FCC proposes streamlined tribal review process for PTC antennas

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor
image description
Checking a communication pole foundation as part of Metrolink’s PTC work.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed an alternative process for 565 federally recognized Native American tribes to review positive train control (PTC) antennas in a public notice posted on the FCC website Jan. 29.


The alternate process should streamline approvals of the 22,000 antennas still needed on United States railroads for PTC implementation. Tribal sovereignty grants the tribes the right to review FCC-regulated towers.

According to the FCC, the alternative process is “intended to create an efficient, practical and timely review process that ensures full consideration of the effects of PTC wayside poles on historic properties, including sites of religious and cultural significance to Tribal Nations, in a manner that allows the railroads to complete construction by the congressional deadline.”

The FCC review process been cited as one roadblock railroads have had to contend with in order to implement PTC by the 2015 deadline.

The alternative process applies to wayside structures that are no taller than 75 feet (including antenna); do not create a foundation hole greater than 15 inches in diameter; do not require a foundation deeper than 15 feet and must be within the railroad right-of-way.

Highlights of the proposed efficiencies include:

  • Utilizing the FCC’s Tower Construction Notification System and the E106 System to submit applications for review
  • Allowing railroads to batch submissions by county
  • Inclusion of a cultural resources report with submissions, prepared by a professional who meets the relevant standards
  • Tribal Nations may seek recovery of expenses necessary to complete review of PTC facility locations; FCC encourages tribal cultural resource offices to set compensation according to a uniform schedule
  • Tribal Nationals will have approximately 40 days (subject to specified procedures) in which to identify any wayside poles within a batched submission that may merit further or closer review

The FCC also addressed previously constructed PTC poles and said it will “expeditiously establish a process to address PTC facilities that were constructed without Section 106 review” and the process will include provisions for appropriate mitigation.

Categories: C&S, Class 1, Commuter/Regional, Intercity, Safety/Training