Chicago Commuters Could Be Without Trains As Railroads Threaten Shutdown Without Extension Of Safety System Deadline

September 11, 2015

CHICAGO (CBS) — The nation’s major freight railroads are threatening partial or total shutdowns Jan. 1, unless Congress extends the deadline for installing new signaling systems and software — and Metra and Amtrak are caught in the middle.

Metra said Thursday that it, too, would be forced to halt operations when 2016 dawns, in a letter to U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota), the chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Metra CEO Don Orseno wrote Thune on the heels of letters from the chief executives of Union Pacific Corp., BNSF Ry., Norfolk Southern Corp. and CSX Transportation, all of which said they would halt some or all freight and passenger service unless Congress votes to extend the Dec. 31 deadline to install Positive Train Control (PTC) systems on all lines.

The threatened stoppage would halt the movement of everything from crude oil to perishable foods by the freight railroads. Orseno echoed the freight railroads, writing that Metra’s legal authority to operate would be in question.

“In the absence of an extension, there is a strong possibility that Metra will not be able to operate our trains beginning Jan. 1, 2016,” Orseno wrote. “Additionally, the two railroads with which we have purchase of service agreements — UP and BNSF — have stated that they do not plan to operate passenger rail until PTC is fully implemented and operational.”

Read the full story from Bob Roberts of CBS News Chicago by clicking here.


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