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The derailment of Amtrak Cascades train 501 near DuPont, WA, on Dec. 18, 2017, killed three train passengers and injured 70 other people who were either on the train or in their vehicles on I-5 below 

Senator Murray is pushing at the federal level to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) nationwide, technology that could have prevented the DuPont train derailment

A senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray has fought for federal support for PTC, including securing significant investments in PTC in the current spending bill

Senator Murray: “I will not stop demanding answers from federal officials and railroads about the progress of PTC implementation, or holding them accountable for making sure trains are as safe as possible”

ICYMI: At Senate Hearing, Senator Murray Presses Federal and Amtrak Officials for Update on Implementation of Life-saving Train Safety Technology – MORE HERE

Tacoma News Tribune Editorial: “In the aftermath of the DuPont tragedy, Murray is right to demand answers” – MORE HERE

(Washington, D.C.)  – Leading up to the first anniversary of the tragic Amtrak Cascades train derailment near DuPont, Washington, U.S. Senator Murray (D-WA) urged her colleagues to strengthen federal investments in technology that could prevent similar train accidents in honor of the train derailment’s victims. A senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Murray has fought to increase federal support for Positive Train Control (PTC), safety technology that could have prevented the Cascades derailment which killed three people and injured 70 others, including working to secure new federal investments for PTC implementation in the current transportation spending bill before Congress.

“The tragic loss of life and injuries caused by last December’s train derailment resonated with people from DuPont, Washington, to Washington, D.C. because no family or community should have to experience that type of heartbreak and horror—especially when technology already exists to help prevent tragedies like this from happening,” said Senator Murray. “From government agencies to consumer advocates to industry leaders, there is wide agreement on the need to continue to work together to implement PTC technology to prevent future accidents—that’s why I have pushed to secure investments in PTC in the current spending bill, and will continue fighting for additional federal support to ensure trains in Washington state and across the country are equipped with this life-saving technology. More importantly, I will not stop demanding answers from federal officials and railroads about the progress of PTC implementation, or holding them accountable for making sure trains are as safe as possible.”

As a voice for Washington state, Senator Murray has actively worked to implement PTC, including in the aftermath of the Cascades train derailment. Three days after the accident, Senator Murray and 14 of her Senate colleagues requested updates from U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on PTC implementation. Additionally, in a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) in January, Senator Murray and her colleagues stressed that implementing PTC must be a top priority for the agency, and that it was “imperative that FRA conduct vigorous oversight of the data provided by railroads and use all tools within the FRA’s authority to ensure that all railroads complete full PTC implementation by the deadline.” Senator Murray has also pushed senior federal officials and Amtrak executives for specifics regarding the industry’s progress to implement PTC, how the FRA plans to handle railroads that miss the statutory deadline, and how railroads have improved training programs for crew members to prevent future derailments. To help implement PTC, Senator Murray has worked to strengthen federal investments in the Fiscal Year 2018 spending bill enacted in March, and again in the Fiscal Year 2019 transportation spending bill currently before Congress.

Background on PTC and Federal Investments:

Following the 2008 collision between a freight and commuter train in Chatsworth, California, that killed 25 people and injured 125 people, Congress mandated that railroads implement Positive Train Control, or PTC, on tracks used for intercity passenger rail, commuter passenger rail, or certain hazardous materials. According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), 41 railroads are required to implement PTC on approximately 60,000 miles of the national railroad network. PTC is technology designed to prevent certain types of railroad accidents like train-on-train collisions, overspeed derailments, the movement of trains through a switch left in the wrong position, and incursions into established work zones. A September GAO report found that as of June 30, 2018 many railroads remain in the early stages of PTC implementation and anticipate needing an extension beyond the December 31, 2018 deadline previously set by Congress to fully implement PTC.

The Fiscal Year 2019 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill, which was passed by the U.S. Senate in August, includes several initiatives to support PTC implementation:

  • $10 million for the Federal Railroad Administration to conduct oversight,
  • $50 million for Amtrak for railroad safety technology on state-supported routes like the Cascades, including PTC implementation, and
  • $255 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grants, with emphasis on supporting PTC implementation.

Congress continues to negotiate the final details of this spending bill. Additionally, earlier this year, Congress provided investments for PTC implementation through the Fiscal Year 2018 spending bill, including:

  • $50 million for Amtrak for railroad safety technology, like PTC, on state-supported routes like the Cascades, and
  • $250 million for PTC implementation through Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grants.