Metro-East News

Federal grant to help with rail safety upgrades in St. Louis area

The Illinois Department of Transportation is receiving $18.9 million in federal money in order to make safety upgrades on the Terminal Railroad in St. Louis.

The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the grant so IDOT can implement Positive Train Control safety technology on the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis, according to a news release.

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 rail workers, the news release said.

The technology, through a wireless communications system, monitors a train’s position and speed, activates brakes when necessary to enforce speed limits and to prevent unauthorized train movement, and monitors tracks signals, switches and track circuits, according to the Association of American Railroads.

PTC safety technology uses GPS, communications units and a railroad’s centralized dispatching system.

The grant was announced by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Illinois Democrats.

“Improving commuter rail systems is vital to supporting our state’s economic growth,” Duckworth said in a news release. “This funding will go a long way towards making Illinois’s transportation systems safer and more reliable throughout the St. Louis and Metro East region.”

The 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act mandated PTC implementation by 2015, but there was no technology capable of achieving the safety objectives for all railroads, the news release said. Railroads had to develop it.

In 2015, Congress extended the PTC implementation deadline to Dec. 31, 2018, with the possibility for two additional years if certain requirements are met.

“St. Louis serves as the Gateway to the West and is a major rail hub in our nation moving people, goods and resources. Positive Train Control is critical to the safety of these passengers and rail employees,” Durbin said in a news release. “This funding will greatly help IDOT meet its goal and move forward with full PTC operability.”