads have been working to implement PTC.
According to the Association of American Railroads, freight railroads will spend $10.6 billion implementing PTC, with additional hundreds of millions each year to maintain.
The American Public Transportation Association has estimated that the commuter railroads will have to spend nearly $3.6 billion on PTC.
When Congress passed the bipartisan PTC Enforcement and Implementation Act of 2015, we heard from railroads that funding was an issue. We heard those concerns, and in the FAST Act, we authorized $197 million in PTC grant funding. Additionally, the FAST Act specifically prioritized PTC installation projects for Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) funding. In total, Congress made available more than $1 billion dollars in grant funding for PTC implementation, in addition to financing programs like RRIF and the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA).
Furthermore, the administration recently awarded the over $200M in grants from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program to aid in the implementation of PTC by commuter railroads.
The railroads have achieved some significant improvements over the past year implementing this safety technology. While we are seeing progress among a majority of railroads, we want to see everyone meet their requirements.
Based on railroads’ self-reporting data from their Quarterly PTC Progress Reports for Quarter 2 of 2018, FRA currently considers nine railroads at risk of not meeting the statutory criteria required to qualify for an alternative schedule.
FRA currently considers any railroad that installed less than 90 percent of its PTC system hardware as of June 30, 2018, to be at risk, as installation of all PTC system hardware is only an initial phase of implementing a PTC system and only one of the six statutory criteria required to qualify for an alternative schedule.
Today we want to receive a PTC implementation status update, and discuss how we can work together to ensure PTC deadlines are met.
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