Need for Positive Train Control outlined in rail status update

August 25, 2016  - By

A status update released this month by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) underscores the need for railroads to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) as quickly and safely as possible. The update also highlights the Administration’s repeated calls for Congress to provide more significant funding to assist commuter railroads in implementing PTC.

“Positive Train Control should be installed as quickly as possible,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This is lifesaving technology available now, and railroads should continue to aggressively work to beat the deadlines Congress has put in place.”

PTC prevents 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.

The status update includes railroad-by-railroad quarterly data as of June 30 on track segments completed, employees trained, radio towers installed, route miles in PTC operation and other key implementation data. Some of this information is also displayed in infographics below. In March, FRA announced that it intended to require railroads to submit quarterly reports to FRA on their progress toward completing PTC implementation.

In 2008, Congress mandated PTC implementation on certain railroad main lines where railroads transport poisonous-by-inhalation hazardous or toxic-by-inhalation hazardous materials or any line where a railroad provides regularly scheduled passenger service. Following a derailment in May 2015 in the Northeast Corridor, in October Congress extended the original deadline from December 31, 2015, to at least December 31, 2018.

“The official deadline for Positive Train Control may be years away, but the urgency for railroads to activate it is now,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “Every day that passes without PTC, we risk adding another preventable accident to a list that is already too long. FRA will continue to push railroads to stay focused on implementation and urge Congress to fund this life-saving technology.”

Earlier this week, FRA awarded nearly $25 million in grants to help railroads complete full PTC implementation. Many of the awards will help railroads achieve interoperability among the different PTC systems that railroads are deploying. This follows DOT’s announcement in July that commuter railroads and states can apply for approximately $199 million in PTC grants.

President Obama has consistently made funding and assistance for commuter railroads to implement PTC a priority. In his Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget request, the president requested $1.25 billion. This follows requests of $825 million in both FY 2015 and FY 2016.

Since 2008, FRA has provided significant assistance to support railroads’ PTC implementation. Those efforts include:

  • Approving more than $650 million in grants to passenger railroads, including nearly $400 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 funding
  • Issuing a nearly $1 billion loan to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority to implement PTC on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad
  • 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 resolve issues related to spectrum use and improve the approval process for PTC communication towers
  • Dedicating staff to work on PTC implementation, including establishing a PTC task force.

PTC Infographics

PTC-RAIL-1 PTC-RAIL-2 PTC-RAIL-3