Commuter Rail Coalition chair and Metra CEO Jim Derwinski recently testified before the Senate Commerce Committee, where he requested a new grant program specifically for commuter railroads that are struggling to meet the resource demands of implementing Positive Train Control (PTC).
The federal PTC mandate “should be supported by dedicated federal funding for these public agencies,” Derwinski said. “The federal PTC mandate has added to the pressure on our capital and state of good repair needs, and the expected PTC operations and maintenance costs will continue to add pressure for years to come.”
The problem, Derwinski noted, is that the current funding situation is unsustainable, and it “threatens the future viability” of the important service that commuter railroads across the country provide. Citing this, he made the case for a dedicated funding stream for commuter railroads: “Commuter railroads are highly regulated, capital intensive systems that require a substantial annual investment to maintain rights-of-way and track structure.” Such funding will ensure that “commuter rail systems across the country are no longer forced to rely on sporadic discretionary grants and can effectively plan for both safety and capital expenditures.”
“The National Safety Council has cited rail as the safest form of transportation in the country,” the Coalition noted. “In addition to installing PTC, many commuter railroads across the US have invested in myriad other safety protocols to ensure that passengers and railroad personnel are travelling and working in environments that simultaneously underscore and highlight their safety.”
Derwinski closed his testimony by inviting members of the Senate Commerce Committee to visit Chicago’s Metra to experience PTC in the most complicated network in the US.
The Commuter Rail Coalition is an association “representing the interests, needs and benefits of the nation’s commuter railroads. It was formed by industry leaders to engage and educate stakeholders and advocate for the resources necessary to sustain this vital public asset.”