Congress Avoids Rail Disruption with PTC Extension
The House and Senate have passed H.R. 3819 to provide a three-week extension—through Nov. 20—of the Highway Trust Fund and the measure also includes a three-year extension of the Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation deadline. The PTC implementation deadline can also be extended an additional two years beyond 2018 if certain benchmarks are met by the railroad companies. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law this week.The American Soybean Association (ASA) joined with agricultural industry partners and many other stakeholders in urging Congress to extend the PTC deadline to avoid any disruption in rail service.Railroad companies have warned of potential service disruptions if the Dec. 31, 2015 statutory deadline for implementing PTC was not extended by Congress.PTC is a GPS-based train electronic system designed to prevent collisions and over-speed derailments. The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandated that railroads implement PTC systems by Jan. 1, 2016 on lines that carry “toxic by inhalation” (TIH) materials, including anhydrous ammonia and chlorine, lines carrying 5 million or more gross tons every year, or any lines with “regularly scheduled intercity passenger or commuter rail services.”None of the railroads were going to meet the Dec. 31 deadline and they made statements that absent an extension of the PTC deadline, they would not transport TIH materials after Dec. 31. Some of their statements have suggested they would also cease any grain shipments and possibly all train movements.