LIRR Races To Deadline


The Federal Rail Road Administration originally mandated that Positive Train Control to insure safety for the riding public be completed by 2015. Even with a time extension to December 2018, it is doubtful that the Long Island Rail Road will meet this new deadline.

The LIRR may have insufficient force account workers including inadequate numbers of certified signal maintainers and other specialized trade employees to complete system-wide installation of Positive Train Control along with ongoing work in the East River Tunnels, Main Line Third Track and East Side Access. All of the above is on top of supporting annual routine state of good repair, other safety and maintenance system wide projects. How will the LIRR be able to coordinate daily track outages and go slow work zones to support all of this work while at the same time providing the basic service for which customers are entitled? There is no guarantee that these issues will be resolved any time soon. This could result in missing the Dec. 31, 2018, recovery schedule completion date for Positive Train Control.

Don’t blame Washington when it comes to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on behalf of the Long Island Rail Road deciding not to use federal assistance for installing Positive Train Control. Federal support for transportation has remained consistent and growing over past decades. When a crisis occurred, be it 9/11 in 2001 or Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Washington was there for us. Additional billions in assistance above and beyond yearly formula allocations from the U..S Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration was provided. In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided billions more.

Most federal transportation grants require a 20 percent hard-cash local share. The Federal Transit Administration usually accepted toll credits from the MTA instead of hard cash for the local share. This saves MTA more than $1.2 billion yearly.

Washington in 2017 made available to the MTA more than $1.3 billion in transit funding assistance, which helps pay for a significant portion of its capital program.

MTA, on behalf of the LIRR, had the option to program some of these funds for the purchase and installation of Positive Train Control. The MTA elected to use these dollars toward other capital improvement projects and programs. This has been the case going back ten or more years.

—Larry Penner

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