North Texas' Trinity Railway Express, Denton County's A-Train and Austin's CapMetro are all recipients of federal grant funding to implement Positive Train Control. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today awarded $203,698,298 in grant funding for 28 projects in 15 states to assist with the deployment of positive train control (PTC) systems. “These $200 million in grants will help the railroads continue to implement positive train control, a technology that could help reduce accidents and save lives,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao. Railroads that carry passengers or transport hazmat cargo are to either have PTC operable by the end of this year or have obtained a waiver with a majority of the work already in progress. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson announced that Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) will receive $9.5 million in grant funding for the Trinity Railway Express. “In over 25 years representing District 30, I have worked alongside local leaders in many communities to develop new and improve existing transportation systems that benefit people all across North Texas,” said Congresswoman Johnson. "DART is key to helping foster growth and development across DFW, particularly for families to access greater mobility and, therefore, opportunities at a better quality of life." The TRE funds will support implementing a PTC back office system, I-ETMS systems integration and testing with multiple freight and passenger railroads, interoperability testing, and training for the Trinity Railway Express and TEXRail commuter railroads in the Dallas-Fort Worth urban area. DART, which operates both bus and rail service in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, serves more than 220,000 riders across 13 cities in North Texas daily. Austin's CapMetro will receive $5.6 million that will include the remaining integration testing of PTC components, preparation of the PTC safety plan, contract engineering and oversight, systems testing, and training for Capital Metro’s installation of Enhanced Automatic Train Control (E-ATC) on its Red Line in the cities of Austin, Cedar Park, Leander, and surrounding Texas communities. Denton County Transportation Authority's grant of $4 million will implement five cut sections to include PTC programming changes, insulated joints, track monitoring equipment, testing and communications, deploying dispatch software/hardware integration with the E-ATC temporary speed restrictions server, support training, and testing along the 21-mile commuter rail line in Denton County, TX. The FRA is making awards to 28 projects for a total of $203 million of the $250 million specifically appropriated under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 for the implementation of PTC systems, via the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program. A Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for $250 million in PTC Systems Grants was issued in May, and applications under that solicitation were due on July 2. The grant funding for passenger railroads comes as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 Positive Train Control Grants under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Grant Program. In an effort to assist railroads as they work towards fulfilling the Congressional PTC mandate, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) focused its resources on releasing these important funds in an expeditious manner. The application review and selection process was completed in 49 days, in order to award these funds in advance of the December 31, 2018 deadline. In addition, FRA expects in the coming days to issue a second NOFO soliciting applications for PTC systems deployment projects based on the balance of the $250 million that remained after today’s awards were announced. Applications for the $46,301,702 under this second solicitation will be due 30 days after the NOFO is published in the Federal Register. “It was our goal to award today’s grants as quickly as possible to help the recipients implement PTC,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “We also encourage eligible applicants to apply for the remaining balance of the PTC CRISI grants after that NOFO is published.” Strong and continuous progress is being made by the commuter rail industry towards installing and implementing Positive Train Control (PTC), according to an analysis by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). These advancements reflect the commuter rail industry's commitment to safety and to implementing PTC by the statutory deadline.
PTC is a complex signaling and communications technology that commuter rail agencies are installing to offer a critical safety overlay on top of an already safe industry. In fact, rail is the safest surface transportation mode and traveling by commuter rail or intercity rail is 18 times safer than traveling by automobile.
The commuter rail industry is making substantial progress, and as of June 30, 2018:
91% of spectrum has been acquired; 85% of 13,698 pieces of onboard equipment have been installed on locomotives and cab cars etc.; 79% of 14,083 wayside (on track equipment) installations have been completed; 78% of back office control systems are ready for operation; 74% of 14,847 employees have been trained in PTC; and 34% of commuter railroads are in testing, revenue service demonstration, or are operating their trains with PTC.
"Every year, 30 commuter railroads across America safely carry passengers on 501 million trips," said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. "With safety as our number one priority, the commuter railroads are making strong and continuous progress in implementing Positive Train Control."
Under current law (49 U.S.C. 20157), commuter railroads are required to meet the following milestones by December 31, 2018. As defined in 49 U.S.C. 20157(a)(3)(B), they are to have:
Installed all PTC hardware (wayside and onboard equipment); Acquired all necessary spectrum for PTC implementation; Completed all employee training; Initiated testing on at least one territory subject to the PTC requirement (or other criteria); and Submitted a plan and schedule to the Secretary of Transportation for implementing a PTC system.
Upon reaching these milestones by the end of 2018, the commuter railroads must implement PTC as soon as practicable and no later than December 31, 2020.
"Positive Train Control is a critical commuter rail safety enhancement," said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. "Implementing PTC at SEPTA, during a challenging period of capital funding, has been an Authority-wide commitment. Throughout this effort, our in-house team has been working continuously with Amtrak, our freight partners, and third-party contractors to address technical and interoperability challenges. SEPTA trains on all 13 Regional Rail Lines are equipped and operating with PTC, and SEPTA is proud to have implemented this safety technology for our customers and employees."
"Implementing Positive Train Control in Chicago's dense and busy railroad network has been very challenging, but Metra is right where we said we'd be in terms of finishing the job," said Jim Derwinski, Metra's CEO/executive director. "Working with our freight partners, we expect to have PTC implemented or in revenue service demonstration on six of our 11 lines by the end of 2018, and to complete the job by 2020."
The commuter rail industry is moving aggressively to implement PTC as it faces considerable technical and financial constraints. At a time when the national transit state of good repair backlog stands at an estimated $90 billion, the commuter railroad industry's cost to implement PTC will exceed $4.1 billion, diverting funds from other critical infrastructure priorities. Since Congress mandated PTC, the federal government has awarded $272 million in PTC grants. Additionally, another $250 million was made available in May 2018.
PTC is an unparalleled technical challenge in scale, complexity, and time required. The challenges include: a limited number of PTC-qualified vendors simultaneously in demand by both the passenger and freight railroad industries to develop, design, and test this complex safety technology; diagnosing and resolving software issues, securing adequate access to track and locomotives for installation and testing, and achieving interoperability, as commuter rail systems operate in mixed traffic with other freight and passenger railroads.