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Federal Policy

Metra Gets a $2M Grant for Positive Train Control

A Metra Electric District train. Photo: Eric Allix Rogers

The largely unfunded federal mandate for Positive Train Control railroad safety technology just got a little better funded in the Chicago region. Today U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth announced a total of $2,058,163 in U.S. Department of Transportation money for the implementation of the technology on the Metra commuter rail system.

PTC is a computer-based braking system that helps prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments, and other types of crashes caused by excess speed. It does this by taking over control of trains in the event that the driver fails to maintain a safe speed or distance from other vehicles, taking into account the weight of the train and the lay of the land. After a series of deadly crashes, several years ago Congress passed legislation requiring every rail line to install the system by the end of 2018.

“Implementing PTC is vitally important to ensuring that our railroads have the highest level of safety for millions of riders and workers in Illinois and around the country," Durbin said in a statement today. “With Chicago being the largest hub in the railroad industry, Senator Duckworth and I will continue working to ensure that our rail agencies have the federal resources needed to ensure safe and reliable transportation.”

“PTC technology will save lives and protect rail workers, and I’ll keep working alongside Senator Durbin to help ensure it is implemented on every railway in Illinois and throughout the country,” Duckworth added.

Metra will receive this new funding funding to implement PTC across the six-county region.

According to an ABC report, on September 17, Metra marked the completion of the installation phase for the $400 million system, but diagnostic testing on many miles of track were still required. The testing has led to delays on some routes, especially the BNSF line, Metra’s busiest route, and the project wasn’t supposed to wrap up for another two years. “It's the time its gonna take to physically try to get 1400 trains and 14 railroads within this region to communicate and inter-operate seamlessly together,” Metra CEO Derwinski told ABC at the time.

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