North Carolina DOT: New railroad safety system likely won’t be running by December deadline

September 22, 2015

The N.C. Department of Transportation expects to have all of the necessary equipment for a new automated safety system installed by the end of the year, putting it on track to meet a federal deadline.

But whether the system will be up and running is another question.

In 2008, Congress ordered the nation’s railroads to adopt Positive Train Control systems by the end of this year. The PTC system uses global positioning system technology and radio receivers along tracks to allow trains to communicate with one another and to put on the brakes when a train is traveling too fast.Website Insert Keep Your Money In-State copy

N.C. Rail Division Director Paul Worley says NCDOT is in “pretty good shape” in getting all the equipment in place on the Piedmont Railroad between Raleigh and Charlotte. NCDOT spent about $2 million to equip the eight locomotives it owns with the PTC system. The department also ordered a ninth set of equipment to keep as a spare.

But he says it is up to the rail lines that operate those locomotives to ensure the systems on individual locomotives are corresponding with GPS satellites, with one another and are properly signaling sensors along railroad tracks.

Worley compared the PTC system to installing a cable box on a television. “We can have the box in place. But if the cable company doesn’t send you a signal, it’s not going to work,” he says.

The two rail lines that operate locomotives on the Piedmont Railroad have already signaled they will not meet the December deadline.

Read the full story by staff writer Jeff Jeffrey in the Triangle Business Journal by clicking here.

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