Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hit the brakes on this train; I want to get off!

And here is one reason why I remain a Democrat.  Reduce the number of miles of rail that requires the best railroad safety measure yet developed, Positive Train Control (PTC)?  We don't need that much safety anymore?  With all due respect, Senator Hutchison, I fail to follow any of your logic here.

What she's calling for is symptomatic of the Republican mantra of reducing the size of government.  They use the pejorative phrase "regulatory bureaucracy."  However, like the President, they believe in "innovation and investment" as well as "job growth."  So, train safety controls for Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas are nothing more than excessive symptoms of a too large government. Confusingly, they endorse "investment" even as they castigate it as code for further taxes.

I imagine the opposite of PTC would have to be the unregulated anarchy of the rails, the rail Wild West, every train for itself, kill or be killed.  And, about the other inference that safety controls inhibit innovation and investment.  Really?  If trains smash into each other, will that reduce investment?  

I bring all this up because PTC is a big issue on the Bay Area, Peninsula Caltrain corridor.  It's already established that any HSR project in California must have PTC on board and the whole system must be wired for it.  But, that also includes the Caltrain commuter trains.  And, Caltrain wants to deploy a totally new and different, as well as incompatible, PTC system.  How's that for bureaucracy in action?

2/9/2011    Legislation
New Senate bill would reduce route miles requiring PTC installation

Yesterday, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced a bill (S. 301) that proposes to reduce the number of route miles on which railroads must install positive train control (PTC) by Dec. 31, 2015.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandated that PTC be installed on about 73,000 miles of track used to transport passengers and certain hazardous materials by 2015’s end. The legislation wouldn’t roll back the congressional mandate, but reduce the number of track miles on which PTC must be installed, said Hutchinson in a news item posted on the United Transportation Union’s website.

“Traffic patterns for shipping toxic chemicals are changing,” she said. “This means that at least 10,000 route miles used to move chemicals in 2008 are no longer expected to [be used to] transport these products in 2015.”

In late January, railroad chief executive officers met with Obama Administration officials to discuss how railroads are concentrating movements of toxic inhalation hazard materials on fewer miles of track and why the PTC mandate should address traffic patterns expected in 2015 rather than the patterns that existed when the rail safety act was enacted in 2008.

“We must rein in the regulatory bureaucracy in order to unleash innovation and investment, and spur job growth,” said Hutchison. 

Co-sponsored by Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), S. 301 was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.