Freight railroads including Union Pacific Corp. (UNP), the largest U.S. carrier by revenue, and commuter lines such as the Long Island Rail Road would get as many as three more years to install collision-prevention technology under a Senate proposal.
The amendment to a highway and transit-funding bill was written by Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia Democrat who is chairman of the Senate commerce committee, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, the panel’s top Republican, giving bipartisan support to railroads’ argument they need more time for what they estimate is a $12 billion project.
Railroads that carry passengers or certain toxic chemicals are required to deploy what is known as positive train control systems, which can prevent some crashes resulting from human error.
Under the Senate proposal, the U.S. Transportation Department could extend the current Dec. 31, 2015, deadline in one-year increments, for as many as three years. Carriers would have to show they can’t meet the mandate because of circumstances including lack of money, inability to acquire necessary radio spectrum and incompatible technology.
The House version of the highway bill would delay the implementation deadline for all affected railroads until the end of 2020.
The positive train control directive was part of a 2008 law passed after a fatal collision in Chatsworth, California, involving a freight train and a commuter railroad.
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