Historic Preservation Programs Keeping Track of New Railroad Infrastructure

Do you remember the federal Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008?

It was enacted after a spike in fatal train wrecks after 2002 and was intended to improve rail safety throughout the country.

Part of the program involves the monumental challenge of installing positive train control — wireless communication poles along the country’s passenger and hazardous cargo rail routes — which is estimated to cost at least $9 billion.

The Federal Railroad Administration has until December 2015 to install the 20,000 communication poles. That’s a short deadline for a project like this, for which the technology is still in a questionable state of development.

Trade groups like the Association of American Railroads have challenged the project’s viability.

And here’s how Arkansas ties into this: Before even starting to lay down infrastructure, the federal government in September had to seek comment from the various states’ historical programs.

“We have concerns with the potential for both direct impacts to archaeological deposits and visual impacts to architectural properties from the proposed undertaking,” the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program said in a comment submitted to the Wireless Telecommunication Bureau in November.

In other words, the poles might disturb graves or other historic sites near railroads.

Will Arkansas ever see this advanced train tech?

Only time will tell, but the AHPP told us that its consultation was “still underway.”