September 25, 2020
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Some 37 of the 41 railroads covered by the Positive Train Control or PTC technology implementation mandate either gained approval from the Federal Railroad Administration for “alternative” compliance schedules for a two-year compliance extension or awaiting said approval from the agency.

[Above photo of Metrolink by Clay Gilliland.]

Concurrently, the FRA awarded more than $46 million in grant funding on Dec. 21 for 11 projects in 10 states to further assist with the deployment of PTC systems – the second round of some $250 million in total funds authorized by the Fiscal Year 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act and via the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements or CRISI program.

The agency released an initial tranche of $203 million worth of PTC grant funding out of that $250 million in August.

The FRA said in its year-end PTC report that four railroads –  the Port Authority Trans-Hudson or PATH commuter line, North County Transit District, Portland & Western Railroad and the Southern California Regional Rail Authority or “Metrolink” – “self-reported” full implementation of certified and interoperable PTC system.

[How does PTC technology work? Union Pacific explains it in the video below.]

However, another 33 railroads and three tenant-only commuter railroads covered by the mandate submitted written notification requesting FRA’s review and approval of an alternative schedule – with each railroad providing appropriate documentation demonstrating that they met the six statutory criteria necessary to qualify for such a schedule.

A 37th candidate, New Mexico Rail Runner Express, gained “conditional approval” for a temporary main line track exception until Dec. 31, 2020.

As of Dec. 31 last year, FRA had only formally approved nine of those requests for a two-year compliance extension, with the agency noting it has 90 days to approve the remainder.

editor@aashto.org

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