Lawmakers: Penalize railroads that don’t hit safety deadline

Frustrated lawmakers are urging stiff penalties for U.S. railroads that miss a Dec. 31 deadline for switching on speed control systems that investigators say could’ve prevented a spate of recent deadly crashes.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, told a Senate committee Thursday that federal regulators must show “no tolerance for delay” in implementing positive train control.

The Federal Railroad Administration says it’s able to assess fines of $27,904 per day, but Blumenthal said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao hasn’t committed to using such enforcement measures.

A new Government Accountability Office study found that as many as two-thirds of the nation’s 29 commuter railroads are unlikely to meet the deadline or merit a two-year extension. Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, of Michigan, says that leaves him questioning the industry’s commitment.

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