Latest Rail News

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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Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo announced a Final Rule requiring railroad track owners to adopt and follow specific procedures to protect the safety of their bridges, and to strengthen federal oversight of railroad bridge maintenance programs. This rule is a requirement under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.


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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.

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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 Transit-Oriented Development.

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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 International Airport.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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