Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Visiting motor cars mark Fairmont’s 100th anniversary

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More than 40 railroad motor cars from all over the United States will be stopping in Albert Lea, Minn., during part of a 100th anniversary celebration of Fairmont Railway Motors Inc., now Harsco Track Technologies, the Albert Lea Tribune reports.

The celebration will include a display of about 45 North American Rail Car Operators Association motorcars during an open house at the Harsco facility in Fairmont. The 45 restored cars were originally built at the Fairmont plant and shipped to railroads around the United States and Canada.
The celebration culminates with a 120-mile motor car excursion on the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad (now Canadian Pacific-owned) from Fairmont to Albert Lea and back. The excursion will go from Fairmont and travel east through Granada, Huntley, Winnebago, Delevan, Easton, Wells, Baroda, Alden, Armstrong and Albert Lea.

Fairmont Railway Motors was founded in 1909 as Fairmont Gas Engine & Railway Motor Car Co. At that time, the company began building a variety of gasoline-powered motor cars to replace the pump car.

By 1949, the company was renamed as Fairmont Railway Motors Co., offering 19 models of motor cars to customers. In 1979, Fairmont Railway Motors was acquired by the Harsco Corporation, and it became part of Harsco Track Technologies. The last of a total of nearly 73,000 Fairmont motor cars was manufactured in 1991, according to a news release.

 


 

June 9, 2009

 

RailComm’s remote-control derail system in production at IHB

RailComm has provided a wireless-remote-control derail system at Indiana Harbor Belt’s RIP Track Facility. A customized Local Control Panel, located within the shop, provides wireless remote control to the derails. The panel includes a keypad for advanced security and logging. The user is required to input a unique pass-code (PIN) to operate the derail machines.

All control panel operations are recorded and stored on a wirelessly linked PC workstation. The data entries contain the name and trade of the operator, the nature of the operation, and the date and time. The workstation allows supervisors, managers and other authorized personnel to review the operation logs and manage the system security.

 


 

June 9, 2009

 

Federal grants signal growing importance of shortline industry

The Federal Railroad Administration awarded $15 million to nine states two weeks ago for emergency repairs to damaged shortline railroads resulting from natural disasters. The funding from the Railroad Rehabilitation and Repair Program is the first time the shortline industry has received federal disaster relief funds. The move reflects the growing economic impact of shortline railroads and their critical role to the manufacturers and communities they serve throughout the U.S.

“Railroads are receiving a lot of attention right now as the nation struggles to find ways to increase industrial competitiveness, improve our transportation infrastructure and minimize impacts to the environment,” said John Giles, CEO of RailAmerica, the nation’s largest owner and operator of shortline railroads. “Shortlines offer many of the same benefits of the national railroad superhighways, but their unique role is often overlooked. As more and more manufacturing facilities are located in rural areas, shortlines often present the only access these manufacturers have to the national rail network.”

According to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association , shortlines have grown from 8,000 miles of track in 1980 to more than 50,000 miles today. As the large national railroads were forced to dramatically downsize their systems in the 1970s and 80s, entrepreneurs saved shortline railroads by taking huge financial risks to purchase and rehabilitate long-neglected track. Now, 550 shortline and regional railroads operate in 49 states. In 30 states shortlines operate at least one quarter of the rail network.

Under the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009, FRA was authorized to make $20 million available to repair and rehabilitate railroad infrastructure, such as bridges, track and signals, in areas declared by the President as a major disaster. The FRA intends to issue another solicitation for the remaining $5 million.

Two RailAmerica shortlines received funds, including the Indiana Southern Railroad, which suffered extensive damage from 100-year floods that wreaked havoc on Indiana’s southwestern counties last year. The railroad took quick action – spending $1.5 million on repairs – to meet the pressing needs of its customers, including Indiana coal shippers and receivers such as Indianapolis Power & Light.

The Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad suffered 10 track washouts and $1.9 million in infrastructure damage during the March 2008 storms and subsequent flash flooding in Arkansas and Missouri.

“Working around the clock and at great expense to the railroad, trains were able to move again in just four days,” said Giles. “If the railroads had not taken immediate action without regard to the resulting cost burden, its customers would have been severely impacted.”

One customer, utility company Entergy, would have run through its coal stockpile and been forced to cease power generation within 30 to 40 days. Other major customers affected by the shutdown included Tyson Foods, Unimin, Future Fuels, Arkansas Lime and Poinsett Rice.

 


 

June 9, 2009

 

Poconos train to New York City is on track

The two-decade effort to restore passenger rail service from the Poconos to New York City has received approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, clearing a critical hurdle that now allows the $550 million project to be funded, the Allentown, Pa., Morning Call reports. The EPA declared a “finding of no significant impact” for the project, U.S. Sens. Bob Casey Jr. and Arlen Specter said.

The decision allows officials in Pennsylvania and New Jersey to enter the equally critical funding phase for construction and engineering of the rail line, which would connect Scranton and the Poconos to Hoboken, N.J., and New York City.

“I believe the project is so important it will be funded,” Specter said after a meeting with Lehigh Valley-area Democrats.

Specter, D-Pa., said the project has the support of several high-profile senators, including Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who wants to extend the rail line to Binghamton, N.Y. New Jersey's Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez also back the rail line, Specter said.

New Jersey officials, facing the loss of billions in highway funding unless the state meets air quality improvements under the Clean Air Act, want to remove some of the 20,000 commuters who cross over daily from Pennsylvania and travel along the Interstate 80 corridor. The train could also serve Monroe County's so-called Wall Street West project, a facility that would back up the nation's financial data in the event of a crisis.

“Wall Street wants to diversify, not have everything in southern Manhattan after their experience on 9/11, so we will get the funding,” Specter said.

Federally-approved rail projects can receive up to 50 percent of the cost under the Federal Transit Administration's New Starts program, but competition for the federal dollars is fierce.

Lawrence Malski, chairman of the Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Railroad Authority, said the project will be completed in phases to allow for lower funding requests. If that's successful, initial Pennsylvania service from Delaware Water Gap could be up and running in four years.

“We've now cleared the way to get the funding to start construction,” Malski said.

Once completed, the service would be operated by New Jersey Transit, with service from four rail stations in Monroe County at Delaware Water Gap, East Stroudsburg, Analomink and Mount Pocono, and one in Scranton.

The Mount Pocono station could serve gamblers from New York and New Jersey wishing to visit Mount Airy Casino Resort, which is nearby.

A portion of the rail line would run through Northampton County near Portland. There also would be two new rail stations in New Jersey, in Andover and Blairstown, with the Andover station serving as a connector to direct service into New York's Penn Station.

Construction is already under way on seven miles of track connecting Andover to Port Morris, N.J., Malski said.

 


 

June 9, 2009

 

Bipartisan Policy Center issues transportation reform plan

Calling its recommendations a “framework for comprehensive reform,” the Bipartisan Policy Center’s National Transportation Policy Project (NTPP) released its plan for transforming federal surface transportation policy. If adopted by the Administration and Congress in this year’s authorization bill, the plan would constitute the first major overhaul of transportation policy in more than 50 years. It proposes restructuring federal programs, updating the criteria for formulas and creating a performance-based system that directly ties transportation spending to broader national goals, including economic growth, connectivity, accessibility, safety, energy security and environmental protection. Currently, transportation funding is distributed on a politically-driven basis with little analysis of benefits and no accountability for results.

The plan also has a strong bipartisan foundation. Under the leadership of former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, former Congressman Sherwood Boehlert, former Senator Slade Gorton, and former Congressman Martin Sabo, the NTPP—a bipartisan group of 26 diverse members— produced its plan--Performance Driven: A New Vision for U.S. Transportation Policy--as a blueprint for a new national transportation system that is efficient, effective, and accountable for performance.

As Congress is scheduled to take up reauthorization of the nation’s surface transportation law, SAFETEA-LU, this year, NTPP is calling for a complete restructuring of the federal transportation funding system. To date, there is no federal requirement to optimize returns on public investments, and programs are not structured to reward outcomes, or even to document them. Moreover, existing programs do little to target federal support for transportation programs to further economic growth or link to jobs and productivity.

“One of the principal current problems is trying to coordinate over 100 different transportation programs that Congress has authorized over the course of half a century, while dealing with an aging and a declining infrastructure,” said NTPP co-chair and former Senator Slade Gorton.

The NTPP proposes narrowing these 100+ programs to a more manageable six core funding programs. The six programs would be competitive and performance-based. NTPP recommends “mode neutral” formula programs that award federal transportation dollars based on system condition and performance and focus on preserving the overall system including:
• A connectivity program that would improve the condition and performance of existing transportation systems that connect the nation; and
• A program aimed at preserving and enhancing the performance of core assets such as highways, bridges, tunnels, and bus and rail transits in major metropolitan areas.

Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), an original co-founding chair of NTPP, attended the announcement and commended NTPP’s bipartisan report. He especially praised the NTPP for advocating a bottom-up approach to reform whereby states and metropolitan areas can develop their own solutions to transportation problems. “This idea, called mode-neutrality, enables states like Virginia to make their own decisions about how to spend federal money as long as their investments meet accountability standards and promote national goals.”

NTPP co-chair former Congressman Martin Sabo says that today’s transportation challenges are complex, and go well beyond roads and transit: “We have to make our transportation system more fuel-efficient and cleaner, we have to deal with the carbon issue, and we have the challenge of reducing our dependence on fossil fuel.”

NTPP also proposes holding all funding recipients accountable for their contributions to national goals. A new system of metrics would measure project performance in several areas: improved access, a more efficient national network, reduced corridor congestion and petroleum consumption, reduced CO2 emissions, and reduced fatalities and injuries. States and regions whose investments performed well against those goals would be entitled to bonus funding; areas that did not would be subject to greater federal scrutiny in receiving transportation funding.

To download a copy of the report, go to www.bpcntpp.org.

 


 

June 9, 2009

 

Local leaders fight to keep area's rail lines from closing down

After the announcement last month by Canadian National Railway that it had a pending sale of their Grenada Line and Natchez Line to Grenada Railway, LLC, and Natchez Railway, LLC, many have been concerned about the future of Tate County, Miss., rail service, local newspapers report. Several local industries rely on the Grenada Line, which runs from the Tennessee border to Canton, for their supply and distribution chains.

A regional organization is being formed to work on behalf of the interested parties, and two representatives from Tate County are among those appointed to it. The Board of Supervisors moved last Monday to appoint Steve Hale, who currently serves as the county's director of planning and development, to the North Mississippi Railroad Commission.
Hale is the former mayor of Senatobia, and spent several years in Jackson working with the Mississippi Development Authority under Governor Ronnie Musgrove.

The City of Senatobia chose Janie Mortimer, executive director of the Tate County Economic Development Foundation, as its representative on the commission.

The railroad's buyers have agreed as a condition of the sale to operate the line for at least two years, and attempt to build up business on the line. Although both the Supervisors and the Senatobia Board of Aldermen were told that the railroad transfer could potentially be devastating to economic development here, a meeting in Grenada last week has changed some of their minds.

According to Mortimer, the meeting was attended by representatives of the company that is buying the Grenada Line and that many local leaders who attended seemed encouraged by what they heard. Hale, who was appointed to the commission's executive committee, echoed Mortimer's feelings of encouragement. He said that the spokesman for Grenada Railway said the company felt the line was viable, and that there was enough traffic on the rails to justify their investment here.

The commission made a decision at last week's meeting to try and work with the new owners, and to maintain a relationship with them, rather than trying to intervene in the sale itself.

 


 

June 8, 2009

 

Union Pacific investing nearly $13 Million in Texas Line

Trains will run more efficiently and motorists will spend less time at crossings as a result of nearly $13 million in track improvements made by Union Pacific to its line from Roanoke to Tower 55 in Fort Worth, Texas.

When the project is complete, crews will have removed and installed more than 45,000 ties and spread 100,000 tons of rock ballast to ensure a stable roadbed and renewed the road surfaces at 38 crossings. Work on the 30-mile stretch of railroad tracks is scheduled to be completed in July.

Union Pacific invested more than $400 million in capital projects in Texas in 2007 and 2008. During 2009, Union Pacific plans to invest $1.7 billion in strengthening the track infrastructure across its more than 32,000-mile system.

 


 

June 8, 2009

 

FTA intends to provide $3-billion toward NJ tunnels

Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff said that his agency will make a “down payment” toward an eventual commitment of $3.0 billion by approving a $1.35-billion Early Systems Work Agreement to immediately commence work on the Access to the Region’s Core. The Agreement includes $650 million in Federal funds, including funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, matched by an equal amount of local funding.

“This project has been talked about for decades. Because of New Jersey’s leadership and President Obama’s recovery agenda, today the talk stops and the construction begins,” Rogoff said. “The Obama Administration is committed to being a full partner in this historic investment. It will put thousands of people to work. It will improve the lives of many thousands more by shortening their commute.”

Rogoff said that the announcement, which he made with Gov. Jon Corzine and Senators Lautenberg, Menendez and other state and local officials signals the Administration’s firm intent to enter into a full funding grant agreement to provide $3.0 billion in discretionary FTA New Starts funds for the $8.7-billion project. The nine-mile commuter rail extension will consist of two new tunnels under the Hudson River, new rail tracks between Secaucus Junction and New York’s Penn Station, and a new rail station underneath 34th Street in midtown Manhattan.

This mega transit project will allow NJ Transit to double rail service capacity into Manhattan, free up capacity for Amtrak, and reduce travel times and crowding on trains and at Penn Station.

“This initial $1.35-billion agreement represents the largest amount the FTA has ever committed for a project at this phase,” Rogoff said, adding that the federal New Starts program commitment of $3 billion will also be the largest in the 33-year history of the New Starts program.

The ESWA will help NJ Transit meet key milestones and keep the project on schedule and within budget by allowing the immediate use of federal and local funds for tunneling and related construction work.

 


 

June 8, 2009

 

CSX chief says company won't slow spending on tracks, terminals

CSX Transportation is going full speed ahead on its investment in tracks and terminals this year, despite the recession's drag on freight shipments, CEO and Chairman Michael Ward told local business leaders, the Florida Times-Union reported.

The Jacksonville-based company will spend about $1.6 billion on its shipping facilities, which is close to the $1.7 billion CSX spent during the past year, Ward said.

"We were really doing stimulus before stimulus was cool," Ward said in a speech to the quarterly meeting of Cornerstone, the regional economic development partnership for Northeast Florida.

CSX, a Fortune 500 company, has furloughed employees and sidelined trains to cut costs in line with the drop in freight shipments. But the company isn't changing its long-range strategic plan, Ward said.

He cited a forecast that demand for shipping freight by rail will increase by 90 percent over the next 15 years, in part because highways will become more congested.

"Our investment in new tracks and terminals speaks to our confidence," he said.

CSX employs about 3,400 in the Jacksonville area with a $300-million payroll, he said.

 


 

June 8, 2009

 

Editorial supports rerouting rail around Rochester, Minn.

The Economist magazine occasionally wields a phrase that best sums up the situation Minnesota and its political leaders find themselves in when it comes to a long-simmering railroad dispute in Rochester, Minn., according to an editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Faced with a situation that demands a solution but for which there are only hard choices, the magazine says true leaders sift through the facts, consider the greater good and then make the difficult decision based on what is the "least bad" option at hand.

Although it didn't generate many headlines outside southern Minnesota, some heavy hitters in the state's political delegation recently made a courageous "least bad" type of call.

Recognizing a very real threat to Minnesota's largest private employer, the world-class Mayo Clinic, a bipartisan group led by U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Sen. Amy Klobuchar stepped up and publicly lent their support to an expensive, controversial plan to reroute freight trains carrying dangerous compounds away from the city and through the farm fields south of Rochester. U.S. Rep. James Oberstar, the powerful chairman of the U.S. House Transportation Committee, also has pledged support.

It's dubbed the Southern Rail Corridor proposal, and there are a host of reasons why this is not an easy project to love. There are environmental issues to consider in building the 48.3-mile freight train bypass, and property owners along the proposed route have some legitimate concerns.

It also comes with a hefty price tag. Early estimates are $325 million -- a cost the public's used to seeing attached to a stadium-sized project.

It should be noted that passenger trains would be able to use the line, but it would not be ready for true high-speed rail.

While the plan is in its preliminary stages, it's clear that public money would pay for most of it. A big chunk of money would likely come from the federal government, but the state could also shoulder a substantial sum.

Walz, the Democratic congressman in whose district Mayo resides, has requested federal funding for the corridor as a high-priority project in the Surface Transportation Bill reauthorization. Currently, Walz's proposal calls for about $190 million in federal funding (58 percent) and 42 percent from non-federal funding.

Pawlenty has said he would support state bonding to leverage federal funds, and he has directed the Minnesota Department of Transportation to seek grants to help pay for it.

Some private money may be available; Mayo is open to contributing.

In contrast, Canadian Pacific Railroad, which runs the line, said this week that it absolutely would not contribute to the project, though it would deign to use it if it met its needs. "We will not spend limited resources on a project that is not needed," said CP spokesman Mark Seland.

That tone-deaf-to-community-concerns response has been typical of the rail industry in this decade-plus standoff -- and it's absolutely wrong.

It is asking for disaster to run trains -- and more of them at higher speeds at some point-- carrying anhydrous ammonia or explosive compounds such as ethanol within hundreds of feet of hospitals and other medical buildings filled with nearly 4,000 patients. Rail accidents are uncommon, but they do happen. Minnesotans may recall the 1992 benzene spill in Duluth and the 2002 anhydrous ammonia leak in Minot, N.D. If this happened near Mayo, it could kill thousands of vulnerable patients who could not be evacuated quickly. Are we really willing to run this nightmarish risk so that a railroad can move coal and other freight cheaply?

Unfortunately, industry-friendly laws and regulatory bodies have consistently and recklessly placed the railroad above patient safety and the well-being of one of the state's most critical economic engines.

An accident of any magnitude would substantially harm Mayo's reputation and ability to bring patients, the lifeblood of its practice, to its Rochester campus.

The jobs of about 31,000 Mayo Rochester staffers -- and the growth to come with the burgeoning biosciences sector -- are at stake.

Thus Minnesota is left to tackle a mess not of its making, but one that nevertheless must be fixed. By paying for an engineering study, Mayo has laid the groundwork for a thorough discussion of the corridor's minuses and its pluses, which include readying Rochester for the coming era when patients increasingly cross the cornfields on trains to come to the clinic.

Forming a regional rail authority would be an excellent next step, bringing together localities affected by the project and giving people an avenue to reach out to local officials with thoughts and concerns.

There are no easy answers other than this one: Inaction is not an option.

 


 

June 8, 2009

 

Officials celebrate modernization of MBTA Arlington Station

Emphasizing the Patrick-Murray Administration’s commitment to providing accessible transportation service to all persons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Transportation Secretary James Aloisi joined MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas to celebrate the modernization of Arlington Station located on the MBTA’s Green Line. An investment of $22.7 million, Arlington Station is now fully accessible and is in compliance with the American Disabilities Act.

“This newly renovated station is a symbol of our commitment to providing top-shelf customer service to every T rider on our network of buses, subways and trolleys,” said Secretary Aloisi. “The MBTA has made significant investments to improve accessibility for all.”

Opened in November 1921, Arlington Station’s first renovation occurred in 1967. In 2006, the MBTA announced renovations to Arlington, Copley, and Kenmore stations to upgrade for accessibility and general station maintenance. Arlington Station is now ADA accessible with three brand new elevators, new head-houses and stairways, brand new columns, and new electrical throughout the station. Additional renovations include a new egress at Arlington Street church, and raised platforms to accommodate low floor Green Line vehicles.

Noting that for the first time in its 90-year history, Arlington Station will be accessible to people of all abilities, MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas applauded the contributions and support from the community that moved the modernization of Arlington forward.

In 1989, to comply with the American Disabilities Act, the MBTA initiated the Light Rail Accessibility Project to make the transit system accessible to all persons with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that certain key stations be made accessible. The MBTA Key Station Plan, which was approved by the Federal Transit Administration, includes 80 key stations that must be in compliance with ADA guidelines. Today, 77 MBTA key stations are in compliance including Arlington.

 


 

June 8, 2009

 

Construction signals transformation of Dulles Corridor

Throughout Tysons Corner, Va., cranes and other heavy equipment are signs of major construction work now underway on Phase 1 of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project. This signals the coming of the long-awaited rail line that will eventually connect the entire Dulles Corridor from East Falls Church to Dulles Airport and eastern Loudoun and serve the bustling Tysons Corner, Reston and Herndon areas along the way.

The new 23-mile rail line is being built in two phases. It will bring about major changes in transportation options and lifestyles of those who live, work, travel and play in this important quadrant of Northern Virginia and the entire metropolitan area. The rail line will provide a "no transfer" ride from Dulles Airport to downtown Washington, and it will energize visions for the future of areas around the new rail stations.

Phase 1 includes:
· Five stations along 11 miles from East Falls Church to Wiehle Avenue.
· Four stations in Tysons Corner.
· 2,300 parking spaces at Wiehle Avenue.
· Completion: 2013.

Phase 2 includes:
· Six stations along 11.5 miles from Wiehle Avenue to Route 772 in Loudoun with stops at Reston Parkway, Herndon-Monroe, Route 28 near the CIT, Dulles Airport , Route 606 and Route 772 (Ashburn).
· Parking at Herndon-Monroe, Route 28, 606 and 772.
· Completion: 2016.

Current work areas are along the northwest side of Route 123 between Tysons Boulevard and International Drive where tunnel preparation work is taking place; clearing and site prep in the median of Route 267; and site access prep near the Wiehle Avenue station

Utility relocations continue along Routes 7 and 123 and are now more than 50 percent complete.

 


 

June 8, 2009

 

MTA begins $2.3-million upgrades of Falls Road light rail parking

The Maryland Transit Administration started $2.3 million in upgrades at the Falls Road Light Rail Stop. These important transit improvements were funded by President Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The improvements to the Falls Road facility follow the completion of conceptual engineering designs that were developed and approved with community input received during a series of public workshop meetings conducted by the MTA.

“These transit investment projects also help put local people to work and further Maryland’s economic recovery,” said Governor O’Malley. “The public process leading to this point has kept the local community engaged, so citizens have a direct say on transit development projects that impact their communities. These improvements will allow more of those citizens to choose transit as a smart, environmentally-friendly way to travel throughout their neighborhoods.”

The Falls Road project has been designed to meet the increased need for parking at the station. The $2.3-million project design elements and station improvements include: Increasing parking capacity from 97 spaces to 197 spaces; new lighted pedestrian path from Old Falls Road; new lighting, landscaping and signs; new fencing between the station and Railroad Avenue; new bike racks; upgraded stormwater management facilities that reduce run-off to the Jones Falls and bus access improvements.

“This project represents real and immediate progress as we continue to identify ways MTA can accommodate increased ridership,” said MTA Administrator Paul Wiedefeld. “The existing parking lot has been over capacity for several years, resulting in Light Rail riders being forced to parking along access roads and on unpaved surfaces.”

Construction is expected to be complete in spring 2010. The MTA is assuring customers that commuter vehicle parking and the station’s walkup access will be maintained at all times during construction.

Average daily ridership at the Falls Road stop is 381. Total daily Light Rail ridership is 27,800.

 


 

June 8, 2009

 

MTA LIRR Brentwood Station building to be renovated

The MTA Long Island Rail Road's Brentwood Station will undergo interior and exterior renovation work starting June 8. During the work, which is expected to be complete by early 2010, a waiting room trailer will be available to customers. Ticket Machines will also continue to be available.

The interior improvements include installation of a new heating and air conditioning system, lighting, floor and ceiling, as well as the vendor kiosk. The rest rooms will also be renovated. The exterior improvements include the installation of new energy efficient windows and doors, new brighter lighting, new handrails and signs.

Both accessibility ramps will receive new railings and the platform shelters will receive new lexan wall and ceiling panels. Train service will not be affected by the project, however, a construction management trailer will be placed adjacent to the westbound platform utilizing ten parking spaces.

The cost of the project is approximately $1.7 million, with funding obtained through the New York State Legislature and the MTA LIRR Capital Improvement Program.

Approximately 1,100 customers use the Brentwood Station during the morning peak period. The current Brentwood Station building was constructed as part of the LIRR Ronkonkoma Branch electrification project in 1987. Regular LIRR service to Brentwood Station started in 1869. The second station building (built in 1903 to replace the original structure, which was destroyed in a fire) was located just to the west of the existing station off of Brentwood Road.

 


 

June 8, 2009

 

Caltrain construction, maintenance update June 6 – 12

Grade-crossing work will include installing signs and guardrails and striping the railroad crossings at Maple and Chestnut streets in Redwood City, Calif., Saturday and Sunday. Work on the Center Street crossing in Millbrae will begin on June 11. Throughout the project, at least one lane of the impacted streets will remain open at the crossing. Flagmen will direct traffic and pedestrians around the construction. The work is part of a larger program to improve grade crossings in San Mateo County.
San Jose

From Monday to Friday, Caltrain will remove underground utilities and backfill areas at the site of a former maintenance facility at the San Jose Diridon station. This work is part of a project to improve connections with regional rail services, improve safety and allow for future expansion of service.

Caltrain will install new sidewalks, curbs, gutters and streetlights near the former railroad crossing at Stockton Avenue and Emory Street in San Jose. Construction is expected to begin June 11 and last up to four weeks. The work will be done from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. The improvements will complete the closure of the former crossing. The temporary concrete barricades will be removed when the project is completed.

From June 8 to June 11, a crew will weld and grind the switches between the San Francisco and Millbrae stations. June 7-11, crossties between the Bayshore and Millbrae stations will be replaced. June 7-11, worn asphalt, rails, ties and ballast between the Redwood City and Sunnyvale stations will be replaced. On June 7, a crew will weld and grind the switches near the San Jose station.

 


 

June 8, 2009

 

Northstar Fridley Station West head house walls poured

Construction continued at the Northstar commuter rail stations in Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids, Fridley and Minneapolis, Minn. Work also progressed on the Light Rail Transit connection in downtown Minneapolis.

Crews began painting the LRT station shelters. Electrical work also continued. Crews finished commuter rail track work. Work on the LRT track continues. Work on the signal light and overhead catenary systems continue.

In Coon Rapids, painting of the pedestrian overpass continues. Elevator installation continues and is expected to be complete soon. Crews installed planter soil in preparation for landscaping work.

In Anoka, landscaping work at the Anoka station began. The final pavement course on the north park-and-ride lot will be completed when landscaping work finishes.

In Elk River, crews began painting the station shelters. Station platform concrete work continued. The last concrete pours are scheduled for the week of June 8. Work began on installing the platform light poles.

In Big Lake, crews are installing lock system and speaker wiring. The Vehicle Maintenance Facility is complete.

Crews continued utility work in both the east and west park-and-ride lots at the Fridley Station. Work also continues on the west and center head houses. Crews poured the concrete walls of the west head house and concrete pours for the center head house are scheduled. Landscaping crews seeded the east and west drainage ponds. Crews continue work in the west parking lot.

 


 

June 5, 2009

 

AAR: Sharp downturn in May rail traffic

Freight railroad traffic was down sharply in May in comparison with the same month last year, the Association of American Railroads reports.

U.S. rail carload traffic in May 2009 fell 24.7 percent (325,267 carloads) compared to May 2008 to 989,306 carloads. U.S. rail intermodal traffic (which is not included in carloads) fell 19.7 percent (177,482 trailers and containers) to 723,898 units in May 2009.

Canadian rail carload traffic (which includes both the Canadian and U.S. operations of CN and Canadian Pacific, the two largest Canadian railroads) fell 32.8 percent (104,003 carloads) in May 2009 to 213,517 carloads, while Canadian intermodal traffic fell 34,844 units (18.1 percent) to 157,446 trailers and containers.

U.S. rail car loadings fell in May 2009 in all 19 major commodity groups tracked by the AAR, including coal (down 89,134 carloads, or 15.8 percent); motor vehicles and equipment (down 35,674 carloads, or 52.3 percent); and metals and metal products (down 33,987 carloads, or 62.7 percent). Carloads of chemicals were down 23,147 carloads (18.3 percent) and carloads of grain were down 21,910 carloads (24.5 percent).

Canadian carload declines in May 2009 were led by metallic ores (down 79.8 percent, or 45,392 carloads); chemicals (down 13,487 carloads, or 23.6 percent); and grain (down 7,222 carloads, or 17.1 percent).

Mexican rail carload originations (which include Ferrocarril Mexicano and Kansas City Southern dé Mexico) were down 18.5 percent (10,635 carloads) in May 2009, while intermodal originations were down 21.7 percent (5,580 trailers and containers).

For the first five months of 2009, carload traffic was down 19.6 percent (1,349,097 carloads) on U.S. railroads; down 23.8 percent (388,734 carloads) on Canadian railroads; and down 14.2 percent (38,324 carloads) on Mexican railroads. In 2009 through May, intermodal traffic was down 16.9 percent (788,814 trailers and containers) on U.S. railroads; down 14.8 percent (147,495 units) on Canadian railroads; and down 20.5 percent (25,919 units) on Mexican railroads.

Total volume on U.S. railroads was estimated at 586.8 billion ton-miles, down 18.5 percent from the first five months of 2008.

For just the week ended May 30, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 233,195 carloads, down 26.3 percent from the corresponding week in 2008; intermodal volume of 164,916 trailers and containers, down 19.2 percent; and total volume of an estimated 24.8 billion ton-miles, down 25.1 percent from the equivalent week last year. Both the most recent week and the comparison week from last year included the Memorial Day holiday.

For Canadian railroads during the week ended May 30, the AAR reported volume of 53,790 carloads, down 30.9 percent from last year; and 38,489 trailers and containers, down 20.8 percent from the corresponding week in 2008.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 21 weeks of 2009 on 12 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads was 6,775,911 carloads, down 20.4 percent (1,737,831 carloads) from last year; and 4,734,644 trailers and containers, down 16.5 percent (936,309 trailers and containers) from 2008’s first 21 weeks.

 


 

June 5, 2009

 

Caltrain declares fiscal emergency, plans service cuts, increased rates

The Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board, which oversees Caltrain, declared a fiscal emergency. Officials have forecast a $10.1 million deficit for the next fiscal year and say the agency does not have sufficient reserves.

The board is expected to approve three proposals on July 2 that would cut service and increase rates. The proposals include cutting midday service by half, raising parking fees 50%, increasing the price of a daily pass, and charging more for the monthly GO Pass. By declaring a fiscal emergency, Caltrain is allowed to implement the proposed changes without an environmental review.

If approved, the train eliminations and parking fee increase would be applied in September, while the GO Pass increase would begin in July.

 


 

June 5, 2009

 

E Street transit center planned for Metrolink

San Bernardino County transportation commissioners will bring Metrolink service to the downtown E Street terminal, at the intersection of Rialto Ave. The choice, which was the most expensive option with a $41.4 million price tag, creates a multimodal hub that will link light rail, bus rapid transit and commuter rail service in one location.

Bringing commuter trains to the E Street station is part of the E Street Corridor, a plan connecting San Bernardino and Loma Linda. Two sets of tracks will be installed between Santa Fe Depot and the E Street Terminal. The terminal is expected to be complete by 2012.

 


 

June 5, 2009

 

AGS installed at BNSF facility in San Bernardino

BNSF implemented an Automated Gate System (AGS) at San Bernardino, Calif., using a design-build method rather than a construction model. The construction model used for earlier AGS installations at three other intermodal facilities -- Logistics Park and Corwith in Chicago and Alliance, Texas.

"This [design-build] method allows one general contractor to take the process from design to completion, which should lower costs and accelerate construction and implementation. The general contractor also has more control, resulting in a smoother coordination of the installation," said Cami Elliott, general director, Business Unit Operations Support.

The design-build method resulted in the successful installation of the technology within four months and 10 percent under budget.

AGS uses new technologies, including optical character recognition (OCR), biometric driver identification and high-definition video images, to create a system that improves safety, efficiency and security. The new system also maintains permanent photo images to assist in damage prevention.

 


 

June 4, 2009

 

Amtrak adds train between Richmond, D.C.

Amtrak plans a new daily commuter train from Richmond and Lynchburg, Va., to Washington beginning in December. The new service is the first phase of Virginia’s planned passenger rail improvements. The commonwealth will invest $17.2 million over three years for the train service.

Officials estimate the service will remove up to 1.4 million cars from highways, save more than 8.3 million gallons of fuel and eliminate 66,000 tons of carbon emissions each year.

 


 

June 4, 2009

 

New Sound Transit line previewed

Passengers won’t be able to board the new 14-mile, $2.3 billion Sound Transit Link light-rail line until July 18, but the agency allowed the media in for a preview.

The link, which runs Downtown Seattle to Tukwila, is expected to carry 100,000 riders its first day and is the first phase of a planned 55-mile system that should reach Lynnwood, Federal Way and Redmond by 2023. The line will be extended to Sea-Tac Airport by the end of the year.

Workers are now digging a three-mile tunnel under Capitol Hill to extend the line to the University of Washington.

 


 

June 3, 2009

 

BNSF to replace more than 70 miles in South Dakota

BNSF will spend an estimated $11 million on five projects to replace 73 miles of rail in South Dakota. Work is scheduled between Glenham and Morristown, Alpena and Wolsey, Alexandria and Canton, Crooks and Lyons and Harrisburg and Sioux Falls. The projects will begin in June and are expected to be complete by September.

 


 

June 3, 2009

 

Rail Runner carries its 2 millionth rider

New Mexico’s Rail Runner has been in service three years. On June 3 it will carry its 2 millionth passenger. The person designate the official 2 millionth rider will received a certificate, as well as a free train pass for one year.

The Rail Runner operates between Belen and Santa Fe and carries an average of 4,500 riders per day.

 


 

June 2, 2009

 

North Carolina Operation Lifesaver plans safety blitz

Reducing train/vehicle incidents at railroad crossings is the focus of a "safety blitz" being conducted by North Carolina Operation Lifesaver in partnership with state and local transportation agencies, area railroad operators and law enforcement officials. These events will take place at Greensboro, Mebane and Burlington-area railroad crossings over the two-day period of June 3-4 and will focus on increasing awareness of highway-rail grade crossing safety.

Team members from North Carolina Operation Lifesaver, along with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, North Carolina Railroad Company, Amtrak and local law enforcement agencies, will gather at various area railroad crossings to conduct the safety blitz. Each of the targeted crossings were chosen because of collisions or near miss incidents reported by the Norfolk Southern Railway police.

During each blitz, local law enforcement officials will monitor vehicle traffic at the crossing location and provide team members the opportunity to distribute safety information directly to motorists. By doing so, Operation Lifesaver hopes to reach motorists who regularly access these crossings and educate them on the importance of obeying crossing safety devices and using caution around railroad tracks.

 


 

June 2, 2009

 

Mississippi lawmakers need guarantee of line operation

Mississippi state lawmakers are urging the Surface Transportation Board not to approve the transfer of 252 miles of rail lines from Canadian National to newly-formed companies Natchez Railway LLC and Grenada Railway LLC unless the operation of the lines can be guaranteed past the two-year maintenance period outlined in the original deal.

According to a report in the Daily Leader, officials are worried the new owners, which are affiliated with Salt Lake City's A&K Railroad Materials Inc., will scrap the lines after a two-year maintenance period ends. The transaction was filed in mid-May and requires a 30-day waiting period before finalization. Officials are trying to come to an agreement before that period ends.

 


 

June 1, 2009

 

OMERS Private Equity acquires Nordco Inc. from The Riverside Co.

Nordco Inc. has been acquired by OMERS Private Equity of Toronto, Ontario, a private equity investment firms in Canada. Nordco was purchased from The Riverside Company; terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The Nordco family includes Nordco Rail Services, Suttlewagon, Dapco Industries and J.E.R. Overhaul. The company’s product line includes in-house and on-site machinery inspection and repair; reconditioned machinery rental; rail car movers; ultrasonic testing equipment and services for railroads and other industries and machine replacement parts.

 


 

June 1, 2009

 

Tri-Rail increase 25 percent

For the first time since 1995, Florida’s Tri-Rail will increase fares up 25 percent. The price increase was approved in order to stay on pace with higher operating costs and to balance out possible cuts in funding from Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

One-way fares to travel the full 72 miles between Miami International Airport and Mangonia Park will rise from $5.50 to $6.90. A monthly adult pass will cost $100, up from $80. Members of Tri-Rail's employer discount program will pay $75 for a monthly pass, instead of $60.

Tri-Rail is asking the state for $9 million to keep its 50-train weekday schedule for another year. Tri-Rail says cuts in service are planned in October with a possible shutdown happening within two years if additional operating money can not be secured.

Average weekday ridership was down in May to 13,510 passengers as compared to 15,343 in May 2008.

 


 

May 29, 2009

 

BART Board approves key contract for Warm Springs Extension

BART Board members approved one of two key contracts for the 5.4-mile BART extension to the Warm Springs district of Fremont, Calif. Construction resulting from the Warm Springs Extension project is anticipated to create and/or support 26,700 direct and indirect jobs according to the American Public Transportation Association’s economic stimulus formula.

"The timing couldn’t be better," BART Board President Thomas Blalock said. "Contractors are making extraordinarily affordable bids and people need work! Moreover, this is an important extension of BART service that will address congestion on a notoriously gridlocked section of Interstate 880 in Fremont."

The Board action authorizes the general manager to award a $136-million contract for the Fremont Central Park Subway portion of the extension project to Shimmick Construction Co., Inc./Skanska USA Civil West California District Inc. Joint Venture. This contract is for constructing the trackway embankment south of Walnut Avenue and the BART subway from just north of Stevenson Boulevard through Fremont Central Park, including a portion of Lake Elizabeth, and beneath the Union Pacific freight track to just north of Paseo Padre Parkway.

The contract includes construction of two ventilation structures and relocation of a number of amenities within Fremont Central Park, including the dog park, basketball courts and related parking. Construction is anticipated to begin this summer and last for approximately 3.5 years. A second contract is expected to be a design-build contract where the contractor will complete the remaining parts of the project including the trackway, systems, tie-in at Fremont Station and the new Warm Springs Station.

The City of Fremont is well under way with another key component of the extension: an overpass that would carry BART trains above Paseo Padre Parkway. BART hopes to have the Warm Springs Extension in service by June 2014. The Warm Springs Extension would be a fundamental step in the Valley Transportation Authority’s BART extension to the South Bay.

 


 

May 29, 2009

 

LA Metro Board adopts FY10 budget with 15 percent increase

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors adopted a $3.9-billion budget for Fiscal Year 2009-10, which begins July 1, 2009. The spending plan is half a billion dollars or just under 15 percent more than the current Metro budget.

The increase is largely due to a spate of new highway and transit building projects. Altogether, Metro will undertake $636 million in new programs in FY10, funded largely with federal stimulus funds and the new Measure R transit sales tax that will be collected starting July 1.

Among other major transportation advances in the coming fiscal year, Metro will begin operation of the Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension to East Los Angeles, continue construction of the Expo light rail line from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City, begin construction of a four-mile extension of the popular Metro Orange Line busway from Canoga Park to Chatsworth and advance numerous planning studies for new transit projects throughout Los Angeles County.

As mandated by Measure R, there will be no general Metro fare increase in FY10, and fares for seniors, students, the disabled and Medicare recipients will stay at current levels for five years. The new transit sales tax that begins July 1 will keep Metro fares low, however, the Metro Board must still grapple with higher operating costs and cuts in other revenue.
California lawmakers have completely eliminated state transit assistance, which, in recent years, has provided Metro with about $100 million annually in operating dollars. Local Props. A & C transit sales tax revenue also is projected to decline five percent over the current fiscal year due to the recession. In addition, Metro is negotiating new contracts this spring with its major labor unions representing operators, maintenance employees and clerks.

Despite the drop in revenue, Metro will not raise fares or consider major service reductions. However, Metro has cut expenses by more than $130 million. It also will dip into reserves to balance the FY10 budget.

 


 

May 29, 2009

 

SEPTA approves $1.13-billion budget

SEPTA approved a $1.13-billion operating budget and a $418-million capital budget, with none of the drama that often has accompanied budget battles, because the budgets call for no fare increases or service cuts, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The new operating budget, which will take effect July 1, provides money for the transit agency's daily operations and is 3.3 percent more than the current budget. The biggest operating-cost increase is for labor and benefits, which SEPTA projects will go up $40.5 million - 5.4 percent - to $792.5 million. SEPTA is negotiating with bus, subway and trolley operators and mechanics, whose contracts expired in March and April.

Operating budgets have been a flash point in past years, as SEPTA cut service and raised fares to balance the books. The latest fireworks were in 2007, when Philadelphia's representatives tried to block the budget because of fare hikes. They were overridden by the suburban majority on the board.

The new capital budget, which provides money for vehicles, equipment, and buildings, outlines spending on 23 projects, including plans for more hybrid buses and refurbished Regional Rail stations.

The new capital budget is about $50 million larger than the $368 million capital budget approved for this fiscal year. But the current capital budget got a $191 million injection in February when it was amended to include federal stimulus aid.

 


 

May 29, 2009

 

UP investing more than $12 million in track near Pocatello

Union Pacific is investing more than $12 million in track improvements to the line between Pocatello and Nampa, Idaho. When the project is complete, crews will have removed and installed more than 66,000 ties on 35 miles of double track and renewed the road surfaces at 55 crossings. Work began on the project April 9 and is scheduled to be completed by June 8.

Union Pacific invested more than $34 million for capital projects in Idaho in 2008.

 


 

May 29, 2009

 

HRT board cuts light-rail contract by $514,000

Hampton Roads Transit’s board voted to reduce a light-rail contract by $514,000, The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, reports. The $10.9-million contract, to build and outfit a light-rail vehicle storage and maintenance facility, called for the purchase of a $1.1-million piece of equipment called a multipurpose vehicle mover. That is being replaced with a less expensive model, HRT spokesman Tom Holden said.

HRT is partnering with the city, state and federal governments to build a $288-million starter light-rail line from the medical complex on Brambleton Avenue, through downtown, to the city line at Newtown Road. It’s expected to open in mid- to late 2010.

 


 

May 29, 2009

 

SkyTrain Broadway Station elevator to close June 1

As part of TransLink’s re-design and upgrade of the Broadway SkyTrain Station in Vancouver, B.C., the elevator at the station entrance on the south side of Broadway Street will be closed permanently as of June 1.

The new entrance for Broadway SkyTrain station, off 10th Avenue, including elevator access, is expected to open in September 2009. During construction, customers who need to use an elevator will be redirected across the street, to an elevator at Commercial SkyTrain Station (near Shoppers Drug Mart).

Removing the elevator on the north side of the Broadway Station platform will increase space on the platform and reduce congestion during peak periods. The new entrance off 10th Avenue is designed to improve accessibility, provide an open station visible from both Broadway and 10th, and create an additional exit.

Other improvements, which are designed to enhance safety, security and accessibility, include glass walls on the concourse level and at the top of the stairs, new paving and space for new retail outlets in the future.

 


 

May 29, 2009

 

High-speed rail dreams depend on dedicated tracks

While rail advocates dream of passenger trains blazing through Washington at 200 mph, freight railroad representatives say anything half that fast won't work on their tracks, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

"True" high-speed rail would exceed 150 mph, but the Amtrak Cascades line between Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver, B.C., is more likely to see incremental progress from the current top speed of 79 mph to between 110 and 125 mph (the top potential speed of the current Talgo trains), Cascadia Project rail fellow Ray Chambers said at a forum in downtown Seattle.

But Port of Seattle President Bill Bryant said 110 mph would be nothing to celebrate.

"That's charging into 1990s technology," he said. "The rest of the world's already moving at 200 mph. ... I don't know when we began to settle for half of what our competitors already have."

Representatives of the BNSF and Union Pacific railways were receptive to allowing more passenger rail on their tracks. But their stipulations included that passenger service not impede freight capacity, add any liability for the railways or go too fast.

Anything over 110 mph must be on separate tracks in a separate right of way, said Scott Moore, Union Pacific's vice president of public affairs for the Western Region.

Andrew Johnsen, assistant vice president for state government affairs at BNSF, said their tracks can take passenger trains up to 79 mph with little trouble and 90 mph with major upgrades and increased maintenance.

Faster speeds than that, he said: "You really need to have separate tracks. Whether you need to have separate right of way is a question we can discuss."

Clifford Benson, a member of the state Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board, said any additional passenger service impacts freight movement.

"From our board's standpoint, we would have a problem with that," he said.

State Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond acknowledged that passenger rail would have to get off of the BNSF and Union Pacific lines "at some point ... so that freight can move."

Speeds aside, all of the rail advocates were ready to celebrate a recent surge in federal rail investment, including $8 billion in the recent stimulus package for high-speed rail and President Obama's pledge to spend $13 billion over five years on 10 rail corridors, including the Amtrak Cascades.

Hammond said Washington would seek $900 million of the stimulus rail money and Oregon would go for about $150 million.

"We have distinct projects that are shovel-ready," she said.

Chambers proclaimed: "It's a new day for rail." He predicted true high-speed rail, with speeds over 150 mph, would come somewhere in the U.S. within a few years.

This year's reauthorization of the federal transportation act is a chance to find a new funding source for rail, which will fail if it depends on fighting with highways for a share of federal gas taxes, Chambers said. "The traditional sources are going to absorb that money and we won't see any of it."

Larry Salci, a management consultant and former rail and transit executive, put the recent federal rail money in perspective by noting that one high-speed rail line in Texas cost $6 billion in 1992.

The $8 billion in new funds "is purely seed money," he said.

 


 

May 29, 2009

 

Caltrain construction, maintenance update

Caltrain temporarily closed Center Street at the railroad tracks in Millbrae, Calif., from 8 p.m., May 22 until 6 p.m., May 23 to reconstruct the crossing and adjacent track, as well as to repave the street. The work was scheduled over one weekend to minimize the impact to the neighborhood.

Work to rebuild the railroad crossings at Maple, Main and Chestnut streets in Redwood City will continued from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., May 26-30. The work is part of a larger program to improve grade crossings in San Mateo County.

May 26-29, Caltrain removed underground utilities at the site of a former maintenance facility at the San Jose Diridon station. This work is part of a project to improve connections with regional rail services, improve safety and allow for future expansion of service.

From May 24-28, crossties between the Bayshore and Millbrae stations were replaced. May 25-28, a crew welded and ground the switches between the Millbrae and San Mateo stations

May 26- 28, worn asphalt, rails, ties and ballast between the Palo Alto and Lawrence stations were replaced. On May 24, a crew did welding and grinding of the switches near the San Jose station.

 


 

May 29, 2009

 

160 miles from ocean, Georgia town wants to be a port

Officials in Cordele, Ga., here have a novel ambition for a city 160 miles from the ocean, namely becoming a port, the Florida Times Union (Jacksonville) reports. For seven years, they have educated leaders in state government and the transportation industry — having to restart the process when leaders changed. They explain that Cordele can be more than the Watermelon Capital of the World by developing an inland port the way Front Royal, Va., did 15 years ago.

Front Royal is about the same distance from Norfolk, Va., as Cordele is from Savannah, and both cities enjoy the intersection of multiple rail lines and a major interstate highway.

Even better, one of the railroads is a closed-loop shortline whose short distance means trains moving from the port to the inland port will always have first priority without having to be sidetracked while long-distance trains pass.

“We’re doing something that’s a proven concept,” said Bruce Drennan, executive director of the Crisp County Industrial Development Council in Cordele.

Drennan estimates that within five years, Cordele could add 2,500 jobs and handle 150,000 containers of cargo per year.

By piggybacking on Cordele’s location, Savannah port officials will be able to better compete for freight currently shipping out of ports on the Gulf Coast since rail moves four containers for the price of trucking just one. The inland port will add to the capacity of the Port of Savannah rather than drawing any economic activity away from the Coastal Empire.

“We won’t be taking any jobs from them,” he said. “Basically, what it will do is improve the throughput of the port.”

That’s the view, too, from Savannah. Lynn Pitts, senior vice president of the Savannah Economic Authority, figures more business for the port translates into more business for Savannah.

The plan hinges on cooperation from CSX Transportation in working with the Central of Georgia and Heart of Georgia railroads that would move the freight directly west to Cordele. CSXT controls the final mile linking the port to Central of Georgia’s railhead.

To sweeten the deal, Cordele officials have picked a 1,200-acre site adjacent to a CSXT line, so the inland port might not take business away from CSXT.

Just five months ago, CSXT got its own enhanced railyard for expediting port freight a short distance from the port. Now the Jacksonville-based railroad schedules 28 trains serving Savannah, including three each day just running between the port and the new railyard.

CSX isn’t worried about losing any Savannah business to Cordele, said Gary Sease, spokesman for CSX. But there still isn’t a solid deal yet.

“It’s still in a discussion phase,” he said. “We are having discussions about that, but there is no firm commitment yet because we have a lot of details to work out.”

 


 

May 28, 2009

 

TCRP publication evaluates project delivery methods

The Transit Cooperative Research Program has released Report 131: A Guidebook for the Evaluation of Project Delivery Method. This report examines various project delivery methods for major transit capital projects, while also exploring the impacts, advantages and disadvantages of including operations and maintenance as a component of a contract. The project delivery methods discussed in the report are design-bid-build, construction manager at risk, design-build and design-build-operate-maintain. The guidebook offers a three-tiered project delivery selection framework that may be used by owners of transit projects to evaluate the pros and cons of each delivery method and select the most appropriate method for their project.

In cooperation with the Transportation Research Board and the Federal Transit Administration, APTA provides free TCRP reports that are based on annually submitted industry problem statements.

The TCRP program is currently soliciting Research Problem Statements for fiscal year 2010. Statements are due June 15, 2009. Visit www.tcrponline.org

 


 

May 28, 2009

 

CTA plans work in Dearborn, State subways

Rail service will be temporarily suspended in the Blue Line’s Dearborn Subway from Clark/Lake to Western/Milwaukee from 10 p.m., May 29, until 4 a.m, June 1, while crews continue track replacement work. Blue Line trains will operate normally from Forest Park to Clark/Lake, and from O’Hare to Western/Milwaukee. Service through the Dearborn Subway will resume normal operation at 4 a.m. on Monday, June 1.

Red Line trains will be rerouted from the subway to the elevated structure in one direction only on Friday night, May 29, and in the opposite direction Saturday night, May 30, while crews perform track and power maintenance work.

Southbound service on the Red Line between the Fullerton and Cermak-Chinatown stations will be rerouted from the subway to the elevated tracks from 9 p.m. Friday, May 29, until 9 a.m. Saturday, May 30. Southbound Red Line trains will operate normally between the Howard and Fullerton stations and between the Cermak-Chinatown and 95th Street stations.

Northbound service on the Red Line will be rerouted to the elevated tracks between the Cermak-Chinatown and Fullerton stations from 9 p.m. Saturday, May 30, until 9 a.m. Sunday, May 31. Northbound Red Line trains will operate normally between the 95th Street and Cermak-Chinatown stations and between the Fullerton and Howard stations.

 


 

May 28, 2009

 

FRA awards $15 million in disaster assistance grants

Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo said FRA has awarded $15 million to nine states for emergency repairs to damaged railroad infrastructure resulting from natural disasters. Funding from the FRA Railroad Rehabilitation and Repair Program will go to state Departments of Transportation to reimburse shortline and regional railroads for the cost of repairs.

Funds awarded under the RRRP can cover up to 80 percent of the total cost of a selected project, with the remainder to be provided from non-federal sources. Grants may be used to repair bridges, signals and other infrastructure which are part of the general rail transportation system.

The grant recipients are as follows:
• Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities - $637,440 and $945,680 for flood repair for the Alaska Railroad.
• Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department - $737,292 for emergency repairs to Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad.
• Illinois Department of Transportation - $569,700 for flood control on the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad.
• Kansas Department of Transportation - $405,702 for repair of flood damage to the Gorilla Subdivision on the South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad.
• Indiana Department of Transportation – $1,244,217 for flood damage repair on the Indiana Southern Railroad.
• Iowa Department of Transportation - $6,965,163 for flood damage restoration to rebuild a bridge and repair signals on the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway. Also, $459,200 for flood damage restoration for the Keokuk Junction Railway Yard and $2,174,880 for replacement of the Waterloo Bridge over the Cedar River for the Iowa Northern Railway.
• Missouri Department of Transportation - $353,600 for flood damage repair on Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad.
• North Carolina Department of Transportation - $11,101 for repair of washouts and debris removal on the Carolina Coastal Railway.
• Wisconsin Department of Transportation - $354,006 for repair of flood damage and washouts on the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad.

Under the Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009, FRA was authorized to make $20 million available for grants to repair and rehabilitate railroad infrastructure damaged in areas declared by the President as a major disaster. The FRA intends to issue another solicitation for the remaining $5 million in funds through a Notice of Funding Availability to be published in the Federal Register that will be available on a competitive basis.

 


 

May 28, 2009

 

New Jersey MOM rail line plans move forward

For the first time in years, members of a working group from Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex counties in New Jersey have reached common ground for a proposed route for a new rail line that would provide residents with additional rail service to Newark and Manhattan.

Citing a shared desire to select a project alternative in order to move forward and to work together for the benefit of residents in the growing region, officials from the three counties have urged NJ TRANSIT to focus on an incremental approach toward a project that would create a new rail line from Manchester/Lakehurst in Ocean County to Red Bank in Monmouth County, with a spur from Freehold Township to Farmingdale Borough. The line would connect to the existing North Jersey Coast Line in Red Bank.

When the agreement was reached, the community members of the MOM working group urged NJ TRANSIT to explore enhanced bus service along Routes 9 and 18 as the MOM project moves forward. They also recommended that NJ TRANSIT address vehicular traffic issues in Red Bank, where additional rail service could further impact traffic.

The progress toward a solution followed recent discussions that while all three of the MOM Draft Environmental Impact Statement alternatives currently under review have merit, they may not effectively compete on a national level for federal New Starts dollars when compared to other projects around the country.

Officials expect that much of the environmental analysis that has already been performed can be used in a modified proposal.

The working group, consisting of officials from Monmouth, Ocean and Middlesex counties as well as the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority and NJ TRANSIT, was established several years ago to help facilitate discussions to move the project along.

 


 

May 28, 2009

 

Ground broken for new Puritas Station in Cleveland

A groundbreaking ceremony was held May 27 for a new $9.6-million Red Line rail station at 4200 W. 150th St. and Puritas Avenue. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, other elected officials, and neighborhood leaders attended. The station, operated by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, is one of the first significant projects in Ohio to benefit from federal stimulus money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

The 18 months of construction begins in May, with work scheduled to be completed in fall 2010. The station – a key West Side location with direct access to I-71 and Hopkins International Airport -- will remain open throughout construction.

Built in 1966, it is an important hub and connection to several RTA bus routes. The site includes 558 parking spaces. Some RTA land is leased to the adjacent National City Bank operations center and La Quinta Inn.
?About 900 people board at the station daily, placing the station as one of RTA’s top five for Red Line ridership. Ridership is expected to increase when Inner Belt construction begins.

The new station was designed by the DeWolff Partnership Architects with strong community input from development corporations at Bellaire-Puritas and Kamm’s Corners. Features include:
• A 2,500-square foot main entrance building with a brick grand foyer and a rounded portico outlined in sandstone.
• A 30-foot tower and two elevators for ADA access.
• A 130-foot bridge that brings passengers over the Rapid tracks to the boarding platform.
• A smaller, secondary entrance on the residential West 154th Street.
• Public art, including a ceramic tile mosaic inside the main building by Dr. Murphy Ajayi. Functional art will include seating, lighting and fence details by a collaboration of artists.

 


 

May 28, 2009

 

Atlanta Regional Commission reallocates funds to MARTA

The Atlanta Regional Commission approved a $25 million reallocation of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds to MARTA. Pending approval by the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority and the signature of Gov. Sonny Perdue, the proposal enables the authority to address a significant budget deficit and avoid making drastic cuts in service to balance its Fiscal Year 2010 budget. This is not a “free-ride.” MARTA, in turn, will reallocate $25 million of the authority’s capital dollars to fund transit-related projects in the MARTA service area.

The ARC’s Transportation and Air Quality Committee proposed the funding swap after the Georgia legislature failed to pass critical legislation providing transportation funding and permitting MARTA access to $65 million in its capital reserve fund to address the authority’s operating deficit.

“MARTA is extremely grateful to the members of ARC for their willingness to step forward to help keep MARTA moving. I want to thank our regional partners for making this funding reallocation possible,” said MARTA General Manager/CEO Beverly A. Scott, Ph.D. “This one-time funding infusion will help keep us afloat next year. But, the criticality of increased state/regional transportation funding for future years is absolutely urgent. We must take action to address this problem.”

MARTA will allocate this one-time $25-million payment to preventative maintenance which is a designated use of stimulus funding under federal guidelines.

MARTA staff will present their recommended FY 2010 budget proposal to the MARTA Board of Directors at their monthly Business Management Committee meeting tomorrow May 28.

 


 

May 28, 2009

 

Major work to temporarily close Montreal’s Charlevoix station

The Société de transport de Montréal said it must temporarily close the Charlevoix station in order to carry out major work June 1 to August 16, inclusively. STM has set up a shuttle bus service that will run at five- to eight-minute intervals during the hours the métro is open between the Charlevoix, Lionel-Groulx and LaSalle stations in both directions throughout the construction period.

The work carried out during this period will consist mainly of the upgrading of the building (including structural, architectural and electrical work and replacement of the floor), installation of warning strips on the steps of the stairs at the platform level and replacement of the station’s windows, lighting, and fire protection system.

This work will be carried out under Phase II of the Réno-Stations program, which is financed through a partnership between Transports Québec and the STM.

 


 

May 28, 2009

 

Caltrain postpones bridge replacement project

Caltrain has postponed indefinitely a project to replace the railroad bridges that cross Tilton, Monte Diablo, Santa Inez and Poplar avenues in San Mateo, Calif.

Engineering studies have established that the life of the bridges can be extended by seismically retrofitting them. New foundations will be built under the supports and the bridges will be maintained and kept in a state-of-good repair. It is anticipated that the bridges will be replaced in the future, possibly as part of the California High-Speed Rail project, which will operate on Caltrain’s right of way.

The retrofit project does not require the removal of any trees on the railroad’s right of way between Tilton and Poplar avenues.

It is anticipated that work on the retrofit project will begin in early 2010. All of the work will be done at the street level, in and around the bridge foundations. The construction will require some partial lane closures.

Caltrain is assessing its extensive capital program to better coordinate with high-speed rail and to make certain that today’s investments are not deemed obsolete in the near future.

 


 

May 28, 2009

 

WMATA Orange Line work set

Track maintenance on WMATA’s Orange Line in the Washington, D.C., area May 29-31 will cause inbound and outbound trains to take turns sharing one track. Metrorail customers traveling between the Stadium-Armory and Cheverly Metrorail stations should add at least 30 minutes of travel time for their trips because personnel will replace rail and crossties, outside the Cheverly Metrorail station and conduct bridge maintenance on the aerial structure outside the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail station. Trains will share one track between these locations from 10 p.m, May 29, to closing midnight) on May 31.

 


 

May 28, 2009

 

West Coast railway could bypass Vancouver, B.C.

A decade of disinterest could see a planned Portland-Seattle-Vancouver railway link improvement pass B.C. by, local media report. The Washington State Department of Transportation is preparing to spend more than $700 million upgrading the century-old railway that links Portland, Seattle and Vancouver. The funds could flow as soon as this fall, as part of President Barack Obama's plan to stimulate the U.S. economy. But Washington State does not plan to spend a single penny of that windfall improving tracks north of Seattle. Rather, it will all be poured into the Seattle-to-Portland section.

Why? Because for more than a decade, the state has been dribbling its own money into rebuilding the international railway, while urging British Columbia to do the same. And for just as long, the government of B.C. has been blowing off the American overtures.

Washington State has spent the past 18 years laying plans to incrementally improve rail service from Eugene, Oregon, to Vancouver, British Columbia.

A 2006 state transportation plan suggested improvements in Burnaby, Delta, White Rock and a new rail bridge across the Fraser - features that would cost an estimated $1 billion. But that report noted B.C. had spent nothing on the plan. By 2008, all mention of B.C.'s participation had been erased from an updated plan.

Here in B.C., the provincial Transportation Plan makes no mention of the project. B.C. Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon declined interview requests.

But U.S. Federal Railroad Administration spokesman Warren Flateau was more direct.

"I don't think Washington State is going to seek funding for that [Vancouver route] unless they know that there is a strong partner on the other side of the border," Flateau said. "... What we would expect to hear from Canadian governments at the federal and provincial level - as well as at the local and regional levels, for that matter - would be explicit statements of support for developing some type of rail connection."

 


 

May 27, 2009

 

Groups present rail bypass proposal to Olmsted board

Freight hauling, not high-speed passenger service, is the main expressed purpose for a proposed Rochester-area railroad bypass, the Rochester, Minn., Post-Bulletin. That's a message Olmsted County commissioners heard in a presentation by proponents of the bypass. The 48-mile rail line is proposed as a way to re-route Canadian Pacific Railway train traffic around the south side of Rochester. The bypass would start in Dover and wind up near Dodge Center.

Presenters included representatives of Mayo Clinic and the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, but also included Charlie Lynch, vice president of Gannett Fleming Transit and Rail Systems, the company that studied and drew the bypass for Mayo Clinic.

Lynch said the route map, completed in March, was drawn strictly with 60-mph freight trains in mind. However, the right-of-way might also be able to accommodate Amtrak-style passenger trains traveling up to 100 mph, he said.

That's short of the 150- to 200-mph speeds associated with true high-speed rail. Lynch said the route through Olmsted and Dodge counties includes some turns too sharp for high-speed trains. The stretch from Dover to the Rochester International Airport could handle the faster trains, though.

Officials connected to the bypass proposal have, at times, given mixed messages concerning the purpose of the bypass. Several have emphasized the "historic" opportunity presented by, among other things, a new national interest in investing in high-speed passenger rail service. A coalition involving Mayo, the Chamber of Commerce and the city and county governments seeks to have Rochester included as a stop on an interregional line linking the Twin Cities and Chicago and emphasizes Mayo Clinic's need to have passenger service as a means to attract patients from the Midwest.

The same four groups also are working to secure $325 million to develop the bypass as a freight route. The route has been named the Southern Rail Corridor.

Yet, officials are loath to having the corridor regarded simply as a reheated version of a past 38-mile bypass considered and rejected by federal regulators and federal appeals court judges.

The new plan is "very, very different," said chamber President John Wade. "It's not just a bypass. It really is a highway for the future ... to give us the possibility of passenger (service)."

Rochester is in competition with cities along the Mississippi River, where Amtrak already runs passenger trains, for designation as the state's official high-speed route. Even if Rochester fails to win that designation, "we still need this infrastructure," Wade said, "both for freight and the future of passenger."

Wade and Mayo Clinic spokesman Chris Gade alluded to a possibility that losing this rail fight could cost Rochester in terms of where its top employer invests in the future.

"I know this is true," Wade said. "That decisions are made every day downtown ... about where the future investments will be. We want to make sure we never give the (Mayo Clinic) trustees even a second thought about where they invest the dollars: They invest it here."

 


 

May 27, 2009

 

Harsco names new head of international sales for rail unit

Worldwide industrial services company Harsco Corporation appointed Joseph P. Dougherty vice president of international sales for its worldwide Harsco Rail business group, effective June 1, 2009. Harsco Rail is a global technology and service leader for virtually all major aspects of railway track maintenance, serving major U.S. Class I and international rail networks, shortlines and high-speed rapid transit systems throughout the world.

Dougherty joins Harsco from GE Transportation, where he has served as the strategic marketing manager for General Electric's multi-billion dollar global locomotive business. His leadership responsibilities have included global market planning and analysis; the implementation of new market entry and customer growth initiatives in China, India, Russia and other key emerging markets; and involvement as a senior member of negotiation teams on multiple global locomotive proposals. He has also served as a global product line manager for GE, leading the product development life cycle from inception to launch for fuel and emissions reduction technologies, for which he received GE's Management Award for Execution and Results. He is a graduate of GE's management training program and a Six Sigma black belt for continuous improvement.

Prior to GE, Dougherty served as a global project management consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, undertaking long-term assignments in Europe, Japan and South America and leading project teams within the firm's global energy practice. He received the firm's management award for new business development and outstanding value-added to clients.

Dougherty holds an MBA from the University of Michigan and a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

 


 

May 27, 2009

 

UP invests in track projects in Colorado, Kansas

Motorists will spend less time at crossings waiting for trains to pass with trains operating more efficiently as a result of nearly $4 million in track improvements made by Union Pacific to its Colorado Springs-to-Pueblo, Colo., line. When the project is complete, crews will have removed and installed 31,000 ties, spread 12,000 tons of rock ballast and renewed the road surfaces at 17 crossings. Work will begin on the project May 29 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

Union Pacific invested more than $42 million for capital projects in Colorado in 2008.

Also, UP is investing nearly $5 million in track improvements to its Herington-to-near Canton, Kan., line. Crews will remove and install more than 33,000 ties, spread 20,500 tons of rock, upgrade nearly a mile of rail in various curves and renew the road surfaces at 29 crossings. Work began on the project May 18 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of June.

Union Pacific invested more than $94 million for capital projects in Kansas in 2008.

 


 

May 27, 2009

 

Light rail has a pulse in Virginia Beach, Va.

From traffic-counting tubes, to biologists tramping through wetlands, to newsletters, residents will see the start of the $1.5 million study to evaluate extending light rail to the Beach from Norfolk, The Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reports.

Project boosters say they will start shaping their messages to build support for the mass-transit project that was vetoed by voters 56 percent to 44 percent in a referendum 10 years ago.

“I’m going to do everything I can do to move light rail forward. I believe in that strongly,” Mayor Will Sessoms said. “It will be a project supported by a majority of the citizens of Virginia Beach.”

The study is the first step in a project that’s at least six years away and is expected to answer questions about the route, cost, number of expected users, location of park-and-ride lots, possible road closures, environmental impacts and noise.

The Beach segment is the first phase of the federally funded study – the total cost is $5.7 million – that will also look at extending the rail line to Norfolk Naval Station. Hampton Roads Transit, the region’s transportation authority, hired Omaha, Neb.-based architecture and engineering firm HDR to do the study, which will take about 16 months.

The Beach City Council is in final negotiations to buy the old 10.6-mile Norfolk Southern corridor for $40 million, which includes $10 million in city money. It crosses the city from Newtown Road to Birdneck Road, roughly paralleling Interstate 264 and Virginia Beach Boulevard.

Most council members have said they’re waiting to see the results before taking a position on light rail. The body’s last official action was its vote against the project after the 1999 referendum.

The city is also forming a citizen advisory committee to research the project. The group will start meeting this sum mer. The first public hearings on light rail will be in July.

Part of the city’s study will determine how high the light rail route would need to be elevated to prevent clogging already-busy intersections. For example, it’s almost certain a bridge would be needed to raise the line over the congested Rosemont Road/Virginia Beach Boulevard intersection, said Ray Amoruso, HRT’s vice president of planning.
Witchduck Road and Independence Boulevard might also need bridges, he said.

The study will also identify smaller roads that cross the line, such as some in the Thalia neighborhood that might need to be closed to make way for light rail.

As the study moves forward, the city is crafting development plans for areas on the light-rail route, which planners call “strategic growth areas,” or SGAs. Growth plans for Pembroke and Town Center, the Oceanfront and Newtown Road, which are either finished or under way, have a strong light-rail focus. About half of the city’s growth areas are on the rail line, as Planning Director Jack Whitney pointed out at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

“If light rail does happen, and we’re smart, we will make those plans ahead of it,” City Councilman John Uhrin said. “It would be silly to go forward and not take the SGAs into account.”

Largely, the study is about gathering information, which takes time, planners said.

“There’s always a hunger for having the answers, but so much data has to be assembled,” Amoruso said.

 


 

May 27, 2009

 

Railroads adapt, look to the future, UP chairman tells NARS

While the nation has faced extraordinary economic challenges, America’s freight railroads in 2008 invested a record $10 billion in capital projects that increase capacity, improve service and prepare for growth, all while continuing to improve safety, on-time performance and average train speeds, said Union Pacific Corp. Chairman, CEO and President Jim Young, speaking as Chairman of the Association of American Railroads at the annual meeting of the North American Rail Shippers Association.

“This is a reflection of the fact that, while responding to today's economic problems, railroads have managed to keep an eye on the future —a future in which the nation will need more passenger and freight rail service,” Young said. “We intend to be prepared for that future.”

As government attempts to address the nation’s transportation challenges, Young highlighted certain key policy initiatives such as rail regulatory reform, changes to the industry’s limited antitrust exemptions and the development of high-speed rail that are critical to the continued success of the industry.

Young urged caution to lawmakers weighing changes to rail regulation established by the Staggers Rail Act of 1980. He noted that since then, average rail rates have dropped by more than half on an inflation-adjusted basis, accident rates have dropped by 70 percent, rail market share has steadily increased, and the industry has invested more than $440 billion back into their networks to improve track, equipment and facilities.

“That regulatory system protected the rights of shippers from excessive rail market power while at the same time providing railroads with new ability to react to changes in the market place, Young said. “The result has been an unqualified success.”

Also critical to railroads are proposals currently being debated in Congress that would eliminate the industry’s limited antitrust exemptions.

“These proposals are based on the misconception that railroads are exempt from most antitrust laws. That is simply not true,” Young said. “The legislation proposed would subject railroads to conflicting regulatory schemes, creating inefficiencies that would cause operating costs to increase. Eventually, those cost increases would reach our customers, causing their costs to increase as well.”

The national push to develop high-speed passenger rail is of critical importance not only to railroads, but also to their customers, Young added.

“There are many good things expanded high-speed rail could accomplish, including reductions in greenhouse gases and fuel consumption as well as highway and air congestion,” Young said. “But if all we do is super-impose high speed passenger rail on existing freight networks, it will consume freight capacity needed for freight customers today and limit our ability to expand for the customer's growth in the future.”

Young assured the shipper group that freight railroads are part of the solution to some of America’s challenges, as long as key policy initiatives strike the right balance needed to support the industry’s continued capital investment in its own infrastructure.

“We've proven that with reasonable financial returns, we will invest in our infrastructure, making service to our customers safer, faster and more reliable,” Young said, adding that railroads and shippers are dependent upon each other’s success. “We need strong industries to grow our business, while you need a strong and efficient rail network to move your goods at competitive prices. I believe both are possible and we look forward to working together to achieve success.”

 


 

May 27, 2009

 

TriMet finishes bus mall portion of transit project

Portland, Oregon’s latest mass transit project opened on Memorial Day when TriMet buses returned to downtown’s bus mall, local media report. The two-year project on Fifth and Sixth avenues cost roughly $220 million and met its budget and its projected finish date, according to a TriMet spokeswoman.

The project is part of a larger $575.5-million project that includes the construction of a new light-rail line that will connect Portland State University and Clackamas Town Center. The bus service that came back to the mall marks the first of several milestones in bringing the MAX Yellow Line and the new MAX Green Line to the Fifth and Sixth avenue corridors. The Yellow Line will start on the mall August 30 and service on the new 8.3-mile Green Line will start on Sept. 12.

The federal government funded roughly 60 percent of the projects. The remaining money came from a variety of state and local sources, including the city of Portland, Metro, Clackamas County, the Oregon Department of Transportation, TriMet and the Portland Development Commission.

 


 

May 27, 2009

 

Montanans onboard with passenger train service

The Bozeman, Mont., City Commission meeting room couldn’t hold all the people wanting an update on passenger trains possibly coming back to southern Montana, with the crowd spilling out into the hall and gathering around a TV broadcast of the meeting, the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports. That conformed to what an Amtrak official called “the groundswell that seems to be developing for passenger rail,” a mode of transportation that has taken a backseat to private auto and air in recent decades in the United States.

But Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who organized the town hall meeting, said the results of an ongoing feasibility study of more passenger trains in Montana would be the first step in what might be a long effort to bring rail travel back to Bozeman and Livingston.

“If the study coming back looks like we can get this to work, the challenge will be to get 98 other senators on board with us,” Tester told the crowd of about 100 packed into hearing room. “This is the first step.”

The study, the results of which are due in October, will look into how much the route would cost to operate, what the condition of the infrastructure is now and how many riders Amtrak can expect to pick up, said Ray Lang, Amtrak’s senior director for state relations in the Midwest.

Last year, Tester wrote a bill to require Amtrak to look into reopening the North Coast Hiawatha route. Shut down in 1979, the route ran through Glendive, Miles City, Billings, Livingston, Bozeman, Butte and Missoula. Amtrak is studying basically the same route, with the train going through Helena instead of Butte.

Meanwhile, the state of Montana is conducting its own studies about how more passenger rail service could be offered to Montanans. Now, Amtrak’s Empire Builder, which runs across the Hi-Line, is the only passenger train running in the state.

Jim Lynch, chief of the Montana Department of Transportation, said at the meeting that transportation managers became too focused on roadways at the expense of railroads.

Still, he said he and other state officials in charge of transportation are coming to realize that building bigger and bigger roads isn’t a permanent fix, but giving people a way to get around without using the highway could be.

And the government is making investments. This year’s proposed federal budget allocates $1.5 billion to the government-owned corporation. And the stimulus packaged allocated another $1.3 billion to fix up the country’s rail infrastructure.

Lynch said the state’s studies, which look into various east-west routes, should be available in draft form by mid-June.

Efforts to bring the southern route back since its closure in 1979 have been continuous, including efforts from Montana’s delegations to Washington. On the state level, former state Sen. Dorothy Bradley said she and others searched for ways to make privately owned and operated rail routes viable, but said she ran into “attitudinal” obstacles.

“Unless there is intense leadership, this isn’t going to happen,” she said. “Maybe this time there is that leadership.”

 


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