10.19.16

SCHUMER BRINGS FRA ADMINISTRATOR FEINBERG TO SCHENECTADY, MAKES PERSONAL CASE FOR $33 MILLION FEDERAL GRANT TO INSTALL LIFE SAVING PTC TECHNOLOGY ON TRACKS FROM POUGHKEEPSIE TO SCHENECTADY; SENATOR SAYS GRANT COULD SAVE LIVES AND PREVENT DANGEROUS ACCIDENTS

Schumer & Feinberg Discuss Importance of Quickly Installing Life-Saving PTC Technology; Senator Urges FRA to Use Newly Created Federal Grant Program to Help Fund Rail Improvements On State Run Portion of Empire Corridor

 Section Of Track Between Poughkeepsie & Amsterdam is Leased By NYS Which Must Implement PTC – Schumer Urges FRA To Award $33M In FAST Act Funds So There Are No Gaps In Safety & PTC Coverage

 Schumer: PTC System Can Help Prevent Fatal Crashes, And Empire Corridor Cannot Be Left Out

 

During a visit to the Capital Region, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today brought Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg to the City of Schenectady to survey area train tracks and make the case for a $33 million infrastructure improvement grant for the region. Schumer said this federal investment would allow New York State to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) on the tracks that it leases between Poughkeepsie and Amsterdam. Schumer explained that PTC is a life-saving communications and signaling system that can be used on railroads to prevent fatal crashes caused by excessive speed and human error. The installation of PTC on tracks that carry passenger trains, like this one, is required by Congress and is something which Senator Schumer has pushed to install as quickly as possible. Schumer therefore made a personal push today to Administrator Feinberg and urged the FRA to approve these critical funds as soon as possible.

“Simply put, Positive Train Control is a life saver. Once put into action, PTC can help prevent fatal crashes and derailments – and so it’s 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 fund to help pay the cost of PTC implementation in cases where governments… and taxpayers… would have to bear the brunt of the expense,” said Senator Schumer. “This section that NYS leases from CSX, is exactly what we had in mind when we created the fund and that’s why I’m pushing the FRA to immediately approve the major, $30 million federal investment that is needed to make sure Capital Region residents are neither passed over in this major safety overhaul nor left holding the bag for these desperately needed improvements.” 

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 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 in place its plans 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 is pushing for significant federal funds to aid this safety overhaul to ensure the Capital Region 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 is even more critical given that it was one of the federally-designated high-speed rail corridors where trains travel at speeds of up to 110mph.

Schumer said this situation is exactly why he worked to create the PTC Implementation Funding Program as a part of last year’s federal transportation bill, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Schumer therefore urged the FRA to approve the $30 million in federal funds needed to make sure the Capital Region is not left out of this critical rail safety overhaul. Schumer said failing to secure these funds could mean the area from Poughkeepsie to Schenectady – nearly the entire Capital Region – could be negatively impacted by a lack of PTC technology. Schumer said the two million people who travel on the Empire Corridor line each year deserve the peace of mind this important safety system can provide.

Amtrak trains carried more than two million passengers through New York State this past fiscal year. In Fiscal Year 2015, the Albany/Rensselaer station was ranked as the 9th highest (out of 500 stations) in the nation when it comes to ridership. According to Amtrak, it sees a ridership of roughly 825,353 people per year. The Schenectady station was ranked 131st and sees an annual ridership of 58,551 people.

For decades, especially under Administrator Feinberg's leadership, FRA has strongly advocated for railroads to implement PTC. The agency has provided more than $716 million to railroads to implement the technology and also awarded a nearly $1 billion loan to MTA's Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road for PTC. FRA has dedicated working to assist railroads with PTC implementation and established a task for to monitor railroads' progress and spot industry-wide challenges early.

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 Hoffmans, 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 MetroNorth 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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