Posts Tagged ‘Ronald Batory’

FRA Reports Continued Progress in PTC Implementation

August 2, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration reported this week that positive train control is in place on nearly 90 percent of the route miles subject to the federal mandate as of June.

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory told a Senate committee that despite that progress there remains “significant work” to be done to fully implement PTC the end of 2020.

“Nonetheless, railroads must still complete significant work to full implement their PTC systems by Dec. 31, 2020, especially with respect to activating PTC systems on the remaining required main lines and achieving the necessary interoperability with their tenant railroads,” Batory said in his prepared statement.

Through the end of June PTC was in operation on 87 percent of the 58,000 route miles subject to the federal PTC mandate, based on preliminary reports railroads provide the FRA.

Batory told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that is a 4 percent increase from the first quarter.

PTC systems are being tested in revenue service demonstration on at least 718 route miles.

Eleven freight railroads, 30 commuter railroads and Amtrak are subject to the PTC mandate.

Among the highlights of the latest PTC report are:

• Class I railroads report that PTC is in operation on 91 percent of their required main lines, which represented a 4 percent increase from the first quarter.

• Host commuter railroads have PTC in revenue service on 443 route miles and in RSD testing on 718 route miles, which represented 37 percent of their 3,111 PTC-required route miles and a 12 percent increase since the first quarter.

• Amtrak, as a host railroad on and near the Northeast Corridor and other parts of the country, reported 899 of its 900 required route miles are governed by PTC. Operations are governed by PTC on 84 percent of route miles where Amtrak operates as a tenant on other railroads’ PTC-equipped main lines.

• Six short line or terminal railroads must implement PTC on their own main lines that provide or host regularly scheduled intercity or commuter passenger rail service. One of those six has been operating its FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system in revenue service since 2018, while the other five are conducting FRA-approved field testing of their PTC systems on the general rail network. They expect to begin RSD during the third quarter.

• Batory said host railroads reported 17 percent of tenant railroads that operate on their PTC-required main lines had achieved interoperability as of March 31.

• Host railroads also reported 33 percent of their applicable tenant railroads were installing PTC hardware and 38 percent had advanced to interoperability testing as of March 31.

“The FRA is currently directing its focus and resources to the PTC-mandated main lines that have a high concentration of host railroads and tenant railroads, including commuter railroads with significant remaining work, such as the PTC-mandated main lines in the Northeast, Chicago area, Florida and Texas,” Batory said.

States to Form Gateway Commission

June 24, 2019

New Jersey and New York are expected to approve legislation setting up a body that would oversee passenger rail projects affect the two states.

The proposed Gateway Development Commission would be similar in structure and purpose as the existing Port Authority of New York and New Jersey which is the agency currently overseeing planning, financing, and construction of the critical pieces of the Gateway Project.

This included the proposed new Hudson River rail tunnels and the Portal Bridge.

New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said the new agency will serve as a vehicle to to receive federal funding for the Gateway tunnel.

In the meantime, Federal Railroad Administration head Ronald Batory told a Congressional committee that his agency is continuing its environmental review of the Gateway project.

Testifying before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Batory said the FRA has finished 95 environmental review steps but has 27 yet to be completed.

“Does that mean another year? I don’t know,” Batory said.

Critic have accused the Trump Administration of slow walking the funding proposals for the Gateway project.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has called for the state and local governments to pay more for it because it is largely a “local project.”

Some observers have noted that the Gateway project has become a pawn in a feud between Trump and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York)

Members of Congress from New York and New Jersey have described Gateway as a critical transportation corridor, saying that if existing antiquated tunnels fail that the reduced rail traffic would have negative repercussions for the U.S. economy.

Calif. Fighting FRA Revocation of High-Speed Grant

May 18, 2019

California is fighting back against a move by the Federal Railroad Administration to formally cancel grant money awarded to the state to develop a high-speed rail line.

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory announced earlier this week that the grant had been revoked, saying the project had changed since the funding was approved.

Batory was referencing a decision made earlier this year by Gov. Gavin Newsom to scale back to the project to a line in the state’s Central Valley.

The original plan had been to link San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Newsom said the state will contest the FRA’s ending a grant of $929 million for construction.

He called the FRA action an “illegal and a direct assault on California, our green infrastructure, and the thousands of Central Valley workers who are building this project.”

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California has also joined the fight against the FRA, saying the grant funds were appropriated by Congress and obligated by the president and thus can’t be legally withdrawn without good cause.

The grant was made in 2010 by the Obama administration to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which the FRA said has failed on several occasions to file adequate reports to fulfill the terms of the grant.

“There is nothing in the FRA’s long working relationship with CHSRA to suggest that CHSRA would likely be able to initiate and complete the necessary corrective actions,” Batory said in a letter revoking the grant funding.

Losing the federal funding would deal the project a devastating blow said CHSRA Chief Financial Officer Russell Fong.

He said, though, that it might be possible to make up some of the loss of federal funds with high-speed rail’s share of revenue from California’s cap-and-trade market if it continues to run above projections.

The cap-and-trade market netted $767 million for high-speed rail in 2018. That was above the $500 million that had been expected.

Current plans are to build the high-speed line for 171 miles between Merced and Bakersfield.

After Newsom announced that the project would be curtailed, the Trump administration said it would seek to “claw back” $2.5 billion in federal funding that has already been spent on the project.

The FRA has said the inadequate reporting from CHSRA dates to the third quarter of 2016.

“Indeed, since 2014, CHSRA has not submitted a single satisfactory and acceptable (project management plan),” Batory said.

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.

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.

House Committee Warns About PTC Deadline

September 17, 2018

Members of a Congressional committee spent part of a hearing last week rattling their sabers about the implementation of positive train control, saying that railroads that failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline will face fines.

Forty railroads are required to meet the PTC deadline, which is specified by federal law. But the Federal Railroad Administration has said that nine railroads are at risk of missing the deadline or even qualifying for an extension.

“Patience is growing thin on PTC implementation,” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-California, chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials.

Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Massachusetts, the ranking minority member of the subcommittee, said he had no sympathy for the commuter lines that were at greatest risk.

“I don’t think you’re going to find too many open minds on this side of the table,” if railroad officials offer excuses for not complying with the law, Capuano said.

“If people are not complying, you change the business calculation,” by forcing companies to factor in financial sanctions, said Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Connecticut.

Committee members did, though, heap praise on railroads that are poised to meet the deadline and/or qualify for an extension of time to fully implement PTC.

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory said fining non-compliant railroads is a possibility, but said it would be one of many actions the FRA might take. The fines could be as much as $27,904 per day.

“I’d like not to have to use that tool. But if that’s the one you have to use in combination with everything else that we’ve invoked, I think we should do nothing less,” he said.

Batory said the FRA has begun enforcement actions against 13 railroads that had not met hardware installation deadlines set down at the end of 2017.

He said that it is important for the FRA to focus on a “concentrated, concise, collaborative communication” process to help expedite each railroad’s progress toward compliance.

Batory Sworn in as FRA Head

March 1, 2018

Ronald L. Batory was sworn in on Wednesday as the administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

The ceremony was officiated by Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. Batory is the first FRA head to have railroad operating experience since Joe Szabo, who stepped down in 2014.

During remarks at the ceremony, Batory said that safety will be the FRA’s primary focus.

Senate Confirms Batory as FRA Chief

February 14, 2018

The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday night to confirm Ronald Batory as the permanent administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Ronald Batory

Batory was approved on a voice vote after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer removed a hold on a Batory confirmation vote.

The action came in the wake of concerns about railroad safety following three Amtrak accidents that resulted in six fatalities.

Batory retired in March 2017 as president and chief operating officer of Conrail.

During his 46-year railroad industry career, he served as president of the Belt Railway of Chicago and held senior positions at Class I and regional railroads, including general manager in Chicago for Southern Pacific.

Schumer had placed the hold on Batory’s confirmation vote as part of a ploy to seek to force the Department of Transportation to release federal funds for the Gateway rail tunnels project under the Hudson River.

Another factor in lifting the hold was the recent resignation of acting FRA Administrator Heath Hall for moonlighting on a second job.

The Senate also confirmed by voice vote Raymond Martinez as administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and Adam Sullivan as the Department of Transportation’s assistant secretary of government affairs.