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Wednesday, January 30, 2013    

FRA extends comment period for proposed PTC rulemaking


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has extended the deadline for submitting comments on a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) involving positive train control (PTC) that originally was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 11.

Written comments now will be received by the FRA until March 11 instead of Feb. 11, the originally scheduled due date.

The NPRM would revise regulatory provisions related to a "de minimis" exception to the installation of PTC systems and applications to yard-related movements. The proposed rulemaking also would revise existing regulations related to en route failures of a PTC system and discontinuances of signal systems once a PTC system is installed, and make additional technical amendments to regulations governing grade crossing warning systems and signal systems, including PTC systems.

In an April 2011 petition, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) requested that the FRA initiate a rulemaking to propose expanding the de minimis exception, and amend rules concerning the limited operations exception, en route failures of trains operating within PTC systems and the discontinuance of signal systems once PTC systems were installed. The AAR also asked the FRA to develop a new exception that would allow unequipped trains associated with certain yard operations to operate within PTC systems.

In response to the petition, the FRA has proposed several changes to the de minimis exception, such as modifying the specific exception to raise the number of freight cars containing poison-by-inhalation materials from 100 cars to 200 cars and revising the grade limitation to be more consistent with the definition of "heavy grade."

The FRA also proposes to add a yard movement de minimis exception that would authorize movements by unequipped locomotives over PTC-equipped mainline track segments for the purpose of switching service or transfer train movements.

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