Metra riders can breathe a sigh of relief with the Congressional action Wednesday to extend a safety system deadline and avert a threatened Jan. 1 railroad shutdown.
The Senate approved a House-passed measure that gives railroads an additional three years, to Dec. 31, 2018, to install the safety system known as Positive Train Control. The measure, part of a larger transportation funding bill, now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
"Today's action will ultimately enable us to avoid a shutdown of Metra commuter rail service on January 1, 2016," Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno said in a statement.
"This news can finally put the minds of our customers and employees at ease, knowing that Metra's trains will continue operating in January. As always, Metra remains committed to implementing PTC as quickly and safely as we can."
If Congress had not acted, Metra and other commuter and freight railroads across the country said they would have to shut down by Dec. 31 because they have not had enough time to install the complex system that uses GPS, radios and other equipment to slow or stop speeding trains and override human error.
The Association of American Railroads, which represents the railroad industry, also hailed the action.
"Members of the House and Senate are to be commended for taking the responsible action to extend the PTC deadline. This provides the certainty American industries and businesses need to serve the millions of Americans who rely on rail every day," said AAR president and CEO Edward Hamberger.
"The extension means freight and passenger railroads can continue moving forward with the ongoing development, installation, real-world testing and validation of this complex technology," he said.