Metra has applied for a federal grant to help the railroad fund a $25.2 million program for installation of the Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system on its Milwaukee North and West lines.

Freight and passenger railroads across the U.S. are currently working to implement PTC systems on their rail lines. PTC is expected to cost Metra more than $350 million to implement. Once up and running, PTC is expected to add $15 million to $20 million annually to Metra’s operating costs.

“The costs of carrying out the PTC mandate are tremendous, especially given Metra’s financial constraints,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “Grant programs like this one are essential funding sources to help meet our goal to fully implement PTC on Metra-controlled lines by 2019 or sooner.”

Metra is applying for the grant under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which authorizes $199 million in fiscal year 2017 to assist railroads in financing the installation of PTC. Under this program, projects receiving grants will have up to 80 percent of costs covered and require a 20 percent local funding match. Metra is requesting $20.2 million in grant funding and has identified $5 million in local matching funds for the project.

With the grant funding, Metra plans to help fund installation of PTC on its Milwaukee West Line to Elgin and North line to Fox Lake. There are three independent components that need to be addressed before PTC can be made operable along these lines and the grant will be used to fund these projects. Under the grant application submitted by Metra, all three projects would be completed by fall 2018. They are:
1.    Upgrading the existing antiquated signaling system on the 17.5-mile Fox Lake subdivision (Rondout to Fox Lake) on the Milwaukee North Line to one that is compatible with PTC. Project cost: $12.5 million.

2.    Reconfiguring and upgrading signals at the Rondout Interlocking between the Libertyville and Lake Forest stations on the Milwaukee North so that they are compatible with PTC. Project cost: $7.5 million.

3.    Installing wayside PTC signals on both the Milwaukee West and North lines. Project cost: $5.2 million.

Metra has spent about $95 million and has $208 million under contract toward PTC installation. The agency is counting on additional state and federal funds to provide the remaining funding needed to complete this project.

PTC is a federally mandated computerized system that prevents certain types of train-to-train collisions, helps avoid derailments and other accidents caused by excessive speed and increases safety for workers. The system integrates GPS, communications units and a railroad’s centralized dispatching system. Together, these components track trains, convey operating instructions and monitor the crew’s compliance. PTC will automatically stop a train if the system detects that a violation is about to occur.

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