The National Corridors Initiative Logo

March 6, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 9

Copyright © 2017
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Founded 1989
Our 17th Newsletter Year

 Destination:Freedom 

A Weekly North American Transportation Update For Transportation
Advocates, Professionals, Journalists, And Elected Or Appointed Officials,
At All Levels Of Government.

Publisher
James P. RePass, Sr.
Managing Editor / Webmaster
Dennis Kirkpatrick
Foreign Editor
David Beale
Contributing Editor
Molly N. McKay
 
 

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IN THIS EDITION...   In This Edition...

  Corridor Lines…
Connecticut Lawmakers Ask Agency To Listen To
   Concerns Before Finalizing Amtrak Rail Plan
  Safety Lines…
County Funds Boost Effort To Modify Rail Corridor
  Public-Private Partnerships…
Commuter Rail Backers Make Case To MBTA
  Transit Lines…
$7.9m Investment To Upgrade MBTA Mattapan
   Line Trolley Fleet
  High-Speed Lines…
Tidbits from Last Week’s U.S. High-Speed Rail Association Conference
  Study Lines…
Massachusetts Asks For Bids In $2 Million
   North-South Rail Link Study
 
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Business Lines…
Caltrain Cancels Contract With Parsons
   Transportation Group
  Across The Pond…
UK Electrification Plans In Doubt
  To The North…
Ottawa LRT Plans: Stage 2 Blueprint Passes First
   Test With Thoughts Turning To Stage 3
  We Get Letters…
  Events…
Rail Users Network Annual Conference
  Publication Notes …


CORRIDOR LINES... Corridor Lines...  

Connecticut Lawmakers Ask Agency To Listen To
Concerns Before Finalizing Amtrak Rail Plan

By Kimberly Drelich
The Day

With the Federal Railroad Administration expected to finalize its recommendation for upgrades to the Northeast Corridor as early as Wednesday, Connecticut’s U.S. senators and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, pressed the FRA to listen to residents’ objections to a proposed rail line between Old Saybrook and Kenyon, R.I.

The lawmakers highlighted in letters to the FRA on Tuesday the opposition to the proposed bypass in Southeastern Connecticut, as well as to a proposed new route through several communities in Fairfield County.

The FRA said it will consider comments on its recommended plan for future upgrades to the Washington, D.C., to Boston rail corridor until it issues a final record of decision. Each project recommended would then “require additional project-level planning work, including environmental analysis and engineering” and “significant funding and community partnership” to move forward, the FRA has said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Courtney wrote in a letter to FRA Executive Director Patrick Warren that the Old Saybrook-Kenyon, R.I., bypass “would cause massive disturbance to the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of residents who now live in the proposed route’s path.”

“It would decimate the unique charm and historic character of several centuries-old towns like Old Lyme. It would disrupt major job centers and tourist attractions like the aquarium and historic seaport in Mystic,” they wrote. “It would result in significantly reduced rail service to several towns and cities on the current line like New London, rendering as out of the way important attractions like the Thames River Heritage Park ... It would harm the sensitive ecological treasure of the Connecticut River Estuary.”

They added that the proposal already is affecting property values in Connecticut.

Blumenthal said in a phone interview Tuesday that the letter expresses the comments the lawmakers have received from residents that the bypass proposal is completely misguided and the FRA needs to go back to the drawing board for this part of the plan.

“We support a high-speed rail concept for the Northeast Corridor and, of course, better and more reliable, safer, resilient rail, but not through a route that will cost tens of billions of dollars and destroy vital environmental, cultural and historic values,” he said.

He added that he is hopeful that the new administration will be more receptive to their comments or at least recognize that the money for this bypass will never be available.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., also wrote a letter to the FRA that he supports rail investment but has concerns over the potential impacts of proposed bypasses in southwestern and southeastern Connecticut.

“More than residents of any other state, Connecticut residents have been intensely interested in the work of NEC FUTURE,” he wrote. “My constituents provided over half of all of the comments submitted during an earlier comment period. Underlying the intense interest is both a strong belief in the transformative potential of rail investment in the region and a fear that the current iteration of NEC FUTURE’s plan will adversely affect the lives of Connecticut shoreline residents, particularly in the towns affected by the proposed bypass routes outlined in the [Final Environmental Impact Statement].”

The lawmakers included in their letters praise for some aspects of the FRA’s plan, such as upgrades to the Hartford line.

In the region on Tuesday, the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut adopted a resolution requesting that the FRA remove the bypass from its plan to “avoid further erosion to real estate values in the vicinity of the proposed track.”

The resolution states that the board supports upgrades to the existing railroad bed, but has “major concern with the process applied to developing” the bypass. The plan “will have a detrimental impact on culturally and historically significant communities that the region relies on for employment sustainability and economic growth.”

For the original article and a copy of the official letter sent by Sen. Murphy see:
http://www.theday.com/article/20170228/NWS01/170229264


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

County Funds Boost Effort To Modify
Rail Corridor

City Plans To Launch Fresh Outreach Effort
Focused On ‘Grade Separation’

By Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly

Even as Caltrain’s electrification project faces fresh financial hurdles, Palo Alto officials signaled on Wednesday that they plan to stay on course with their own rail priority: the separation of train tracks from local roadways.

The topic of grade separations, which involves reconfiguring the rail corridor so that trains would run under the streets (or vice versa), dominated the first meeting of the City Council’s reconstituted Rail Committee. All four committee members agreed that even with all the recent Caltrain setbacks, the project remains urgent and should warrant a thorough community-engagement process, which may be launched as soon as next month.

While Palo Alto officials have been talking about this for nearly a decade, the effort has been picking up urgency and momentum over the past two years, thanks to Caltrain’s electrification project and to California’s proposed high-speed rail. Both projects would bring more trains to Palo Alto’s rail corridor, potentially causing longer delays and worsening traffic jams at the city’s four rail crossings.

Caltrain’s project suffered a setback last month, when the federal Department of Transportation decided to delay an expected $647 million grant. Conversely, the grade-separation effort received a boost last November, when Santa Clara County voters approved Measure B, a transportation measure that would provide $700 million for grade separation in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale.

In Palo Alto, council members have consistently referred to grade separations as the most urgent priority when it comes to transportation infrastructure. But for all the talk, the city remains far behind other Peninsula cities when it comes to crafting a new vision for its share of the rail corridor. According to the city’s rail consultants from the firm Mott MacDonald, the cities of Burlingame and San Mateo are fairly far along with their design efforts, while Menlo Park has recently identified three preferred alternatives for grade separation at the Ravenswood Avenue crossing.

For Palo Alto, progress has been slow. Though the city had commissioned in 2014 an engineering study to analyze the cost of grade separation, the council has not yet identified a preferred alternative or a funding plan (outside the Measure B money). Councilman Eric Filseth, a member of the Rail Committee, said he was “struck by the fact that other cities in (the) region are already moving on grade separation strategies and we’re still sort of congealing on how we’re going to approach this.”

“This is the highest level of urgency,” Filseth said. “We need to proceed expeditiously.”

Past councils in Palo Alto have overwhelmingly favored a below-grade rail alignment, with trains running under the streets in either a tunnel or a trench. The Rail Committee’s guiding principle explicitly states that the city “supports a non-elevated alignment of high-speed-rail/Caltrain in Palo Alto” and that the city’s “preferred vertical alignment of fixed rail in Palo Alto is below grade.”

Yet members of the Rail Committee argued on Wednesday that the community conversation shouldn’t elevate these options over others. Mayor Greg Scharff said the council should approach the community with no “predetermined outcomes.”

“At the end of the day what we’re looking for is to have community buy-in and have an understanding of what grade separations will look like,” Scharff said. “That’s the goal. The question is how do we get there? How do we get to these tough choices?”

One way to get there, the committee agreed, is through “context-sensitive solutions” (CSS) process, which has been used for highway construction and which generally requires intense stakeholders’ engagement, a clearly established set of objectives and a set schedule for key decision points. Yet staff and committee members also acknowledged that they need to pick up the pace.

“Our standard approach tends to take a lot of time and takes a lot of money,” DuBois said. “I’m up for trying something different.”

Assistant City Manager Ed Shikada said the challenge for the city is to find a process that promotes engagement, but doesn’t take too long. The committee voted 4-0 to request that staff come up with a new engagement plan, which would be reviewed at its next meeting on March 22.

“How do we strike a balance between the CSS process, which could stretch this out in terms of time, while at the same time recognizing a sense of urgency in an approach that allows the engagement to come together?” Shikada said.

The committee also agreed Wednesday that it should take a fresh look at its guiding principles, which are still largely focused on opposing high-speed rail. Scharff called some of the guiding principles “outdated” and worthy of revision. Councilman Adrian Fine proposed expanding the committee’s charter so that it goes beyond the Caltrain tracks and considers connections to the East Bay.

“I’m persuaded we should be looking at things like Dumbarton also,” Fine said.

From an item at:
http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2017/03/01/county-funds-boost-palo-altos-effort-to-modify-rail-corridor


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PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS... Public-Private Partnerships...  

Commuter Rail Backers Make Case To MBTA

By Bera Dunau
The Foxboro Reporter-Sun Chronicle

The case for a pilot program that would bring weekday commuter rail service to Foxboro has been made, but whether or not it will receive a crucial and necessary approval will not be known for at least another month.

A lengthy discussion about the pilot program in front of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s Fiscal and Management Control Board on Monday featured presentations by the MBTA, The Kraft Group, the town of Foxboro and Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash. All made the case for an 11-plus-month-long pilot that would likely start sometime in 2018 if approved, and would provide service to Foxboro via the Fairmount Line.

“We believe that this pilot service provides a unique opportunity to unlock the economic growth that exists in not only this part of Southeastern Massachusetts, but in fact the entire state,” said Ash, who touted the role that public transportation can play in promoting economic growth.

Image

Photo:  Bera Dunau

Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Affairs, Jay Ash, spoke on the issue last Monday in Boston.

The pilot program would be a public-private partnership between The Kraft Group and the MBTA. The Foxboro Board of Selectmen voted to give its blessing to the train line with the understanding that the town would have a say in both the development and implementation of the pilot and any permanent commuter rail service that might come after.

According to the presentation, the operating costs of the pilot would be about $950,000 annually. This breaks down into $674,000 for base crew costs and $272,000 for fuel. The projected revenue for the project would come out to $411,000 annually, for a cost in excess of revenue of $539,000.

The average commuter rail subsidy is $6.56 per rider, and with an estimated annualized ridership of 59,400 new riders that means that the estimated subsidy per passenger for the pilot would be $9.07. The presentation estimated that the cost to the MBTA in excess of the average subsidy per rider for the duration of the pilot would be $150,000.

The Kraft Group, however, has agreed to provide a private subsidy of $200,000 to ensure that there will be no increase to the average subsidy/rider to the MBTA for the pilot’s duration.

In addition to operating costs, the program will also require $10 million in capital investment prior to the pilot for updating the tracks and crossings between Walpole and Foxboro.

The daily ridership estimated by the Central Transportation Planning Staff in 2016 for the pilot was 190, 110 of which would be daily diversions from auto to commuter rail. One of the benefits that it was argued that the pilot would confer is that it would divert commuters from the Providence and Franklin lines to the Fairmount Line, freeing up capacity there, as well as freeing up parking at the stations that serve it.

A key part of the pilot would be the 500 parking spaces that would be provided by The Kraft Group. Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said that a major element of the pilot’s purpose was to test the hypothesis that there was a latent demand in the Foxboro area for more service that was not being realized because of the lack of parking.

Before the presentation took place, a number of other speakers used the public comment period to voice their support for the pilot, including Sharon Town Administrator Fred Turkington and Tom O’Rourke of the Neponset Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“Primarily from our point of view, it’s an economic development investment,” said O’Rourke.

“The Sharon board of selectmen is fully supportive of the Foxboro Station and looks forward to the economic growth and opportunities to the entire region,” said Turkington, who also said that the parking lot at Sharon’s train station is currently filled to capacity and that the additional parking at the Foxboro station would be welcomed.

“I, like many, believe that that (the rail service) will be the lynch pin to help us continue our economic development,” said Rep. Jay Barrows, (R-Mansfield), who serves as Foxboro’s Representative in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. “I see it truly as an asset.”

The crucial role that economic development plays in the pitch was illustrated by a comment from FMCB Member Brian Lang.

“It was just for 110 riders a day I don’t think it would fly,” he said.

In response to this, Pollack noted that economic development from rail expansions weren’t always immediately apparent, citing the example of the expansion of rail service to Yawkey.

“That happened over a period of years,” said Pollack.

However, not all of those who spoke at the meeting were in favor of the pilot. Indeed, three speakers, all with strong ties to Walpole, asserted that the pilot was a manifestly bad idea.

“I come here in opposition of an ill-conceived project,” said Sen. James Timilty, (D-Walpole), whose district also includes Foxboro, and who criticized the MBTA for considering expansion while it is heavily in debt. “It is either a conspiracy of ignorance or a culture of arrogance that would allow expansion when debt has not been paid off.”

Much of the service in the proposed pilot would pass through Walpole, and many Walpole residents have asserted that the negative effects of the line would inordinately fall on their community, while the benefits would accrue to Foxboro.

Walpole Town Administrator Jim Johnson noted that Walpole and its residents had not received a formal invitation to the meeting, and that a letter he sent voicing the town’s opposition to the project in January had not received a response from the MBTA.

“The town of Walpole has to be treated as equals to the town of Foxboro,” said Johnson.

He requested that a formal response to his letter be given, and that the FMCB hold a public hearing on the pilot in Walpole.

A third perspective on the project was provided by Mela Bush-Miles of the Fairmount Indigo Transit Coalition. While she said that her group wasn’t expressing its opposition to the pilot, she did say that they had a number of questions about it.

“We want more information,” she said. “The way that the pilot is structured we don’t see how it would get a lot of people from the Fairmount Line to Foxboro.”

She also said that the coalition was looking forward to engaging with the MBTA on the pilot issue, and that increasing access to more jobs was something that it supported.

For their part, the members of the FMCB asked a number of questions about how the success of the pilot program would be measured.

“What does success look like for that project?” said FMCB Member Monica Tibbits-Nutt, who expressed a desire to see a lot of data on any pilot program the FMCB considers.

Asking about how any kind of rider shift from other lines to the pilot could be measured was another data-based inquiry made by the board members.

“Do we have the ability to perceive those changes?” said FMCB Member Steven Poftak.

These questions tied into the next item on FMCB’s agenda, which involved establishing criteria for accepting and evaluating pilot programs for MBTA transit expansion. The board indicated that it would be taking at least a month in establishing these guidelines, and that it wouldn’t be acting on any pilots until this was done.

There are currently four pilots in front of the FMCB, although a presentation on the Foxboro pilot was the only one given at the meeting.

“It would be good to process all four at the same time,” said FMCB Chair Joseph Aiello.

The FMCB must approve the Foxboro pilot in order for it to move forward.

[ Editor Note:  Destination: Freedom has been following this story as it develops.  The proposed service would run the Framingham Secondary from Foxboro to Walpole where it will then join the Franklin Branch to continue into Boston.  The planned service would then run the Readville branch at Readville Junction into Boston.  It could however, also run the NEC on the main line from there.   A final alignment will be determined at a much later date. ]

Found at:
http://www.thesunchronicle.com/foxboro_reporter/news/local_news/commuter-rail-backers-make-case-to-mbta/article_7bb16648-547c-5b8a-998c-c382d2e1d517.html


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TRANSIT LINES... Transit Lines...  

$7.9m Investment To Upgrade MBTA
Mattapan Line Trolley Fleet

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Press Release
Via MassTransit Magazine

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board was briefed February 27 on a plan to invest $7.9 million to fully overhaul its existing Presidential Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars with new propulsion, brakes, and power supply systems. The plan would extend the life of the Mattapan-Ashmont Station High-Speed Line (*) vehicles, also known as the “Mattapan trolley.”

This investment over the next two years will maintain the historical significance of the distinctive orange and cream-colored cars, and also includes a study of options for the future of the line. A series of public meetings will also be held in April in Dorchester, Mattapan and Milton.

“These historic vehicles are among the very last of many thousands that operated in major cities across the United States, and are beloved by many residents in the communities they serve,” said MBTA Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve.

“The Mattapan Trolley Line is a critical transportation link for residents in my district,” said State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry. “The MBTA’s investment of $7.9 million to the existing cars will keep them viable for the next decade, while the $1.1 million Due Diligence Survey will take a holistic look at the long-term solutions for the trolley line. I have advocated for investment and sustainability of the Mattapan Trolley for over 12 years and am elated a roadmap will be created to ensure this crucial piece of infrastructure continues to serve the residents of Mattapan, Dorchester and Milton.”

Image

Image Derek Yu via Wikipedia and Flickr / NCI File Image

PCC car 3263, a vintage “Commonwealth Car” unit rounds the return loop at Mattapan station and is entering the inbound platform for passengers destine for Ashmont station and stops between. This unit is shown before the air conditioning unit was added.

“The Mattapan High-Speed Trolley Line provides a crucial public transportation link to residents of Milton,” said State Senator Walter Timilty. “I am pleased to see the MBTA invest in both maintaining the line’s existing cars and reviewing options for updates to its infrastructure. I look forward to working together with the MBTA and my colleagues at the State House to not only preserve an essential element of the region’s history but to also ensure access to public transit extends to future generations.”

“The Mattapan Trolley Line is important not just for its daily function - connecting more than 4,600 residents to the Red Line and Bus System - but for what it represents - a tangible connection to our community’s history,” said State Representative Dan Cullinane. “The Mattapan Trolley Line is a bright spot. It provides a consistent and reliable public transit link for the residents of Mattapan, Milton and Dorchester and is vital to our local economy. For the past year, Mattapan, Dorchester and Milton elected officials and residents have collectively advocated for increased investment in the Mattapan Line and I am grateful to the MBTA’s Fiscal Management Control Board for not just listening, but acting, with today’s state investment of $7.9 million dollars. We can all celebrate this as a big win for those who rely on and support the Mattapan High-Speed Trolley Line.”

“The Mattapan trolley has been an integral transportation connection for constituents for many years,” said State Representative Russell E. Holmes. “It is great to know that MassDOT has approved the investment needed to provide the maintenance needed to make the PCC Cars reliable. MassDOT will next do the long term planning and evaluations to develop proposals for the community to consider the next generation solution that will provide service for future generations”

Because of their age, the MBTA’s PCC fleet requires constant repair and replacement of parts that are no longer available on the market, and must be manufactured by MBTA machinists at the T’s Everett shops. Parts have also been obtained from museums, all adding to the overall cost of repairs. The fleet consists of 10 cars, of which 7 are in revenue service.

The Mattapan HSL opened in 1929 and is known for its distinctive streetcars, whose use dates back to the mid-1940s. The partially grade-separated light rail line services parts of Dorchester, Mattapan and Milton. While one of the shortest existing trolley lines, it is popular among many because it still uses PCC cars and offers some surprisingly scenic views.

The line follows the right-of-way of two former Old Colony Railroad branches, and runs parallel to the Neponset River for much of its 2.6-mile route. The line serves Mattapan Station, Capen Street Station, Valley Road Station, Central Avenue Station, Milton Station, Butler Station, Cedar Grove Station, and Ashmont Station.

[ Ed note:  The term “high-speed” here was coined here when the line opened and through much of its history to denote the fact that it operated on a railroad reservation with limited stops, whereas other streetcar service in Boston and vicinity was mostly “street running” services that were impacted by auto traffic.  As such it moved at “high speed” between stops. ]


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HIGH-SPEED-LINES... High-Speed Lines...  

Tidbits from Last Week’s U.S. High-Speed
Rail Association Conference

By Joe Linton
LA StreetsBlog

This week Streetsblog L.A. attended the U.S. High-Speed Rail Association’s West Coast Rail Conference. The conference featured speakers from public agencies and private industry speaking on rail projects from California to Korea to Turkey to Spain and many places between.

Below are three conference tidbits that Streetsblog L.A. readers might be interested in. Some of this may not be news to folks who follow high-speed rail issues closely, but they bear repeating to reach a broader audience.

High-Speed Rail Comes In Various Speeds

There is a broad spectrum of rail speeds. Amtrak Acela service between Washington D.C. and Boston actually runs at 150 miles per hour for portions of the route, though its average speed is just above 80 miles per hour. Acela is pretty fast, fast enough to compete with airlines, which is something numerous high-speed rail systems aspire to and regularly accomplish. Even though Acela is fast, it is not actually considered true high-speed rail.

Numerous high-speed rail lines in Asia and Europe operate with top speeds from 180 to 220 mph. California High-Speed Rail is being built for top speeds of 220 mph, though speeds in urban areas will be much less.

Below “high-speed rail” there is “higher-speed rail.” These days, fast rail lines that run at 150 mph or less, including Acela, are considered higher-speed. Florida’s higher-speed Brightline, phase one opening from Miami to West Palm Beach later this year, will operate at 125 mph.

Here are some local examples for contrast. The top speed for Metro rail, the Red Line Subway, is about 70 mph. Metrolink’s top speed is about 79 mph. The top speed for the Amtrak Surfliner is about 90 mph, but it only does that for a short stretch.

California High-Speed Rail is definitely already under construction

California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales reiterated what a lot of Californians already know: California high-speed rail is already under construction. 119 miles of rail infrastructure are being built in California’s Central Valley    [http://www.hsr.ca.gov/docs/programs/construction/road_closure/2017_January_Construction_Update.pdf],   in and near the city of Fresno. Work is being done under a billion-dollar design-build contract with Tutor-Perini.

Morales stressed that high-speed rail is not just important for its future mobility and environmental benefits, but is already bringing huge economic benefits to the Central Valley. The Mineta Transportation Institute’s Rod Diridon credited high-speed rail construction jobs for taking Fresno’s recent 18 percent unemployment down to nine percent today.

California high-speed rail, according to Morales, is the largest public works project in the U.S. and arguably the world, and is expected to open for customer service in 2025.

Importance Of Station As Place

This too may come as no surprise to many Streetsblog readers, but what makes high-speed rail successful is that, unlike airports, rail delivers passengers to urban cores. High-speed rail is dependent on the design of those urban core stations, especially in the way that they connect with local mobility, including walking, transit, and bicycling. The station itself should draw locals who gather there for everyday uses.

The most popular high-speed rail stations are not strictly utilitarian spaces that travelers pass through, but include public space, retail, housing and office space. Geeti Silwal, of Perkins+Will Architects, emphasized that minimizing parking is one key feature. She emphasized that most European high-speed rail stations have no parking.

From an item appearing at:
http://la.streetsblog.org/2017/03/01/tidbits-from-this-weeks-u-s-high-speed-rail-association-conference/


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STUDY LINES... Study Lines...  

Massachusetts Asks For Bids In $2 Million
North-South Rail Link Study

By Nicole Dungca
Boston Globe

State transportation officials began soliciting bids Wednesday to study a proposed rail tunnel connecting North and South stations, a long-discussed project that would create an unbroken rail route from Maine to Washington, D.C.

The start of the bidding process marked an incremental but important step for the project, known as the North-South rail link. The state’s transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, said the study “will help determine if further technical and financial analysis for the project is warranted.”

The study, expected to take about eight months after a consulting firm is chosen, will cost as much as $2 million and will provide updated cost estimates and outline the benefits to riders.

Discussions about the nearly 3-mile tunnel go back decades, but the cost has been seen as prohibitive. Previous estimates placed the cost of the project at $8 billion, but supporters say that advances in construction technology would lower the cost to between $2 billion and $3 billion.

In 2003, governor Mitt Romney shelved the project as too expensive, and its fate seemed sealed. But aggressive lobbying from supporters, including US Representative Seth Moulton and former governors Michael Dukakis and Bill Weld, has brought the proposal back into the public conversation.

Critics call the project a pipe dream, and its future seems doubtful. Governor Charlie Baker has made it clear that he isn’t a big fan and favors a proposed $1.6 billion expansion of South Station that would add seven tracks to the congested hub.

The MBTA faces chronic budget woes and is already seeking to build a $2.3 billion Green Line extension into Somerville and Medford, a project that has been delayed over rising cost estimates.

Pollack said that even as the state is moving ahead with the study, “The MBTA remains strongly committed to making the investments necessary to maintain and upgrade its existing rail and bus services.”

Paul Regan, executive director of the MBTA Advisory Board, which represents the communities that receive MBTA service, said the state should “absolutely not push for the North-South rail link.” He expressed doubts that Boston would be eager to disrupt the city’s transportation system for an underground tunnel, as it did for the Big Dig.

“I don’t think there’s a critical need for it, especially when you compare it to other critical needs,” he said. “The MBTA would go broke; the benefits are really very sketchy. Why are we having this conversation again?”

But supporters say connecting the city’s two rail hubs would greatly improve efficiency.

Moulton spoke in favor of the project last fall, calling it “the most significant infrastructure project contemplated for the New England region.”

“North-South Rail Link has the potential to fuel the growth of our economy and connect people with both jobs and housing across the state,” Moulton said Wednesday. The state needs to invest in transportation infrastructure to remain globally competitive, he added.

Proponents say the connection would increase MBTA ridership by nearly 100,000, easing congestion on the roads.

State Senator Jamie Eldridge, an Acton Democrat, said he appreciated the renewed interest in the project but would continue pushing for the state to conduct an environmental review. That would allow the state to secure the right-of-way necessary for the project, he said.

“I think that this does signal greater interest by the administration, but I also recognize that there needs to be more conversations and more advocacy,” he said.

Advocates for more transportation funding said they welcomed the study.

Rafael Mares, a vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental advocacy group, said a new cost estimate will make the debate more specific.

“You have to understand that it doesn’t make a lot of sense for the commuter rail lines in the north and the south to not be connected,” he said.

More broadly, the area’s transportation system deserves a more comprehensive approach, he said.

“There’s a lack of vision for our region right now,” he said. “We’re doing our decision-making on a case-by-case basis, and we’re not trying to look at the bigger picture.”

From an article found at:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/03/01/state-asks-for-bids-million-study-north-south-rail-link/PTD0uyhvs6nWXdcsWwM29M/story.html

[ Ed note:  NCI and DF have long-advocated for the North-South Link as a way to create a seamless rail transportation through the region.  There are plenty of examples worldwide where this type of unified system has been created.  For more on the N-S Link see:   http://www.northsouthraillink.org  ]


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STOCKS...    Selected Rail Stocks...
BRKB – Burlington Northern Santa Fe

CNI – Canadian National

CP –  Canadian Pacific

CSX – CSX Corp

GWR – Genessee & Wyoming

KSU – Kansas City-Southern

NSC – Norfolk Southern

PWX – Providence & Worcester

UNP – Union Pacific


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BUSINESS LINES... Business Lines...  

Caltrain Cancels Contract With
Parsons Transportation Group

From Railway-Techology.Com

US commuter rail service provider Caltrain has terminated a contract with Parsons Transportation Group (PTG) that includes design and implementation of a positive control and communications systems for the San Francisco-San Jose route.

The deal was also expected to ensure the execution of federally mandated improvements to the train control system intended to improve safety and reliability of the railway.

According to Caltrain, the cancellation was made due to continued delays in delivering the project and what it considered to be lack of progress in the project.   

Termination is expected to ensure the schedule of the CBOSS project and tighter cost control.

Caltrain chief operating officer Michelle Bouchard said: “The positive train control work being done is imperative to the safety and reliability of rail service on our right of way.”

“Due to PTG’s continued failure to perform, combined with their potential to cause program delay, the decision to terminate was necessary to keep the program on schedule while also exercising cost control over its delivery.”

The company has already started looking for a new party to deliver the project.

Caltrain also noted that its latest decision would not hinder the progress on the ongoing Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project (PCEP), which is a major component of the Caltrain Modernization program.

PCEP will see the electrification of the Caltrain corridor from San Francisco’s to around Tamien Caltrain Station.

This item appeared at:
http://www.railway-technology.com/news/newscaltrain-cancels-contract-with-parsons-transportation-group-5751090


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ACROSS THE POND... Across The Pond...  

Installments By David Beale
NCI Foreign Editor

UK Electrification Plans In Doubt

Britain’s Decade-Old Effort To Dramatically Increase The Amount Of Track-Miles
Under Electrification Runs Into Expanding Cost Overrun Problems

Via Railnews UK

“The UK government must learn from serious failings in the design, planning and cost-estimating of the Great Western Main Line (GWML) route modernization program”, the Commons Committee of Public Accounts has said.  A new report says the GWML program remains uncertain, and that ‘it is still unclear whether the Great Western electrification project can be delivered to the revised target of December 2018 and budget of £2.8 billion’. The report is also casting doubt on the need for further electrification at all in some cases, saying schemes should be funded ‘only where worthwhile benefits for passengers could not be achieved otherwise at lower cost’.

Image

Photo: David Beale

Installation of new railway electrification on one of the two railway corridors between Manchester and Liverpool seen in Salford, England in March 2013 in this file photo.

Network Rail has told the Committee that ‘every single part of the program is absolutely on the limit’, according to the report.  The Committee has also warned that the significant flaws identified in the project ‘raise concerns about the ability of the Department for Transport and Network Rail to manage similar projects in future’.  These include electrification of the Midland Main Line and Transpennine routes, although the scope of schemes like these as well as Great Western has been cut back significantly because of budget limitations which first became clear in 2015.

The estimated cost of the Great Western Main Line electrification program alone rose by £1.2 billion in just twelve months – an increase described as ‘staggering and unacceptable’ by the Committee.  PAC chair Meg Hillier said: “Mismanagement of the Great Western program has hit taxpayers hard and left many people angry and frustrated.  “This is a stark example of how not to run a major project, from flawed planning at the earliest stage to weak accountability and what remain serious questions about the reasons for embarking on the work in the first place.”

Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne said: “I very much welcome the PAC’s conclusions. The modernization of the Great Western line was always going to be a hugely complex job. Yet in 2009 it was committed to, then started, long before the scale of the work was properly understood.  “Network Rail and Department for Transport have learnt the lessons from the poor early planning of this project. Today we do not take forward major projects until they are properly scoped, properly planned and we have a robust estimate of what the cost will be.”

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Photo: National Rail Inquiries

View of the same rail line further west of Salford and Manchester at Newton-le-Willows, England ca. February 2015 ,with the new electrification completed.

The Great Western Mainline (GWML) is a term to describe the principal rail lines of the former Great Western Railway in southern and western England and Wales.  It includes rail lines running from London Paddington Station to Reading, Bath, Bristol, England and Cardiff, Wales.  This rail corridor is the last of several trunk rail routes radiating out of the greater London area to other parts of Great Britain to be electrified.  Another significant rail corridor in England is the so-called Midland Main Line (MML), which is a rail corridor and some connecting branch lines running between London and Bedford, Nottingham, Sheffield and Leeds.  The MML is partially electrified with a few substantial gaps in the electrification north of Bedford.  The current effort to install electrification across the UK’s railways includes the so-far non-electrified sections of the MML.  Both the GWML and the MML rail electrification use overhead catenary electrification energized at 25 kVAC 50 Hz, which is the predominant electrification standard already in use on most other electrified rail lines in the UK and in many other countries in Europe.  The rail network in southeastern and southern England is electrified mostly with 700 VDC third rail standard, with the exception of the London – Folkerstone HS1 rail corridor to the Channel Tunnel, which connects the UK to France via rail – HS1 is electrified with 25 kVAC overhead catenary.


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Ottawa LRT  Plans: Stage 2 Blueprint Passes
First Test With Thoughts Turning To Stage 3

By Jon Willing
Ottawa Citizen

City Hall’s political brain trust has approved a $3.6-billion Stage 2 rail and road package, with one councilor laying the groundwork for Barrhaven LRT in the next transit plan.

Friday’s 11-0 vote of council’s finance and economic development committee, which includes all the committee chairs, was the first political test of the final blueprint to extend rail east, west and south.

Council will now vote March 8, but it’s clear councilors are already thinking about a future Stage 3.

Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder wants the city to study the feasibility and priority of converting the southwest Transitway to rail between Algonquin College and Barrhaven, which she notes is the fastest growing area of Ottawa. A rail conversion there isn’t part of the current plan until after 2031.

Harder put council on notice that she’ll ask for support on a study.

A similar kind of motion is what got Orléans on the LRT map and convinced the city to study Kanata LRT.

At the same time, Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson urged staff to think about how to bring LRT to Kanata as soon as possible. The western suburb has a leg up since a Kanata LRT environmental assessment is already in the works and the city wants to extend LRT to Moodie Drive by 2023.

Mayor Jim Watson already knows which part of the city should get priority, in his view: “Phase 3 in my opinion is to Kanata,” he said.

The committee meeting, however, was all about the Stage 2 blueprint and procurement strategy.  

The city-funded part of the Stage 2 rail expansion will cost $3 billion, split equally between the city, province and feds, and be fully operational by 2023. The city expects the bonus extensions to Trim Road ($160 million) and the Ottawa International Airport ($155 million) will be covered by the provincial and federal governments.

Construction would pick up from the ends of the 12.5-kilometer Stage 1 at Tunney’s Pasture and Blair station. To the west, tracks would be extended to Algonquin College and Moodie Drive. To the east, tracks would be built to Trim Road. The Trillium Line would be extended to Bowesville Road, with a four-kilometer spur line between South Keys and the Ottawa International Airport.

Mark Laroche, president and CEO of the Ottawa International Airport Authority, wants the city to include in the construction tender a direct rail option between the airport and the Confederation Line LRT station at Bayview. Under the current Stage 2 design, visitors to Ottawa would need to take three trains to downtown.

Ian Faris, president and CEO of the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, echoed Laroche’s comments, asking for a more seamless train link between the airport and the core.

The city will build the tracks to allow a direct airport-to-Bayview service, but that direct link would only operate on special occasions.

Residents of Queensway Terrace North still aren’t happy with the proposed LRT infrastructure cutting through the Pinecrest Creek corridor and Connaught Park in the west end.

“We don’t want to see the LRT travelling next to our homes,” Wayne Shimoon said, threatening legal action against the city.

On the other hand, the city might have avoided controversy closer to the core by indicating it will use Preston Street for a replacement bus route during a 16-month Trillium Line shutdown, instead of an alternative route down Bayswater Avenue.

The complete transit package bundles a provincially funded widening of Highway 417 west of the downtown and a $100-million city fund for additional infrastructure work. The city also wants to study widening Highway 174 sooner than planned.

The city is holding a Stage 2 information session at City Hall on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Projected Stage 2 timeline:

From an item at:
http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/ottawa-lrt-plan-light-rail-stage-2-blueprint-passes-first-test-with-thoughts-turning-to-stage-3


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor:

I faithfully read your online National Corridor Initiative newsletter, but was annoyed today when reading your hysterical political statements against President Trump.  Believe me, I’m no fan, but I’m getting really tired of the incessant bashing.  As if I’m not already bombarded enough by hatred for our President, I have to read it again in a railroad transit newsletter.

Please stick to the purpose of your newsletter, which should be garnering support for rail transportation. We will need support of both political parties to achieve our desire for a vibrant transit and interstate rail system.

Sincerely,

John in West Virginia

Ed Response:  We agree we need support from both sides of the aisle for better rail, and in fact we have seen that in the past.  The guest piece reproduced in last week’s edition came from William Vantuono, Editor-In-Chief of Railway Age Magazine.  The editorial appeared on their on-line pages, and they have a much-higher readership than us.  We know Bill to be a highly-respected rail journalist and rail advocate.  If he is concerned, we all should be.  Recent events that have attacked funding in California and Texas would seem to bare-out his concerns.  Editorials, commentaries, and opinions, both pro and con, are a part of the discourse.


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Events... Events...  

Rail Users Network (RUN) Annual Conference

RUN to Seattle

The Pacific Northwest Passenger Rail Summit is being held Saturday, May 6, 2017 from 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. at the Columbia City Theater, 4916 Rainier Ave South, Seattle, Washington. This regional conference, sponsored by the Rail Users’ Network, and All Aboard Washington (AAWA) will examine passenger rail and trail transit issues in the Pacific Northwest. The focus will be on recent success stories, projects which are moving forward, and those which are standing still and need support. We will also highlight the strategies of rail advocates in other parts of the country to promote and expand passenger rail.

An optional tour on Friday, May 5, will give Conference participants an opportunity to experience public transportation in the Greater Seattle area, which has one of North America’s most varied transit systems. Sounder commuter rail, Link light rail, modern streetcars, ferries, and even a 1962-vintage monorail. In fact, some of the city’s buses are electric “trolley buses”, which were once ubiquitous, but now only run in a few cities.

Who should attend:

The registration fee for the Pacific Northwest Rail Summit is $55 before March 31, $60 before May 1, and $65 at the door.

Registration includes morning refreshments, lunch, an afternoon refreshment break, and all conference materials/handouts. The optional tour on Friday is free, however participants are responsible for their own rail/transit fares. If you wish to stay in Seattle before or after the conference, we recommend you look at Seattle’s official tourism website www.visitseattle.org.

For the full write-up, speaker list, and discussion panel schedule see:  http://www.railusers.net/annual-conference/

To Register early go to:  http://www.railusers.net/conference-registration/


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