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Port Authority awards new PATH signal system contracts

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Fulfilling a commitment to the PATH rail system's long-term growth, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey's Board of Commissioners authorized more than $340 million worth of contracts to help replace antiquated mechanical train controls on the 101-year-old system with state-of-the-art, computerized signals.

The overall signal project
is expected to cost $580 million and is a major part of the Port Authority’s
$3.3-billion plan to modernize the entire PATH system, an initiative that also
includes a new 340-car train fleet and 10-car platforms on the Newark to World
Trade Center line.

PATH trains transported
nearly 75 million riders in 2008 and the new signals, in tandem with other
improvements, are designed to add up to 20-percent capacity to meet the system’s
future peak-time demands, in addition to increasing safety and reliability
while reducing ongoing maintenance costs.

The largest contract awarded
Oct. 22, worth $321 million, was awarded to the Siemen’s Team for the design,
manufacture and installation of the new signal technology, as well as the
removal of the old system. Siemen’s Team is a consortium of Siemens
Transportation Systems, Safetran Systems Corp. and D/A Builders, LLC.

A $21-million professional
management contract also was awarded to Booz, Allen, Hamilton Inc. to help
oversee the signal project. Additionally, a $2-million contract was awarded to
The Rail Safety Consulting, LLC, which will provide an independent assessment
and certification of safety standards for the project.

PATH’s current signal
technology is a century old and still uses key equipment put into service
between the early 1900s and the 1940s.  Relying on obsolete components has made it difficult to
obtain spare parts, resulting in rising numbers of repairs, costs and service
delays.

Conversely, the new system,
called Automatic Train Control, uses technology in newly-designed transit
systems, as well as replacement of signals in older systems, like New York City
Transit subways and the London Underground. ATC coordinates train movements via
a computer-controlled radio network.

Following a Los Angeles
Metrolink fatal accident in 2008, the Federal Railroad Administration proposed
legislation to make FRA-regulated rail lines install "Positive Train Control"
technology to prevent train collisions, avoid derailments caused by excessive
speeds and protect rail workers in track right-of-ways. The ATC system being
adopted and installed by the Port Authority meets the requirements of the FRA’s
pending legislation.

Signals will be replaced
throughout the PATH line’s 43 track miles and 13 stations, while the new communications
equipment also will be installed inside 130 of the new PATH railcars that have
an operating engineer’s cab.

The project is slated to
start later this year with design and field assessments made next year. Installation
of equipment is expected to be ongoing by 2011, with testing of the new signals
in 2013. Old signals will be removed as the new system becomes operational,
with the project slated to be finished in 2017, though ongoing logistics coordination
must be managed carefully to ensure that date is met given all of the other
upgrades going on concurrently inside the PATH tunnels.

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