The National Corridors Initiative Logo

Apr. 3, 2017
Vol. 17 No. 13

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...

  Funding Lines…
CTC Allocates $60 Million To California Rail Projects
  Advocacy Lines…
APTA Calls For Full Project Funding Of “Vital” Transit
  Political Lines…
Republican Proposes Funding For New
   Chicago-Twin Cities Passenger Rail Line
  Safety Lines…
Amtrak Train Sped Nearly Twice The Limit When
   It Jerked Violently On Capitol Corridor
  Commuter Lines…
CapMetro Adds More Cars To Austin Commuter Line
  Selected Rail Stocks…
 
  Expansion Lines…
South Coast Rail Will Incorporate
   “Middleborough Route”
  Business Lines…
Mexican Conglomerate Buys FEC Railway
   For $2.1 Billion
  To The North…
Canada 2017 Federal Budget Commits To
   Transit Funding
  We Get Letters…
  Publication Notes …


FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

CTC Allocates $60 Million
To California Rail Projects

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Railway Age

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) allocated more than $217 million to 72 projects in the state including more than $60 million for state rail projects.

“Caltrans is working to ensure every dollar counts when it comes to California’s transportation infrastructure,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “These investments will benefit Californians by improving the economy and the environment.”

The bulk of the rail focused allocations, $49.99 million, was to the San Diego Association of Governments for improvements along the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo corridor. The work includes the conversion of single-track to double-track rail, bridge replacements and signal improvements.

The San Bernardino Associated Governments received a total of $9.71 million for two grade separation projects; the first in the city of Colton and the second in the city of Yuma.

The North County Transit District received $1 million to replace a turnout that is near the end of its useful life and will allow for increased track speed. Finally, the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority received $200,000 to install two wayside power cabinets at the Oakland Maintenance Facility.

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/intercity/ctc-allocates-dol60-million-to-california-rail-projects.html?channel=41


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ADVOCACY LINES... Advocacy Lines...  

APTA Calls For Full Project Funding
Of “Vital” Transit

By Stuart Chirls
Railway Age

The American Public Transportation Association called on the Trump Administration to fully fund the FAST Act for fiscal 2017 and 2018, and said public transit must be part of the administration’s proposed $1trillion infrastructure investment.

“The American economy and communities of all sizes would be losers if the proposed reductions in the FTA Capital Investment Grants, the TIGER [grant] program, and Amtrak are enacted,” said APTA Acting President and Chief Executive Richard A. White. “As it stands now, America is already under-investing in public transportation, as noted in the recently released American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card. These proposed cuts would make the existing $90 billion of state of good repair gap even worse.”

The administration in its first budget proposal cut funding for Department of Transportation projects by 13%.

In a new research report, “Who Rides Public Transportation, APTA found that 87% of all transit trips have a direct impact on local economies, with 49% for traveling to and from work, 21% for shopping and 17% for recreational spending.”

“Public transit trips are integral to the engine that powers America’s economy by connecting riders to employers and to retail and entertainment venues,” White said.

APTA said White and its Government Affairs team has recently held more than 60 meetings with congressional staff, focusing on those that serve on budget, appropriations, tax and authorization committees, and taken other proactive steps to engage with members of Congress.

The group encouraged its members to contact their elected leaders to emphasize the importance of federal public transportation in strengthening local and the national economies, advocate for public transit’s continued growth and include public transit in all proposals to increase infrastructure investment.

It called on members during the approaching spring congressional recess “to meet with your members of Congress,” scheduled to be in their home districts April 8-23.

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/sustainability/apta-calls-for-full-funding-of-vital-transit-projects.html?channel=41


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Republican Proposes Funding For New
Chicago-Twin Cities Passenger Rail Line

GOP Rep. Barb Haley Introduced Legislation To Fund A Study
For A Potential Rail Corridor From The Twin Cities To Chicago

By Julia Erynn
Alpha News

Minnesota State Rep. Barb Haley (R – Red Wing) introduced legislation Tuesday to fund a study for an additional passenger rail corridor between the Twin Cities and Chicago.

Haley’s bill appropriates $1 million from the Bond Proceeds Fund to the commissioner of transportation to complete a study in coordination with Wisconsin and Illinois. The study would evaluate the merit of adding a second train to the Chicago-Twin Cities passenger rail corridor.

The Pioneer Press reports more than 100,000 passengers per year board Amtrak’s Empire Builder passenger rail service between Chicago and St. Paul. The second line could serve an additional 155,000 yearly passengers.

In February, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners voted to finalize a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to fund $600,000 for an environmental assessment study for the line.

Haley’s bill, which has no companion yet in the Senate, was referred to the Transportation Finance committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives.  

Haley did not respond to Alpha News’ request for comment.

Found at:
http://alphanewsmn.com/republican-proposes-funding-new-chicago-twin-cities-passenger-rail-line/


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

Amtrak Train Sped Nearly Twice The Limit
When It Jerked Violently On Capitol Corridor

By Tony Bizjak
Sacramento Bee

An Amtrak engineer mistakenly drove a Capitol Corridor train at nearly twice the allowed speed through a track switch near Davis in December, causing the train to jerk violently, injuring five occupants, according to documents obtained by The Sacramento Bee through the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Amtrak has declined to discuss the incident, which involved a train heading west from Sacramento to Davis at 7:10 a.m. on Dec. 7, despite repeated requests since December. The agency instead sent The Bee a brief email statement late Monday saying an investigation found “human error” and added that the “train crew’s performance has been addressed.”

The Amtrak reports obtained by The Bee reveal the engineer took the train at 78 miles per hour into a track switch that had a 40 mph speed limit. Train crew members, in written statements, described a dramatic few seconds aboard the #527 train as cars jolted one way then the other, tossing passengers, bags and coffees around.

Image

Photo: The Capitol Corridor - Image by Todd Evans - Wikipedia

Cruising westbound, early morning on the CalTrain main (south) through the Santa Clara station. This is a bit unusual, normally they will be on the tracks to the right in the picture which is the Union Pacific Mulford line. Here, it’s passing the station on track #2.

The Amtrak incident report, filed in January, concluded a “speed violation” had occurred, and determined that the engineer “lost situational awareness” and “did not recognize the action to be taken.” The engineer’s name was redacted from those reports.

The document notes that another train crew member, whose name and job title were redacted, “failed to recognize that it was their responsibility to take action when (redacted) did not.” It also makes brief note that inadequate supervision, substandard communication, and substandard mental or physical conditions played a role in the errors that led to the incident, but does not elaborate.

According to the incident report, the train passed a track signal indicating that the switch ahead was open and that the adjacent track was clear. “This signal requires the train to proceed on diverging route not exceeding prescribed speed through turnout. The maximum authorized speed through the turnout is 40 mph. Train 527 entered the diverging route at approximately 78 mph. The engineer was operating from the lead end of the move.”

Federal records show five people were injured – four passengers and one crew member. All injuries appeared to be minor. One woman suffered a broken thumb.

Though injuries were mild, several passengers say the train rocked back and forth so dramatically they thought it was going to derail. One woman said she screamed, thinking she might die. One said a crew member later told passengers she thought the train was going to “eat dirt.”

Three train crew members wrote brief statements describing the moments the train’s five cars hit the track switch in succession.

“As we (crossed over) from (track one to two), I heard a loud bang,” one wrote. “I could see the café car leaning about 40 degrees to the right. I shouted everyone ‘sit down,’ then our car hit and rocked hard to the right then back to the left hard. People and objects were tossed about.”

Another wrote, “Passengers were thrown around in the cars – coffees and bags flying through the car.”

After the train righted itself, crews inspected the train in Davis, then it continued until arriving in Martinez. There, the passenger with the broken thumb was transported via ambulance to a hospital.

The train was removed from service and crew members were taken for drug and alcohol testing. The incident report notes that employee discipline assessments were “submitted,” but it does not say whether employees were in fact disciplined.

Federal Railroad Administration spokeswoman Desiree French said her agency initially looked into the incident, but left it up to Amtrak to conduct the analysis.

Image

Image via Sacramento Bee

Location of the rail incident.

“FRA’s investigator determined the Amtrak incident on the Capitol Corridor did not meet the threshold for a full investigation, and (Amtrak) was instructed to provide an incident report,” French said in an email to The Bee.

Several passengers contacted by The Bee expressed anger that Amtrak has not offered a full public explanation of what happened, how it occurred and what steps, if any, Amtrak has taken to reduce the chance of similar incidents.

“It’s incensing that a corporation receiving ... tax-funded grants annually is refusing transparency on what could have been a catastrophic incident,” said one of the passengers that day, Matt Williams.

Ron Goldman, a Los Angeles attorney and critic of railroad safety efforts, contends the rail agency owes it to riders to tell them what happened.

“The public is not an adversary,” he said. “The public is an interested party that has the right and the need to know what is going on. It is the public that suffers the loss when things are not properly maintained or operated.”

Although the train did not derail, Goldman said “the difference between a minor issue and a major calamity can be a matter of a fraction of an inch or a half of a mile per hour. These things are very dangerous. You can’t measure safety by saying we escaped, or the train arrived.”

The Federal Railroad Administration incident database shows only a handful of speed-related crashes annually. But speed-related derailments have ended in deaths in recent years.

A 2012 crash in Canada killed three engineers and injured dozens of passengers when the train failed to slow at a track switch, despite signals to do so. Eight people were killed and 200 injured during a Philadelphia derailment in 2015 when an Amtrak train went into a 50 mph curve at 106 mph.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded the Philadelphia crash likely would not have occurred if the train had been equipped with a computer-based automatic braking system known as Positive Train Control, or PTC. Similarly, UP officials told The Bee that they believe PTC would have averted the December Amtrak jolt near Davis because the computer would have taken control of the train when the engineer failed to slow it.

Amtrak, UP and other train operators are under federal mandate to have PTC installed by the end of 2018.

The train involved in the December jolt outside of Davis was one of several daily Capitol Corridor trains, operated by Amtrak, that run between Sacramento and the Bay Area. Although operated by Amtrak, the Capitol Corridor system is also overseen by a board of officials from local cities and counties.

Capitol Corridor chief David Kutrosky said he received the same email statement from Amtrak that was sent to the Bee, and has forwarded it to his board. He said an Amtrak official also told him Amtrak has ordered train engineers and conductors to step up their onboard communications as their trains pass signals.

“Knock on wood, we have had no incidents since then,” Kutrosky said.

From an item appearing at:
http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/transportation/article141141368.html


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COMMUTER LINES... Commuter Lines...  

CapMetro Adds More Cars To
Austin Commuter Line

By Stuart Chirls
Railway Age

The city of Austin, Tex., is counting on a bigger fleet to  translate into bigger ridership for its MetroRail commuter system.

Operator Capitol Metropolitan Transit Authority recently took delivery of four new Swiss-made Stadler GTW diesel-powered articulated railcars to augment its existing fleet of six cars.

MetroRail in 2010 began service on a single 32-mile line from the Texas capitol downtown to Leander in the suburbs, and counts more than 66,000 boardings per month. It added the additional cars when annual events such as South by Southwest turned travel into standing room only for riders.

Each articulated train has a capacity of 200 passengers, 108 seated and 92 standing, as well as spaces for passengers with wheelchairs and bicycles.

The new cars entered service on March 22 and will be tested over the next five months.

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/commuter-regional/austin-line-adds-more-cars.html?channel=55


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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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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

South Coast Rail Will Incorporate “Middleborough Route”

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is planning to construct the South Coast Rail project in two phases, beginning with the Middleborough Route.

MassDOT filed a Notice of Project Change (NPC) for the South Coast Rail (SCR) Project with the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office on March 15, 2017. MassDOT says taking a phased approach to construction and utilizing the existing Middleborough/Lakeville Commuter Rail Line will provide service sooner than if the project was constructed all at once.

“Our administration is committed to providing the South Coast with commuter rail service as expeditiously and efficiently as possible,” said Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. “Pursuing the Middleborough/Lakeville early action service while advancing the Stoughton Electric final phase service will facilitate commuter rail service to the region years earlier.”

The 7.5-mile Middleborough Secondary Line, which must be upgraded to handle commuter rail traffic. While the MEPA review is underway, MassDOT will advance work on the so-called Southern Triangle, from Cotley Junction in Taunton south through Berkley, Lakeville, Freetown, Fall River, and New Bedford, which is common to both the early action and final phases of the project.

The first phase of the project would extend and upgrade the existing Middleborough/Lakeville Line via the 7.5-mile Middleborough Secondary Line, which provides a quicker, less expensive option for service to and from New Bedford and Fall River. Trains heading towards the South Coast would then join the New Bedford Main Line and continue to New Bedford or branch off on the Fall River Secondary to Fall River. Phase 1 service would be diesel, as the existing Middleborough Line does not include the overhead catenary required for electric service. Phase 1 would also include the construction of several new stations and layover facilities in the Southern Triangle.

As the early action service is permitted and implemented, MassDOT would continue to advance design of the Stoughton Electric Phase 2 of the SCR Project. This phase consists of new track, signals and stations between Canton Center and Cotley Junction.

“We are pleased to continue advancing the South Coast Rail Project and working towards providing commuter rail service to the South Coast region in a timely and efficient manner,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “This Notice of Project Change allows MassDOT to analyze impacts and incorporate public input of the proposed change to develop this project in phases. This will enable us to provide passenger rail to the South Coast region years sooner than would be the case if the project were constructed at one time.”

From an item appearing at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/passenger/commuter-regional/south-coast-rail-will-incorporate-middleborough-route%E2%80%9D.html

[ Editor Note - In an earlier story covering this topic we speculated that the Middleborough route might be chosen since it is an existing freight line and would have fewer obstacles associated with an upgrade to passenger service quality. ]


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BUSINESS LINES... Business Lines...  

Mexican Conglomerate Buys FEC Railway
For $2.1 Billion

By Jay Weaver
Miami Herald

Grupo Mexico, a mining and rail conglomerate, is buying the Florida East Coast Railway Holdings Corp. for $2.1 billion under an agreement announced Tuesday.

The purchase will enable the Mexican company to expand its U.S. freight transport business on Florida East Coast Railway’s 351 miles of tracks stretching from Miami to Jacksonville. Grupo Mexico has existing rail operations in Texas.

The transaction will be financed by $350 million in Grupo Mexico funds and $1.75 billion in debt, according to Grupo Mexico.

The sale of Jacksonville-based FEC Railway, which is owned by Fortress Investment Group, will have no impact on the company’s other holdings — including the Brightline passenger train operation in South Florida.

The investment group also owns Florida East Coast Industries, the parent company of All Aboard Florida, developer and owner of the Brightline passenger train system being built from Miami to West Palm Beach and Orlando.

“The sale of the Florida East Coast Railway does not impact Brightline,” said a spokeswoman, AnneMarie Mathews. “Brightline is a separate company that has dual ownership of the corridor and the right to operate passenger service.”

From an article found at:
Read more here:
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article141301728.html#storylink=cpy


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Canada 2017 Federal Budget Commits
To Transit Funding

By Mischa Wanek-Libman
Rail, Track, And Structures

Canada’s federal 2017 budget was released March 22 in a move the government called “the next step in the government’s long-term plan to create jobs and strengthen the middle class.”

The budget contained few surprises and little new spending that had not been previously discussed, but it continues the federal government’s push toward public transit projects with inclusion of CA$25 billion (US$18.7 billion) through various avenues.

The government continued its commitment to establish a new Canada Infrastructure Bank, which it describes as an “an arm’s-length organization that will work with provincial, territorial, municipal, Indigenous and private sector investment partners to transform the way infrastructure is planned, funded and delivered in Canada.”

The budget says the bank will invest at least CA$35 billion (US$26.1 billion) over 11 years, using loans, loan guarantees and equity investments. The government said it would soon introduce legislation to establish the infrastructure bank and begin the process to identify a CEO and chairperson of the Board of Directors with a goal of having the bank operational in late 2017.

The Canadian government also plans to invest CA$20.1 billion (US$14.9 billion) over 11 years on public transit projects “through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories, with provincial and territorial allocations determined using a formula based on ridership (70 percent) and population (30 percent).”

The government said it would work closely with provinces and territories to ensure the public dollars would be invested properly. Additionally, the budget calls for the infrastructure bank to invest at least CA$5 billion (US$3.74 billion) in public transit systems.

The Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) said the 2017 federal budget solidified the federal government’s long-term commitment to improving urban mobility in Canadian communities.

“By committing to long-term and dedicated transit funding, this government has empowered transit agencies to plan for the infrastructure projects that their communities need today, and the projects they will need in the future,” said Sue Connor, chair of CUTA and executive director of Brampton Transit. “But funding is only part of the equation. Now all levels of government, the transit industry and the Canadian public must work together to ensure that this funding is utilized in a way that maximizes economic, environmental and social outcomes for Canadian communities.”

From an item appearing at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/track-maintenance/off-track-maintenance/canada-2017-federal-budget-commits-to-transit-funding.html


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WE GET LETTERS... We Get Letters...  

Dear Editor,

The Trump Administration is showing its true colors regarding its stated commitment to investing in infrastructure - especially rail-related infrastructure.

Trump’s proposed Federal Budget says it all - a RESOUNDING NO! to Amtrak’s long-distance trains - Tiger Grants - and the Federal New Starts Program. Forget all the exciting and inspirational talk about investing in and expanding passenger rail in this country. Ain’t. Gonna. Happen!

If there’s any new infrastructure spending enacted into law by the Trump Administration, it will be for new highways and expanded airports. Rail? Forget it.

It’s important to remember that the Republicans have been ITCHING to eliminate funding for Amtrak’s long-distance train services for as long as any of us can remember. This proposed budget represents nothing new.

What IS new is that this time around the Republicans have full control over all three branches of our federal government, and there aren’t enough Democrats and moderate Republicans to stop the conservative wing of the party from FINALLY being able to make these cuts, unopposed.

I detect the presence of more than a little glee, now that the Republicans have their golden, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gut rail and transit programs to the bone. We can bid Amtrak a fond farewell if this budget passes as currently written.

We who are fighting (once again!) to save the few pitiful crumbs of Federal Funding we now have for Amtrak and public transit are going to have to wage a VERY steep uphill battle to overcome what I call “the Republican Anti-Rail Juggernaut.”

Eric Talbot
Chicago, Illinois

Editor Replies:   The so-called “Skinny Budget,” a draft plan as released, seems to have caused substantial stress in the hearts of rail advocates, rail passengers, rail planners, and rail operators nationwide. Emboldened by changes in Washington DC, some state governments have been seeking to implement various levels of de-funding for rail and transit as well. In the absence of a more-concrete vision to be shared with the public, and a formal blue print on how rail will fit into the entire “infrastructure improvements” plan, we are all left to speculate. Until shown otherwise, the speculation appears to be on the mark - so far.


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2017 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. (NCI) as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI and Destination: Freedom (DF) are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Logo courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI & DF remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

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