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Caltrans Gets $55M To Improve Rail Safety, Reduce Congestion On L.A. To San Diego Lines

Caltrans announced today it will use a $55 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to add a key safety feature to trains operating on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner rail corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego, and to complete a third track between L.A. and Fullerton.

The corridor is used by the Pacific Surfliner, Metrolink and freight trains and is the second busiest in the nation, according to Caltrans spokesman Matt Rocco.

The Surfliner runs a dozen round trips daily between L.A. and San Diego. The additional track is expected to be complete in about two years and will increase capacity to 16 round trips for the Surfliner.

About one-quarter of the federal funding will be used to install Positive Train Control, a GPS-based safety system that allows conductors to control and stop trains in order to prevent impending collisions.

The FRA required all rail providers to install the systems by 2015, in the wake of the Sept. 12, 2008, crash of a Metrolink commuter train in Chatsworth which killed 25 people. An engineer ran a red light while text-messaging on the job.

"Metrolink is grateful to the leaders who demonstrated their commitment to rail safety by allocating these funds," Metrolink Chairman Richard Katz said. "Our program is now fully funded, and Metrolink is well on our way to being the first commuter rail agency in the nation to implement Positive Train Control."

More than two-thirds of the grant, $38 million, will pay for the completion of the third rail track between Los Angeles and Fullerton to reduce congestion on the heavily used corridor.

Caltrans previously received a share of $168 million in federal funding to purchase new, American-manufactured rail cars. The transportation agency will use its portion, which is being matched by millions of dollars in state funding, to purchase 27 new cars for the Surfliner.

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