At their March 1 meeting, the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board of Directors will consider approving a contract with Wabtec Railway Electronics, Inc. to complete a federally mandated safety upgrade to the rail corridor’s signal system known as Positive Train Control or PTC.
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.
PTC 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.
Caltrain originally awarded a contract to complete the project to Parsons Transportation Group in 2011. Caltrain terminated that contract for nonperformance in 2017 after many months of delay and repeated failure by the contractor to correct performance issues.
Upon terminating the contract, Caltrain took steps to ensure that progress toward completion of the project would continue while strategies for replacing the original contractor were evaluated. This evaluation determined that Wabtec’s PTC technology is the only technically and financially viable strategy to ensure that the Caltrain corridor is equipped with this important safety enhancement at the earliest possible time.
If approved as recommended, the contract amount would not exceed $49.5 million, an amount that would be covered by the $59 million available to complete the project. Caltrain anticipates that additional funding will be needed to fully deliver the project, and is currently working to define these needs and identify potential funding strategies.
In order to comply with federal requirements and avoid fines or the halting or service by the Federal Railroad Administration, the contract specifies that installation of PTC equipment will 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. The contract anticipates that Caltrain and Wabtec will work with the Federal Railroad Administration to define and complete these steps as soon as possible.
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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