April 18, 2017–The American Association of Railroads wants to be part of an FCC proceeding in which the agency is looking for additional ways to streamline the deployment of wireless infrastructure. The FCC is scheduled to consider a wireless infrastructure notice of proposed rulemaking and notice of inquiry at its April 20 meeting (TR Daily, April 13).
In an ex parte filing posted yesterday in WT docket 17-79 reporting on a conversation with representatives of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, AAR said it “urged the Commission to include railroad communications infrastructure as part of its efforts to streamline review under the National Environmental Policy Act (‘NEPA’) and the National Historic Preservation Act (‘NHPA’). Any streamlining reforms should apply equally to all new wireless infrastructure (e.g., Part 90 and Part 101 antennas), including Positive Train Control (‘PTC’) and non-PTC poles. In particular, the Commission can accelerate timely deployment of advanced communications systems that will improve rail safety and efficiency by excluding from review most wireless communications technology and related PTC and non-PTC structures used along railroad transportation corridors, rights-of-way, and rail yards.
“We also addressed the railroads’ experience under the PTC Program Comment, noting that AAR’s members continue to face excessive delays and fees during the tribal review process, which impedes the timely deployment of PTC infrastructure,” the AAR filing added. “In the absence of a broader exclusion along the railroad corridors, the Commission can rectify these issues by (i) adopting a shorter and more definitive deadline for the tribal review process whereby clearances are deemed granted after certain delays, and (ii) limiting the circumstances under which railroads are expected to pay tribal review fees. Additionally, the Commission should take steps to streamline the process or reduce the frequency for NEPA review of PTC poles on flood plains along railroad transportation corridors and rights-of-way. This review affects a significant percentage of PTC poles and can add 3 to 6 months to the approval process.” —Paul Kirby, email@example.com