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Rail News: Positive Train Control

California senators ask FRA to issue PTC implementation progress report next month

U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) recently sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) expressing concerns about the current pace of positive train control (PTC) implementation. The pace of progress and investments by railroads is “insufficient to meet the statutory deadline” of Dec. 31, 2015, they wrote in the letter to Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo dated Jan. 25.

Feinstein and Boxer requested that the FRA’s fiscal-year 2013 budget request to Congress include a description of how the funding requested for PTC oversight and rail safety technology will be sufficient to ensure that railroads meet the deadline. They also asked the FRA to provide Congress a status report on PTC implementation by late March.

According to Feinstein and Boxer, the report should:
• Assess each PTC implementation plan submitted to and approved by FRA to determine how many railroads are on schedule to meet the deadline, including an assessment of whether they are meeting benchmarks and making investments necessary to address interoperability issues; acquire spectrum, hardware and software; develop back-office server systems; and address other key steps.

• Outline known challenges that could impact, delay or complicate PTC implementation by the mandated deadline, and comment specifically on the amount and nature of the PTC spectrum needed, spectrum availability and options for securing spectrum.

• Determine the sufficiency of existing FRA resources dedicated to the PTC approval and implementation process.

• Assess the FRA’s ability to obtain personnel qualified to manage and oversee PTC implementation and long-term operation.

• Propose a methodology to monitor railroads’ compliance with their PTC implementation plans and manage the national implementation of PTC effectively across the industry.

• Estimate the funding required for the FRA to oversee field testing of PTC implementation phases, develop a national implementation plan to promote a coordinated, timely and effective implementation strategy, and implement that plan.

• Review the feasibility and additional funding necessary for the FRA to produce semi-annual reports to Congress on implementation progress.

“We are deeply concerned that falling behind on PTC deployment could prompt attempts to extend the 2015 deadline in the future,” Feinstein and Boxer said in a joint statement.

Although the House’s proposed surface transportation reauthorization bill includes a provision to extend the mandated deadline to Dec. 31, 2020, Feinstein and Boxer oppose any extension.

For more information on railroads’ implementation progress and the FRA’s recent regulatory advances, follow this link to read an article (“PTC, Post Year Three”) that’s published in Progressive Railroading’s February issue. In addition, Progressive Railroading will host a free webcast on Amtrak's PTC implementation progress on Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. EST. Follow this link to register for the event.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/14/2012