Key Senators Push for $50 Million in Rail Technology Funds

Positive train control received strong support last week from two key senators who chair important transportation committees.

In a joint letter to the appropriations subcommittee for transportation, Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D.-W.Va.), and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) called on the Senate to set aside at least $50 million for rail safety technology grants. Rockefeller chairs the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which is drafting new rail competition legislation. Boxer heads the Environment and Public Works Committee, which has its own transportation and infrastructure panel.

Rockefeller and Boxer asked the appropriators to ensure that the next transportation spending bill, for the 2010 budget year, includes the rail grants that were authorized in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. That bill, which came on the heels of a high-profile train crash involving a commuter train and a freight train in Chatsworth, Calif., set a deadline for all passenger systems and main line freight railroads to install computerized anti-collision systems known as positive train control (PTC), and allowed for $50 million in grants to help jump start those systems.

"In these tough economic times, with many commuter rail agencies facing budget cuts, funding for the railroad safety technology grants is vital to ensure that important safety measures continue to be implemented," the senators wrote.

They directed their letter to Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the transportation appropriations subcommittee, and to the panel's ranking Republican, Christopher Bond.