Federal Railroad agency grants $25 million for PTC

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has awarded $25 million to projects implementing systems to monitor and control training movements. The systems, known as Positive Train Control (PTC), are designed to increase safety by helping prevent collisions and derailments, enforcing speed restrictions and improving wayside safety.

“Every dollar we invest in implementing Positive Train Control as quickly as possible is money well spent because ultimately it means fewer accidents and fewer fatalities,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.

Congress mandated PTC implementation on the main lines of Class I railroads and certain other entities providing intercity or commuter rail passenger transportation. The original implementation deadline for PTC was in December, but legislation was passed last year to extend the deadline through 2018.

Eleven projects in six states and the District of Columbia were selected in this round of funding. The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association in Washington, D.C., will receive $2.5 million to develop a crew initialization back office server system. The system will make a back-office product that delivers PTC available to all short line and regional railroads.The Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company in Minnesota will receive $1.1 million to implement and test PTC systems. The project includes a contract with a back office service and interoperability message software provider, initial activation and licensing fees of hosted back office systems and two PTC equipped locomotives.

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Texas will receive $3 million to implement Enhanced Automatic Train Control. The system will overlay the existing wayside signal system and enhance onboard, wayside and control office equipment and software to create a functional PTC system in the Austin area.

For details on all the projects awarded, visit www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/Details/L18324.

P3 for Miami Beach light-rail project moving forward

Plans for a light-rail system in South Beach, Fla., that would connect to mainland Miami are moving forward. The project will be a public-private partnership (P3/PPP), and city officials are considering a recommendation to begin negotiations with a private rail firm on the $400 million project.

Three firms bid on the P3/PPP project. Officials are likely to begin negotiations with a French rail firm for the project and then move on to the secondary bidder if those negotiations are not confirmed. Prices would not be negotiated until a design is approved.

All three bidders on the project, which would make up about a third of the link that would connect mainland Miami to the beach, proposed the use of wireless cars that would run every six to seven minutes along Fifth Street, Washington Avenue, 17th Street and Alton Road.

Maryland Purple Line gets $874.6M TIFIA loan

The consortium of private-sector companies that recently won a $5.6 billion contract to build and operate the Maryland Purple Line light-rail project has been awarded an $874.6 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan. The funds will be used to help defray the costs of the 16.2 mile project that will connect Montgomery and Prince George’s counties in Maryland. The east-west line will also include 21 stations.

In making the announcement of the loan, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the new rail line will offer an alternative form of transportation that will allow residents along the line “improved access to jobs, education and medical care and, overall, will help improve the quality of life.”

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) officials also are working with the Maryland Transit Authority to secure an additional $900 million toward the project through the FTA Capital Investment Grant Program. Another $36 million in FTA grant funds will also be appropriated for the project.

Calling the Purple Line a “unique public-private partnership” that allows the state to leverage additional federal funding, FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers added, “The Purple Line will help residents access one of the state’s largest job centers as well as its flagship state university without having to drive on heavily congested roads.”

Amtrak pitches $6.5B redevelopment in Philadelphia

Last week, officials with Amtrak, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and Drexel University jointly announced plans for a $6.5 billion redevelopment in Central Philadelphia. The goal of the project is to create a second downtown area of the city, according to those officials. The project would be centered around the transformation of the 30th Street Train Station into a multi-modal transportation hub. The station would continue to serve as the main Amtrak intercity rail station for the region, but it also would become the primary intercity bus terminal.

A new facility would be constructed on the station’s north side to serve as the bus station, and that construction would require the relocation of exit ramps connecting Interstates 76 and 676 to the station. That portion of the project is already undergoing a feasibility study.

Another construction project would build a new underground concourse to connect the SEPTA subway station at 30th Street to the Amtrak station. The concourse project is in the preliminary engineering stage.

Amtrak also plans to create a new gateway park surrounding the station along the Schuylkill River.