05.26.17

AFTER MAJOR PUSH, SCHUMER SUCCESSFULLY SECURES OVER $33 MILLION TO INSTALL LIFESAVING PTC TECHNOLOGY FOR EMPIRE LINE TRACKS FROM POUGHKEEPSIE TO SCHENECTADY; SENATOR SAYS GRANT COULD SAVE LIVES AND PREVENT DANGEROUS ACCIDENTS

Fed Investment Will Be Used For Section Of Track Between Poughkeepsie & Amsterdam; Is Leased By NYS Which Must Implement PTC – Senator Successfully Pushed FRA to Use Newly-Created Federal Grant Program to Help Fund Rail Improvements On State-Run Portion of Empire Corridor 

Last Year Schumer Gave Former FRA Admin A Tour of Tracks, Discussed Importance of Quickly Installing Life-Saving PTC Technology 

Schumer: PTC System For Empire Line Can Help Prevent Fatal Crashes 

U.S. Senate Minority Charles E. Schumer today announced more than $33 million in federal funding to install Positive Train Control (PTC) on s train tracks connecting Poughkeepsie to just west of Schenectady. Schumer said this life-saving technology is used to monitor train speeds and prevent collisions and derailments by controlling train movements through a system of integrated command, control, communications, and information technologies. Last year, Schumer brought now former Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg to Schenectady to make a personal case for this critical federal grant. Schumer also led the charge to create the grant program that was used to award the funds.

“I am pleased the FRA heeded our calls; this critical investment will protect train riders from Poughkeepsie, and throughout New York. Too often preventable fatal crashes take place because lifesaving PTC technology has not been installed —but that changes today. Simply put, Positive Train Control is a life saver. Once put into action, PTC can help prevent fatal crashes and derailments – and it is of the utmost importance that all of our rail lines have this life-saving technology installed as soon as possible. I helped establish a federal grant program to help pay the cost of PTC implementation in cases where governments and taxpayers would have to bear the brunt of the expense, and then I brought former FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg to Schenectady to personally push for these funds. Now, I am pleased to announce that a part of this funding is coming to Upstate New York,” said Senator Schumer. “This $33 million federal investment is needed to make sure Upstate and Hudson Valley residents are neither passed over in this major safety overhaul nor left holding the bag for these desperately needed improvements.”

Schumer mentioned the importance of this federal grant given the recent number of freight rail and passenger accidents that have taken place all over New York State. Schumer successfully pushed the Department of Transportation to approve these critical safety precautions, which will prevent passenger and freight rail accidents for years to come. Schumer explained the importance of federal funding for Upstate and Hudson Valley residents to make sure that they are not burdened with the costs during this major safety overhaul.

Schumer explained that PTC is a communications and signaling system that can be used on railroads to prevent collisions caused by excessive speed and human error. PTC is used to monitor train speeds and prevent collisions and derailments by controlling train movements through a system of integrated command, control, communications, and information technologies. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found dozens of passenger and freight rail accidents over the years that could have been prevented through the use of PTC, like the 2013 Spuyten Duyvil crash in the Bronx in which four lives were lost and the derailment of Amtrak Train 188 in Philadelphia in 2015 in which eight lives were lost and hundreds injured.

As a result of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the federal government required PTC technology be implemented across many of the country’s tracks, including the Amtrak Empire Corridor’s Hudson Line. This Hudson Line runs from New York City, up through the Hudson Valley and into the Capital Region, where it then turns west and proceeds on to Buffalo, NY and beyond. Metro-North, which operates the New York City to Poughkeepsie section of track, has already set up its own plan and timeline for implementing PTC. In addition, CSX, which operates the section of track that runs from the City of Amsterdam in Montgomery County on to Western New York, has also put a plan in place to implement the life-saving technology.

However, the portion of track from Poughkeepsie to the area between Schenectady and Amsterdam (called “Hoffmans”) is leased by the NY State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) from CSX, since it is primarily used for Amtrak passenger service rather than CSX freight service. Schumer explained that this means taxpayers would be forced to shoulder the cost of PTC implementation if NYSDOT were to simply undertake the project the way a private company, like CSX or an authority like Metro-North, could. As a result, Schumer successfully pushed for significant federal funds to aid this safety overhaul to ensure the Hudson Valley is not left out in the cold while the rest of the Hudson Line has PTC implemented. Furthermore, Schumer highlighted that installing PTC on this line was a critical step to take given that it was one of the federally-designated high-speed rail corridors where trains travel at speeds of up to 110mph.

Previously, Schumer said this situation is exactly why he worked to create the PTC Implementation Funding Program as a part an earlier federal transportation bill, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Schumer said the FRA approving this $33 million dollar federal investment makes sure the Capital Region is not left out of this critical rail safety overhaul. Schumer said this federal investment ensures the two million people who travel on the Empire Corridor line each year the peace of mind they deserve, which this important safety system can provide. Schumer reaffirmed his commitment to passenger and freight rail safety, and vowed to continue to fight tooth and nail to make sure train riders have the protections they deserve. Amtrak trains carried more than two million passengers through New York State this past fiscal year.

Schumer was joined by County Executive Marc Molinaro and City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison.

“We are thankful that Senator Schumer has secured funding for a Positive Train Control (PTC) system. Because of this crucial funding, train speeds will be tracked in order to prevent accidents that could endanger residents here in Dutchess County, and beyond. The county works diligently to maintain a safe and cohesive community, and this technology will further our mission of keeping our residents safe and secure. We will continue to work closely with the Senator to address the issue at hand, and promote rail safety throughout the county and beyond,” said Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the USDOT appears below:

Dear Secretary Foxx:

 I am pleased to write in support of the application submitted by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) for Positive Train Control funding through the Federal Railroad Administration.  Such funding will support New York State’s Hudson Line Positive Train Control Initiative.

The Hudson Line consists of the Amtrak line running between Poughkeepsie and Hoffman’s, New York.  The PTC Implementation project proposed in this grant application will put into place critical safety measures for the over 1.7 million people who travel on the Empire Corridor annually; railroad employees working on this corridor from  Amtrak, CSXT, and CPR; employees from consultants, contractors and utility companies; and the surrounding communities including Poughkeepsie, Rhinecliff, Hudson, Rensselaer, Albany, and Schenectady.  While the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandated that PTC systems be implemented across a significant portion of the Nation’s rail industry by the end of 2015, there are still many lines in need of such systems.

With funding, this project will work to bridge the gap in PTC coverage between one of the busiest commuter corridors in the nation on the Empire Corridor South, controlled by Metro North Railroad, and one of the busiest freight corridors in the nation on the Empire Corridor West, controlled CSXT, by providing for PTC deployment on the Amtrak controlled section of the Empire Corridor.  With this system, NYSDOT will improve the safety and security of passengers not only on the rails, but in surrounding communities as well, and ensure that this critical transportation corridor remains safe and efficient for years to come.  I applaud the New York State Department of Transportation for its foresight, and sincerely hope the application meets with your approval.

 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

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