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Home News March 13, 2014
FCC Requests Expedited Historic Preservation Review for the Positive Train Control
On March 5, 2014, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) received the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) request to issue a Program Comment for the implementation of the Positive Train Control (PTC) system. Through this request, FCC is seeking to establish efficiencies in its compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). In accordance with Section 800.14(e) of the regulations implementing Section 106, “Protection of Historic Properties” (36 CFR Part 800), FCC would like to develop a tailored process for considering the effects of the construction of PTC transmission facilities and their supporting structures by the railroads that must deploy the PTC. The FCC has Section 106 responsibilities regarding the implementation of PTC due to its licensing and registration of telecommunications facilities such as those to be used for PTC.
In accordance with the Section 106 regulations, the ACHP has 45 days in which to review the PTC Program Comment and decide whether to approve it as proposed, approve it with revisions, or decline to comment. During the 45-day period, the ACHP is required to notify and consider the views of the Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPOs) and the State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs) regarding the Program Comment. In addition, the ACHP must consult with Indian tribes who may attach religious and cultural significance to historic properties that may be affected by the undertakings subject to the Program Comment. While the FCC has done extensive public outreach in drafting the Program Comment, the ACHP intends to solicit further input from the railroad industry, preservation community, and cultural resources community to ensure that we have afforded these stakeholders the opportunity to share their views. Since the freight railroads and intercity and commuter rail services are responsible for the tracks that carry goods and passengers, implementation of the Program Comment will directly involve them.
The PTC system was included in the Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), which requires that freight and passenger railroads deploy the interoperable PTC systems by December 31, 2015. RSIA requires the PTC system be implemented on all Class I railroad lines that carry poison- or toxic-by- inhalation hazardous materials and five million gross tons or more of annual traffic, and on any railroad’s main line tracks over which intercity or commuter rail passenger train service is regularly provided. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) also has the authority to require PTC system implementation on any other line.
Currently, FCC adheres to the provisions of two Section 106 Nationwide Programmatic Agreements (NPAs) for the licensing and registration of telecommunications facilities: the first, for tower construction, and the other for collocation of antennae, in lieu of complying with the standard Section 106 review process for those undertakings. The FCC would like to implement a similar arrangement as that outlined in the NPAs through this Program Comment, but with expanded alternative processes developed specifically for the PTC system. These alternatives are outlined in the Program Comment, which includes a provision that would also allow other federal agencies that may have a role in PTC implementation to adopt it.
The Program Comment would not apply on tribal lands, as defined in Section 301 of the NHPA. However, it would apply off tribal lands where historic properties of religious and cultural significance to Indian tribes could be located. The ACHP will therefore consult with Indian tribes on the development of this Program Comment.
FCC has included in the Program Comment several exclusions, enhanced submission procedures, compensation for professional services, excavation methods and construction monitoring, timeframes, alternative arrangements to the Program Comment, measures to address adverse effects to historic properties, and a proposed review of previously constructed PTC facilities. FCC modified a previous draft in consideration of the comments submitted to FCC in response to the publication of two Public Notices with drafts of the Program Comment. FCC consulted with THPOs and SHPOs, the railroads, and other federal agencies as it finalized the proposed Program Comment and has taken into account many of their suggestions.
Those interested in commenting on the proposed Program Comment may do so by filing their comments so they are received by the ACHP on or before March 27, 2014. The comments must be sent by e-mail to FCCcomments@achp.gov, or via facsimile to 202-606-5072, or regular mail at: ACHP, FCC Program Comment, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 803, Washington, DC 20004.
You can see a calendar with the planned dates of key events leading to ACHP action on the Program Comment here.