Latest Rail News

The lawsuit probably couldn't have come at a worse time for BNSF Railway, the Kansas City Star reports. The federal government is getting close to announcing whether BNSF will get $50 million in federal stimulus money to start building a massive rail hub in Johnson County. The project has to be "shovel ready" to get the money, but its environmental permit is the target of a lawsuit, which could delay one of the area's biggest development projects.

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Charlotte, N.C., is going to ask the federal government for $25 million to help build a streetcar line uptown, The Charlotte Observer reports. The City Council voted 7-4 Jan. 25 to apply for a grant that would pay for much of a 1.5-mile line from the Charlotte Transportation Center to Presbyterian Hospital on Hawthorne Drive in the Elizabeth neighborhood. If successful, the city would need to spend at least $12 million of its own money to finish construction.

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Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.) called on Metra to add weekday train service to the Heritage Corridor line, which currently offers three weekday round trips between Joliet and Chicago's Union Station, with stops in Summit, Willow Springs, Lemont, and Lockport.

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A new report on moving BNSF tracks out of central Fresno to relieve traffic congestion says it would cost at least $803 million, by far the highest such estimate yet, the Bee reports. As a result, an organization formed 10 years ago to advocate shifting the BNSF tracks to the Union Pacific corridor is giving up, its president said.

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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has appointed Joe Calabrese to a two-year term on the Intelligent Transportation Systems Program Advisory Committee. Since 2000, Calabrese has been CEO and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. He has more than 30 years experience in public transit.

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The city of Norfolk, Va., is extending light rail construction hours to try to prevent future delays with the project. Right now crews primarily work from 7 a.m. until 4 or 5 p.m., according to Public Works Director John Keifer. The new agreement would allow them to work until 2 am.

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A civil engineer with an extensive railroad engineering background is the Federal Railroad Administration's new deputy associate administrator for safety, regulatory and legislative affairs. Dr. Magdy El-Sibaie succeeds Grady Cothen in the post, following an extensive nationwide search to fill the position. Cothen announced his retirement in late 2009, but is remaining at the FRA through March to assist El-Sibaie in the transition.

Most recently, El-Sibaie was acting associate administrator for hazardous materials safety at DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Until October 2009, he was the FRA's director of research and development, following a successful tenure as the agency's chief of track research, where he managed the FRA's track inspection technology development program that created improved systems for measuring track geometry at high speeds.

El-Sibaie earned a doctorate in engineering mechanics from the University of Delaware in 1986, and was recruited by the Association of American Railroads as a researcher at the industry's Chicago Technical Center, where he is credited with pioneering new methods of computer modeling to measure the dynamic behavior of track under varying loads, speeds and conditions. For that work, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers honored him in 1980 with its Rail Transportation Award.

In 1989, he was reassigned by the AAR to its Transportation Test Center in Pueblo, Colo., where he worked on vehicle/track interaction modeling and testing, in-train stability and wheel-load dynamics. He returned to the Chicago Test Center in 1993 to lead the AAR's track assessment and test program.

El-Sibaie joined the FRA in 1995 as a senior program manager in the Office of Research and Development, chairing a government-industry working group that formulated the first set of safety standards for U.S. high-speed rail service. He also worked with rail suppliers and Amtrak to establish standards for Amtrak's high-speed Acela trains operating on the Northeast Corridor.

As deputy associate administrator for safety, regulatory and legislative affairs, El-Sibaie will lead FRA initiatives that develop and implement industry safety regulatory strategy. These efforts include leading the Rail Safety Advisory Committee in studying emerging safety issues, including the incorporation of new technology into the rail environment, as well as risk reduction strategies and close-call reporting.

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When it comes to attention-grabbing covers, the title "Great Rail Disasters" with an illustration of a train wreck is tough to beat for creating a sense of danger and drama, Ted Jackovics wrote in the Tampa, Fla., Tribune website. Inside, the 44-page American Dream Coalition report focuses on "foolish investments" and "pork barrel spending" in a critique of rail as a passenger transportation alternative.

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(The following column by U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) appeared on the Williamson Daily News website on January 23, 2010. He represents West Virginia's 3rd District.)

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When the workers laboring to raise the roof of the old Cooper Tunnel on the Norfolk Southern main line in Mercer County, W.Va., see daylight, it's about time to call it a day, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports. NS is on the home stretch of the Heartland Corridor project that started in the fall of 2007 and is on track to be finished later this summer. When it's done, the Heartland Corridor will enable NS to move double-stacked freight cars from Lambert's Point (near Hampton Roads, Va.) on the Atlantic coast all the way to Chicago on the Lake Michigan shore.

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