"This Board will do all it can to avoid this crisis..."
The Metra Board of Directors has this week formally called on Congress to extend the Dec. 31, 2015 deadline to install Positive Train Control (PTC), agreeing with a staff analysis that in the current regulatory environment the Chicago-area commuter railroad will not be able to legally operate beyond that date. Although Metra and the rest of the U.S. railroad industry have invested significant time and money and have made significant progress on PTC implementation, they have also warned for years that the deadline can’t be met due to a variety of operational, technological and financial challenges. Congress, however, has yet to act.
In a resolution approved today, and announced in a press release the Metra Board again urged Congress to extend the deadline to a date that realistically accounts for the numerous challenges.
If Metra did choose to operate without PTC in place, it would be subject to potential FRA enforcement actions brought by the Department of Justice, including substantial civil penalties, issuance of compliance or emergency orders, and injunctions or criminal penalties, according to an analysis by Metra’s Law Department. The analysis concluded that Metra will be unable to legally operate its trains beyond the deadline.
“This Board will do all it can to avoid this crisis within the confines of the law as it exists today and continue to work with members of Congress on legislation that is needed to extend this unattainable deadline,” said Metra Board Chairman Martin J. Oberman. “In the meantime, on advice of counsel, Metra cannot operate any of its trains under current law as of midnight on Dec. 31, 2015.”
If Metra is unable to operate beyond December, it will work to ensure an orderly shutdown of its system and communicate with its customers with sufficient time for them to consider the effects of the shutdown, the resolution also states. Metra will also work with its transit partners in the Chicago area to provide alternative transportation but recognizes that feasible alternatives do not exist for the vast majority of Metra customers.
News of this potential Metra shutdown follows news earlier in the month the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report showing that that the deadline for implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) technology must be extended because most U.S. railroads can't meet the deadline. The GAO report cited a variety of challenges that both commuter and freight railroads face in applying PTC technology, and said railroads that participated in the report need between one and five years to finish installing the new technology.
In addition, the GAO report said the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) supervision of PTC implementation is inadequate to correctly manage each railroad’s progress. The GAO made recommendations for the FRA to create a plan that would hold railroads responsible for their PTC progress.
The lengthy press release from Meta also underlines that the “unfunded mandate" is expected to cost Metra more than $350 million, equal to 100 percent of its federal funding for 2½ years. Metra’s current timeline for full PTC implementation is 2019, although the agency expects several lines to be completed before that date.
Click here to review the passed PTC Resolutio from METRA.
Click here to review the Legal Memorandum from METRA.
Lead Photo courtesy of Douglas Rahden
The latest evolution of our rail safety series, SafeRail (incorporating the 6th annual PTC World Congress) is a holistic safety and security showcase, for operators wanting to effect a business wide culture of rail safety and promote a positive public perception of their business and for industry suppliers which have the products and services to enable operators with implementation. Taking place on March 22-23rd 2016 in Washington DC, confirmed speakers include: Yves Desjardin-Siciliano (President and CEO, VIA Rail), Joe Leader, (Senior Vice President, NYCT), Arthur Leahy (CEO, Metrolink), Mike Marino (Director/General Manager, Port Authority of NY & NJ) and many more.
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