FRA Issues Grants to Prevent Train Collisions

The Federal Railroad Administration awarded $25 million in grants Tuesday to 11 companies to develop software that will help prevent train collisions.

Railroads will use these grants to achieve interoperability through Positive Train Control (PTC) systems that work to prevent crashes, derailments, intrusions into work zones, and improper switching of lines.

“These grants get us a bit closer to implementing Positive Train Control–a long overdue technology that prevents accidents and saves lives,” said Anthony Foxx, secretary of the Department of Transportation.  “We will continue to do everything in our power to help railroads install this technology. We encourage Congress to fully fund the president’s request for significant funds to help more railroads activate PTC.”

Congress mandates that Class I railroads and intercity or commuter rails over which toxic materials are transported acquire PTC systems by Dec. 31, 2018.

“Every dollar we invest in implementing Positive Train Control as quickly as possible is money well spent because ultimately it means fewer accidents and fewer fatalities,” said Sarah E. Feinberg, administrator for the FRA.

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) District system, based in San Rafael, Calif., received $3 million in grant money.  Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., urged the FRA to award the grant to SMART in order for the train system to meet Congress’ PTC requirements. In March 2016, Huffman and Feinberg toured SMART’s rail system.

SMART will install Enhanced Automatic Train Control (E-ATC) communications and train control systems, and include grade-crossing warning systems on the passenger rail between San Rafael and Larkspur, Calif.

“The SMART system is a critical service to commuters, to students going to school, and to tourists that are visiting and spending money in our local economy,” Huffman said. “I am grateful to the Department of Transportation for investing in SMART’s success.”

The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), based in Washington, D.C., is another company that received $2.5 million from the FRA to assemble a Crew Initialization Back Office Server System (CI-BOS) hosted service to help small railroads that need PTC.

“The implementation of PTC is one of the most complex and challenging projects to be mandated for the U.S. Rail System, particularly for our 460 short line members, who often do not have the technology staff and expertise, but have a complicated role to play, integrating with multiple Class I systems,” said Linda Bauer Darr, president of ASLRRA. “This grant will enable us to rapidly move forward with providing an affordable solution for small railroads.”

Short railroads such as SMART and ASLRRA have a harder time funding projects related to developing PTC.

ASLRRA decided that creating a team dedicated to developing PTC will speed up the process and increase interoperability.

“Our PTC Working Committee has worked diligently on behalf of all short line and regional railroads,” said Jo Strang, vice president of Safety and Regulatory Policy for ASLRRA. “The committee’s work, directed by the results of an ASLRRA railroad member survey, will bring a scalable solution to short lines.”

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