The short-term patch to the so-called Highway Trust Fund has a poison pill in it.
Congress appropriated no funds for the railroads to build this system even though the major freight railroads — BNSF, UP, CSX, NS — run no passenger trains and serious wrecks of freight trains are relatively rare. PTC requires a complex system of computers and wireless radio control so that engines can be remotely controlled. None of the major freight railroads have finished building this system (for example, Congress did not order the FCC to release spectrum on an emergency basis to the railroads!).
I used to understand such things as unconstitutional takings, but thinking like a policy wonk in the era of hope and change is beyond me. One version of the patch bill extends the deadline to bring positive train control on to 2018, another version envisions it active by the end of this year. Oops.
Unless the delay is passed, in January the freight railroads will have to decide to stop hauling toxic inhalation materials and close their tracks to commuter trains. This drastic step would put them in compliance with PTC but would violate the basic law that the Railroads are common carriers (seeTrains magazine, October 2015, page 6 for a discussion). This would set off a major national crisis. Like it or not hazardous materials such as Chlorine and Sulfuric Acid have to transported by rail. They have to move or major industries will grind to a halt. Ditto the commuter rail. If commuter trains are stopped from using the freight rail lines massive traffic jams will be the result.

This whole sorry spectacle is yet another sign of how dysfunctional Congress has become.
The way to demonstrate the folly of a rule is to comply with it.

Perhaps, after enough government failures, voters will be more receptive to the expression, enumerated and limited powers.

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