Sen. Blumenthal: Penalize railroads that miss PTC deadline

Richard Blumenthal

Richard Blumenthal

Hartford, CT – Railroads need to be held accountable if – as expected – they miss a Dec. 31 deadline to implement Positive Train Control systems, according to Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Blumenthal, who serves on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, sent a letter to Federal Railroad Administration Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg, demanding more information on how delinquent railroads will be penalized.

Railroads have known about the PTC deadline since 2008, but technical glitches and increased costs have slowed the implementation process. The technology is intended to prevent rail crashes and derailments caused by human error.

Testifying before a Senate subcommittee in June, Feinberg said Class I railroads had completed or partially completed upgrades to about 50 percent of locomotives that need PTC systems, and they had replaced about 50 percent of signals that required attention. She also said FRA planned to penalize railroads per PTC violation, per day, beginning Jan. 1 – but that the agency was still finalizing its enforcement strategy.

Blumenthal said in the letter that “widespread, indefinite delays are deeply disturbing” and that FRA has failed thus far to provide a specific plan for imposing penalties.

“More than just rhetoric, the FRA must demonstrate that willful or even negligent failure to set deadlines and meet them will have meaningful consequences,” Blumenthal wrote.