Austin, Texas’ Capital Metro board of directors approved a contract with Modern Railway Systems Inc. to design, build, and commission Positive Train Control (PTC). The board also approved an amendment to Capital Metro’s contract with freight operator WATCO, which would allow the company to utilize a currently dormant Capital Metro-owned segment of track between Elgin and Giddings.

Capital Metro’s commuter rail system is regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) which, in response to Congress, mandated that all commuter rail systems install a PTC system by Dec. 31, 2018. PTC systems are designed to prevent derailments or train-to-train collisions, and to ensure trains are not guided onto the wrong track due to a switch being left in the wrong position.

The approved contract allows Modern Railway Systems to complete a portion of the work within 15 months, which will make the agency eligible to apply for a two-year extension to the December 2018 PTC deadline to complete the rest of the system.

The board also approved today a contract modification with the agency’s freight operator, WATCO, to expand freight service along a currently dormant 23-mile stretch of Capital Metro’s track between Elgin and Giddings. WATCO will operate and maintain the new segment and provide Capital Metro with a portion of the gross revenue generated, projected to bring the agency $13M over the contract period.

Capital Metro will conduct community outreach to area residents, businesses, and other stakeholders prior to the opening of the line, including providing information to schoolchildren from the Operation Lifesaver national train safety program.

Freight trains are expected to run once a day, with service estimated to start during the first quarter of 2018. The WATCO proposal states that small rocks, known as aggregate, would be the primary product transported. Capital Metro owns 162 miles of railroad track between Llano and Giddings.

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