FCC, railroads reach agreement on PTC
The Federal Communications Commission has approved the use of 11,000 positive-train-control radio poles already constructed by the seven Class I railroads for “testing and other preparatory activities” that had been signaled as disturbances to the environment and national historic landmarks.
As part of the deal, the railroads will provide $10 million into a Cultural Resources Fund to support tribal nations in affected areas as well as state historic preservation efforts.
“A neutral third-party administrator will administer the fund,” according to an FCC statement. “Each freight railroad has also committed to training its employees on environmental and historic preservation compliance and to building working relationships with tribal nations.”
PTC, a GPS navigation system installed to prevent collisions that was mandated by Congress in 2008, has widely been seen as having mixed benefits; skeptics point to the cost of installing the infrastructure and the unproven technology being used.
The American Association of Railroads said it sees this as a positive step forward in the implementation of positive-train control, but that the process has dragged on too slowly. The FCC’s ruling also requires that an impact analysis be conducted on each pole, something the AAR said will be very time consuming.
“Under Chairman Wheeler’s leadership, a path forward has been identified and the railroads remain committed to doing all that is required to make PTC the nationwide, interoperable safety system Congress mandated. It is important to note, however, that despite the establishment of a process for reviewing PTC poles and towers for installation, an interoperable PTC system will not be seamlessly operating coast to coast by the 2015 deadline,” the group said in a statement.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agreement with the railroads will resolve a host of issues for one-third of the current PTC poles.
“This agreement is an acknowledgement by the freight rail industry of the importance of environmental protection and historic preservation,” he said in a statement. “PTC is a transformative technology that has the power to save lives, prevent injuries, and avoid extensive property damage. It is a top priority of the commission to facilitate an efficient and timely review process that complies with the National Environmental Protection Act and the National Historic Preservation Act while expediting this important safety measure.”
In April, the AAR said positive train control will only be installed on 40 percent of the nationwide rail network by the end of 2015 because the FCC imposed a year-long moratorium on antennae construction in order to iron out the historical preservation issue.
We’ll send it to you!
Register now and get the free AS Daily.