The Alaska Railroad now expects to complete its fail-safe Positive Train Control (PTC) system by Dec. 31, 2020, and has promoted George Newman to lead the $171 million project.
Congress mandated that all passenger trains install PTC in 2008 to prevent human errors that may cause catastrophic results, but did not provide funding to pay for the systems. Railroads across the nation have had trouble implementing the costly, complex requirement, so Congress extended the deadline in 2015. It is now estimated it will cost $22 billion to fully install PTC across the nation.
PTC systems monitor and control train movement and provide improved information for decision-making. If warranted, PTC will stop a train if it exceeds safe speeds, moves into areas without authority or detects potentially unsafe track conditions. The system consists of four segments: office, locomotive, wayside equipment and communications.
The Alaska Railroad has used a mix of corporate revenues and state and federal grants to pay for PTC. When state revenues crashed, it received legislative approval in 2015 to issue $37 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds.
The new PTC chief joined the Alaska Railroad in 2016, coming from the Canadian Pacific Railroad, where he served as director of PTC for seven years. He replaces Eileen Reilly, who retired in July.