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.
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,"
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
A state agency has given a
green signal to a $12.3-million expansion of a Norfolk Southern rail yard in
South Toledo, Ohio, a project intended to boost the region's capacity for
handling intermodal freight and generate hundreds of transportation-sector jobs,
the Toledo Blade reports.
The Maryland Transit
Administration is seeking community participation at the July 20th
Public Information Open House for the West Baltimore MARC Station Parking
Expansion & Enhancement Project. The Open House is an opportunity for the
community to learn about the demolition and resulting changes to traffic and
parking, review draft designs for the parking expansion, and see how the
project will work with the existing streets, the Red Line, and future
MTA Metro-North Railroad
will hold a third Open House in Orange County to present the latest information
on the West of Hudson Regional Transit Access Study. The purpose of the study
has been to evaluate options to improve transit services between central Orange
County and New York City and to enhance regional transit access to Stewart
It's never been easier to
bike it, park it and BART it in Berkeley, Calif., thanks to the newly opened
bike station at street level above the Downtown Berkeley Station. The new bike
station at 2208 Shattuck Avenue provides safe and secure parking for up to 268
cyclists. It replaces the cramped, outmoded bike parking area on the concourse
level and dramatically increases the bike storage capacity.
Anyone who has ever
rifled through pockets or purse looking for a lost item will connect
immediately with a public-art sculpture dedicated by Metro Arts in Transit
(AIT) at the MetroLink Station and MetroBus Transfer Center on St. Charles Rock
Road in Pagedale. The sculpture - titled Honey, Where's My Metro Pass -
portrays that experience in a whimsical presentation of oversized coins, keys,
a crumpled receipt and a lip balm that could have been spilled along the
MetroLink platform by a frazzled passenger.
Iowa Department of
Transportation officials believe they will be successful in their second
attempt to obtain a passenger railway from Iowa City to Chicago, the Daily
Iowan reports. After taking in feedback from last year's denied application,
the department is adding a new project to gain funding from the Federal
Railroad Administration. The application is due Aug. 6.
This month, Denver's
Regional Transportation District is marking the 10 years since the Southwest
Light Rail Line opened. Banners will be on display this month at a half-a-dozen
key light rail stations and transit centers, and information will be on the RTD
and FasTracks websites.
Construction of a new
platform, lights and retaining wall will begin at the Round Lake, Ill., Metra
station July 15, 2010 and continue until October 1. Work will begin on the east
end of the platform. During the first phase of construction, commuters must
board trains from the western portion of the platform.