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Although commuter railroads are on track to meet the federal deadline for implementing positive train control (PTC), funding remains a "critical concern," the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) announced yesterday.Railroads have until 2018's end to implement the technology, but are permitted to request an additional two-year extension if they meet several prerequisites, including the installation of all PTC hardware by the end of 2018.According to APTA's analysis, 22 percent of the 3,150 route miles of commuter rail in the country are either in service with the technology or are in full PTC demonstration and awaiting the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) approvals. In addition, 27 percent of the 3,400 locomotives and cab cars have been equipped with PTC hardware, while 70 percent of the required radio spectrum has been acquired.APTA also found that 40 percent of the 35 back office control systems are ready for operation. In all, 19 percent of commuter-rail agencies are expected to be fully PTC equipped by year's end, APTA officials said in a press release.While commuter railroads have made strides in implementing PTC, APTA Acting President and Chief Executive Officer Richard White noted that "a number of challenges" remain.Those challenges include the ability to cover the costs of implementing PTC, with scarce qualified resources and a lack of adequate access to track and locomotives for installation and testing, White said. "The installation of PTC is a heavy lift for the commuter-rail industry," he said. "From a technical standpoint, PTC was not a mature technology when Congress mandated it in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008."PTC implementation is expected to cost the commuter-rail industry more than $3.5 billion, including more than $16 million in spectrum acquisition and $100 million annually in additional maintenance costs. As of October, commuter railroads spent more than $1.5 billion on the technology, according to APTA.White added it's urgent that Congress appropriate additional dollars toward PTC implementation so that commuter-rail agencies can meet the federal government's mandated deadline.Congress has authorized $199 million for commuter railroads' PTC plans, but that sum has yet to be appropriated.The association conducted the analyses by surveying members and assessing the quarterly reports submitted to the FRA.
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