Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor

Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor

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Union Pacific (UP) and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) are making a significant investment in Chicago's Metra West Line. Each will invest $45 million for the construction of a new third mainline track on the line from River Forest to Melrose Park and then from West Chicago to Geneva.

"Today, we are investing in jobs that will help solidify Illinois' status as the premier rail center of the nation," Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said. "This final piece of the West Line improvement program will enhance commuter and freight travel on one of our state's busiest rail lines. Building world-class infrastructure is vital to a healthy economy and today's investment will help get us there."

The West Line improvements are designed to ensure smoother traffic flow and reduce conflicts between the passenger and freight trains that share the line. Earlier projects completed by Metra and UP modernized the signal system and added crossovers to make freight movement more efficient. A third phase on the West Line, improving the Lombard and Wheaton Metra stations, will be finished in 2015. The West Line third track construction is the final step that will allow the 59 Metra trains and 70 freight trains that use the line each day to operate at the same time, a critical step to improving the line's reliability and efficiency.

The announcement was made during a celebration to mark the completion of a Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) rail project that included the construction of a rail overpass, the rehabilitation of two passenger stations and the addition of pedestrian tunnels in Bellwood and Berkeley and signal and track improvements along the UP/Metra West Line. The project created and supported 1,000 jobs and was funded primarily through a $52-million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant, a $27 million commitment from UP and other freight railroad partners, other federal funding of $3 million and a $615,000 investment by the state of Illinois.

"Our nation's system of bridges, rail and roads is the strength of the nation, tying us together and giving us access to the world," said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). "Chicago remains the busiest rail hub in the United States, with more than 1,000 trains passing through the region every day. Protecting and investing in our nation's infrastructure and specifically in Illinois' transportation network, is one of my top priorities."

"This is a new day for Metra, one in which we want to ensure that every project we execute puts commuters first," Metra Chairman Martin Oberman said. "We are confident the West Line improvements will greatly improve the commuter experience."


Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) officially opened the Wareham Village Station on the CapeFLYER line. Service to the Wareham Village Station began June 27 at the new stop, located off of Main Street in Wareham.

The Sound Transit Board officially designated Sound Transit Deputy Chief Executive Officer Mike Harbour as acting CEO as Joni Earl continues her medical leave. Harbour has been deputy CEO since October, 2012.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) will provide a $50-million grant to the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro) in Austin, Texas, for the purchase of four additional MetroRail cars and help construct a permanent, expanded downtown rail station.

J.L. Patterson & Associates, Inc. (JLP) and STV, Inc., received a contract worth up to $10 million from the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) to provide on-call professional engineering design services for Metrolink.

IntegriCo Composites has received an order from a railroad in the U.S. for approximately 5,000 composite crossties for installation in their railway system.

Blue Ridge Southern Railroad (BLU), a subsidiary of Watco Transportation Services (WTS), has reached a definitive agreement with the Norfolk Southern to purchase three branch lines in North Carolina that feed into its terminal in Asheville. The lines are the T-Line, which runs west of Asheville; the W-Line, which runs south of Asheville and the TR-Line, which branches off the W-Line south of Asheville. BLU could begin operations by July 26, 2014.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has established a special advisory board of 22 experts who will make up the Transportation Reinvention Commission.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has closed three more Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) safety recommendations, bringing the total number of recommendations closed to 24 out of 29.

The recommendations include:
R-10-12 - Conduct a comprehensive safety analysis of the WMATA automatic train control (ATC) system to evaluate all foreseeable failures of this system that could result in a loss of train separation and work with your train control equipment manufacturers to address in that analysis all potential failure modes that could cause a loss of train detection, including parasitic oscillation, cable faults and placement and corrugated rail.

R-10-13 - Based on the findings of the safety analysis recommended in R-10-12, incorporate the design, operational and maintenance controls necessary to address potential failures in the automatic train control system.

R-10-17 - Develop and implement a non-punitive safety reporting program to collect reports from employees in all divisions within your organization and ensure that the safety department; representatives of the operations, maintenance and engineering departments and representatives of labor organizations regularly review these reports and share the results of those reviews across all divisions of your organization.

Last week, WMATA was awarded the Gold Award for Safety from the American Public Transportation Association for its roadway worker protection program and at an industry event, National Safety Council President and former NTSB Chair Deborah Hersmann noted that WMATA has gone "from worst to first among [its] peers."

"We are committed to closing the five remaining NTSB recommendations as soon as possible, while maintaining our focus on fostering a culture of safety, shared responsibility and vigilance," said WMATA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Richard Sarles.

WMATA says he remaining five recommendations involve longer-duration projects, such as replacement of the entire 1000-series fleet with new 7000-series railcars. The first 7000-series trains are expected to enter service late this year.



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