05 20 Metra seeks $3 million Rail Safety Technology grant for PTC
CHICAGO (May 19, 2016) – Metra today announced that it has applied for a federal grant to help the railroad fund a $3.7 million disaster recovery system for its Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system.

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.

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. In addition, PTC is expected to add $15 million to $20 million annually to Metra’s operating costs.

“Nationally, the cost to carry out the PTC mandate is estimated to exceed $10 billion, including $3.48 billion for commuter railroads,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “We will continue to look for new revenue sources to help pay for this complex system as we plan for full implementation of PTC by 2019 or sooner.”

Metra has so far allocated $187 million in capital funding toward PTC. Metra is counting on additional state and federal funds to provide the remaining funding needed to complete PTC. In addition, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act authorizes $199 million in fiscal year 2017 to assist in financing the installation of PTC.

The disaster recovery system would activate automatically if the primary back-office server system fails due to a power failure, natural disaster, routine maintenance or an unforeseen event. Without it, any failure to the primary system controlling Metra’s PTC would severely disrupt rail operations for passenger and freight railroads, forcing trains to operate at greatly reduced speeds throughout the Chicago region.

Metra plans to house its disaster recovery system at its Kensington Yard facility on Chicago’s south side. It will run simultaneously with the primary PTC server system and will allow trains to continue operating throughout the Chicago region in the event that the primary server system fails or requires maintenance. In addition to providing a fail-safe operating capability for PTC technology for Metra’s entire rail system, the project will lay the groundwork for Metra to eventually establish a second, fully redundant dispatching center.

The grant is being sought through the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Safety Technology grant program. This program was established through the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 to facilitate the deployment railroad safety technologies. For 2016, the FRA has limited eligible projects to those that implement a PTC system or will otherwise benefit overall PTC system implementation. 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 $3 million in grant funding and has identified $750,000 in local matching funds for the project.

About Metra
Metra is one of the largest and most complex commuter rail systems in North America, serving Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties in Northeastern Illinois. The agency provides service to and from downtown Chicago with 241 stations over 11 routes totaling nearly 500 route miles and approximately 1,200 miles of track. Metra operates more than 700 weekday trains, providing about 300,000 passenger trips each weekday.