Congressmen Protest PTC Exemption

The decision by the Federal Railroad Administration to grant a positive train control exemption to a commuter operation in Nashville, Tennessee, has drawn criticism from some members of Congress.

The FRA gave the exemption to the Nashville Regional Transit Authority for its 32-mile Music City Star commuter line.

The exemption allows the commuter railroad and its host railroad, the Nashville & Eastern, to dispense with implementing PTC.

Reportedly, the two qualified for the exemption by reducing service.

That prompted four members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committees to write to the FRA to warn it that exemptions were not included in the 2008 law that required PTC implementation.

Exemption authority was included in the FRA’s regulations governing PTC.

“We continue to believe the exemptions provided in the regulations are overly broad — enabling intercity passenger, commuter, and freight railroads to avoid PTC implementation . . .,” the letter states.

The letter also expressed a fear that the exemption granted in Nashville could provide a template for other PTC exemption requests.

“We strongly urge FRA to revise its regulations to tighten PTC exemptions and focus on ways to help railroads comply with the law rather than circumvent it through regulatory carve outs,” the letter states.

It is signed by Reps. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, the ranking member on the transportation committee; Michael Capuano, D-Massachusetts, ranking member on the railroad subcommittee; and Steve Cohen and Jim Cooper, both Tennessee Democrats.

An FRA spokesman declined comment on the letter, but said the agency plans to give a response to the transportation committee.

It is not clear what services have been reduced. RTA continues to operate three morning and three afternoon trains between Nashville and Lebanon, Tennessee.

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