DOT Relaxes Positive Train Control Rule

The railroad industry had pushed for a less expensive mandate, which Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said is provided by the Aug. 24 proposal.

The Federal Railroad Administration is publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Aug. 24 offering more flexibility -- and lower costs -- to railroads as they implement positive train control systems. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the changes in a news release posted Aug. 23 that said they "will provide regulatory relief while maintaining our commitment to safety."

FRA will accept comments until Oct. 24.

Affected railroads are expected to save $340 million in the first few years and as much as $1 billion in the next 20 years by not installing PTC systems on up to 14,000 miles of track, the release states. It said the rail lines affected by the changes "have significantly less accident exposure because they do not carry passenger trains or PIH hazardous materials."

PTC is currently required on routes carrying poison inhalation hazard (PIH) materials and on routes that provide intercity and commuter passenger service. If a railroad opts to reroute the shipment of PIH hazmats off such a rail line and chooses to not install PTC there, the company must currently request FRA approval and conduct a complex set of analyses. The amendments would eliminate the need to perform the analyses; the existing requirements to install PTC on lines used to provide passenger rail service remain in place.

"We believe that the proposal provides a balance of safety regulation and cost to the industry," said FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. "We look forward to working together with the railroads as they concentrate on areas where positive train control is much-needed."

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