FRA Updates PTC Progress, Offers More Funding for PTC Installation

The Federal Railroad Administration said railroads are achieving “significant progress” in their efforts to install positive train control or PTC technology ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline and it has awarded more than $203 million in grant funding for 28 projects in 15 states to further assist with PTC deployment.

FRA said in a statement on Aug. 24 that its latest data – current as of June 30 – shows that 15 railroads have installed 100 percent of the required PTC system hardware, while 12 other railroads have installed between 95 and 99 percent of that hardware. On top of that, all of the railroads, except for one, that use spectrum-based PTC systems have “sufficient spectrum” to operate the technology.

Additionally, the agency said 14 railroads have initiated sufficient revenue service demonstration, or RSD, or meet substitute criteria in terms of testing PTC operation; one of the six statutory criteria needed to qualify for an “alternative” PTC implementation schedule.

All in all, FRA said its latest review indicates PTC systems are in RSD or operation on approximately 37,705 route miles or 65 percent of the nearly 58,000 route miles that are subject to the PTC mandate.

FRA also noted that its “Quarter 2” data shows a 25 percent drop in the number of “at-risk” railroads from 12 to 9, adding the agency currently considers any railroad that installed less than 90 percent of its PTC system hardware as of June 30 to be “at risk” of missing the mandated deadline. Those nine “at-risk” railroads are: 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 and Central Florida Rail Corridor.

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

Norfolk Southern

In terms of PTC-supportive funding, FRA’s award of $203 million is part of $250 million in grants made available May 15 specifically appropriated under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, via the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements or CRISI program. In an effort to assist railroads in quickly using those funds to help meet the PTC deadline, FRA said USDOT wrapped up the grant application review and selection process in 49 days.

FRA also expects to issue a second Notice of Funding Opportunity or NOFO related to PTC deployment needs for the remaining $46-plus million very soon, Batory noted.

“It was our goal to award today’s grants as quickly as possible to help the recipients implement PTC,” he said. “We also encourage eligible applicants to apply for the remaining balance of the PTC CRISI grants after that [second] NOFO is published.”

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