Caltrain Fires Vendor as Deadline Goes Off Track

Missed deadlines on a $138 million safety contract leaves Caltrain looking for a new engineer.

Andy Nash/Flickr

The Caltrain commuter rail line is tightening its budgetary belt, having just lost a $647 federal investment that had been earmarked to replace its aging diesel trains with fully electric trains. Now the peninsula train service is terminating the large contract of an engineering and construction vendor called Parsons Transportation Group, as Caltrain claims that a series of long-overdue safety upgrades has gone off the rails.

The safety upgrade project is called a Communications Based Overlay Signal System (CBOSS), and is designed to eliminate train accidents in the events of human error. The upgrades involve switching to an electronic monitoring system called Positive Train Control that would remotely enforce speed limits, prevent collisions, and monitor the presence of workers or pedestrians on the tracks.

The problem? The project was originally supposed to have been completed by October 2015, according to industry publication Railway Gazette.

“The Positive Train Control work being done is imperative to the safety and reliability of rail service on our right of way,” Caltrain Chief Operating Officer Michelle Bouchard said in a release.  “Due to PTG’s continued failure to perform, combined with their potential to cause program delay, the decision to terminate was necessary to keep the program on schedule while also exercising cost control over its delivery.”

Naturally, Parsons Transportation Group disputes the they are in default of the contract and insists they’ve worked closely with the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board that owns and operates Caltrain in attempts to revise the completion schedule. Both sides have threatened litigation or legal action on the dispute.

According to Caltrain’s project costs, the PTG contract is pegged at a cost of $138 million, and the overall CBOSS project is expected to cost $231 million. The project is part of Caltrain’s $647 million electrification project, which itself is currently on a construction delay while the rail line attempts to negotiate the reinstatement of the project’s grant funding.

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