The Department of Transportation announced this week that Caltrain has been awarded a grant for $18.7 million that will help complete a federally mandated safety upgrade to the rail corridor’s signal system.
The funds will benefit the Positive Train Control (PTC) project, which will equip the corridor with enhanced safety features that will monitor train movements and, if necessary, intervene to reduce the possibility of safety risks caused by human error.
“We are very pleased to hear about the grant award, which is great news for the PTC project,” said Jeannie Bruins, Chair of the Caltrain Board of Directors. “Rail safety is always a top priority for us at Caltrain, and we are 100 percent committed to implementing PTC so that we can continue to provide a safe rail system for Caltrain riders and the communities we serve.”
In 2008, following a collision on the Metrolink system in Los Angeles, Congress approved the Rail Safety Improvement Act, which required the installation of PTC technology on all passenger rail corridors by the end of 2015. In 2015 that deadline was extended to the end of 2018 due to significant technical and financial challenges causing delays in implementation for virtually every rail operator in the country.
In March 2018, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board of Directors approved a contract with Wabtec Railway Electronics, Inc. to complete the PTC project. The Wabtec contract was awarded and funded for the remainder of the project. However, staff identified a $30.4 million gap for the overall PTC program to fund program support costs and potential changes to the contract. This grant, along with other previously identified funds, will reduce the funding gap to $6.4 million. Caltrain expects additional PTC funding grants opportunities in the future and will continue to strategize the best approach on those efforts.
Caltrain originally awarded a contract to complete the project to Parsons Transportation Group in 2011, but later terminated that contract for nonperformance in 2017 after many months of delay and repeated failure by the contractor to correct performance issues.
In order to comply with federal requirements and avoid fines or the halting or service by the Federal Railroad Administration, the installation of PTC equipment must be installed on all equipment used for Caltrain service by the end of 2018. Once installed, additional steps are needed to demonstrate that PTC is fully functioning throughout the corridor and implemented by 2020. Caltrain and Wabtec are working with the FRA to define and complete these steps.
About Caltrain: Owned and operated by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, Caltrain provides commuter rail service from San Francisco to San Jose, with limited commute service to Gilroy. Caltrain enjoyed five years of consecutive monthly ridership increases, surpassing more than 65,000 average weekday riders earlier this year. While the Joint Powers Board assumed operating responsibilities for the service in 1992, the railroad celebrated 150 years of continuous passenger service in 2014. Planning for the next 150 years of Peninsula rail service, Caltrain is on pace to electrify the system, reduce diesel emissions by 97 percent by 2040 and add more service to more stations.
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