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APTA calls on feds to increase commuter rail funding for PTC, other safety efforts

American Public Transportation Association (APTA) officials earlier this week urged Congress to increase support for commuter railroads by authorizing $1 billion in funding for positive train control (PTC) over six years through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grants program. APTA and commuter railroad executives made their plea during a Sept. 24 hearing before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials. The hearing's topic was "Challenges and Opportunities for Commuter Railroads." PTC will cost commuter railroads $4.1 billion to implement and almost 90 percent of those costs are being borne by transit agencies, state and local governments, said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas in his prepared testimony. "In addition, PTC will cost an estimated $160 million each year to operate and maintain. For publicly funded agencies that rely on federal, state and local funding, as well as passenger fares to operate their service, these costs are staggering," Skoutelas said. Moreover, the PTC costs come on top of an existing $90 billion backlog in state-of-good-repair costs to the current public transportation system, including commuter railroads, he noted. "A recent survey of commuter railroad agencies found that many commuter railroads have state-of-good repair needs that far outweigh their capital budgets, even before including the additional costs associated with implementing PTC," he added. As a result, commuter railroads have had to divert funds from other critical infrastructure and safety projects to cover the costs of PTC implementation, he said. "APTA urges Congress to authorize a total of $1 billion over six years ($160 million per year) under the CRISI program specifically to provide grants to publicly-funded commuter railroads to implement, operate, and maintain PTC," Skoutelas testified. APTA also called Congress to authorize $1.5 billion over six years in CRISI funding to provide grants to commuter and other passenger railroads for projects that improve grade crossing safety.

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