Metrolink and BNSF are on track to meet the deadline. Amtrak is also expected to meet the deadline, but only in its Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, and in Michigan.
While most railroad officials emphasize the train control system's cost, a significant side benefit not figured into cost-benefit calculations is that it can improve the efficiency of railroad operations, saving companies substantial sums, Cothen said.
PTC requires significant coordination between railroad companies operating on the same tracks since the software they choose must be compatible — a challenge to installation. Freight railroads also are still working on technical specifications, adding to delays. And some commuter railroads are struggling to find the needed radio spectrum to purchase, as well as the money to pay for both positive train control and other pressing repairs.
Szabo, the Federal Railroad Administration official, said he wants Congress to give the administration authority to grant case-by-case extensions. He said the key is finding an "appropriate balance between keeping feet to the fire" and making sure "it is done safely and reliably."
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