House Bill Would Extend PTC Deadline

Legislation is making its way through the House of Representatives that contains an extension of the deadline for installation of positive train control on routes carrying passengers and hazardous cargo.

The stopgap bill, the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015, may get a full House vote as early as today (Oct. 27) after clearing a committee late last week.

The Association of American Railroads has warned that legislation extending the PTC deadline needs to pass Congress by the end of October to prevent disruptions of shipments of hazardous cargo.

Otherwise, the industry has said, railroads will begin notifying customers of an impending embargo of hazardous cargo and passenger trains.

Most Class I railroads have indicated that they will refuse to handle passengers and hazardous cargo rather than pay fines imposed by the Federal Railroad Administration for noncompliance with federal law requiring that PTC be in place by Dec. 31.

The House bill faces an uncertain reception in the Senate because it merely extends federal transportation funding through Nov. 20. The Senate approved a bill last July to authorize transportation funding for the next three years.

Federal transportation spending is set to expire on Oct. 29. Without Congressional action, spending on highway projects will halt.

The House bill does not include any new money for transportation. House leaders have said they favor a “patch” to give that chamber more time to finish work on a multiyear proposal for transportation funding.

The Obama administration has indicated that it would approve the House’s patch legislation should it reach the president’s desk.

Senate leaders have indicated that they expect to send to President Obama a multiyear transportation funding bill by Thanksgiving.

“Both the Senate and the House bills have many similarities that will allow for a very short conference period,” said Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

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