House Dems introduce train safety bill after deadly Amtrak crash

House Dems introduce train safety bill after deadly Amtrak crash
© Washington State Department of Transportation

House Democrats on Thursday introduced legislation meant to accelerate the implementation of a key train safety feature, a move that follows December’s deadly Amtrak derailment in Washington state.

The bill, titled the Positive Train Control Implementation and Financing Act, would give railroads until the end of the year to enact Positive Train Control (PTC), which automatically decreases the speed of a train traveling over the limit. It would also prevent the Department of Transportation from allotting extensions to railroads seeking to delay meeting the implementation deadline.

“No more delays, no more extensions, no more excuses from railroads who have had 10 years to implement PTC technology,” said Rep. Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioProgressives poised to shape agenda if Dems take back House Transportation Department watchdog to examine airplane cabin evacuation standards House passes bipartisan water infrastructure bill MORE (Ore.), the ranking Democratic member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

ADVERTISEMENT
"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 Democratic delegation co-sponsored the legislation, a reaction to last month’s crash south of Seattle that left three dead when a speeding train derailed as it traveled across an overpass. The National Transportation Safety Board found in a preliminary report, released last week, that PTC would have slowed down the train, which had been traveling 78 mph in a 30 mph zone.

The legislation would provide $2.5 billion worth of grants so commuter railroads and intercity railways are able to execute PTC.

Amtrak, according to the bill, must provide updates about its headway enacting PTC in its required 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 CapuanoMichael (Mike) Everett CapuanoOcasio-Cortez draws ire from Democrats: ‘Meteors fizz out’ Political stunner! Crowley knocked off by millennial challenger Five lawmakers facing tough primary races MORE (D-Mass.), who serves as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. 

The new legislation comes as the Trump administration’s long-awaited infrastructure plan may not come to fruition until next month. But a bipartisan group of lawmakers this week unveiled a report detailing suggestions for a future infrastructure plan. 

The White House said Wednesday it was “encouraged” by the report, which proposes solutions for modernizing U.S. infrastructure while upholding environmental protections and reinforcing national security. 

“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.”