Important Update on Positive Train Control Implementation
As the legislative effort to extend the year-end deadline for Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation continues, I wanted to provide a quick update on its progress, and thank those customers who have advocated for an extension. There has been a show of bipartisan support on Capitol Hill for extending the PTC deadline as soon as possible, and progress is being made in such a way that several paths could result in timely legislative action.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) provided railroads the opportunity to formally outline the unfortunate position in which the current PTC deadline places us. We responded as transparently as possible on what we view as a serious situation with potentially significant consequences for our railroad and you, our customer. As I said in my prior letter, our analysis of the rail safety laws, regulations and the FRA's stated enforcement intentions have led us to have serious questions on our ability to operate after the expiration of the PTC deadline. Members of Congress now have a better understanding of the unreasonableness of ordering our employees to work in willful violation of the law, and the significant regulatory enforcement and legal jeopardy that would ensue.
In response, freight rail customers and their trade associations, as well as commuter stakeholders, have advocated forcefully in support of extending the PTC deadline. This has been essential to developing the political support necessary to progress legislation. In the House, 206 members have indicated their support for immediate action to extend the deadline, either by signing a letter of support to bipartisan House leadership, co-sponsoring legislation, or both. Forty-three Senators signed a similar letter after the Senate passed the DRIVE Act, which reauthorizes surface transportation programs and contains a PTC extension provision. With political support for enacting a PTC deadline extension in place, enactment will depend on the progress of the legislative process.
The House and Senate have negotiated a consensus PTC extension proposal, which could move ahead in the House on the next available legislative vehicle. That consensus proposal could be attached to the House version of the multi-year surface transportation program authorization. A House bill, however, will need to be reconciled with the already-passed Senate version of the DRIVE Act. Reconciliation of the two bills is a process that could slip into next month, or next year. Although there is the potential for an extended reconciliation process, the surface transportation programs are set to expire on October 29, 2015. To address that deadline, passage of a short-term extension of those programs would be needed and the PTC extension provision could be included there. In addition, passage of a stand-alone PTC extension bill is also a possibility if, for some reason, legislative progress on other options does not take place. While the House has enough votes to pass a PTC extension, it only takes one Senator to object and a small number of Senators have raised objections.
We have received inquiries from some of you on our specific plans for phasing in a December 31, 2015 operations termination strategy. We have no intention of moving forward any sooner than is absolutely necessary, which we believe we could accomplish late in the year. If necessary, it's unlikely we would begin any traffic embargoes or ceasing traffic movement until mid-December. We will reassess this decision if the situation should change, based on the legislative progress.
Our focus right now is on getting the necessary legislation passed as soon as possible before both our businesses, and the economy, are affected. We welcome the continued assistance of our customers in Washington, D.C. toward this mutual goal.
Executive Vice President and
Chief Marketing Officer