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Midwest among winners of recent federal PTC grants
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Midwest among winners of recent federal PTC grants

Three Midwestern projects in Illinois and Missouri won $51 million in federal grants to implement Positive Train Control systems, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) announced on May 31.

Per a U.S. Department of Transportation statement, the Illinois and Missouri departments of transportation, and the Chicago area’s Regional Transportation Authority were among 17 grant recipients in 13 states who will receive $197 million in competitive grant funding to help commuter and intercity passenger railroads meet the December 31, 2018 deadline to implement PTC systems.

The PTC grant funding was authorized under the FAST (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) Act. The FRA and FTA received 27 eligible applications requesting $455 million, more than double the $197 million that Congress authorized. The FRA was responsible for the selection of the grant recipients, and the FTA will award and administer the grants during Fiscal Year 2017.

The grants under this program will be used to install PTC technology, including back office systems and wayside, communications, and onboard hardware equipment associated with railroads’ PTC systems.

PTC systems are designed to prevent certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and trains routed to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position.

In the Midwest, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will receive $18.87 million to complete the design, delivery, installation, and testing of a fully integrated Interoperable Electronic Train Management System (I-ETMS) PTC system on two routes for Amtrak’s use on 14.7 route miles of Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis right of way in a dense urban area of St. Louis on both the Illinois and Missouri banks of the Mississippi River.

According to Amtrak, 333,266 passengers got on or off the train in St. Louis in 2016 from the state-supported Lincoln Service (Chicago-St. Louis) and Missouri River Runner (St. Louis-Kansas City, Mo.) along with the long-distance Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio, Texas). Ridership on the 5-daily round-trip Lincoln, 2-daily round-trip Missouri River Runner and once-daily round-trip Texas Eagle services was over a million (1,026,027) in FY 2016.

“The state of Illinois with our partners in Missouri look forward to funding the implementation of this critical safety component along our joint corridor,” said Beth McCluskey, who is director of IDOT’s Office of Intermodal Project Implementation, and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s designee to MIPRC.

The Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) will receive $12.02 million to design, install, and test a fully integrated and functional I-ETMS PTC system over approximately 8.5 route miles of Kansas City Terminal Railway right of way where Amtrak operates in the Kansas City metropolitan region of Missouri. The project will implement wayside and communications PTC equipment that provide fail-safe responses to the loss of communication data, along with an integrated back-office system capable of providing interoperability for all tenant railroads.

Since this project’s geographic reach covers one of the most congested rail hubs in the U.S., the U.S. DOT says these safety improvements will significantly affect over 92,000 trains per year, including six daily passenger trains – the state-supported Missouri River Runner and the long-distance Southwest Chief (Chicago-Los Angeles, one daily trip each way) with approximately 552,000 riders per year.

“Missouri and our partner Illinois are pleased to receive this grant for an important rail safety innovation, PTC,” said Eric Curtit, MODOT's administrator of railroads. “We look forward to the completion of PTC in the nation’s second and third largest rail hub, Kansas City and St. Louis, respectively.”

Chicago’s RTA will get $20.2 million for three subprojects on Metra’s Commuter Rail Division to implement wayside PTC signals, reconfigure signals, and upgrade an existing PTC automatic block signaling systems on Metra’s Milwaukee District West and North lines. The Milwaukee District North Line is also used by the state-supported Hiawatha (Chicago-Milwaukee, seven daily trips each way) and the long-distance Empire Builder  (Chicago-Seattle/Portland, one daily trip each way).

Metra’s commuter rail network is the fourth busiest in the country, with nearly 14 million passenger trips on these lines each year; more than 1,300 Metra, freight, and Amtrak trains operate in the region daily, according to the U.S. DOT.

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