Hutchison Introduces Bill to Reform Rail Regulations, While Maintaining System Safety

February 8, 2011

Hutchison PortraitWASHINGTON, D.C. –Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today introduced legislation that would reform the Positive Train Control (PTC) regulatory mandate to reduce compliance costs, while maintaining a safe rail system.  The legislation is cosponsored by Senators John Thune (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).  PTC is an automated technology that is capable of preventing train collisions, overspeed derailments and injuries to railroad employees. In 2008, Congress required the railroads to implement PTC technology on rail lines that carry passengers or certain types of very toxic chemicals by December 2015.

“This is an example of regulatory excess that is costing America’s businesses billions of dollars with no obvious benefits,” said Senator Hutchison.  “We must rein in the regulatory bureaucracy in order to unleash innovation and investment and spur job growth.  This commonsense bill would reduce compliance costs without impacting the safety or security of our country’s rail lines.”

Traffic patterns for shipping toxic chemicals are changing, in part due to new Department of Transportation and Transportation Security Administration regulations.  This means that at least 10,000 route miles used to move chemicals in 2008 are no longer expected to transport these products in 2015.  By requiring that PTC be installed on lines used to transport passengers or certain toxic chemicals based on 2008 usage rather than 2015, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has expanded the Congressional mandate beyond what was intended and dramatically inflated compliance costs.

In developing the final rules, the Federal Railroad Administration chose to require implementation of the PTC mandate in a manner that substantially increases the costs of compliance for America’s freight and passenger rail industry, and in turn, their customers.  The railroad industry estimates PTC will cost more than $13 billion to install.  By FRA’s own estimate, its rule to implement PTC would result in a cost-benefit ratio of 20 to 1. 

"As lawmakers, it is our responsibility to strike a careful balance between oversight and free enterprise, or we risk stifling economic competitiveness,” said Senator Hutchison.  “By requiring the use of the 2015 traffic patterns, this bill will do much to address the mistakes made by the FRA in implementing this mandate, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”

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