Durbin, Duckworth, Quigley, Lipinski Announce $20 Million in Federal Funding to Metra for Safety Technology Implementation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05) and Dan Lipinski (IL-03) today announced that Metra will receive $20,168,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) safety technology on its Milwaukee North and West lines.  PTC is a federally mandated computerized system that prevents certain types of train-to-train collisions, helps avoid derailments and other accidents caused by excessive speed, and increases safety for rail workers.

“Metra has more track than any commuter rail system in the country and 150,000 daily passengers. Positive Train Control is critical to the safety of these passengers.  This funding will greatly help Metra meet its goal and move forward with full PTC operability,” Durbin said.

“Improving Chicagoland’s commuter rail system is vital to supporting our region’s economic growth. This funding will go a long way towards making Illinois’s transportation systems safer and more reliable throughout the Chicagoland region,” said Duckworth.

“Implementation of Positive Train Control is a vital step in ensuring our rail systems are as safe and reliable as possible,” said Quigley.  “Metra plays such an important role in the Chicagoland region, and this much-needed funding will help guarantee that one of the busiest commuter rail systems in the nation continues to provide for residents.  It will also help drive additional economic activity and further solidify Chicago’s role as a leader in innovative transportation.”

“This much-needed grant for Metra is great news,” said Lipinski.  “Representing a district with a large number of rail lines, I have always made rail safety a top priority on the Railroad Subcommittee.  In 2008, I included language in a bill to create the Rail Safety Technology Grant program to help railroads install life-saving PTC more quickly.  Unfortunately, Congress never fully-funded this program and commuter railroads like Metra were not able to implement PTC.  Last Congress, I joined with Rep. Quigley on a bill to reauthorize the grant program and to work together so that Metra could get federal help to install this critical safety technology.”

In October 2016, Durbin and then-Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) pressed the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to support Metra’s application for fiscal year 2017 Positive Train Control Grant Funds to accelerate the implementation of PTC on its Milwaukee North and West lines.  U.S. Rep. Lipinski (IL-03) led the House version of this letter.

PTC safety technology integrates GPS, communications units, and a railroad’s centralized dispatching system. Together, these components track trains, convey operating instructions and monitor the crew’s compliance.  PTC will automatically stop a train if the system detects that a violation is about to occur.

However, when the 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act mandated PTC implementation by 2015, there was no technology capable of achieving these safety objectives for all railroads.  Our nation’s railroads have had to develop it, and they’ve had to do that with little help from the federal government.  In late 2015, Congress extended the December 31, 2015 PTC implementation deadline by at least three years to December 31, 2018, with the possibility for two additional years if certain requirements are met.  The new legislation, the PTC Enforcement and Implementation Act, required that railroads submit a revised PTC Implementation Plan (PTCIP) by January 26, 2016, outlining when and how the railroad would have a system fully installed and activated.