Earlier this week I noted that Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D,NY) introduced HR 3634, Commuter Rail Passenger Safety Act. According to a press release from Maloney’ office the bill is designed to “to help commuter rail lines like Metro-North fund and implement positive train control (PTC) systems”.
Section 2 of the bill would expand coverage of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976 by adding “implement a positive train control system, as required by section 20157 of title 49, United States Code” as one of the authorized purposes of the direct loans and loan guarantees program of 45 USC 822. That program applies to both freight and passenger rail systems.
Section 3 of the bill would extend the authorization of the Railroad Safety Technology grant program (49 USC 20158) through 2018 and double the amount of money available for the grant program to $100 million. This program also benefits both freight and passenger rail systems.
While Maloney was apparently motivated by the tragic passenger train wreck last month in his district the positive train control program applies to both freight and passenger railroad. The two funding programs addressed in this bill apply to both types of systems and the funding allocations are made by the Secretary of Transportation.
The amount of money available from these two programs is unlikely to make any specific dent in the funding issues surrounding PTC implementation. The loan program is a $35 billion revolving loan program and the funds will only become available as existing loans are paid off. The $100 million dollar grant program is a relatively small amount especially as it gets spread through a variety of control programs, not limited to PTC implementation.
This bill is likely to get a fair amount of support from both sides of the aisle. There will be some opposition from fiscal conservatives because it does increase spending, but the amount is small enough that it is unlikely to face real strong opposition. The big question will be how much pressure can be brought to bear to bring this bill to the floor. We’ll see how soon it takes to get it through the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.