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Rail News: Positive Train Control

FRA issues 2Q status report, awards grants for PTC implementation

Workers are busy in Metra’s PTC lab. The commuter railroad will receive a nearly $23 million grant from the FRA for implementation.
Photo – Metra


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday released a second-quarter status update on railroads' self-reported progress toward implementing positive train control (PTC) systems.

As of June 30, 15 railroads had installed 100 percent of the PTC system hardware required for implementation; 12 had installed between 95 percent and 99 percent of all hardware; and all railroads — except for one — that use spectrum-based PTC systems had acquired sufficient radio spectrum, according to the status update.

"This marks a significant improvement from December 2016, when freight railroads had PTC active on just 16 percent of required tracks, while passenger railroads were at 24 percent," FRA officials said in a press release.

In addition, 14 railroads had initiated sufficient revenue service demonstrations (RSD) or met substitute criteria. Systems were in RSD or operation on about 37,705 route miles, or 65 percent of the nearly 58,000 route miles that are subject to the statutory PTC mandate.

"The railroads have achieved some significant improvements over the past year implementing this safety technology," said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory. "While we are seeing progress among a majority of railroads, we want to see everyone meet their requirements."

The Q2 update also shows a 25 percent drop in the number of "at-risk" railroads from 12 to 9. The FRA considers any railroad that installed less than 90 percent of its PTC system hardware as of June 30 to be at risk.

The at-risk railroads and commuter-rail agencies are the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New Jersey Transit, Altamont Corridor Express, Maryland Area Regional Commuter, Trinity Railway Express, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain) and SunRail. They own or control about 665 route miles, or 11 percent of the route miles that must be governed by a PTC system according to the mandate.

To request the FRA's approval of an alternative schedule beyond the Dec. 31 deadline, a railroad must demonstrate in a written notification that it has installed all system hardware, acquired all necessary spectrum, and made sufficient progress on employee training, RSDs and other criteria as of 2018's end.

Meanwhile, the FRA yesterday also announced it awarded $203.7 million in grant funding for 28 PTC projects in 15 states. The funds were appropriated under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 for the implementation of PTC via the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.

The grants include up to $20 million for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, $18.7 million for the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain), $10.4 million for the Alaska Railroad Corp., $9.5 million for Dallas Area Rapid Transit and $4.4 million for North Shore Railroad Co. A complete list of grant recipients can be found here.

In the coming days, the FRA expects to issue a second notice to solicit grant applications for PTC systems deployment projects based on the balance of funding still available. Applications for the $46.3 million available under the second solicitation will be due 30 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register.