Re "Off track on safer trains," Opinion, Sept. 13
Robert Sumwalt, a National Transportation Safety Board member, is right that implementing positive train control, or PTC, is a daunting task. The Class I freight railroads have spent almost $3 billion to develop and begin deploying PTC, and will spend another $5 billion before it can be safely used across the country.
But significant obstacles make meeting the 2015 implementation deadline impossible. And contrary to what Sumwalt stated, the nation's railroads have been specific and public about this.
To make PTC work, freight railroads will use advanced signaling systems that require the installation of about 22,000 antennas, which requires Federal Communications Commission approval. However, the FCC recently directed the railroads to suspend antenna installations while it develops a procedure for addressing possible historic preservation and environmental review issues.
Until the FCC develops a workable procedure, installation of the PTC antennas is at a standstill.
Those who say that PTC must be implemented by the legal deadline ignore the technical, operational and regulatory issues that must be addressed first.
Edward R. Hamberger
The writer is the president and chief executive of the American Assn. of Railroads.
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