The National Corridors Initiative Logo

May 9, 2016
Vol. 16 No. 18

Copyright © 2016
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved
Our 16th 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.
Editor
Molly N. McKay
Foreign Editor
David Beale
Contributing Editor
David Peter Alan
Managing Editor / Webmaster
Dennis Kirkpatrick
 
 

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

  Advocacy Lines…
RUN Conference Highlights Advocacy In Boston
   And Elsewhere In New England
  Expansion Lines…
Crowds Jam Streetcars In Their Return To KC
Deland SunRail Funding Derailed Again; TIGER
   Grant Application Halted
  Political Lines…
Melaniphy Quits; White Named Interim Head
USDOT Picks New WMATA Board Members
   To Tackle Safety Culture
  Corridor Lines…
For Faster Train Travel, Amtrak Wants To Fix
   Railway Bottlenecks In Maryland
  Selected Rail Stocks…
  Builders Lines…
Alstom-Amtrak Deal On Track
  Funding Lines…
U.S. Department Of Transportation Announces
   $10 Million Tiger Grant To Extend Amtrak
   Service To Burlington, VT
Somerville And Cambridge To Kick-In More $$$
   For MBTA Green Line Extension
 
  Environmental Lines…
FRA Begins Environmental Impact Review For
   Hudson Tunnel Project
  Safety Lines…
CHSRA Acquires Radio Spectrum Required
   For Train Communications
  High-Speed Lines…
California High-Speed Rail Authority Staff
   Recommends Stop At Madera Amtrak
  To The North…
Save VIA Agrees With Auditor General’s Report:
   VIA Has ‘Deficiencies’ And Lacks Direction
  Off The Main Line…
Amtrak Will Retire More Than 50 Locomotives
   Used For Decades
  Publication Notes …


ADVOCACY LINES... Advocacy Lines...  

RUN Conference Highlights Advocacy In
Boston And Elsewhere In New England

By David Peter Alan

Who’s Looking Out for You? The Rail Users’ Network (RUN) attempted to answer this question, at least in the Boston area and the rest of New England, at the annual RUN Conference. The event took place at offices of the Boston Foundation, a civic organization founded in 1895. The room was filled to capacity as advocates, managers and planners from Boston and elsewhere gathered on Friday, April 29th to learn about the latest developments in transit, and on the advocacy front.

RUN Chair Richard Rudolph opened the conference with a brief review of the history of the organization, which was founded by him based on the model of British Passenger Focus, a rail advisory group created by the British Parliament in 1947.

He was formerly Vice Chair of the Amtrak Advisory Council. RUN is completely independent of Amtrak, however.

He noted that RUN was founded to help transit advisory committees and advocacy organizations to campaign more effectively for improvements in transit and Amtrak service, and that RUN is the only organization concerned with riders’ issues on both intercity rail and local rail transit.

Photo of RUN Conference

ALl Photos: Dennis Kirkpatrick, NCI

RUN Chairman Richard Rudolph at the podium.

Noah Berger, a Special Advisor for Transportation at the Boston Foundation, on loan from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), also gave “welcoming” remarks. His remarks concentrated on the Dorchester Branch of the commuter rail system of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, known as the “T” locally and the “MBTA” officially. He addressed the effort to change the line to the proposed “Indigo Line” as a transit line, and noted that the line was built in 1855, with grade crossings eliminated in 1881. He also noted that the term “rapid transit” was first applied to that line, and personally stated: “Transit is in my blood.”

The morning session featured senior transit managers and officials. The first was Frank DePaola, General Manager for the MBTA, who started on the highway side of transportation, and later moved over to the transit side. He gave an overview of the “T”; saying that it is the fifth-largest transit authority in the country, serving 175 municipalities and providing 1.3 million daily trips. He said that the agency will focus on on-time-performance and keeping the system in a state of good repair. For the future, he mentioned the “Focus-40” initiative, a 25-year planning effort.

General Manager Gerald Francis represented Keolis, the contractor that currently operates the region’s commuter-rail system for the MBTA. He said that fifteen counties are represented on the system, and that he is working on making commuter rail on the “T” a “world-class system.” He said that the motto among managers is “Thinking Like a Passenger” and that all Headquarters employees are now trained as customer-service representatives, in addition to training for their specific jobs.

Photo of RUN Conference

Keolis Rail: Gerald Francis

Astrid Glynn, Rail and Transit Administrator for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), was the next presenter. She titled her talk “Value Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” and gave an overview of MassDOT’s activities. She described the rail system in the state, which includes rail under both public and private ownership. She concentrated on activities outside the Boston area, saying that her department is working with neighboring states to develop rail corridors, including with Vermont and the Provence of Quebec to restore a passenger rail route to Montreal. She mentioned efforts to reactivate Union Station in Springfield, current construction to improve service between that city and New Haven, and the seasonal Cape Flyer train between Boston and Hyannis, on Cape Cod.

Photo of RUN Conference

MassDOT: Astrid Glynn

Glynn opined: “We are becoming the railroad system for New England” and observed the eight out of the nine Congressional districts in Massachusetts receive funding for the MBTA. She said that her department will invest $250 million during the upcoming five-year capital plan, which will concentrate on maintaining a state of good repair on the state’s railroads. She added that not all of them are self-supporting, although the Northeast Corridor (NEC) in Massachusetts and the Cape Flyer are.

Photo of RUN Conference

Amtrak: Rina Cutler

Rina Cutler, Senior Director for Major Station Planning and Development, represented Amtrak. Before coming to Amtrak last year, she held positions with the City of Philadelphia and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA). Her purview includes stations in the Northeast, as well as Chicago Union Station, and she said that some Chicagoans believe that “NEC” stands for “Nothing Else Counts.” She gave an overview of Amtrak’s partnerships with states and host railroads, and gave a warning concerning current levels of service: “There are no bad guys here; just insufficient dollars.”

Cutler also had advice for advocates, mentioning the revival of the Downeaster trains between Boston and Portland, Maine. “Service expansions need to come from the community through the states” she said, and added: “Funding and finance are not the same thing.” She warned that “just checking a box is not public engagement” and concluded by saying that “advocacy is inherently political.” She advised advocates to understand who has decision-making authority and to “pick your battles.”

It was then time for lunch. The lunchtime speaker was Maggie Super Church, an attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, currently working with the Healthy Neighborhoods Equity Fund. She stressed the importance of healthy neighborhoods, with transit as an indicator of such health, and expressed concern about the difficulty of getting private-equity funding for neighborhood improvements like transit-oriented development (TOD). She noted the disparities in health between neighborhoods, citing a 33-year difference in life expectancy in two Boston neighborhoods; the affluent Back Bay (92 years) and low-income Roxbury (59 years). She added that transit promotes active living, and that people lose weight when they change from an auto-dependent lifestyle to using transit.

The afternoon session featured three panels about rail advocacy in Boston and New England generally.

Photo of RUN Conference

Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis

Chair Rudolph moderated the first panel of the afternoon. It covered the topics of the status of passenger rail in New England, plans for expanding it, and rail transit advocacy in the region. The first presenter was Timothy Brennan, Executive Director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC). He gave an overview of transit in western Massachusetts, and said the “the other North-South Rail Link” in the state runs through Springfield. He mentioned the ongoing construction to improve the line between New Haven and Springfield, in addition to the planned Knowledge Corridor north of Springfield and into Vermont, which will serve a number of college campuses. He said that local ridership on Amtrak’s Vermonter has increased 75% since the train was re-routed to serve Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield, and added the he is looking forward to the restoration of service to Montreal. The next presenter was Stephen C. Smith, recently-retired Executive Director of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, the planning agency for Southeastern Massachusetts. He is promoting the South Coast Rail Project, which would restore passenger trains from Boston to New Bedford and Fall River. He called the lack of such service, which ended in 1958, “the black hole of the commuter rail system.” He said that the proposed project would cost $2.2 billion and would provide 20 round trips during the service day. The 52 miles of track involved would be electrified under the proposal. Smith complained that the project had been studied for 25 years, and said that it is now time to build it. Next, John T. (Jack) Sutton, former President of the Maine Rail Group (MRG), gave an overview of the existing rail lines in the Pine Tree State. His group, which was founded in 1988 to preserve the line between Brunswick and Augusta, is pushing for more passenger trains in Maine, especially extensions to Augusta (the state capital), Bangor and Rockland (where there were seasonal excursions until last year). Sutton also expressed a desire to extend passenger service to North Conway, New Hampshire, as a start toward restoring service between Portland and Montreal. RUN Chair Rudolph is also a member of the MRG. The final presenter on the panel was Mike Izbicki, Chair of the New Hampshire Rail and Transit Authority. Izbicki is involved with efforts to extend commuter rail service beyond Massachusetts to Nashua and Manchester, New Hampshire. He noted that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) are working on the study together; a “first” for the two agencies. He noted that this line was the only one on the “T” system that has not been extended in the past 30 years. The proposal calls for 34 weekday trains to Nashua and 16 to Manchester. Izbicki drew criticism for not proposing that the service run to the state capital of Concord, which is less than a half-hour of running time beyond Manchester.

RUN Vice-Chair Andrew Albert, who is also Chair of the New York City Transit Riders’ Council, moderated the second panel, which focused on the Current State of Rail Advocacy in the Greater Boston Area. Albert opened his panel by saying: “You can’t underestimate the value of advocacy” and mentioned his experience at New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), where he has the opportunity to discuss matters with voting members of the MTA Board. The panel featured four women who have been advocating for transit in their communities. The first was Kristina Egan, Director of Transportation for Massachusetts, a coalition of advocacy organizations. She began by saying that she had left MassDOT because there was not enough money to build the South Coast Rail project, and decided to advocate “on the outside.” She and her member organizations are campaigning for more passenger rail in the state, and she mentioned the benefits of improved health and energy-efficiency. She stressed the importance of understanding the legislative process, and added that, if transit riders do not have a seat at the table, they are on the menu. The next presenter was Pamela “Mela” Bush-Miles, Environmental Justice Organizer for the Greater Four Corners Coalition and a member of the RUN Board. She and her organization are based in Dorchester, and it is their goal to convert the existing commuter line between South Station and Readville to the Indigo Line, as a rapid-transit line. The line was reactivated in 1979, when Amtrak began sending trains to Boston over it, because the local portion of the NEC had been shut down for a multi-year rehabilitation. There were plans to discontinue local service when the “regular” line was reopened in 1987, but the advocates kept it going. Bush-Miles began her advocacy career on a health issue: a high asthma rate, due to automobile exhaust emissions. She also mentioned that the T Riders’ Union had shut down a meeting of the agency’s Fiscal Control Board, and that her organization is involved with the “Fair Fares for Fairmount” campaign to rationalize transit fares in the area. When we fight, we win!” she concluded. The next presenter was Allentza Michel, who owns Power Pathways Consulting Policy, a consulting and design firm. Her goal is to empower community advocacy for better transit. She cited improvements in the Youth Pass Program on the T, a reduced-fare program for teenagers. She noted that local advocacy kept a fare-increase for teens under control, while extending evening hours to 11:00. The last presenter on the panel was Ellen Reisner, President of the Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership (STEP). She discussed the poor state of transit in her town, and the pollution there, due to over-use of automobiles. She noted that her town is 85% walkable and added: “We want to make sure it’s accessible.” Reisner criticized management at the T for scaling back the promised Green Line Extension there. She asked: “Why are you punishing a community that really rides the system?” and said that she would keep fighting to make sure that Somerville is well-served by transit in the future.

Photo of RUN Conference

RUN Board member, and NCI Contributing Editor, David Peter Alan, Esq.

This writer moderated the third and last panel of the day, which focused on “The Great Missed Opportunity: The North-South Rail Link; Why the ‘Big Dig’ was a highway-only project and efforts underway to correct it.” The first presenter on the panel was Michael S. Dukakis, who was Governor of Massachusetts form 1974 to 1978, and again from 1982 to 1986. He was also the nominee of the Democratic Party for President in 1988 and has been a member of the Board of Directors of Amtrak. Dukakis said that he wanted a rail link to be part of the “Big Dig” project, which had later become infamous for its cost-overruns and lack of rail (author's comment, not presenter's), but that the Reagan Administration removed the rail component and made it a highway-only project. He mentioned that another former governor, Republican William Weld, agrees that the North-South Rail Link should be built, and cited the tunneling for the Red Line extension from Harvard Square to Porter Square in Cambridge as a model for construction of the new rail link. Peter M. Zuk, a lawyer who is now an infrastructure manager, gave an overview of infrastructure issues involved in building a North-South Rail Link. He called the Central Artery, built as part of the “Big Dig” project, “a proving ground for many technologies” that would prove useful in building a new rail link. Brad Bellows, an architect who practices in Cambridge and has advocated for the new link as a member of Gov. Weld’s Central Artery Task Force in the 1990s and as a member of the North-South Rail Link Working Group today, gave the final presentation. He described the benefits that the link would bring to the area, saying that it is so inconvenient to use the current system that the result is unnecessary congestion. He called the current lack of train capacity at the separate North and South Stations “a tax on us”; adding that through-running between the North and South Side commuter rail systems would save $100 million per year, and that the link would increase rail capacity by a factor of ten. He also said the existing system uses land inefficiently, and through-running would eliminate the need for much of the current midday storage space in town, which would open that land for development. Bellows noted that soil conditions in Boston are suitable for using tunnel boring machines (TBMs) to dig the necessary tunnels, and cited many examples of adding through-running facilities in many European cities, as well as at Los Angeles Union Station. He concluded by warning: “We are about to miss the window of opportunity at very low interest rates” and also stated: “This is not a Boston project. It is a region-wide project.”

After the final panel, there was an “encore” presenter. He was Francois Robelo, a Montréaler and former member of the Quebec legislature, who is promoting the concept of an overnight train between New York and Montreal. He is also pushing for service on part of the old Atlantic Limited route between Montreal and Sherbrooke, Quebec. Although he is younger than many riders who remember the pre-Amtrak era more than 45 years ago, Robelo remarked about the joy of private-car trips to the Montreal Jazz Festival and other events, and stated his belief that overnight service to Montreal would be successful. The last overnight train between New England and Montreal was discontinued in 1995.

RUN Treasurer Gary Prophet, who is also Vice-President of the Empire State Passengers’ Association (ESPA), concluded the conference with a summary. He advised his fellow advocates to “find the decision-makers and the money, then build the coalition.” He said that advocacy is hard work, and that it is necessary to get the media on your side. He concluded his remarks by saying: “It’s not an easy process, but it’s an adventure!”

The conference then adjourned. Many of the attendees came from the Boston area, but Western Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine were also represented. So were New York (the City and Upstate), New Jersey, the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. areas, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Conference attendees said they enjoyed the experience and found it interesting and educational, which fits in with RUN’s purposes of providing “continuing education” to advocates and promoting “best practices” for advocates, transit managers and planners. Evaluation forms submitted by attendees reported a positive experience, and RUN Chair Richard Rudolph pronounced the conference “a smashing success.” It succeeded in answering the question: “Who’s Looking Out for You?” in New England by presenting good examples. RUN hopes to hold next year’s conference in the Northwest.

For a number of attendees, the experience did not end when the conference adjourned. They stayed in Boston for an inspection tour of the transit offered on the “T” and some transit facilities. We will report on that tour next week.

Editor’s Note: Information on thr Rail Users’ Network (RUN) can be found at: http://www.railusers.net


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EXPANSION LINES... Expansion Lines...  

Crowds Jam Streetcars In Their Return To KC

By Eric Adler And Scott Canon
Kansas City Star

They came to be a part of history.

They came out of nostalgia.

They came because they saw streetcars as yet another sign of the economic and social resurgence of downtown Kansas City.

Shortly after 11 a.m. Friday, as the first streetcar in Kansas City since 1957 to carry regular passengers rolled away from Union Station, a huge cheer arose among the 50 passengers who had been allowed to jam inside.

“My mother used to say hell would freeze over before we had streetcars in Kansas City again,” said Randal Strong-Wallace, 47, whose mother now lives in Wichita.

As the car rolled on, seated passengers and those crammed elbow-to-elbow clasping onto the straps snapped cell phone pictures and video. The car followed one that carried Mayor Sly James and other dignitaries.

“I always wanted to see light rail or streetcars come back to Kansas City,” Strong-Wallace said.

Thousands of others who gathered Friday morning at Union Station for the official roll-out of the 2.2-mile, $100 million streetcar line obviously agreed. The atmosphere throughout the day was one of giddy and grand celebration. The streetcars all morning were as jammed as New York subway cars at rush hour.

If there seemed any first-day criticisms, it was that there wasn’t more rail to ride. A vote to extend it failed in summer 2014.

The most common question fielded by Brian Hadley, the director of safety and security for Herzog Transit Services, was: “ ‘When will it be extended?’ They want more.”

Still, buoyed by Chamber of Commerce weather and First Friday art and drinks, the trains were packed from the morning send-off and well through happy hour.

The most eager riders were the earliest.

“I have been so looking forward to this, I wouldn’t miss it,” said Kristin Amend Stephen, 53, of Kansas City. For years, she said, she has relished the mass transit systems that animate cities such as Paris and New York.

“I didn’t come down for the Royals thing,” she said of the 2015 World Series celebration. “This is my thing.”

Peggy Trinidad, 65, showed up holding a blue folder with photographs of her late father, Robert Latta, and the trolley car he spent part of his life operating in Kansas City before he later retired as a bus driver. She said her brother, John, keeps his father’s old trolley seat in his home.

“I think he’d like this,” she said, looking at the new streetcar, its polished white surface reflecting a bright sun on clear blue day.

Others came from much farther away. Several news crews from Cincinnati were on hand, with at least one streaming video of Kansas City’s opening. Cincinnati plans to launch its own 3.6-mile trolley line in September, using the same kind of cars.

Among the first in line early Friday were two New Yorkers — Andrew Grahl, 40, and wife Karen, 35, self-described “huge transit enthusiasts.”

“We basically planned our vacation around the opening of light rail in Kansas City,” Andrew Grahl said shortly after 8 a.m. He wasn’t joking. He schedules buses in New York City, and she schedules subways.

Ten hours before, the Grahls had been looking at Mount Rushmore as part of their trip and had just driven in Friday to see the Kansas City opening.

“I’ve been interested in public transit since I was a kid,” he said. “It’s nice to see in this day and age everything expanding, when in the ‘50s and ‘60s, everything was going away.”

He spoke of the better carbon footprint of mass transit, the environmental and community benefits.

“This is a positive thing for our society,” said Grahl, who has traveled to other cities, including Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., to view other transit openings. “This is a nice starter line. I hope to come back when it’s a full streetcar line.”

Anita Elder, 60, sitting in a wheelchair outside the car, called it “freedom” for her. She lives alone. She doesn’t have tons of money. She likes to get out.

“They say they have access for wheelchairs,” she said excitedly. She took buses to get to Union Station for the opening. “They tell me this is going to be free. That’s the kicker.”

For the historic record: The first passenger in line for the first public ride was Howard Callahan, 55, of Kansas City. He said his family grew up in Kansas’ Flint Hills.

His parents would tell him stories about taking the train into Kansas City’s Union Station, then hopping streetcars to shop downtown during Christmas. His motivation was nostalgia and history.

Second in line: Sam Beckett, 50, of Kansas City. “I voted for light rail 20 years ago,” he said, and was thrilled for it be a reality.

Dan Arst, 46, of Kansas City was third. “I just love the resurgence of Kansas City,” he said.

Wayne Pate, 46, and his wife, Kathy, 57, of Independence were next. “Just to be part of history,” Wayne Pate said.

The ride is smooth enough, but the starts and stops are sharp enough to challenge the balance of anyone standing who doesn’t hang onto a strap.

Photo KC Streetcar

Photo: Tammy Ljungblad

The first ride of the KC Streetcar had a police escort as it headed north on Main Street on Friday, May 6, 2016, after the grand opening celebration at Union Station. The KC Streetcar, which runs a two-mile, north-south route along Main Street, connects the River Market to Crown Center and Union Station and the business in between. The festivities continue with free rides all weekend.

Macy Marriott, 23, and her co-workers from UMB Bank boarded the line and rode it back to the Power & Light District stop, one of 16 on the looping round trip between Union Station and the River Market.

She said she and her friends drive to work, pay to park downtown and rarely travel even as far as the River Market for lunch. Now, they said, they might hop the streetcar if it the timing works.

“I’m curious to see what it’s like in six months,” said co-worker Kim Do, 23, recognizing that right now the streetcar is a novelty. At some point, it will face regular traffic and regular passengers.

“My concern, the only one I have, is what it will be like in the winter with snow and sheets of ice,” Marriott said.

Grace Blankenship of Kansas City, North, liked that it’s “so simple and clean and free.”

“There’s no danger of getting lost,” she said. “It goes one way and then comes back.”

Early in the day, streetcar officials said, most riders seemed to be starting from Union Station. The crowd thinned slightly in the afternoon, but picked up in the early evening with First Friday types coming downtown who were coming to Union Station after boarding at points north.

Outside Affäre restaurant at 19th and Main, Benny Buffa was helping selling bratwurst and sensing a different, streetcar-driven vibe.

“There’s more foot traffic,” he said. “There’s more excitement, even than a regular First Friday.”

David Thompson of Independence, who came downtown with his wife, Carol, thought it was “just great.”

“Now let’s just start investing money and take the line farther out through town,” he said.

Tess McCue was hired by a crowd control service to man the stop at 16th and Main, mostly to answer newbie questions. How many people does a streetcar hold? (150 can sardine in.) How long does it take to cover the route? (About 20 minutes.) How much does it cost to ride? (Free for riders; taxes pay the freight.)

She found people in an almost universally good mood.

“It’s a very positive vibe,” she said. “And it’s been packed all day.”

Others noticed cars and buses lining up behind the streetcars at stops and speculated on whether they would hamper traffic.

Some were surprised that the streetcars existed at all.

Sara Anderson, 40, flew in from Seattle for a weekend wedding. She was downtown, looking for a place to get something to drink, when she saw the streetcar stop at 14th and Main.

“Guess we can ride it,” she said. So she did.

Others had been waiting for this moment for decades. Rob Dodson was among them.

He was 5 years old and going on 6 when his father, now the late Robert Dodson, took him on the very last street car ride in Kansas City in June 1957.

“It pulled into the streetcar barn at 48th and Troost,” Dodson, 64, said. “The streetcar was packed. And my dad took me out of the rear door. As we were exiting, he held my left hand and said, ‘The next time you ride a streetcar in Kansas City, it will be 50 years.’ “

It was 59.

Dodson got on at 20th Street and rode to the River Market, shopped and returned to Union Station.

“I was determined to ride the very first day,” he said, adding of his dad: “He would have been proud. I thought of him all this morning.”

Read more here:
http://www.kansascity.com/news/local/article76034492.html#storylink=cpy


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Deland SunRail Funding Derailed Again;
TIGER Grant Application Halted

By Joe Crews
West Volusia Beacon

With a deadline fast approaching, state transportation officials decided at the eleventh hour against applying for federal funds to extend SunRail north to DeLand, DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar announced last Monday.

Toward the end of the DeLand City Commission’s May 2 meeting, Apgar said he had been told by Noranne Downs, the Florida Department of Transportation’s District 5 secretary, that it was a “consensus” of FDOT officials at the district and headquarters levels that the application should not be submitted to help pay for the extension of the commuter-rail system.

FDOT spokesman Steve Olson said the decision was made because officials couldn’t make the cost-sharing formula meet the goal of having half the cost covered by federal funds, a quarter by the state, and the final quarter by local partners.

The local partners are the City of Orlando, along with Volusia, Seminole, Orange and Osceola counties.

“The concern was that the TIGER-8 grant application, as submitted, wasn’t going to meet the 50-25-25 cost-sharing split,” Olson said. “The $25 million wasn’t working with the split. We worked on it, but couldn’t find a viable way to move forward … so the consensus was not to submit the application.”

State officials applied for $35 million under the federal TIGER program last year, but were denied, so on the advice of the U.S. Department of Transportation, they were considering the lesser amount, since that was what other applicants had been approved for.

TIGER is an acronym for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery.

For the remainder of this story see:
http://www.beacononlinenews.com/articles/2016/05/04/deland-sunrail-funding-derailed-again-tiger-grant-application-halted


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POLITICAL LINES... Political Lines...  

Melaniphy Quits; White Named Interim Head

By William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
Railway Age Magazine

Michael P. Melaniphy resigned as President and CEO of the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), effective April 29. APTA Vice President-Member Services Richard A. White is Acting President and CEO until a permanent replacement is selected.

APTA said, in a statement, that Melaniphy’s resignation “comes after consensus between the APTA Executive Committee and Melaniphy,” who had come under fire after the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, expressing extreme dissatisfaction with both the organization and Melaniphy, discontinued its Transit Member status.

APTA Chair Valarie J. McCall said Melaniphy’s resignation and the appointment of an Acting President and CEO “mark a new chapter of dynamic leadership for APTA, the premier association for the public transportation industry in North America. The change in leadership will spark and encourage all APTA stakeholders, from APTA members to coalition partners, to step forward with their thoughts and suggestions for improving the association at all levels. APTA will conduct a national search and ensure that this process will be transparent as we work to appoint the next President and CEO. APTA is welcoming constructive input to make the association as transparent and open as possible.”

Richard White previously served as APTA’s chair (2004-2005) and has a distinguished career in public transportation. He has held top management roles at New Jersey Transit, the Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in Washington, D.C.

Now that Melaniphy is out of the picture, there has been speculation that the New York MTA could return to the APTA fold, provided that several key changes take place. Among the NYMTA’s complaints is that no so-called “Legacy Systems” (NYMTA, NJ Transit, SEPTA, CTA, MBTA, PATH, BART, MUNI, PATCO, etc.) or commuter rail systems have voting representation on the APTA Executive Committee. NYMTA Chairman Tom Prendergast called this “unconscionable.”

Found at:
http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/passenger/commuter-regional/apta-melaniphy-quits-white-named-interim-head.html


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USDOT Picks New WMATA Board Members
To Tackle Safety Culture

From Rail, Track, And Structures

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has appointed three new Federal representatives, each with considerable expertise in safety, to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) board of directors.

The incoming appointees will bring to the board extensive backgrounds in transportation safety. They include two new principal directors with voting authority: Carol Carmody, former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and David Strickland, former administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The incoming alternate director will be Robert Lauby, chief safety officer of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Anthony Costa, a senior advisor to the Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA), will remain an alternate director. The appointments will be effective June 1, 2016.

Leaving the WMATA board in May, 2016, after distinguished service as Federal representatives are Mortimer Downey, a former U.S. deputy secretary of transportation, who has served for six years, becoming the chairman in January 2015; Harriet Tregoning, an expert in urban planning and smart growth, who has served since 2014 and Anthony Giancola, who served in the civil engineer Corps of the U.S. Navy for 20 years.

“Building a safety culture is not easy and requires relentless focus at every level. These three new Federal members will build on our promise to bring a laser-like focus on making the transit system of our nation’s capital as safe as possible.” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. “All three of the outgoing board members Mort Downey, Harriet Tregoning and Anthony Giancola have provided excellent service on the WMATA board and we thank them for bringing such great commitment to guiding WMATA through serious and complicated issues over the last few years.”

The WMATA Board of Directors is composed of eight voting and eight alternate directors. Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia and the federal government appoint two voting and two alternate directors each.

“The WMATA Board plays a crucial role in setting the direction for the agency as it strives to address infrastructure challenges and establish a robust safety culture,” said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers. “The temporary FTA WMATA Safety Oversight Office is on the job, but we are eager to see the local jurisdictions take responsibility and set up a permanent safety oversight agency.”

Carmody served for five years as a member of the NTSB and was appointed vice chairman by President Clinton. She served twice as acting chairman of the NTSB, her role leading the initial investigation into the September 11, 2001 attacks; she oversaw NTSB efforts to assist the FBI and other agencies with recovery and identification of aircraft parts and victims. Following her government service, Carmody joined the National Academy of Public Administration as director of transportation initiatives before retiring.

Strickland served as the fourteenth NHTSA Administrator. At NHTSA, he oversaw a broad range of vehicle safety and policymaking programs, including setting vehicle safety standards, investigating possible safety defects and tracking safety-related recalls. In addition, Strickland brought national attention to child passenger safety issues and was a leader in the campaigns to fight impaired and distracted driving.

Robert Lauby is currently FRA associate administrator for railroad safety and chief safety officer. He has 35 years of railroad and rail transit experience involving safety, security and accident investigation. In this role, he provides regulatory oversight for freight, intercity and commuter railroad safety in the United States and oversees the development and enforcement of safety regulations and programs related to the railroad industry.

From an item at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/safety-training/usdot-picks-new-wmata-board-members-to-tackle-safety-culture.html


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CORRIDOR LINES... Corridor Lines...  

For Faster Train Travel, Amtrak Wants To
Fix Railway Bottlenecks In Maryland

By Colin Campbell
The Baltimore Sun

As Amtrak trains whisk passengers hundreds of miles along the East Coast between Boston and Washington, they’re forced to slow down at four pinch points in Maryland, where ancient railroad infrastructure can’t accommodate the high speeds and capacity of modern train technology.

Officials have begun planning to fix two of the bottlenecks, the Susquehanna River Rail Bridge, which opened 110 years ago, and the even older Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel, built under the city in the decade after the Civil War.

Eliminating those choke points would speed up travel along the Northeast Corridor, officials say, bringing Amtrak closer to its goal: a two-hour trip between New York and Washington.

Paying for it, however, is another issue.

While Congress has funded the relatively inexpensive planning studies, replacing the Susquehanna River Rail Bridge project could take up to a decade and cost between $800 million and $1 billion, according to Amtrak estimates. The B&P Tunnel is a $4 billion project. Neither has been funded for construction.

The other two aging pinch points, the Gunpowder River Bridge between Chase and Joppa, and the Bush River Bridge between Edgewood and Perryman, have not received money to be studied, said Paul DelSignore, senior director for structures at Amtrak.

Amtrak faces a construction backlog of at least $28 billion, according to a capital investment plan published last month by the Northeast Corridor Commission, a group of state, federal and other stakeholders.

The studies alone take years and cost tens of millions of dollars.

The Maryland Department of Transportation is overseeing the B&P Tunnel and the Susquehanna River Rail Bridge projects, but the federal government is expected to foot most of the bill because of the cost and the impact on the overall corridor, said Bradley Smith, the state’s director of freight and multi-modalism.

For the full story continue at:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-amtrak-bridge-20160502-story.html


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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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BUILDERS LINES... Builders Lines...  

Alstom-Amtrak Deal On Track

By Jason Jordan
The Evening Tribune

HORNELL, NY — Federal and local officials alike continue to express confidence that Alstom and Amtrak will come to terms on a $2.5 billion high-speed rail cars contract in the next month.

Last September, Amtrak’s Board of Directors said Alstom was its preferred vendor to build its next line of Acela high-speed trains to service the Northeast Corridor. The order would include 28 train sets.

In 2014, the Acela service saw 28 days where daily trips exceeded 14,000 passengers, and the Northeast Corridor service generated nearly $500 million in profits in the same year, according to Amtrak. Those numbers are projected to grow in the coming years.

It is anticipated that the contract would mean the hiring of 400 new workers in Hornell, effectively doubling the plant’s workforce.

The deal apparently has been slowed by a bureaucratic review of the contract’s finer details. However, in a call with reporters on Monday, Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, reported a productive meeting with Alstom officials on Friday.

“I’m still confident that we are in a good position, but we are not celebrating and spiking the football until all the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed. But I think we’re moving forward each and every day,” he said.

Photo Hornell Plant

Photo: Evening Tribune

Alstom’s Hornell plant will likely double its local work force if and when a $2.5 billion contract is signed with Amtrak to build its next fleet of high-speed Acela trains.

Reed could not go into detail about the hold-up, other than to say, “I know it has been slowed down by the bureaucracy in Washington.”

“Making sure all the due diligence is done takes time, but nothing on that plate is anything causing me to jump up and down and say we have a major problem here. This is just essentially the background work that needs to be done before we can cross the finish line,” he said.

The effort to see negotiations to a happy and productive end for both sides has been an all-hands-on-deck effort by lawmakers and Hornell officials.

“We’re working together in a bipartisan way and bicameral way with our friends in the Senate like Sen. (Charles) Schumer being a great asset here. I think we can be in a good position shortly to finalize that contract and do that celebration and stand with the local community,” Reed said.

Schumer’s office has taken the lead on the issue, making the initial announcement that Alstom would be the preferred partner in the Acela endeavor.

“Sen. Schumer is optimistic that in next couple months Amtrak will give its final stamp of approval and jobs will be rolling into the Southern Tier,” said Jason Kaplan, spokesman for the senator.

Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan, who has been briefed on negotiations by Alstom representatives, is also expressing confidence.

“There’s no reason not to be optimistic,” he said. “I’m told that everything is moving along as anticipated and they’re getting the details worked out.”

Each of the leaders pointed out that when $2.5 billion changes hands, it’s bound to take some time.

“I can see why each side might move cautiously, but I’m more optimistic today than I was on Sept. 21 when they announced the contact would be Alstom’s,” Hogan said.

The latest projections for a deal to be signed range from the end of May to early June, according to policy experts tracking negotiations.

Found at:
http://www.eveningtribune.com/article/20160503/NEWS/160509930/


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FUNDING LINES... Funding Lines...  

U.S. Department Of Transportation Announces $10 Million
Tiger Grant To Extend Amtrak Service To Burlington, VT

Project Includes New Passenger Platforms In Middlebury, Vergennes, And Burlington

From A USDOT Press Release

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg joined U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, U.S. Congressman Peter Welch, and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin at an event Friday to announce that the U.S. Department of Transportation will provide $10 million to extend Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express passenger train service all the way to Burlington, Vermont. Currently, the service begins in New York City and stops in Rutland, Vermont.

“Transportation is always about the future. If we’re just fixing today’s problems, we’ll fall further and further behind. We already know that a growing population and increasing freight traffic will require our system to do more,” said Secretary Foxx. “In this round of TIGER grants, we selected projects that focus on where the country’s transportation infrastructure needs to be in the future: safer, more innovative, and more targeted to open the floodgates of opportunity across America.”

The $10 million grant will fund approximately 11 miles of new rail track along the state-owned line and three passenger platforms in Middlebury, Vergennes, and Burlington. The project will also reduce long-term maintenance costs for the state, allow passenger trains to operate up to 60 miles per hour, and enhance safety at multiple railroad crossings.

The project is one of 39 federally-funded transportation projects in 34 states selected to receive a total of nearly $500 million under the Department’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) 2015 program. Secretary Foxx announced project selections for this round of TIGER grants on October 29, 2015. The Department received 627 eligible applications from 50 states and several U.S. territories, including tribal governments, requesting 20 times the $500 million available for the program, or $10.1 billion, for needed transportation projects.

With this latest round of funding, TIGER continues to invest in transformative projects that will provide significant and measurable improvements over existing conditions. The awards recognize projects nationwide that will advance key transportation goals such as safety, innovation, and opportunity.

“Every week, there are communities from across the country that meet with the Federal Railroad Administration wanting, and needing, to expand passenger rail service. But many do not have the partnerships and leadership like Vermont does to move those projects from conception to reality,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “Passenger rail service has been part of Burlington’s past, and with this grant we are making it part of its future.”

This grant is part of the seventh round of TIGER grants since 2009, bringing the total grant amount to more than $4.6 billion provided to 381 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, including 134 projects supporting rural and tribal communities. Demand for the program has been overwhelming: to date, the U.S. Department of Transportation has received more than 6,700 applications requesting more than $134 billion for transportation projects across the country.

The original press release can be found at:
https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-announces-10-million-tiger-grant-extend-amtrak-service


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Somerville And Cambridge To Kick-In More $$$
For MBTA Green Line Extension

From The Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

Joint Statement Of Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone And
Cambridge City Manager Richard C. Rossi
Regarding The MBTA Green Line Extension
May 5, 2016

The Cities of Somerville and Cambridge Massachusetts are pleased to make this important announcement of our continued support for and commitment of new funds to bridge the funding gap that will allow the construction of the [Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority] Green Line Extension Project (GLX) to move forward.

It is our understanding that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has completed its review of the GLX and developed a new cost estimate, and that on Monday, May 9, MassDOT will transmit information for review and evaluation by the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Board of Directors that includes a revised budget and plans and a statement of need for municipal governments hosting the GLX to contribute funding. Based on that understanding, we are prepared to make a recommendation that our municipalities assist the state in the funding solution for this project.

We would like to thank the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the interim design team for their swift but careful scrutiny of the project plans and budget, their commitment to the inclusion of public and municipal feedback, and their diligence in developing a new strategy for moving forward. Should the FMCB approve their expected recommendation to construct the GLX, residents of the Commonwealth will reap the benefits of the team’s critical effort for decades to come.

It is our understanding, however, that without firm financial commitments from our municipalities that the GLX could be canceled and the Commonwealth would forfeit not only its $996 million federal New Starts grant award, but an estimated $700 million in “sunk costs” of the state’s $996 million share of the project. Additionally, the fulfillment of the public needs that this project was designed to meet would remain unrealized.

The purpose of the GLX is to improve regional air quality as required by legally binding resolutions, reduce roadway congestion, encourage sustainable economic growth, and provide a convenient means of public transportation for Massachusetts residents, workers and visitors. To ensure that these needs and goals do not go unmet, the cities of Cambridge and Somerville intend to seek to expand their financial partnership with the Commonwealth to construct elements of the GLX program, subject to and contingent upon approval by the Cambridge City Council and the Somerville Board of Aldermen.

It should be noted that both the cities of Cambridge and Somerville have previously invested significant funds and resources in sunken costs in support of the GLX project, including the City of Somerville’s investment of more than $8 million for land acquisition and other infrastructure, that have relieved the Commonwealth of several specific required project costs. Similarly, the developers of the North Point area are investing tens of millions of dollars in improvements that support and enable the GLX to occur. Expanding this financial partnership is an extreme and unprecedented arrangement for a state infrastructure project. Despite the fact that our cities bear no responsibility for the cost overruns that brought the GLX to this moment of crisis, we will seek to support the Commonwealth by expanding our cost-sharing role. The Green Line is that important to our communities, our region, and our state.

It is our understanding that the new cost estimate for the GLX will retain core program elements including seven light rail transit stations including a spur to Union Square, a Vehicle Maintenance Facility, a Community Path, and related utility upgrades. With that clear understanding, it is our intention as Mayor of the City of Somerville and City Manager of Cambridge to recommend to the Somerville Board of Aldermen and the Cambridge City Council that our cities commit to underwriting project costs for specific, tangible elements that would deliver meaningful public safety and quality-of-life benefits for our residents.

After discussions with the state, the needed value of new financial participation in the GLX for the City of Somerville is projected to be $50 million and the value of the City of Cambridge’s contribution is projected at $25 million, including financial contributions from the North Point developers, to close the funding gap. Again, any contribution will be subject to Board and City Council approvals.

Furthermore, it is our intention to work, alongside the Metropolitan Area Planing Council (MAPC), with Governor Baker’s administration and the cities’ state and federal delegations to seek legislative action on new and refined “value capture” tools capable of supporting new infrastructure investments around Massachusetts. In addition, we request that the Commonwealth establish a baseline tracking framework for future Infrastructure Investment Incentive (I-Cubed) state tax revenue accruals generated by transit-oriented development around the GLX, so as to not preclude a formal application to use eligible I-Cubed revenues to offset Cambridge’s and Somerville’s proposed municipal contribution, if they choose that option.

It is clear that the Commonwealth is shifting to a new paradigm for major transportation infrastructure investments. Across the nation, many states have established predictable and equitable frameworks for local value capture financing in state transportation projects. As we work toward that goal, Somerville and Cambridge will stand with the Commonwealth to advance the state of the art. We do so with the expectation that this is truly a new precedent for statewide policy, and that our communities will not be held to higher standards than other Massachusetts municipalities seeking state and federal financing for roadway, transit or other infrastructure projects.

Additional Comment from Massachusetts Area Planning Council:

“I want to congratulate the Cities of Cambridge and Somerville for making this unprecedented municipal commitment to help fund a critical state transportation project,” said Metropolitan Area Planning Council Executive Director Marc Draisen. “The Green Line Extension will have a significant, positive impact on our region in terms of jobs created and retained, new housing units created, and increased transit access for tens of thousands of residents. Cambridge and Somerville have shown a willingness to help invest in a project that will benefit themselves and their neighboring municipalities. We applaud them and MassDOT for working together to create this opportunity to advance this project.”

Found at:
http://cambridgecivic.com/?p=4813


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES... Environmental Lines...  

FRA Begins Environmental Impact Review
For Hudson Tunnel Project

From Progressive Railroading

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has published its notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement with New Jersey Transit for the proposed Hudson tunnel project, according to the Federal Register.

The project involves the construction of a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River, including the railroad infrastructure in New Jersey and New York to connect the new tunnel to the Northeast Corridor (NEC), as well as rehabilitating the corridor’s existing tunnel known as the North River Tunnel, according to the notice.

The environmental impact statement will evaluate the project’s potential environmental impacts of a range of alternatives, as well as the “no build” option.

As necessary, the FRA and NJ Transit will coordinate the statement with Amtrak — which owns the tunnel — and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The FRA is soliciting written comments on the scope of the statement by May 31. In addition, the FRA and NJ Transit will hold scoping meetings on May 17 in New York City and May 19 in New Jersey.

The tunnel system is a critical component of the NEC, as it is the only intercity passenger rail crossing into New York City from New Jersey. Amtrak and NJ Transit provide connections between the major cities of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states and commuter connections for people heading into and out of New York City.

From an article at:
http://www.progressiverailroading.com/passenger_rail/news/FRA-begins-environmental-impact-review-for-Hudson-tunnel-project--48130

Editor’s Note - Progressive Railroading failed to report an important fact about the two hearings that the FRA and NJT will soon hold about new tunnels under the Hudson River. The New York hearing is easly-accessible by rail. In fact, it could not be easier, because the Pennsylvania Hotel is located just across Seventh Avenue from Penn Station.

The New Jersey hearing is a totally different matter. It is scheduled to take place at Union City High School; a location that has no direct rail transit access, and which can only be reached on transit with difficulty. From Newark Penn Station, the hearing site requires a 30-minute bus ride on NJT’s #108 or a 45-minute process that includes taking a PATH train to Journal Square in Jersey City, and then changing to the #83 bus there. From Hoboken Terminal, the processes are similar; either a 29-minute bus ride on the #85 or a 40-minute two-0seat ride on NJT light rail and a bus.

NJT has recently held meetings concerning the NEC Future process at its own headquarters, located across the street from Penn Station, Newark. For Hoboken riders, City Hall is only three blocks from the train station. Certainly, NJT and the FRA could have scheduled new Jersey hearings in a place that is convenient for rail riders. We can only wonder why they refrained from doing so, especially since the New York hearings are so conveniently-located.

David Peter Alan
Contributing Editor
Destination: Freedom


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SAFETY LINES... Safety Lines...  

CHSRA Acquires Radio Spectrum Required
For Train Communications

From Rail, Track, And Structures

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) received final approval to acquire exclusive rights to the radio spectrum needed to operate future communications systems for its trains.

The agreement with Access 700, LLC, a subsidiary of Access Spectrum, LLC, for 44 frequencies covering the lower section of the state, is important for the development of secure and reliable train communication systems. These systems include features such as Positive Train Control. Radio spectrum is also needed to monitor train conditions and diagnostics and to operate security systems along the high-speed rail system.

CHSRA says it purchased Access Spectrum’s Upper 700 MHz A Block spectrum because the signal is clear, not susceptible to interference and not shared with other users. As only authorized parties will have access to these frequencies, they are ideal for secure communication between trains, CHSRA facilities and public safety agencies.

“By obtaining exclusive rights to this spectrum, we will be able to ensure a secure communications network for future high-speed rail operations across California,” said CHSRA Chief Program Manager Frank Vacca.

Found at:
http://www.rtands.com/index.php/passenger/intercity/chsra-acquires-radio-spectrum-required-for-train-communications.html

Editor Note: The availability of radio spectrum, that is, radio frequencies in a given radio band, has been an ongoing problem for railroads seeking to implement federally mandated Positive Train Controls (PTC). Under the current process, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issues blocks of radio spectrum to private industry. Those companies then effectively own those radio channels and use them for commercial communications purposes. PTC needs to operate in radio bands or a small group of radio bands that trains travel through for long distances, sometimes dozens or hundreds of miles. If those radio bands cannot be obtained, it becomes costly to install equipment that will compensate. Even more difficult, in some regions radio bands are simply not available.


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

California High-Speed Rail Authority Staff
Recommends Stop At Madera Amtrak

Chowchilla News
Staff Reports

The California High-Speed Rail Authority staff on April 21 recommended a high-speed rail stop be added in Madera. The recommendation was made to the CHSRA board of directors as a proposed update to the draft 2016 Business Plan.

Authority staff recommended integrating the high-speed rail stop at Madera Amtrak to further rail connectivity between the Central Valley and other areas of the state. The proposed location will also maximize connections between high-speed rail trains and the existing San Joaquin Rail Service at Madera Amtrak.

The Madera County High-Speed Rail Heavy Maintenance Facility Task Force, a coalition of local community, business and government leaders advocating for the job-creating high-speed rail heavy maintenance facility to be located in Madera County, applauded the recommendation.

“The Madera County High-Speed Rail Heavy Maintenance Facility Task Force commends staff’s recommendation to include a high-speed rail stop at Madera Amtrak, as it represents an incredible transportation enhancement for our communities,” said Max Rodriguez, District 4 representative on the Madera County Board of Supervisors.

“Not only will this increase our region’s transportation options, it will also create exciting new economic opportunities for Madera County and improve the overall quality of life for our residents,” Rodriguez added.

The recommended updates were developed in response to public comments received on the draft 2016 Business Plan earlier this year. The authority’s board of directors was expected to consider the recommended updates at its meeting on April 28.

The authority is legally required to adopt a final Business Plan and submit it to the Legislature by May 1.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the High-Speed Rail Authority both on the proposed stop at Madera Amtrak and in our continued efforts to secure the heavy maintenance facility in Madera County, which is the most operationally efficient and strategic location of those being considered,” said Madera City Councilman Andy Medellin.

For more information or to join the Madera County High-Speed Rail Heavy Maintenance Facility Task Force, contact Leticia Gonzalez at leticia.gonzalez@co.madera.ca.gov.

From an item at:
http://www.thechowchillanews.com/2016/05/04/45860/california-high-speed-rail-authority.html


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TO THE NORTH... To The North...  

Save VIA Agrees With Auditor General’s Report:
VIA Has ‘Deficiencies’ And Lacks Direction

Press Release From “Save VIA”

ST. MARYS, ONTARIO – The Save VIA citizens’ committee applauds the findings of a special examination of VIA Rail by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG), which has identified several flaws in the way our Crown rail passenger service is managed and delivered by both the railway and the government.

“It was high time for an independent and thorough VIA audit like this,” says Save VIA’s Chris West. “What the Auditor General has found is proof that our new government had better get beyond its words of praise for the concept of improved rail passenger service and aggressively tackle a series of problems that threaten to destroy it. Action – not sunny phrases – is what all Canadian rail passengers require now, as this report proves.”

The special examination by the OAG is especially critical of how the federal government oversees and ultimately controls VIA, making it nearly impossible to engage in any long-range planning. Furthermore, VIA’s own handling of the projects funded under a $1-billion capital investment program that began in 2007 – which still isn’t complete and has run millions of dollars over budget – also received a negative review by the OAG.

Says West, “These are all things that Save VIA, other advocacy groups and rail experts have been saying for years. We have always said that our rail passenger service won’t improve until basics such as governance, VIA’s managerial competency and the relationship with the freight railways are tackled.”

As the OAG has pointed out, the result of all these deficiencies is that VIA’s revenue has only gone up by about $5 million over the last five years, while its expenses rose by about $60 million and its ridership drop by about eight per cent.

West says these deficiencies at VIA and within the government’s own mishandling of the rail passenger program are of extreme concern to Save VIA at a time when the Crown corporation is asking Ottawa to approve a $4-billion proposal to build what it calls a dedicated-track, high-frequency service between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

“As rail consultant and government policy adviser Greg Gormick pointed out in a recent report on the future of VIA’s Quebec-Windsor Corridor for Transport Action Ontario, this scheme is filled with serious question marks, shifting details and dubious promises,” says West. “The OAG report gives us no faith in VIA’s ability to deliver this ‘silver bullet’ project on what amounts to a fantasy budget and schedule. Furthermore, it looks all too similar to other dream schemes that VIA produced and Ottawa approved in the past. All of them ultimately amounted to nothing and diverted both parties from the real job of delivering a practical, sustainable and affordable rail passenger service to the taxpayers who fund it.”

In response to the OAG report, Minister of Transport Marc Garneau said he is taking its findings seriously and will address the “weaknesses” that have been identified.

Says West, “We can only hope that’s true. But actions speak louder than words, so we’ll wait to see some of the former before Save VIA issues any endorsements of the course this new government is steering when it comes to dealing with a major public program that has a huge economic, social and environmental impact clear across Canada.”

The Auditor General of Canada’s Special Examination Report on VIA Rail may be viewed at:
http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_oag_201602_07_e_41251.html

For further information, please contact:

Chris West
Save VIA
Box 1197
449 Queen St. W
St. Marys, ON N4X 1B7
chriswest@kwic.com
www.savevia.ca
Tel: 519 284 3310 :Fax: 519 284 3160
Sans frais/toll free 1-866-8632 ext 238


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OFF THE MAIN LINE... Off The Main Line...  

Goodbye To Ol’ Faithful

 

Amtrak Will Retire More Than 50 Locomotives
Used For Decades

By J.D. Capelouto
Boston Globe

Come this June, it will be full speed ahead for Amtrak’s new electric trains on the Northeast Corridor, as the iconic AEM-7 locomotives are retired after almost 40 years on the rails.

The new trains, called Cities Sprinter, are safer and more energy-efficient, but are not expected to be faster, Amtrak said. Both have maximum speeds of 125 miles per hour.

The 54 AEM-7 electric trains have carried passengers between Washington and New Haven since 1979, Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said. In 1999, the section of the Northeast Corridor from New Haven to Boston was electrified, allowing the AEM-7’s to serve travelers to Boston.

“AEM-7s have built on the legacies of the Pennsylvania and New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroads as the Northeast Corridor has expanded into the 21st century,” Amtrak said in a statement.

Amtrak will mark the retirement of the AEM-7s with a special farewell trip June 18, the company said.

Photo AEM-7 Electric Locomotive

Photo: Amtrak

The AEM-7 will be retired. The locomotive was one of the more reliable in the Amtrak fleet.

The train will leave from Washington in the morning and travel to Philadelphia, where it will turn around and head south. It will stop at the mechanical shops in Wilmington, Del., on the way back to Washington, Amtrak said.

These shops were the maintenance home of the AEM-7 trains.

Tickets for the trip are available to the public and can be purchased from Amtrak for $155 for adults.

Amtrak expects the final Cities Sprinter train to be delivered this summer, Tolbert said. Eventually, 70 of the new trains will run in the Northeast Corridor.

Tolbert said the trains have a total cost of $466 million.

Found at:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/05/03/amtrak-lead-farewell-trip-for-year-old-electric-trains/obBTrcJ771qkHZlncBo4EJ/story.html


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PUBLICATION NOTES...  Publication Notes...

Copyright © 2016 National Corridors Initiative, Inc. as a compilation work and original content. Permission is granted to reproduce content provided acknowledgements to NCI are given. Return links to the NCI web site are encouraged and appreciated. Color Name Courtesy of Doug Alexander. Content reproduced by NCI remain the copyrights of the original publishers.

Web page links as reproduced in our articles are active at the time we go to press. Occasionally, news and information outlets may opt to archive these articles and notices under alternative web addresses after initial publication. NCI has no control over the policies of other web sites and regrets any inconvenience experienced when clicking off our web site.

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, weíd like to hear from you. Please e-mail the editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. Kirkpatrick, NCIís webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, intermodalism, transportation-oriented development, and current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending large images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size. Descriptive text which includes location and something about the content of the image is required. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your web site or e-mail address.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other transportation initiative sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives ñ state DOTs, legislators, government offices, and transportation organizations or professionals ñ as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists. If you have a favorite link, please send the web address (URL) to our webmaster.

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