From FRA, a $200MM PTC infusion and an upbeat progress report

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, Editor, Railway Track & Structures; and Engineering Editor, Railway Age
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New Mexico’s Rio Metro Regional Transit District was awarded the largest single grant for work to install PTC on the Rail Runner Express. Rio Metro Regional Transit District photo.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has awarded more than $200 million in funds to assist with the deployment of Positive Train Control (PTC), with a second solicitation expected soon for a remaining $46 million. As well, the agency released its second-quarter 2018 PTC progress report, which shows “significant improvement.”

Twenty-eight projects in 15 states will receive $203.7 million awarded through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program. While the initial Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) issued in May said $250 million was available, FRA is expected to issue another NOFO to solicit applications for the remaining funds. FRA promised a “quick turnaround” for the second solicitation, with applications due 30 days from when the NOFO is published in the Federal Register.

“It was our goal to award these grants as quickly as possible to help the recipients implement PTC,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “We also encourage eligible applicants to apply for the remaining balance of the PTC CRISI grants after that NOFO is published.”

Congressional offices had previously released some of the PTC funding. FRA said the awards fund many aspects of PTC system implementation, including back office PTC systems; wayside, communications and onboard PTC system equipment; personnel training; PTC system testing; and interoperability. A full list of awards appears below.

Award amounts vary greatly, with the smallest dollar amount to a single entity awarded to Nebraska Central Railroad Co. at a bit more than $527,000, and the largest dollar amount, more than $29 million, awarded to Rio Metro Regional Transit District, N.Mex. (Rail Runner).

In making the selection decisions for the PTC grants, the factors FRA considered included supporting economic vitality; leveraging federal funding; using innovative approaches to improve safety and expedite project delivery; and holding grant recipients accountable for “achieving specific, measurable outcomes.” FRA said preference was given to projects proposing at least a 50% match and that “maximize the net benefits of the grant funds.

Grants awarded are as follows, by state, then agency; an asterisk by the agency’s name indicates those properties FRA has classified as “at-risk” based on second-quarter 2018 PTC progress reports:


Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC), up to $10.38 million: Development, testing, system certification and implementation of Interoperable Electronic Train Management System (I-ETMS) with an Independent Vital Server to improve safety and the railroad’s overall operations along ARRC’s main line that stretches 470 miles from Seward to Fairbanks, Alaska.


California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), up to $11.34 million: Design and install I-ETMS wayside controllers at 30 existing control points and 111 intermediate signal locations along the Coast Subdivision from Oakland to North San Luis Obispo, Calif.

*Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain), up to $18.69 million: Build upon Caltrain’s efforts to test and validate certain technical PTC components of its I-ETMS system between San Francisco and southern San Jose.

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART), up to $5 million: Install Enhanced Automatic Train Control (E-ATC) on the 3.3-mile passenger rail extension between the Sonoma County Airport job center and Windsor.

Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA/Metrolink), up to $9.94 million: Upgrade Metrolink’s PTC Train Management Computer (TMC) to improve processor power as well as upgrade the wayside system hardware to support deployment of nearside crossing inhibits and wireless activations in southern California.


Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), up to $14.91 million: Complete installation of I-ETMS, with testing and documentation to support PTC System Certification, on the 61.3-mile Central Florida Rail Corridor from DeLand to Poinciana, Fla. *SunRail operates along this route.


Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS), up to $1.77 million: Install onboard PTC systems and radios on 23 IAIS locomotives and procure a back-office service messaging systems license to allow for interoperable PTC operations on Metra’s Rock Island District commuter line in Illinois.

Iowa Northern Railway Company (IANR), up to $1.98 million: Install I-ETMS onboard 20 locomotives, along with software, a back-office system, component testing, interoperability testing, and training for IANR’s line between Cedar Falls and Waterloo, Iowa, on CN’s Waterloo Subdivision.


Belt Railway Company of Chicago (BRC), up to $8.6 million: Complete the final phase of BRC’s I-ETMS PTC systems engineering, integration, testing, and training on its entire main line network in Cook County, Ill.

Chicago Rail Link (CRL), up to $1.64 million: Onboard computer equipment and communication systems, locomotive radio licenses, messaging licenses, and a back-office service messaging systems management license, along with PTC system testing and training to support the five CRL and Illinois Railway locomotives operating on the Metra commuter rail system, while Metra and BNSF Railway activate I-ETMS PTC systems.

Commuter Rail Division of the Regional Transportation Authority (Metra); up to $22.98 million: Construct the fiber-optic backbone to provide redundancy and resiliency for I‐ETMS PTC operations on two Metra-operated commuter rail routes, the Rock Island and South West Service lines.


Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad (CSS) up to $720,000: I-ETMS installation, testing, and training as well as interoperability between CSS and the host railroad, Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD), between Chicago, Ill., and South Bend, Ind.

Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD), up to $8.08 million: Complete design, implementation, training, and support of NICTD’s I-ETMS PTC system for the wayside, onboard, locomotive, back office and communications segments for commuter rail operations between South Bend, Ind., and Chicago, Ill.


Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), up to $20 million: Support completion of MBTA’s ongoing implementation of the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System II (ACSES II) with system acceptance testing of 12 non-pilot lines in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, where equipment installation is ongoing.

Springfield Terminal Railway Company (ST)/Pan Am Railways, up to $2.99 million: Install ACSES II and Automatic Train Control on ST’s locomotives on rail lines throughout the New England area and support related testing and training.


Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), up to $2.08 million: Upgrade, test, and commission nine *Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) locomotives with I-ETMS and provide training for service on CSX Transportation, Inc.’s (CSX) and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor territories along MARC’s three lines from Washington, D.C., to Martinsburg, W.Va.; Brunswick, Md.; and Frederick, Md.


Nebraska Central Railroad Company (NCRC), up to $527,596: Deploy the PTC back office system, onboard hardware equipment for three locomotives, software, component testing and training for NCRC to operate along 62 miles of Union Pacific Railroad tight-of-way between Grand Island and Columbus, Neb..

New Mexico

*Rio Metro Regional Transit District (Rio Metro), up to $29.36 million: Full implementation of New Mexico Rail Runner Express’ (NMRX) I-ETMS PTC system, which will be installed on 96 miles of the NMRX system between Belen, and Santa Fe, N.Mex., including approximately 74 miles of the Albuquerque Subdivision and 22 miles of the Santa Fe Subdivision.

New York

Middletown & New Jersey Railroad, up to $1.2 million: Deploy ACSES II PTC back office systems, communications, onboard hardware equipment and software as well as support testing and training to ensure that Middletown & New Jersey Railroad locomotives can operate on New Jersey Transit-dispatched territory in Orange County, N.Y.,.

New York & Atlantic Railway Company (NYA), up to $1.01 million: Install PTC onboard equipment on 10 NYA locomotives as well as support training and testing for its operations on freight lines owned by the New York MTA/Long Island Rail Road.


Allegheny Valley Railroad Company (AVR), (1) up to $1.83 million;(2) up to $302,444: (1) Upgrade AVR’s 10 locomotives with PTC and cab signal systems for operations utilizing AVR trackage rights over Norfolk Southern (NS) rail lines, upgrade four other locomotives solely with PTC, and support testing and training. (2) Install a PTC back office and support system engineering, testing and training for AVR operating on 77 miles of right-of-way in the greater Pittsburgh area.

North Shore Railroad Company, up to $4.42 million: Deploy I-ETMS back office systems, communications and onboard hardware equipment; software, equipment installation, testing and training for the implementation of PTC systems; and interoperability testing for six short line railroads operating in central Pennsylvania on NS-owned right-of-way.


*Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro), up to $5.65 million: remaining integration testing of PTC components, preparation of the PTC safety plan, contract engineering and oversight, systems testing, and training for Capital Metro’s installation of E-ATC on its Red Line in the cities of Austin, Cedar Park, Leander, and surrounding Texas communities.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), up to $9.52 million: Support a PTC back office system, I-ETMS systems integration and interoperability testing with multiple freight and passenger railroads, and training for the Trinity Railway Express and TEXRail commuter railroads in the Dallas-Fort Worth urban area.

Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA), up to $4 million: PTC programming changes, insulated joints, track monitoring equipment, testing and communications and dispatch software/hardware integration with the Enhanced Automatic Train Control (E-ATC) temporary speed restrictions server, support training and testing along a 21-mile commuter rail line in Denton County, Tex.


Utah Transit Authority (UTA), up to $2.78 million: Software redesign to advance E-ATC on the 44.26-mile FrontRunner South Segment from Salt Lake City to Provo.

Washington State

Puget Sound and Pacific Railroad (PSAP), up to $1.99 million: Install onboard PTC systems on 18 locomotives across five Class III railroads, test crew initialization back office server system across eight railroads, and establish a PTC Help Desk/Lab to support eight railroads in Arkansas, California, Ohio, Oregon, Minnesota, Missouri, and Washington.


Concurrently, FRA released data showing second-quarter progress in implementing PTC. The data showed “significant improvement” compared to where the rail industry stood in December 2016, despite nine railroads being classified as “at-risk.” The statutory interim deadline to implement PTC is Dec. 31, 2018. Railroads that meet six criteria can apply for an alternative schedule to complete installation of PTC no later than Dec. 31, 2020.

Chart showing progress within key categories. Values are current through June 30, 2018. Federal Railroad Administration illustration.

FRA said the most recent data, current as of June 30, 2018, shows that 15 railroads have installed 100% of the PTC system hardware identified in their PTC Implementation Plans; 12 have installed between 95% and 99%; and all railroads, except for one, that use spectrum-based PTC systems have acquired sufficient spectrum. By comparison, in December 2016, freight railroads had PTC active on just 16% of required route-miles, while passenger railroads were at 24%.

In addition, FRA explained that 14 railroads have initiated sufficient Revenue Service Demonstration (RSD) or met substitute criteria, which is one of the six statutory criteria needed to qualify for an alternative schedule of Dec. 31, 2020. PTC systems are in RSD or operation on approximately 37,705 route-miles (65%) of the nearly 58,000 route-miles that are subject to the statutory mandate.

The number of “at-risk” railroads dropped 25%, from 12 to 9, based on Q2 2018 data. FRA currently considers any railroad that installed less than 90% of its PTC system hardware as of June 30, 2018, to be at risk, as “installation of all PTC system hardware is only an initial phase of implementing a PTC system and only one of the six statutory criteria required to qualify for an alternative schedule.”

The nine at-risk railroads are New Mexico Rail Runner Express (Rio Metro), Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New Jersey Transit, Altamont Corridor Express, Maryland Area Regional Commuter, Trinity Railway Express, South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain) and Central Florida Rail Corridor (SunRail). The nine at-risk railroads own or control approximately 665 route-miles that are subject to the statutory PTC mandate, which is approximately 11% of the route-miles that must be governed by a PTC system and 0.475% of the U.S. rail network.

FRA has held quarterly meetings with those railroads classified as “at-risk” and recently held the final of three symposia focused on PTC.

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