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Schumer Makes Case For Positive Train Control Technology

FRA Administrator Feinberg with Senator Charles Schumer discussing Positive Train Control at the Schenectady Amtrak station.
WAMC photo by Dave Lucas

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer was in Schenectady Wednesday with Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Sarah Feinberg to highlight what he says is a need for a “positive-train control” system between Poughkeepsie and Amsterdam.

Schumer is seeking a $33 million grant to implement a high-tech train safety system along tracks that the New York State Department of Transportation leases between Poughkeepsie and Amsterdam, part of upstate New York’s main passenger line, from CSX.  Positive Train Control systems use GPS or transponders to prevent accidents by automatically slowing or stopping trains going too fast.    "In this case, the state is responsible for PTC implementation. And the one barrier to PTC implementation is not technology, but cost. It's quite expensive. So that's why we're here today. This past year I worked very hard to pass a multi-billion dollar transportation bill in Congress called the Fast Act. And the situation is what we fought for because what we included was a PTC funding program as part of the bill, and a grant to specifically areas where governments owned the tracks. Metro North's taken care of themselves. CSX has taken care of themselves. But we have to take care of this area as state officials."

Schumer says under current regulations, if New York DOT began the project, taxpayers have to foot the bill. The federal grant would remove that burden.

Feinberg lauded Schumer for his persistence on the issue.  "He has always been laser-focused on rail safety, and it's a huge advantage to us because it means we've got someone with an enormous amount of clout in the United States Senate who we can go to and have a strong partner on rail safety. You know we work with every state across the country on rail safety and on implementing important technologies like PTC, but New York is really special because of so many millions of people in New York who count on commuter and passenger service. It's crucial everywhere, but in New York I think it's particularly crucial, and it's a huge part of the economy."

Calls to speed the adoption of safety systems increased after a train traveling more than twice the speed limit on September 29th crashed into the Hoboken Terminal in New Jersey, killing a woman and injuring more than 100 others.

Here is a copy of Schumer's letter to the USDOT:

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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