Durbin to Boehner: America Cannot Wait for Action on Transportation Bill

Senator urges House Leadership to take up Senate-passed bipartisan transportation legislation to authorize critical transit, highway funding & prevent possible shutdown of essential rail services

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Three months after the Senate passed a long-term, bipartisan transportation bill, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) called on Speaker of the House John Boehner to consider legislation that would provide the certainty that businesses and state governments, like Illinois, need to plan critical infrastructure projects and create good-paying jobs. Since the previous long-term transportation bill expired in 2009, Congress has passed 34 stop-gap measures to keep the country’s major transportation and infrastructure programs from shutting down.


“While the House of Representatives sits on a long-term transportation bill passed by the Senate this summer, states and businesses lack the certainty and resources to move forward on critical infrastructure projects will make us more competitive in the global economy and create thousands of jobs in the process. American workers cannot wait. American businesses cannot wait. It is time for the House to follow the Senate’s lead and act.”


Following meetings this week with CSX Transportation and BNSF Railway, Durbin also called for a conditional extension of the federal mandated deadline for implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) – a communications-based system designed to prevent certain types of train accidents caused by human factors. Photos of Durbin’s meeting with CSX CEO Michael Ward and BNSF Railway Executive Chairman Matt Rose are available here.


“Positive Train Control is a potentially lifesaving technology. But with the cost of implementation expected to exceed $2 billion to commuter rail systems nationwide, meeting the federal deadline of implementing PTC by the end of this year will be challenging,” Durbin said. “I support a conditional extension of the deadline for those rail lines that are making a demonstrable good faith effort to implement this technology. It is also critical that Congress do its part by increasing funding for this technology, and by making make sure that federal grant and financing opportunities can be used for PTC implementation.”


Following a 2008 fatal train crash in California, Congress mandated commuter rail carriers and Class I railroads install PTC systems on tracks that carry passengers or toxic-by-inhalation materials.  Durbin has long advocated for the implementation of this critical safety tool which would help commuter rail carriers like Metra upgrade their safety systems and increase the efficiency of their rail lines. 


Recently, commuter lines and rail companies have said they will suspend service if the December 31, 2015 deadline is not extended. In Illinois, Metra board members have already voted to suspend the city's rail service on January 1, since they will not meet the current deadline.  This will impact the 300,000 riders who use Metra’s commuter lines.  Nationally, halting freight shipments would impact nearly every sector of our economy. Major industries like health care, farming, manufacturing, energy, water treatment, and telecommunications rely on the steady flow of products delivered by freight rail. 


In May, Durbin joined 22 other Senators in calling for an increase in funding for PTC. Currently the nation’s rails need approximately $2 billion to fully implement PTC but Congress has only allocated $50 million to help commuter lines in affording this technology.