September 24, 2020
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National passenger rail provider Amtrak said it wrapped up installation of Positive Train Control or PTC systems on all Amtrak-owned or controlled tracks on August 13; adding that it is also rolling out a new rail crossing map alert feature for motorists in partnership with Waze.

[Above photo by Amtrak.]

In terms of its PTC implementation, Amtrak noted that all 550 of its locomotives are now fully PTC operable, with 11 PTC installation/track segments completed and 160 PTC radio towers fully installed and equipped.

Steve Predmore

“Completing PTC installation and implementation is a key component of Amtrak’s overarching commitment to the safety performance of intercity passenger rail for our customers, employees and the communities we serve,” Steve Predmore, Amtrak’s executive VP and chief safety officer, outlined in a statement.

“Amtrak is pleased to achieve this milestone and we will continue to work together with all of our partners to improve safety across the rail network,” he said.

Meanwhile, Amtrak said the new railway crossing alert feature automatically alerts drivers using the latest version of Waze on Android or iOS that they are approaching a railroad crossing and will display a banner highlighting the crossing and encouraging the driver to approach with caution.

Photo by Amtrak

“Being able to warn motorists that train tracks are ahead is a great contribution to public safety that will positively impact the rail industry nationwide,” explained Sam Dotson, Amtrak’s police chief, in a statement.

“We applaud Waze for helping drivers identify railroad tracks further encouraging them to follow state laws at grade crossings, especially where no active warning devices exist like gates, bells or flashing lights,” he added. “Most importantly, we believe that these audible and visual alerts will start saving lives immediately.”

Railroad grade crossing incidents are the second leading cause of all rail-related deaths in the United States, according to Federal Railroad Administration data, and a push is being made on several fronts to reduce those fatalities.

In November 2019, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would requiring 40 states and the District of Columbia to develop and implement highway-rail grade crossing action plans.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office also issued a 45-page report in November 2018 recommending that the Federal Highway Administration re-evaluate its requirements to ensure state funding “flexibility” to address ongoing safety issues where roads and train tracks meet.

editor@aashto.org

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