Wednesday, April 07, 2010

PTC: FRA throws out a bone

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Among the railroads, Positive Train Control has been characterized as a $15 billion unfunded mandate that will ultimately divert capital dollars away from other programs, and that offers an unattractive cost:benefit ratio of 22:1. At the same time, the railroads all confirm that they will meet the federal statutory deadline of year-end 2015 for PTC implementation.

The railroads can now say that PTC is a “mostly-unfunded”mandate, following the Federal Railroad Administration’s announcement of its new $50 million Rail Safety Technology Program, a grant program designed to provide funds “for the deployment of PTC collision avoidance systems and complementary advanced technologies.”

FRA will begin accepting grant applications on April 9, 2010. Eligible applicants include passenger and freight rail carriers, railroad suppliers, and state and local governments. The program requires that the funded PTC projects or related systems be ready for deployment within 24 months of the grant award. FRA says it will give preference to “collaborative projects sponsored by multiple railroads and public authorities that satisfy one or more specific objectives, particularly interoperability. Those seeking funds for PTC under the program must have either received FRA approval of a Technology Implementation Plan and PTC Implementation Plans or successfully demonstrate to FRA that they are currently developing them.” 

The new grant program was authorized under the Rail SafetyImprovement Act of 2008 and has an 80/20 cost-sharing requirement.  FRA says applications will be reviewed immediately following the July 1, 2010 filing deadline.  Selection announcements will be made on or around September 3, 2010.