Latest Rail News

While passenger trains are still at least two years away from running on a "Three-C" corridor for which Ohio has obtained federal stimulus money, state officials have begun looking at what they hope will be a second phase, which would include two Toledo routes. The Toledo Blade reports that the Ohio Rail Development Commission has signed a $7.8 million contract with AECOM, a Los Angeles engineering firm, to assess what would need to be done to institute 110-mph passenger trains on four routes, including Detroit-Toledo-Cleveland and Toledo-Columbus.

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(Editor's note: This story updates a story posted on this Website July 13.) Mayor Richard J. Berry said that the City of Albuquerque has been awarded $6.72 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to build the Montaño Intermodal Center. The center will provide a new connection between ABQ Ride buses and the New Mexico Rail Runner Express commuter train near the intersection of Montaño and 2nd St.

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The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has approved upgrades at railroad crossings in Fayette and Ross counties, The Gazette reports. The Norfolk Southern crossing at East Second Street in Chillicothe and the Indiana and Ohio Railway crossing at Oakland Avenue in Washington Court House will receive upgrades that include flashing lights and roadway gates through federal funds.

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BNSF recently paid Buchanan County, Mo., $50,000 to close a railroad crossing off Missouri Highway 45 by Sugar Lake, the St. Joseph, Mo., News-Press reports.

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July 16-18, Washington, D.C.'s Metro will make upgrades to its track, platforms and bridges on the Red, Blue and Yellow lines to improve reliability and service. As a result of this crucial work aimed at keeping the railroad in a state of good repair, riders can expect delays of up to 40 minutes. 



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Wabtec Corp. has signed an agreement to acquire G&B Specialties, Inc., and Bach-Simpson Corp. from Global Railway Industries Ltd., for about $45 million. Subject to the fulfillment of certain conditions, the purchase of G&B Specialties is expected to close by July 31, and the Bach-Simpson purchase is expected to close by Oct. 31. Wabtec expects the acquisitions to be accretive in the first year.

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The Chicago Transit Board passed a resolution supporting the Chicago Transit Authority's commitment to further develop and implement meaningful and proactive accessibility initiatives consistent with the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The resolution is in recognition of the 20th anniversary of the landmark piece of legislation enacted on July 26, 1990. The Board also approved the appointment of new 2010 ADA Advisory Committee members.

 

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Metro Blue Line passengers in Los Angeles will experience travel delays of up to 40 minutes this coming weekend beginning Friday night, July 16, due to construction of the Expo light rail line, which will connect with the Metro Blue Line in downtown Los Angeles. Special Metro Bus service will parallel the train route during the construction work.

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Norfolk Southern rejects North Charleston, S.C., Mayor Keith Summey's plan to kick its trains out of key up-and-coming neighborhoods at the company's expense, and the railroad's officials say there's nothing he can do about it, The Post and Courier reports.

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BNSF has pulled out of the application process for federal stimulus money to help build a railroad bypass on the west edge of Willmar, Minn., the West Central Tribune reports. In a letter sent to city officials, the railroad said that after a further review of the application guidelines, it saw "no possibility" that BNSF would be able to obtain a planning grant for the proposed multimillion-dollar project.

Local officials said they're disappointed with the turn of events.

"The greatest disappointment is the loss of what we thought were the benefits," said Steve Renquist, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Partnership.

The proposed project would have shifted the Morris-to-Marshall subdivision traffic out of Willmar's central rail yard and routed it to a bypass on the west edge of town. The move would have opened up rail access to Willmar's industrial park. It also could have enhanced the possibility of cargo service at the Willmar Municipal Airport, as well as position the city for a light-rail commuter train service.

City officials had in fact been discussing the options with BNSF on and off for "a number of years," said Bruce Peterson, community development director for the city of Willmar.

"The main thing was to get that western bypass," he said.

With the shelving of the application process for a stimulus planning grant, "the local impact is significant," Peterson said. "It makes it extremely difficult to get access to the expanded industrial park."

Construction of a rail bypass would have required a massive financial investment - an estimated $33 million to $58 million, including not only the cost of construction but land acquisition, permits and environmental reviews as well. The scope of the project is such that neither local government nor BNSF could have financed a rail bypass on its own, Peterson said.

The availability of stimulus funding for transportation projects created a unique and perhaps one-time chance to apply for outside funding, Renquist said.

"The window of opportunity opens and closes. Nobody knows how long it's going to stay open," he said.

The timeline for decision-making also was short. Preliminary grant applications are due at the end of July. Final applications are due in August, and grant awards are supposed to be announced in October.

But after reviewing the guidelines again, BNSF officials told the city this week that in order to be in the running for a planning grant through the National Infrastructure Investments Competitive Grant Fund, the railroad would have had to obtain a significant level of non-federal funding for the project. BNSF is "simply not in a position to make that commitment," railroad officials said in their notification to the city.

Local support for the project was strong. As recently as last week, the operating board of the Economic Development Commission voted to commit $50,000. The Willmar City Council also was prepared to consider making a financial commitment.

Renquist said he hopes it sends a signal to BNSF that local officials want to continue the discussion.

"The stimulus program isn't over yet," he said. "We don't quietly go into the good night. Under the right circumstances, this could be a project they'd still like to do."

"We'll maintain contact with BNSF and keep trying to do whatever is possible and affordable," Peterson said.

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