Posts Tagged ‘Federal Railroad Administration’

FRA Sends Congress Trespassing Report

February 23, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration continues to ramp up its efforts to prevent trespassing on railroad property by sending to Congress a report titled National Strategy to Prevent Trespassing on Railroad Property.

The FRA said that reducing casualties and injuries due to trespassing is one of the agency’s high priorities.

“Almost every trespasser death or injury is preventable and FRA is working to intensify our efforts,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “Now that we have examined current data on contributing factors of the problem, we are seeking to energize our state and local partners to implement solutions and save lives.”

Between November 2013 and October 2017 the top 10 counties for trespasser casualties were Los Angeles; Cook (Chicago); San Bernardino, California; Harris (Houston), Broward, Florida; Palm Beach, Florida; Fresno, California; Riverside, California; Contra Costa, California; and San Diego.

During that period there were 4,242 pedestrians were killed or injured while trespassing on railroad property nationwide. That figure excludes suicides.

In its report, the FRA reviews the causal factors that contribute to trespassing incidents.

By gathering data to determine trespassing “hot spots,” the FRA plans allocate resources to those areas in its efforts to prevent trespassing.
That process also include fields visits to learn more about the specific local circumstances that contribute to trespassing.

The FRA said what it learns will be used to implement and evaluate targeted mitigation strategies.

The agency said it will gauge its success by how much trespassing incidents and casualties are reduced nationwide.

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FRA Wants California to Return $9.2M

February 22, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration wants its money back.

In a letter to the California High Speed Rail Authority FRA Administrator Ron Batory asked the state to return $928.62 million that it received for a high-speed rail project that California Gov. Gavin Newsom said last week will be scaled back to a 160-mile line in the Central Valley.

Plans to create a high-speed rail link between Los Angeles and San Francisco were dropped.

Batory said absent a compelling counter by the state, the agency would terminate the grant.

The letter cited several concerns including the state’s failure to meet matching grant deadlines, missing the project’s 2022 “period of performance” benchmark, an inability to effectively manage delivery of the project, not taking “appropriate corrective actions to ensure delivery of the project,” and failure to produce realistic construction schedules

Batory also said the FRA “is exploring all available legal options” to recover the nearly $2.5 billion in federal funds that have already been spent.

The grant money was awarded to California under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The letter gave state officials until March 5 to show how they have complied with terms of the federal grant.

FRA Status Report Shows PTC Progress Continuing

February 16, 2019

In its latest status report, the Federal Railroad Administration said all railroads affected by a Dec. 31, 2018, statutory deadline to install positive train control met the mandate of full implementation or submitting requests demonstrating they had met or exceeded the statutory criteria for an alternative schedule.

The latter would enable the carriers to have two additional years to complete full implementation.

Under federal law, 41 railroads, including passenger rail agencies, were required to meet the Dec. 31 deadline.

In a news release, the FRA said it drew its conclusion about compliance based on self-reported data from the affected railroads.

The FRA said all railroads satisfied the six statutory criteria necessary to qualify for an extension.

PTC was in operation in the fourth quarter of 2018 on 46,000 of the 58,000 route miles where the technology systems must be deployed.

PTC systems were in revenue service demonstration on an additional 288 route miles.

The key remaining steps for full PTC implementation includes conducting revenue service demonstration (advanced testing on the general rail system), submitting a PTC Safety Plan and obtaining PTC System Certification from the FRA, achieving interoperability between host railroads and tenant railroads, and activating the PTC system so it governs all operations on the required main lines.

The latest status report showed that as of Dec. 31, 2018, host railroads’ operations are governed by a PTC system on 83 percent of the freight railroad route miles subject to the mandate and 30 percent of the required passenger railroad route miles.

Of approximately 233 host-tenant railroad relationships, 16 percent have reportedly achieved PTC system interoperability as of Dec. 31, which means the locomotives of a host railroad and a tenant railroad operating on the same main line can communicate with and respond to the PTC system, including uninterrupted movements over property boundaries.

The FRA said it has conditionally certified 12 host railroads’ PTC systems, based on their PTC Safety Plans; two PTC Safety Plans are currently under review; and 23 additional PTC Safety Plans must be submitted by June 2020.

Thirty-three railroads have submitted a written notification formally requesting FRA’s review and approval of an alternative schedule and sequence, and as of Feb. 11 the agency had formally approved 25 requests.

Projects to Benefit Amtrak Routes

February 9, 2019

Amtrak stands to benefit from some of the railroad improvement  projects that recently won federal grant funding.

The Federal Railroad Administration said this week that it will award more than $56 million in grants, covering 18 projects in 16 states as part of the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.

In Florida, the installation of supplemental safety features at 48 grade crossings will benefit the Virgin Trains USA route between West Palm Beach and Miami.

Officials said the work is expected to cut the number of grade-crossing violations by keeping motorists and pedestrians from trespassing as trains approach.

Amtrak’s Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle will see a trip time reduction of three minutes due to a reconfiguration of the Lenox Interlocking in Mitchell, Illinois, located 16 miles northeast of St. Louis.

The project is expected to provide operating flexibility at a junction of four rail lines used by six railroads operating 46 trains per day.

In St. Louis, funding was awarded to replace the Broadway Truss of the Terminal Railway Association of St. Louis’ MacArthur Bridge across the Mississippi River.

The bridge is more than 100 years old and serves as the nation’s second longest railroad bridge. The work will work will increase horizontal clearance of the bridge, which is used by Lincoln Service trains and the Texas Eagle.

In New York, replacement of timber bridge decks with ballast decks on three bridges on the Hudson Line in Dutchess and Columbia counties will eliminate current speed restrictions and allow for future 110-mph operation.

Twenty-six Amtrak trains per day use these bridges, including the Lake Shore Limited, Maple Leaf, Ethan Allen Express, Adirondack and Empire Service trains.

Work will be performed in Vermont to stablize slopes along an 80-mile section of the New England Central Railroad used by Amtrak’s Vermonter.

The project will lead to the elimination of slow orders that have resulted in 216 hours of annual passenger delays and 520 hours of freight delays as well as decreasing safety risks.

A second second platform, elevator towers, and an overhead pedestrian bridge will be built at the Milwaukee Airport Amtrak station, allowing passenger trains to use both tracks and ease congestion resulting from the current single-track configuration for passenger service.

The station is used by Hiawatha Service trains.

FRA Holds 1st of 6 PTC Seminars

February 9, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration this week held its first “collaborative sessions” involving the 41 railroads responsible for implementing positive train control under federal law.

It was the first of six such planned session and focused on the steps that railroads must take by the end of 2020 in order to achieve a fully interoperable system.

FRA personnel also described the agency’s approach to certifying  PTC systems and provided an update on best practices and lessons learned from the various systems being tested or already in place.

They also took questions from railroad representatives on technical and regulatory matters.

Also speaking at the session was U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

“The sooner you get there [PTC implementation], the sooner our country will be able to realize all of the safety benefits of PTC,” she said. “I encourage you to head into these next two years with that goal — to obtain certification and achieve interoperability with your tenant railroads as soon as possible.”

Chao said DOT understands the PTC implementation challenges facing railroads and will do whatever it can to help them succeed, including funding through grant and loan programs.

“In addition, the FRA has taken steps to ensure it has the necessary human resources to respond to your needs and turn critical documents around in a timely fashion,” she said. “And the FRA will continue to collaborate with you in forums like these, and on an individual basis.”

UP Completes PTC Installation on Required Routes

February 7, 2019

Positive train control systems have been installed on all Union Pacific route miles that are required by law to have it.

In a news release, UP said this included passenger train routes.

The carrier said it is now seeking to ensure that PTC will be interoperable with other freight and passenger railroads operating on its tracks by the federal government’s deadline of Dec. 31, 2020.

UP said that in the last three months of 2018 it had trained 606 employees on PTC operations, bringing the total number of employees trained to 26,610, or 100 percent.

It also during that period of time increasing by 1,095 the number of PTC implemented PTC route miles, bringing the total number of route miles in PTC operations to 13,015 or 76 percent.

Four out of the five passenger-rail carriers are now operating PTC-equipped trains over UP lines.

With the Federal Railroad Administration’s conditional approval of its PTC safety plan in April 2017, UP now is running PTC operations on more than 13,000 miles in 21 states.

NTSB: No More PTC Delays

February 5, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board said any further delays in stalling positive train control systems will continue to put passengers at risk of being involved in accidents caused by human errors.

NTSB members were critical of how federal officials have granted additional time to the railroad industry to install PTC.

“There should be no more extensions on PTC,” NTSB member Jennifer Homendy said at a event in which the board named PTC as one of its 10 most wanted reforms to improve transportation safety.

The list also includes measures designed to eliminate drunk and distracted driving.

Although railroads faced a Dec. 31, 2018, deadline to install PTC, the law also allows railroads to seek a two-year waiver from the Federal Railroad Administration if they met specified criteria for PTC installation as of that date.

Four of the 41 railroads subject to the PTC mandate had fully installed PTC as of the deadline with 34 others seeking or having been granted waivers.

The Association of American Railroads said in January that PTC is fully installed across on all its member railroads and operable on 83 percent of those route miles.

Homendy, though, acknowledged that train travel is “generally” safe.

“It’s one of the safest modes of transportation,” she said. “But the risk of a PTC preventable accident is still there.”

She also conceded that the equipment, radio frequencies and staff training needed to implement in PTC is expensive, “but in our view there’s a greater cost to losing a life.”

AAR Appeals to U.S. High Court

February 4, 2019

The Association of American Railroads is again asking a court to invalidate a rule making process pertaining to on-time standards for Amtrak trains.

The railroad trade association last week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court decision issued last summer that upheld a federal law allowing Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration to set on-time standards for the carrier’s host railroads.

The 2-1 decision by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that a lower court erred in invalidating parts of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act.

The appeals court agreed that the U.S. Surface Transportation Board can set and enforce on-time standards.

AAR took its appeal to the Supreme Court after the full DC Circuit Court of Appeals declined to review the decision by the three-judge panel.

The trade group has argued that Amtrak is a for-profit corporation and giving it authority to work with the FRA to set OTP standards gives it an unfair competitive advantage over its host railroads.

That interpretation gained currency when the Eighth Circuit interpreted the law as meaning that Amtrak “competes” with its host railroads for track space.

4 Railroad Fully PTC Compliant

January 3, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has said that four railroads as of Dec. 31 have fully implemented positive train control systems while other carriers required by law to adopt PTC technology have formally requested a two-year extension.

Forty-one railroads were required by federal law to implement PTC or meet FRA requirements to receive a two-year deadline extension known as “alternative schedule.”

The four fully-compliant railroads are North County Transit District, Metrolink, the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation, and the Portland & Western Railroad.

Those carriers have said they have a fully implemented PTC system in operation on their required mainlines and all their trains are governed by a PTC system, including tenant railroads’ trains.

The FRA said that 37 railroads are seeking extensions, including seven Class I carriers. The group also includes 25 intercity passenger and commuter railroads, and five short-line or terminal railroads.

Twelve railroads have obtained conditional PTC system certification from the FRA, which permits them to operate PTC in revenue service.

There are now 41,000 route miles under PTC operation, which is 71 percent of the route miles that are subject to the federal mandate.

Federal Govt. Shutdown Not Affecting Amtrak for Now

December 28, 2018

Although Amtrak continues to operate as usual during the partial government shutdown, the passenger carrier could be adversely affected if the stalemate in Congress lasts for several weeks.

That is because one of the functions of the U.S. Department of Transportation that has been idled by the shutdown is the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Railroad Policy and Development, which is the primary grantor of federal funds to Amtrak.

All employees of this office have been furloughed for the duration of the shutdown.

A length shutdown could endanger the flow of federal funds to Amtrak, although it not clear other than to top Amtrak management how long it would be before that happens.

In a worst case scenario, Amtrak might have to suspend service.

In the meantime, Amtrak employees will continue to be paid for their work and the trains continue to run as scheduled.

USDOT said that 30 percent of its employees, or 20,442 people, are expected to be furloughed.

About 40 percent of the FRA workforce will be idled although staff in the Office of Railroad Safety will work during the shutdown.

They won’t be paid, but are expected to receive retroactive pay once the shutdown ends.

At the Federal Transit Administration 493 of the 558 employees have been idled.

A small staff is being kept on to handle emergencies, but transit and local-government authorities won’t receive any funding until the shutdown ends.

This affects grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, purchase, orders, travel authorizations, or other documents obligating funds would be executed,” DOT said in its shutdown plans.

The Surface Transportation Board said its website saying that “All Surface Transportation Board operations – including this website and agency email – are suspended for the duration of the partial federal government shutdown.”

Senate-confirmed presidential nominees are exempt from the shutdown and continue to be paid.

This includes FRA Administrator Ronald Batory, STB board members Ann Begeman and Deb Miller, and DOT Secretary Elaine Chao among others.