Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008

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Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008
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Long titleAn Act to amend title 49, United States Code, to prevent railroad fatalities, injuries, and hazardous materials releases, to authorize the Federal Railroad Safety Administration, and for other purposes.
Enacted bythe 110th United States Congress
Public law Pub.L.   110–432
Statutes at Large 122  Stat.   4848
Titles amended 49 U.S.C.
Legislative history

The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 is a United States federal law, enacted by Congress to improve railroad safety. Among its provisions, the most notable was the mandate requiring positive train control (PTC) technology to be installed on most of the US railroad network by 2015. This was spurred by the 2008 Chatsworth train collision the month prior to passage of the act. In October 2015 Congress extended the deadline to 2018.

United States Congress Legislature of the United States

The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, and consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Both senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a gubernatorial appointment. Congress has 535 voting members: 435 representatives and 100 senators. The House of Representatives has six non-voting members representing Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia in addition to its 435 voting members. Although they cannot vote in the full house, these members can address the house, sit and vote in congressional committees, and introduce legislation.

Positive train control

Positive train control (PTC) is a system of functional requirements for monitoring and controlling train movements and is a type of train protection system. The term stems from control engineering. The train is only allowed to move in case of positive movement allowance. It generally improves the safety of railway traffic.

2008 Chatsworth train collision head-on collision in Los Angeles, California

The Chatsworth train collision occurred at 4:22:23 p.m. PDT on Friday, September 12, 2008, when a Union Pacific freight train and a Metrolink commuter train collided head-on in the Chatsworth district of Los Angeles, California. The scene of the accident was a curved section of single track on the Metrolink Ventura County Line just east of Stoney Point.



Starting in 1990 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) counted PTC among its "Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements." [4] [5] At the time, the vast majority of rail lines relied on the human crew for complying with all safety rules, and a significant fraction of accidents were attributable to human error.[ citation needed ]

National Transportation Safety Board United States government investigative agency for civil transportation accidents

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent U.S. government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation. In this role, the NTSB investigates and reports on aviation accidents and incidents, certain types of highway crashes, ship and marine accidents, pipeline incidents, and railroad accidents. When requested, the NTSB will assist the military and foreign governments with accident investigation. The NTSB is also in charge of investigating cases of hazardous materials releases that occur during transportation. The agency is based in Washington, D.C. It has four regional offices located in Anchorage, Alaska; Denver, Colorado; Ashburn, Virginia; and Seattle, Washington. The agency also operates a national training center at its Ashburn facility.

In September 2008, Congress considered a new rail safety law that set a deadline of 2015 for implementation of PTC technology across most of the U.S. rail network. The bill, ushered through the legislative process by the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was developed in response to the collision of a Metrolink passenger train and a Union Pacific freight train September 12, 2008, in California, which resulted in the deaths of 25 and injuries to more than 135 passengers.

As the bill neared final passage by Congress, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) issued a statement in support of the bill. [6] President George W. Bush signed the 315-page Rail Safety Improvement Act into law on October 16, 2008. [7]

Association of American Railroads organization

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is an industry trade group representing primarily the major freight railroads of North America. Amtrak and some regional commuter railroads are also members. Smaller freight railroads are typically represented by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), although some smaller railroads and railroad holding companies are also members of the AAR. The AAR also has two associate programs, and most associates are suppliers to the railroad industry.

George W. Bush 43rd president of the United States

George Walker Bush is an American politician and businessman who served as the 43rd president of the United States from 2001 to 2009. He had previously served as the 46th governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000.

Provisions of the law

Among its provisions, the law provides funding to help pay for the development of PTC technology, limits the number of hours freight rail crews can work each month, and requires the Department of Transportation to determine work hour limits for passenger train crews.

United States Department of Transportation federal executive department focusing on transportation

The United States Department of Transportation is a federal Cabinet department of the U.S. government concerned with transportation. It was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966, and began operation on April 1, 1967. It is governed by the United States Secretary of Transportation.


To implement the law, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published final regulations for PTC systems on January 15, 2010. [8]

Federal Railroad Administration Agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is an agency in the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). The agency was created by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966. The purpose of FRA is to promulgate and enforce rail safety regulations, administer railroad assistance programs, conduct research and development in support of improved railroad safety and national rail transportation policy, provide for the rehabilitation of Northeast Corridor rail passenger service, and consolidate government support of rail transportation activities.

In December 2010 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that Amtrak and the major Class I railroads have taken steps to install PTC systems under the law, but the work may not be complete by the 2015 deadline. The railroads and their suppliers are continuing to develop software to test various system components, which could delay equipment installation. GAO also suggests that publicly funded commuter railroads will have difficulty in obtaining funds to pay for their system components. [9]

In October 2015 Congress passed a bill extending the compliance deadline by three years, to December 31, 2018. President Barack Obama signed the bill on October 29, 2015. [10]

See also

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  1. Roll call vote 980, via Clerk.House.gov
  2. H.Res.1492 - Providing for agreement by the House of Representatives to the Senate amendment to the bill, H.R. 2095, with an amendment (110th Congress)
  3. Roll call vote 210, via Senate.gov
  4. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Washington, DC (2010). "Modifications to NTSB Most Wanted List; List of Transportation Safety Improvements after September 1990."
  5. NTSB (2010). "NTSB Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements – Implement Positive Train Control Systems."
  6. Association of American Railroads, Washington, DC (2008-09-24). "Statement by Edward R. Hamberger, President and CEO Association of American Railroads on Passage of the Comprehensive Rail Safety Bill." Press release.
  7. U.S. Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, Pub.L.   110–432, 122  Stat.   4848, 49 U.S.C.   § 20101. Approved 2008-10-16.
  8. Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Washington, DC (2010-01-15). "Positive Train Control Systems; Final rule." Federal Register.75 FR 2598
  9. U.S. Government Accountability Office, Washington, DC (December 2010). "Federal Railroad Administration Should Report on Risks to the Successful Implementation of Mandated Safety Technology." Report No. GAO-11-133.
  10. "Obama signs short-term transportation bill". Washington Post. 2015-10-29.