House Democrats introduced legislation on Thursday in response to last month’s deadly Amtrak crash in Washington state.
The bill would hasten the implementation of a safety feature known as Positive Train Control (PTC).
Entitled the ‘Positive Train Control Implementation and Financing Act,’ the legislation would automatically decrease the speed of trains traveling over the permissible maximum on certain tracts of railway track. The bill, writes The Hill, would also stop the Department of Transportation from granting extensions to companies trying to dodge the compliance deadline.
“No more delays, no more extensions, no more excuses from railroads who have had 10 years to implement PTC technology,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the ranking Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“Since Congress first passed legislation to mandate PTC implementation in 2008, some railroads have been diligent in implementing PTC while others have clearly been dragging their feet,” DeFazio said.
Every member of the Washington state delegation co-sponsored the bill.
The December derailment of an Amtrak train plying between Seattle and Portland left three dead and injured over 100 passengers. An investigation spearheaded by the National Transportation Safety Board determined that, had the train been equipped with PTC technology, disaster could have been avoided.
Findings indicated that the train had been traveling 78 miles per hour around a sharp bend graded for a maximum speed of 30. Eyewitnesses traveling on a nearby highway had earlier told media the vehicle seemed to be moving faster than freeway traffic, before it sped off the tracks and several threatened to careen off an overpass on the road.
If passed, the bill would provide $2.5 billion in grants so commuter and intercity trains can successfully implement PTC on their routes. And Amtrak, under the prospective law, would have to provide legislators headway in their PTC implementation progress reports.
“Positive Train Control will significantly improve passenger safety and full implementation must be made a priority. This legislation will ensure that PTC is done as quickly as possible and makes resources available to help certain railroads meet this obligation,” said Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA).
The proposed bill was released shortly after a bipartisan group of lawmakers proposed ways to improve American infrastructure.
The report was praised by the White House, according to The Hill.
“We are encouraged to see the Problem Solvers Caucus echo the president’s priorities of increasing infrastructure investment, streamlining the permitting process, making government more efficient, enhancing American competitiveness, and focusing on the needs of rural communities,” said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters. “We hope to continue to work through any potential differences in order to achieve our shared goal of rebuilding our country’s crumbling infrastructure.”