WASHINGTON — The Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration released a status update today on railroads’ progress implementing positive train control systems in the fourth quarter of 2016. The status update, based on railroad-submitted quarterly data, shows freight railroads continue to make consistent progress while passenger industry progress in installing and activating the life-saving technology only slightly increased.
The latest data, current as of December 31, 2016, confirms freight railroads now have PTC active on just 16 percent of tracks required to be equipped with PTC systems — up from 12 percent last quarter. Passenger railroads made less progress — with a slight increase to 24 percent from 23 percent.
Due in large part to Amtrak’s significant progress on PTC, 41 percent of passenger railroads’ locomotives are now fully equipped with PTC technology, compared to 29 percent the previous quarter. Freight railroads’ percentage of locomotives fully equipped with PTC technology rose to 42 percent, up from 38 percent.
“We continue to closely monitor railroads’ progress implementing positive train control,” says Patrick Warren, FRA executive director. “With less than two years remaining to complete the implementation process, it is imperative that railroads continue to meet implementation milestones.”
PTC systems are designed to prevent certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zone limits, and trains going to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position.
Congress requires Class I railroads and entities providing regularly scheduled intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation to implement PTC systems by Dec. 31, 2018. Only if some key implementation and installation milestones are met may railroads be eligible to obtain a limited extension to complete certain non-hardware, operational aspects of PTC system implementation no later than Dec. 31, 2020, subject to the Secretary of Transportation's approval.
The fourth-quarter status update includes railroad-by-railroad quarterly data on track segments completed, locomotives equipped, employees trained, radio towers installed, route miles in PTC operation, and other key implementation data.
Since 2008, when Congress first mandated PTC system implementation on certain railroad main lines, FRA has provided significant assistance to support railroads’ PTC system implementation. Those efforts include:
•Providing more than $716 million in grants to support railroads’ implementation of PTC systems, including nearly $400 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding and $25 million in fiscal year 2016 Railroad Safety Technology Program funding;
•Issuing a nearly $1-billion loan to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority to implement PTC systems on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad;
•Announcing the availability of $199 million in grants to commuter railroads and state and local governments in fiscal year 2017 for PTC system implementation;
•Building a PTC testbed at the Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colorado;
•Working directly with the Federal Communications Commission and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to improve the approval process for PTC communication towers; and
•Dedicating staff to work on PTC implementation, including establishing a PTC task force.
— A Federal Railroad Administration news release. March 15, 2017.