Mandatory Safety System Still Not Operating on MARC Train's Penn Line After 2018 Deadline

Thousands of Maryland commuters who ride the MARC train to and from DC will have to wait a little longer for a new safety system.

The federally mandated improvement called Positive Train Control (PTC) was supposed to be completed by the end of 2018, but very few of the nation's railroads met that goal.

The technology is designed to detect when trains are moving too fast for conditions or approaching an oncoming train. It helps slow or stop the trains automatically to avoid crashes.

The Federal Railroad Administration said MARC is one of 33 railroads that requested a deadline extension to finish installing PTC. 

A MARC spokesperson said the railroad installed all of the needed equipment and trained all of its employees prior to the Dec. 31 deadline and sent documentation to the FRA indicating that.

Those are benchmarks all railroads needed to meet in order to qualify for a two-year deadline extension.

Amtrak hosts the track on which MARC operates the Penn Line and says, as such, MARC’s deadline extension would fall under Amtrak’s request, which it says has been approved by federal regulators.

Last year, the News4 I-Team revealed several warning letters the Federal Railroad Administration sent to MARC and Maryland leaders.

Federal regulators expressed concern that the railroad was behind schedule in installing the necessary hardware and training its employees, in order to qualify for the deadline extension.

This summer, the FRA fined MARC for failing to comply with its implementation plans. The $27,904 fine is the maximum fine for PTC enforcement. MARC told the I-Team it planned to appeal the fine.

MARC says the safety system is already up and running on its Camden and Brunswick lines, but the popular Penn Line is still in the testing phase.

MARC is now working with Amtrak to make sure the technology from both railroads can communicate properly and work together.

Amtrak told News4 the testing should be finished and the technology operating on the Penn Line by this spring.

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