FRA, FTA award $197 million in grants for PTC on passenger rail

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor
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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded $197 million in grants last week to help commuter and intercity passenger railroads implement Positive Train Control (PTC) by Dec. 31, 2018.


The grants are authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and will be provided to 17 projects in 13 states. FRA and FTA said 27 eligible applications were received requesting $455 million, more than double the congressional authorization amount. The FRA was responsible for the selection of the grant recipients and the FTA will award and administer the grants during Fiscal Year 2017.

“The number of passengers depending on rail has increased dramatically, which means PTC is needed now more than ever,” said Patrick Warren, FRA executive director. “This funding will get us closer to PTC implementation on some of the most significant railroads in the country that transport several million passengers to and from work every day.”

“Millions of people rely on our nation’s commuter railroads and Positive Train Control will help ensure safe and reliable service,” said FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes. “Today’s announcement means that commuter railroads can move forward with the implementation of an important rail safety feature.”

Grants will be awarded in the amounts stated below to the following commuter railroads and state and regional transportation entities:

Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB) – Calif.
$21.68 million to dual equip seven Caltrain trains with the Incremental Train Control System (ITCS) and Interoperable Electronic Train Management System (I-ETMS) PTC systems for approximately 32 miles from south of San Jose to Gilroy on Union Pacific territory by December 31, 2018.

Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) – Calif.
$3.2 million to develop, test and deploy tools and processes to improve the reliability, efficiency and security of SCRRA’s Interoperable Electronic Train Management System (I-ETMS) PTC system, with an upgrade from a non-vital PTC system to a vital overlay system across 249 miles of rail line in the greater Los Angeles region of southern California. The vital overlay system will include additional encryption and physical firewalls to secure all data channels, along with a PTC data log analyzer tool to identify the cause of PTC system errors, cut-outs and component failures. Security upgrades will focus on SCRRA’s Metrolink PTC network.

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) – Fla.
$1.84 million to implement an I-ETMS PTC system along 110 miles of the Central Florida Rail Corridor (CFRC) in the Orlando region. The project components include a computer-aided dispatch system, track database and communication network. Since freight, commuter rail, and intercity rail service all use the CFRC, the implementation of I-ETMS will help reduce potential collisions between passenger and freight trains.

South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) – Fla.
$31.63 million to complete installing SFRTA’s I‐ETMS PTC system—which consists of wayside interface units, near side station controls, base radio stations, a back office server, on‐board PTC kits and a crew training simulator—on the South Florida Rail Corridor. SFRTA’s 72-mile-long Tri-Rail commuter line runs through Palm Beach, Broward and Miami‐Dade counties, additionally, CSX operates approximately 11 through and local freight trains per day and Amtrak operates four trains per day and serves six Tri‑Rail stations within the SFRC.

Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) – Ill.
$18.87 million to complete the design, delivery, installation and testing of a fully integrated I-ETMS PTC system on two routes for Amtrak’s use on 14.7 route miles of Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA) right‑of way in a dense urban area of St. Louis on both the Illinois and Missouri banks of the Mississippi River.

Regional Transportation Authority (Metra) – Ill.
$20.2 million for three subprojects on Metra’s Commuter Rail Division to implement wayside PTC signals, reconfigure signals and upgrade an existing PTC automatic block signaling systems on Metra’s Milwaukee District West (MD-W) and North (MD-N) lines in the Chicago region. Metra’s commuter rail network is the fourth busiest in the country, with nearly 14 million passenger trips on the MD-W and MD-N lines each year. Each day, more than 1,300 Metra, freight and Amtrak trains operate in the region. Since they frequently share the same track, precise scheduling and close coordination among railroad partners are required to plan the complex interaction between these trains each day.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) – Mass.
$7.82 million to install a back office system for MBTA’s PTC system that consists of an existing Cab Signaling System (CSS) with Automatic Train Control (ATC) supplemented by MBTA’s Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System II (ACSES II). This project is in partnership with Freight-Pan Am, CSX, Amtrak and Keolis.

Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) – Md.
$9.44 million to install an I-ETMS PTC system along Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) tracks in the Northeast Corridor (NEC) and equip 11 MARC 2A cab cars with I-ETMS onboard technology. The work will be on the Penn Line between Union Station in Washington, D.C., and the northern limits of MARC service at Perryville, Md., over a total distance of approximately 77 directional miles where rail safety will be improved for 272,269 daily riders.

Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) – Mo.
$12.02 million to design, install and test a fully integrated and functional I-ETMS PTC system over approximately 8.5 route miles of Kansas City Terminal (KCT) Railway right-of-way where Amtrak operates in the Kansas City metropolitan region of Missouri. The project will implement wayside and communications PTC equipment that provide fail-safe responses to the loss of communication data, along with an integrated back-office system capable of providing interoperability for all tenant railroads. Since the project’s geographic reach covers one of the most congested rail hubs in the U.S., the safety improvements will significantly affect more than 92,000 trains per year, including six daily passenger trains with approximately 552,000 riders per year.

New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) – N.J.
$10 million to implement NJ Transit’s PTC Phase III, which involves the purchase of onboard equipment kits and the installation, testing and commissioning of the PTC equipment on a total of 440 locomotives, electric mobile units and cab cars. NJ Transit is the nation’s third largest provider of bus, rail and light-rail transit. PTC will be deployed across NJ Transit’s 11 commuter rail lines, along 326 route miles where rail safety will be improved for approximately 400,000 passengers per work day and 250,000 passengers on the weekends. To address interoperability issues and develop formal procedures for seamless train movements across different railroads, NJ Transit will partner with Amtrak, Norfolk Southern Railway and Conrail.

Rio Metro Regional Transit District (Rio Metro) – N.M.
$3.6 million for the New Mexico Rail Runner Express’s (Rail Runner) PTC project, including installation of I‑ETMS PTC onboard technology on nine Rail Runner locomotives. PTC technology will provide safety benefits for two major rail lines where Rail Runner operates along the 22-mile-long Santa Fe Subdivision and shares tracks with Amtrak and BNSF along the 98-mile-long Albuquerque Subdivision.

New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) – N.Y.
$33.75 million to implement the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES) PTC system on the Amtrak-controlled section of the Empire Corridor Hudson Line, a federally designated high-speed rail corridor that spans multiple jurisdictions along its 94 miles from Poughkeepsie to Hoffman. A full PTC system will be constructed, along with all hardware, software and databases required for the ACSES system.

Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) – Ore.
$1.2 million to install and test PTC equipment on two Talgo Series 8 trainsets owned by ODOT and operated by Amtrak for the regional Amtrak Cascades intercity passenger rail service connecting Eugene, Ore., to Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The Amtrak Cascades operates on the shared freight rail tracks of the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor, one of 11 designated high-speed rail corridors. The corridor carries approximately 35 freight trains, including those with hazardous material cargo, which interact with 16 Amtrak passenger rail trains and 14 Sound Transit commuter trains that use the route every day.

Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) – Ore.
$2.7 million to implement two Enhanced Automatic Train Control (E-ATC) PTC system safety modifications on the 15-mile-long Westside Express commuter rail corridor from Wilsonville to Beaverton. The first modification will stop a train in advance of a malfunctioning grade crossing and the second modification will stop a train prior to a work zone or limit speed throughout the work zone. TriMet is a tenant on the corridor shared with Portland and Western Railroad, a Class 3 freight railroad that serves as the host railroad for PTC implementation.

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) – Pa.
$5.8 million to install SEPTA’s ACSES II PTC system along a three-mile portion of restored Regional Rail service from Elwyn to Wawa and deploy onboard survey map software that contains the physical characteristics of the railroad and dictates train-operating speeds throughout SEPTA’s rail network. The onboard survey map software will be installed on SEPTA’s 360 rail cars, which serve a 2,200 square mile area.

Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro) – Texas
$9.76 million to install the PTC fiber communications network for an Enhanced Automatic Train Control (E-ATC) PTC system on approximately 33 miles of Capital Metro’s commuter rail territory, which connects Downtown Austin, Texas with Austin’s northern suburbs and serves nine stations. All components of the PTC system will use proven components and subsystems on the commuter portion of Capital Metro’s alignment. The project will provide improved transportation safety for over 2,600 Capital Metro Red Line passengers per day, as well as two tenant freight railroads, Austin and Western Railroad and Austin and Texas Central Railroad. The 81 highway-rail grade crossings along the Red Line will also benefit from the deployment of PTC, since the included crossing malfunction identification equipment allows for quicker response times for issues with roadway-rail crossing signals.

Utah Transit Authority (UTA) – Utah
$3.52 million to design and test a two-step No-Code Proceed system to assure the safe operation of UTA’s FrontRunner E-ATC PTC system on its two mainline track segments from Provo to Ogden and Ogden to Pleasant View. The system will prevent a single point of failure for any movement of a train through a work zone or malfunctioning grade crossing when the system has imposed a positive stop. The project also includes onboard modifications to locomotives, vital software required to ensure that E-ATC functions on UTA’s upgraded system, integration testing and a locomotive operator simulator. As a major provider of transportation within the Salt Lake Valley, UTA will be proving safer commuter rail service for over 4.6 million passengers per year using a fleet of 18 locomotives, 31 coaches (Bombardier and Comet), and 22 Bombardier cab cars. Additionally, safety will be improved for tenant freight railroads, such as Union Pacific, that operate on short sections of the FrontRunner system mainline.

FRA and FTA say the grants under this program will be used to install PTC technology, including back office systems and wayside, communications and onboard hardware equipment associated with railroads’ PTC systems.

Categories: C&S, Class 1, Commuter/Regional, Intercity, Rapid Transit/Light Rail, Safety/Training