- CT split on “NEW-build” or “RE-build” of NEC
- PATH achieves highest ridership ever
- NARP 8/5/16 Hotline
- MBTA to begin PTC installation next spring
- VP candidate Kaine has long, successful resume in rail/transportation/infrastructure issues
- MBTA to implement automated fare collection system by 2019
- Next NYC new subway car order could support over 33,000 new American jobs
- NYMTA’s role in fighting Zika virus
- MBTA infrastructure going solar
- Central Maine & Quebec RR named “REGIONAL RR of the YEAR” by Railway Age Magazine
- Cincinnati’s new streetcar gearing up for September revenue service
- Amtrak’s new ACS-64 Locomotives having positive impact on NEC and Keystone corridors
- Freight RR traffic slide continues
- Amtrak’s GREAT DOME CAR coming soon to a DOWNEASTER near you!!
15. From TRAINS Magazine: A privately run commuter railroad for New England
By Scott A. Hartley | August 1, 2016
Scott A. Hartley
WORCESTER, Mass. — Commuter trains could be running between Woonsocket and Providence, R.I., by late 2017, if all goes according to Vincent J. Bono’s plans. Bono is Boston Surface Railroad Co.’s CEO. He founded the company in 2013 with the intent of offering privately run commuter service between Worcester, Mass., and Providence, using 44 miles of tracks belonging to regional railroad Providence & Worcester.
Bono spoke with Trains News Wire Saturday, while riding a chartered Providence & Worcester passenger train that provided a board room for Boston Surface Railroad’s annual Board of Directors meeting. The seven-member Board had met privately in P&W’s lounge car shortly after the train departed Worcester Union Station at 9 a.m. Also along for the ride were approximately 60 family members and friends of Boston Surface’s board and employees. And, having a five-car train scheduled to make an eight-hour trip over 174 miles of Providence & Worcester freight lines and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, Bono took the unusual step of offering seats to the public at $50 a seat. About 100 private, paying customers purchased a ticket.
Bono has a technology background, but his consulting firm serves railroad clients, and he is confident that Boston Surface Railroad’s proposed service between two major cities will be successful. Boston Surface Railroad Co. plans on 100-percent farebox recovery, with no public subsidies.
“Our job is to serve an existing commuter base,” Bono says. He explains that Worcester is New England’s second-largest city and Providence is the region’s largest growing job market. Currently this city pair is served directly only by infrequent bus service. A rail trip involves a round-about 89-mile routing via Boston on Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority trains.
Bono cites research that shows 8 to 15 percent of commuters who drive distances of 45 miles, or have a commute time of more than 45 minutes, will use rail if it is available. He is counting on those numbers, as well as traffic data that show 12,000 people currently commute the 44 miles from Worcester to Providence each day, and an additional 15,000 who make the shorter 16-mile trip from Woonsocket to Providence. The main highway connecting Worcester, Woonsocket, and Providence is Massachusetts and Rhode Island Route 146, a four-lane road with traffic lights punctuating the journey. Eighty percent of the travel time on this route is over the short segment between Woonsocket and Providence. The 16-rail miles between Woonsocket and Providence would see two daily round trips beginning next year, Bono says. Providence & Worcester crews would operate the trains.
“While no material agreements have been reached, both [railroad companies] are excited about the prospect of running commuter service between New England’s second and third largest cities and continue to work together to evaluate each and every aspect of the proposed service to work towards that goal,” says Providence & Worcester general counsel Charles D. Rennick. Bono calls P&W “a very supportive partner.”
Boston Surface officials say they will lease rolling stock for the new service. Bono says that he is considering secondhand EMD F59 locomotives, and that there are sources of available single-level coaches. Although the initial Woonsocket service will not require the full eventual roster, Bono plans to acquire sufficient locomotives and cars so that he has what he calls a “homogenous” fleet. Each train is expected to include a food service car.
Bono hopes to roll out full Worcester-Providence service, with three daily round trips, in 2018. Initial one-way travel time is planned to be 85 minutes. Bono says that the best time by car is just 57 minutes, but that can increase whenever there is any traffic problem. He already has received approval from the Worcester Redevelopment Authority to construct a high-level platform along the Providence & Worcester tracks at Worcester Union Station — on the opposite side of the station used by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter trains operated by Keolis Commuter Services. A high-level platform will be constructed at Woonsocket Station, which now serves as Boston Surface’s headquarters. A remaining challenge is arranging to use Amtrak’s Providence station.
“Amtrak has been incredible supportive,” Bono says.
Providence & Worcester’s freight route through Providence station does not have a passenger platform, so Boston Surface trains initially would need to make a back-up move to reach active platforms already used by Amtrak and MBTA trains. Bono hopes that current track arrangements can be modified to permit direct access. A passing siding will be necessary midway on P&W’s single-track Worcester-Providence line. Both projects would be paid for by Boston Surface, Bono says. Based on train speed during Saturday’s trip, upgrades will be necessary over much of the P&W route to permit higher passenger train speeds, a further cost to be incurred by Boston Surface Railroad.
On the final lap of Saturday’s trip, the Boston Surface Railroad chartered train made its only stop of the day at the former New Haven Railroad Woonsocket station. If all goes as Bono plans, this will be where his company’s first trains will originate in 2017. He says that the railroad will share the facility with a coffee shop, a chiropractor’s office, a massage therapist, and possibly a law office.
16. From TRAINS Magazine: Much more of Maine Central No. 470 to move the week of Aug. 8
By Justin Franz | August 2, 2016
New England Steam Corp.
WATERVILLE, Maine — Officials with the New England Steam Corp. announced this week that Maine Central 4-6-2 No. 470 will move to its new home at the Downeast Scenic Railroad the week of Aug. 8.
Three weeks after the cab and cross-compound pump where moved from No. 470’s display site in Waterville, the rest of the locomotive — including the boiler, running gear, cylinders, drivers and tender — will be moved on three different semi-trailers on Aug. 8, 9, and 10.
Spectators will not be permitted into the loading areas but New England Steam Corp. officials say people will be able to watching the locomotive be loaded on to trucks from public areas.
“Moving 470 is the culmination of three years of intense planning, fund raising, and volunteer labor, to preserve and restore the largest surviving steam locomotive in New England. 470 is an icon of Maine transportation history,” officials stated in a press release.
The efforts to restore the Pacific — the last steam locomotive to operate on the Maine Central, in 1954 — began three years ago when the City of Waterville was looking to get rid of the locomotive. The non-profit New England Steam Corporation came forward with a proposal to operate it and since then it has been preparing No. 470 for its 80-mile move to Washington Junction where they plan to restore it to steam. The group expects that it will take about $1.75 million and a decade to restore the locomotive.
17. From TRAINS Magazine: Train workers turn down jobs at new commuter rail link due to cost of living
August 2, 2016
SAN FRANCISCO – The cost of living in San Francisco’s North Bay area is making it difficult for a new commuter rail agency to fill all of the positions it needs to begin commuter rail service at the end of this year.
An article in the San Francisco Chronicle says that soaring housing prices and the increased cost of living have complicated hiring for Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit. The new commuter rail agency is scheduled to begin rail service at the end of this year in the area.
The agency has hired only 11 of the 21 conductors it needs, along with three of the eight signal maintainers and five of eight railcar technicians. Due to recent rejections and inadequate staffing, salaries were recently increased about 11 percent for the positions. The bump in salaries is helping attract “fresh interest,” according to Jeanne Mariani-Belding, a spokesperson for the agency.
When complete, rail service will operate between the Sonoma County Airport and downtown San Rafael.
18. From TRAINS Magazine: 2016 TIGER grants assist rail freight, passenger projects in 11 states
August 2, 2016
U.S. Department of Transportation
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded nearly a half a billion dollars in its 2016 TIGER grant program. Officially known as the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program, several projects in the 2016 awards focus on rail freight and passenger benefits.
Rail-related projects included in this year’s grant program include:
• $25 million to upgrade historic sections of Chicago’s “L” train infrastructure
• $20 million to improve infrastructure and facility on the Utah Transit Authority
• $15 million for a BNSF Railway grade separation project in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
• $13.1 million to build a new passenger station in Pawtucket, R.I.
• $10 million in improvements to the Port of Everett in Washington state
• $10 million to replace a Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority station in Claymont, Del.
• $10 million to rehabilitate five bridges on the Natchez Railway in Mississippi
• $9.7 million to improve infrastructure on a R.J. Corman short line in the Carolinas
• $8.6 million for the Redlands Passenger rail project n San Bernardino, Calif.
• $7.3 million in multimodal improvements at the Port of Portland in Oregon
• $6.2 million to upgrade the Bay Area Rapid Transit’s 19th Street/Oakland station
• $6.1 million to improve dock-to-rail capability in Little Rock, Ark.
This is the eighth year for the TIGER program. Since 2009, the grant program has provided more than $5 billion in funding to more than 420 projects in all 50 states.
19. From TRAINS Magazine: MBTA looks to offset operating deficit with workforce reductions
August 3, 2016
BOSTON – Boston’s rail transit agency is considering cutbacks in its workforce to reduce a more than $100 million deficit due to lower-than-expected tax revenues.
Local media report that when the transit agency passed its budget in April ahead of July’s fiscal year, officials projected higher sales tax revenues, a portion of which are dedicated to the transit agency by state law. Since then, tax revenue projections declined and the agency’s budget gap grew.
“As we seek to close what’s a $100-plus million deficit this year, everything’s on the table. Seventy-five percent of our costs are wages and benefits, so that’s a core area of focus for us,” says Brian Shortsleeve, chief administrator for the MBTA.
The agency says it hopes to reduce about $37.5 million in savings of unpaid wages and benefits and is targeting a staff reduction of around 300 people. The agency will go department-by-department with an emphasis on corporate and administrative departments.
The agency employs about 6,500 people.
20. From TRAINS Magazine: Hoosier State celebrates one-year anniversary, ridership achievements
August 4, 2016
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Transportation, Iowa Pacific Holdings and local communities are celebrating the one-year anniversary of improvements made to the Hoosier State passenger train.
Operating between Chicago and Indianapolis four days a week, the Hoosier State has reported increases in both ridership and revenue for the months of May and June. According to an Indiana Department of Transportation news release, ticket revenues have increased more than 60 percent in comparison with the same period last year.
The state agency also adds that the passenger train is ranked as one of the highest-rated trains on the Amtrak system, with about 90 percent of riders reporting a “very satisfied” experience.
In the months since October 2015, the train has also averaged an on-time performance of around 82 percent.
At the end of July 2015, the state signed a contract with Amtrak and Iowa Pacific that allowed the Hoosier to be operated by Amtrak crews, but using equipment and amenities offered by Iowa Pacific. The first train under the new service agreement departed Indianapolis on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015.
21. From TRAINS Magazine: Washington Metro transit police officer charged with helping ISIS
August 4, 2016
TRAINS: Steve Sweeney
WASHINGTON — A police officer with Washington’s Metro Transit police has been charged with aiding ISIS. Local media say it is the first time a law enforcement officer has been charged with an ISIS-related crime.
The 36-year-old Virginia resident has been with the transit agency’s police department since 2003. He was arrested on Wednesday morning by FBI agents at Metro Transit Police Headquarters in Washington.
According to local reports, the officer attempted to send money to ISIS through mobile-based gift cards using an unnamed messaging service the terrorist group uses for recruiting purposes. The digital transaction was actually sent to an undercover FBI agent sometime in July.
He will be held in Alexandria, Va., until his detention hearing. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a lifetime of supervised release.
- NARP Hotline for 7/29/16
- Latest on NNEPRA’s state review
- PHOTOS: N, Carolina’s massive passenger rail improvement project well underway
- GOP aims to throw mass transit funding under the bus
- Severe weather delays Downeaster trains for hours
- PHOTOS: 13 photo galleries of “Trains, Glorious Trains”
- MBTA oks $18.5m for Red Line winter resiliency work
- Freight RR traffic decline continues, and continues, and continues
- Latest photos of the Brunswick Layover Facility
10. From TRAINS Magazine: Passenger railroad company, regional to host special passenger excursion
July 25, 2016
WORCESTER, Mass. — The Boston Surface Railroad Co., a group looking to operate commuter rail service between Providence, R.I., and Worcester, Mass., is announcing a special sightseeing excursion on the Providence & Worcester Railroad and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor on Saturday, July 30.
The company is hosting the special excursion to discuss details about the company’s ideas to restore passenger service to the Blackstone River Valley. The trip will depart from Worcester Union Station at 9 a.m. and will operate to Groton, Conn., before connecting to the Northeast Corridor past Providence. The excursion will return to Worcester around 4:15 p.m.
According to the Mass Bay Railroad Enthusiasts, members of the railfan group will be able to ride the sightseeing excursion at a reduced fare, courtesy of the Boston Surface Railroad Co. Adult fares would be $50 for the event, however members of the enthusiast group will be only $40.
The round-trip excursion will use diesel and passenger equipment operated by the Providence & Worcester Railroad.
11. From TRAINS Magazine: Comparing food on dining cars to lounge-diners
Amtrak’s temporary menu changes aren’t all bad, and some are tasty
By Bob Johnston | July 26, 2016
CHICAGO — The decision to temporarily substitute Amfleet II diner lounges for heritage dining cars on the Lake Shore Limited beginning last week means the train’s menu will feature fare similar to what is served on other long distance trains with limited food preparation facilities.
Instead of steaks at dinner, cooked-to-order omelets or french toast at breakfast, and side orders like mashed and baked potatoes available in Superliner and heritage dining cars, Amtrak’s Amfleet IIs are confined to what can be prepared in convection and microwave ovens. Heritage dining cars are cars that Amtrak inherited from predecessor private railroads and were built in the 1940s and 1950s.
A journey on the Chicago-Washington-New YorkCardinal in June shows a reduced selection at each meal and slow service because only one attendant serves patrons and heats pre-plated food. Presumably more staffing can help mitigate that situation, especially westbound out of Albany, N.Y., where passengers from the Boston section board at dinnertime.
But the reduced food service has pluses: fresh fruit accompanied a sausage-egg breakfast dish, thick sandwiches and a fresh garden salad were offered at lunch, and the dinner choices included a decent barbeque pulled pork dish with macaroni-and-cheese, lasagna, chicken enchilada, and tilapia with wild rice.
With the exception of the City of New Orleans, all other long-distance trains with a Superliner or heritage dining car have been serving the same menu all summer.
Dinner selections might include a special, but otherwise the choices are always the same: roast chicken, steak, black-bean vegetable enchiladas or Pad Thai with rice noodles for the vegetarian dish, corkscrew pasta in a three-cheese sauce, and shrimp-crab cakes.
On the City, Amtrak is experimenting with counter-top convection and microwave ovens prepared upstairs in a Superliner diner lounge, so those menus are similar to the ones on theCardinal and Lake Shore.
Food preparation technology has improved since 2007, when a revision of U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules led to a similar temporary substitution of Amfleet IIs on the Lake Shore. Since then, all Amtrak food service cars now must be taken out of service for several trips every 90 days to undergo extensive FDA inspection.
Since June, when the vintage single-level cars were withdrawn from service [See the September 2016 issue of Trains for more details], Amtrak had been operating with only one car to substitute among the 11 required for service on the Crescent, Silver Meteor, and Lake Shore Limited. Rather than risk offering no food service if one of those cars failed an inspection, management opted for the Amfleet IIs on the train that served the fewest meals en route.
12. From TRAINS Magazine: NAACP says public transit is a civil right
July 26, 2016
CINCINNATI — During its annual convention held recently, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, also known as the NAACP, passed a national transportation policy platform that establishes public transportation as a basic civil right.
All Aboard Ohio Vice Chair Derek Bauman championed the policy in a resolution that was written by All Aboard Ohio’s Executive Director, Ken Prendergast. The resolution says that a public transportation system is a basic civil right for every public and private entity.
“Despite the investment made to more freely move within our nation’s properties and structures or crossing public right of way, the public and private sector has yet to provide equal transportation access for many Americans disadvantaged by physical, economic, or discriminatory hardships to travel to these locations,” the resolution reads.
The association says it will advocate for legislation in every states’ constitution that declares public transportation to be a basic civil right that is accessible to everyone, among other initiatives that look at the locations of businesses in relationship to their access to transit routes, and policies that would require states to distribute funding to counties, or a series of counties based on the share of households without vehicles.
13. From TRAINS Magazine: Clinton less generous on infrastructure promises than her opponents
By Justin Franz | July 27, 2016
PHILADELPHIA — Months before becoming the Democratic nominee for President, Hillary Clinton outlined a plan to make infrastructure a top priority if elected in November. But despite the specifics offered by its candidate — who was officially nominated this week in Philadelphia — the Democratic Party’s platform remains vague when it comes to rail-related policies.
Late in 2015, Clinton released a five-year plan that would increase federal infrastructure spending by $275 billion and, in May of this year, Clinton promised to send a comprehensive infrastructure bill to Congress within her first 100 days in office.
“We will start working immediately because I want to get this issue behind us,” Clinton said at the time.
Clinton’s five-year plan calls for the allocation of $250 billion to direct infrastructure investments and another $25 billion for a national infrastructure bank that would offer loans for various projects.
Among the rail-related projects outlined in Clinton’s plan is a renewed focus on passenger rail investment; the elimination of dangerous grade crossings across the country; and rebuilding outdated rail tunnels and bridges. Perhaps the most ambitious — and specific — part of Clinton’s plan is a promise to upgrade at least 25 of the nation’s most costly freight bottlenecks by the end of her first term, including the railroad Rubik’s Cube, Chicago.
“Every year, U.S. businesses have to spend an extra $27 billion just in transportation costs because of congestion in our freight networks alone,” Clinton’s plan states.
“Cargo trains can reach Chicago from Los Angeles in 48 hours, only to spend 30 hours crawling across Chicago itself.”
The Democratic Party’s official platform, which was approved earlier in July, offers fewer specifics, although it does back additional investments and the creation of a national infrastructure bank. In the entire 55-page platform document, railroads are only mentioned once in passing.
“We will put Americans to work updating and expanding our roads, bridges, public transit, airports, and passenger and freight rail lines,” the platform states.
Clinton’s plan is considerably more modest compared to those put forth by her Republican challenger, Donald Trump, and her former primary rival, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Both candidates were promising to spend more than $1 trillion on infrastructure. However, some believe that Clinton’s plan is a more realistic goal.
“The plan is a promising step in the right direction,” Brian Pallasch, chief lobbyist for the Society of Civil Engineers, told The Atlantic magazine earlier this year.
In years past, transportation advocates have been hard pressed to find presidential candidates interested in spending valuable political capital pushing for infrastructure investments. However, this year, candidates on both sides have called for rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure. It’s a welcome change of pace, says Marcia Hale, president of Building America’s Future, a bipartisan coalition of elected official dedicated to infrastructure investment.
“There is a realization in the nation that we really need to invest in our infrastructure and that there are different ways of doing that,” Hale tells Trains News Wire.
14. From TRAINS Magazine: Coal trains on the rise in southwest Virginia
By Tishia Boggs | July 27, 2016
BIG STONE GAP, Va. — Within a year of mothballing a section of its former Clinchfield line between Frisco, Tenn., and McClure, Va., CSX Transportation has witnessed a notable upswing in coal traffic over the past two weeks. Newly-formed Contura Energy LLC is now leading the way to increased rail traffic out of southwestern Virginia. That traffic comes just weeks after the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia confirmed that a new deal had been approved in the restructuring of Alpha Natural Resources mining operations.
Contura Energy emerged from the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization as a new company comprised of the members of Alpha Natural’s top lien holders. Along with purchasing Alpha’s Nicholas, McClure, and Toms Creek complexes in West Virginia and Virginia, Contura now controls the company’s two Powder River Basin mining complexes in Wyoming, all of the companies interest in its Dominion Terminal Associates coal export terminal in Newport News, Va., among other assets and working capital, and all its Pennsylvania coal operations and certain coal reserves.
In one week alone, Contura’s McClure Complex has moved from loading two metallurgical coal unit trains per week to six in the third week of July, with five new train orders already confirmed the week beginning July 25, with more orders expected. As the locals notice a decrease in stored empty coal hoppers along the mothballed section of the former Clinchfield Railroad, chatter has already begun to keep a watchful eye on how this might affect coal traffic leaving the Powder River Basin.
15. From TRAINS Magazine: Amtrak sends flood relief supplies to West Virginia
By Chase Gunnoe | July 27, 2016
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Amtrak employees are taking West Virginia relief efforts into their own hands by distributing supplies by train today.
Heavy rains in late June created historic floods that destroyed communities in West Virginia, including ones served by Amtrak’s Cardinal.
The passenger railroad collected donations at stations and Amtrak facilities in eight cities. Now, those materials are headed to West Virginia on the baggage car of Amtrak’s Cardinal No. 50. Amtrak says employees will deliver the supplies during the Cardinal’s next regularly scheduled stop in White Sulphur Springs at 5:05 p.m. today.
“White Sulphur Springs is an Amtrak-served community, and we saw a way to help our fellow Americans just by using what we have at-hand, which is an interconnected network between the major cities of the east coast and the rest of our great nation through Chicago,” says Charlie Monte Verde of Amtrak’s government affairs office.
Verde adds that providing donations is a “testament to the kind of connectivity we bring to the regions on our national network” and while the railroad serves big cities, it’s “equally important that we connect Greenbrier County to the rest of the nation as well.”
“A lot of communities no longer have intercity bus service and never had regular commercial air service, so having Amtrak service can be a lifeline, sometimes quite literally,” he says.
Amtrak says it emphasized the need for back-to-school supplies for the upcoming academic school year. The railroad also worked with the American Red Cross; Neighbors Loving Neighbors, a community organization; and the West Virginia National Guard on collecting needed items.
White Sulphur Springs, an Amtrak station stop along the route of the Cardinal, was one of the hardest hit communities during the June floods. Hundreds of homes were destroyed and the floods claimed the lives of more than 20 residents. Freight and passenger rail service was also disrupted for more than four days.
16. From TRAINS Magazine: US DOT announces PTC grants for commuter railroads
July 28, 2016
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation today announced that it will accept applications for $199 million in competitive grant funding for positive train control implementation. The grants, which will be selected by the Federal Railroad Administration and awarded and administered by the Federal Transit Administration, will help commuter railroads implement PTC, which prevents accidents and saves lives.
“With more passengers depending on rail for transportation, positive train control is needed more than ever,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “I encourage all commuter railroads to take full advantage of this opportunity to invest in the most important rail safety technology in more than a century.”
Congress authorized the funding in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, and the funding is available for fiscal year 2017. PTC technology can prevent certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and trains routed to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position.
FRA will accept applications until 5 p.m. Eastern time on Sept. 28. Projects eligible for grants must develop information that assists in implementing PTC systems, such as costs of installing PTC systems; back office systems; PTC interoperability; technologies that will lower costs, accelerate implementation, enhance interoperability between host and tenant operations, and improve reliability of PTC systems; and support PTC system certification. Eligible applicants include any entity that is eligible to receive grants from the FTA, such as commuter railroads, operators, and state and local governments.
“This funding will get us a bit closer to activating positive train control on some of the most important railroads in the country that transport millions of passengers to their jobs each morning and to their families each night,” said FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “We urge railroads to submit strong applications that make these dollars go as far as possible, and we remain hopeful that Congress will act on the President’s request for more funding to make PTC a reality as quickly as possible.”
In 2008, Congress mandated PTC implementation on certain railroad main lines where railroads transport poisonous-by-inhalation, or toxic-by-inhalation, hazardous materials, or any line where a railroad provides regularly scheduled passenger service. Last October, Congress extended the original deadline from Dec. 31, 2015, to at least Dec. 31, 2018.
The President has consistently made funding and assistance for commuter railroads to implement PTC a priority. In his fiscal year 2017 budget request, the President requested $1.25 billion. This follows requests of $825 million in both fiscal years 2015 and 2016.
17. From TRAINS Magazine: Central Maine & Quebec unveils new paint scheme
July 29, 2016
BANGOR, Maine — Central Maine & Quebec Railway took delivery of its first of eight rebuilt Electro-Motive Division GP38-3 locomotive, No. 3812, in the company’s new corporate paint scheme.
The locomotive, originally built as Penn Central GP38 No. 7791 in 1969, was completely rebuilt and overhauled at the CAD Railway Industries facility, located in Lachine on the periphery of Montreal, Quebec.
The new scheme is designed to pay homage to the CMQ’s Canadian Pacific Railway heritage and to establish a new identity for the company, which will eventually adorn the remainder of the locomotive fleet.
“These new GP38-3 locomotives have recently undergone a fundamental rebuild and rehabilitation with new but proven, technological and mechanical upgrades. CMQ and Fortress Transportation and Infrastructures Investors will continue to invest and improve our infrastructure and equipment so that we can serve our shippers and customers more effectively and efficiently,” says John Giles, railroad president and CEO. “These new GP38-3’s will provide dependable, economic service to CMQ and its clients for years to come. And, they look pretty darn sharp too.”
Central Maine GP38-3 No. 3812 will be released to general service where the company’s four-axle locomotives are typically used and it (or one of the other emerging units in the new scheme) will be on display at the 2016 24th Annual Glory Days of the Railroad Festival in White River Junction, Vermont, on Sept. 10 and 11.
Kevin Burkholder of Steel Wheels Productions and Photography designed and adapted the new paint scheme.
18. From TRAINS Magazine: Amtrak holds open house for proposed Washington Union Station upgrades
July 29, 2016
WASHINGTON — Final designs have been approved, preliminary work will start this summer, and active construction will start this fall on a three-year project to rebuild and greatly expand the passenger waiting and boarding areas at Washington Union Station. The station, designed by renowned Chicago architect Daniel Burnham and completed in 1907, the second busiest station in the Amtrak system, serving nearly 5 million annual intercity travelers along 53,000 daily commuter train passengers and thousands of daily intercity bus riders.
The $4 to 6 million in upgrades, funded by Amtrak and the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, will replace the area in the rear of the station that was built in the early 1980s and is known as the W. Graham Claytor Jr. Concourse, after the late former Southern Railway president and fourth president of Amtrak. The station was not designed to handle the volume of commuters that pass through twice daily, a number that is still growing as the Washington region adds jobs and commuting patterns remain highly centralized. The modernization is part of the Washington Union Station 2nd Century Plan, but is being funded and managed separately from the longer-term project that will rebuild the track area and build a massive mixed-use complex of buildings in the air rights above the platforms. The latter plans are in the environmental review stage.
Once complete, Maryland Area Rail Commuter and Virginia Railway Express commuters will have an easier time getting to and from Metrorail trains and local buses, queues waiting to board Amtrak trains won’t occupy the concourse space, and sleeping car and Acela First Class passengers will have a much more modern ClubAcela lounge in a glass-enclosed space above the concourse with more amenities — and a view of both the trains and the waiting areas below.
Amtrak hired design team KGP Design Studio, Grimshaw Architects and ARUP to begin design work for the project in late 2015, under the direction of Senior Infrastructure Planner David Zaidain. Stakeholders including MARC, VRE, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the D.C. Department of Transportation, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Akridge (a property development firm that owns the air rights above the station), the National Association of Railroad Passengers and local elected officials were involved in the design. The project will add about 20,000 square feet of new passenger space and will see all the walls between the headhouse and the platforms town down and replaced by a floor-to-ceiling glass wall separating the waiting areas from the platforms, with a gate for each platform. Plans are to have an Amtrak usher checking passengers’ tickets at each gate at boarding time.
The rebuilt concourse will include entirely new restrooms, more comfortable and spacious waiting areas, relocated retail spaces, and more mobile device charging stations. There will be a clear pathway from the easternmost gate all the way to the redesigned north entrance to the Metrorail station at the west end. The new ClubAcela will be one flight of stairs or elevator above the waiting area on the west end. The existing baggage storage room next to Gate A will disappear, and Amtrak will handle daily parcel checking in the baggage claim area, which will not be moved. The only thing lacking in the rebuilt concourse will be an event space, currently provided by the “Starlight Room” behind Gates C and D.
The construction will be completed in phases from late 2016 through mid-2020. Construction will begin in earnest in late 2017. While one half of the concourse is being renovated, there will be temporary waiting and queuing areas at the other half, with ushers guiding passengers around the construction area. A temporary ClubAcela location will be found and the lounge may close for periods of time.
Stakeholders and passengers from whom Amtrak sought input were quite happy with the designs, with the prevailing sentiment that anything would be better than the current cramped, chaotic scene in the Claytor Concourse, according to Amtrak spokeswoman Chelsea Kopta.
19. From TRAINS Magazine: FRA Releases Tier 1 Draft NEC Futures Study
By Joseph M. Calisi | July 29, 2016
Joseph M. Calisi
WASHINGTON — A study about reinventing the Northeast Corridor operated by Amtrak has been released by the Federal Railroad Administration. The draft represents an accumulation of comments from over 3,200 individuals, agencies, and organizations into one document and are instrumental in the FRA’s process to identify a preferred alternative for evaluation in the final environmental review.
NEC FUTURE, is a comprehensive rail investment planning effort to define, evaluate, and prioritize future investments in the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C. to Boston. The document is set to consider the role of rail passenger service in the context of current and future transportation demands. The goal is to determine a long-term vision and investment program for the corridor.
The comment period for the NEC FUTURE Tier 1 draft environmental impact statement was designed to accumulate comments and suggestions. The FRA considered comments from the public, agencies, and stakeholders, as well as the analysis presented in the environmental statement and FRA policy objectives, to identify a preferred investment program. The preferred alternative provides a framework for future rail improvements on the NEC, and will be described and evaluated in the final environmental statement.
A summary of comments is now available on the NEC FUTURE website, along with the full set of submissions received. A summary describes the main themes expressed in the comments and how the FRA is using this feedback to identify a preferred alternative.
20. From TRAINS Magazine: STB Amtrak decisions decried by railroads, supported by passenger group
By R G Edmonson | July 29, 2016
WASHINGTON — The Surface Transportation Board on Thursday issued two decisions affecting Amtrak’s on-time performance. In the first, the board decided not to issue a new policy statement that would have governed how it investigated complaints that freight railroads were not giving Amtrak trains preferential treatment. In the second, the board set a standard for measuring Amtrak’s on-time performance.
The board said it would investigate on a case-by-case basis if a freight railroad was at fault for Amtrak’s failure to meet an 80-percent on-time performance goal. Under the policy statement it proposed in December 2015, freight railroads would have had more latitude in carrying out the preference requirement set down in the 1970s law that established the National Passenger Railroad Corp.
“Currently, we do not view the preference requirement as absolute. In other words, a host rail carrier need not resolve every individual dispatching decision between freight and passenger movements in favor of the passenger train,” the policy statement says. “Moreover, a requirement of absolute preference might not, in the long run, promote efficient passenger service.”
The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 said that, on average, 80 percent of Amtrak intercity trains should operate on time. The law authorizes the board to investigate if passenger trains delays are the fault of the host freight railroad.
The board’s decision establishes a formula for calculating on-time performance: a train that arrived at a station within 15 minutes of the timetable schedule would be considered on time. The board will use an “all stations” measurement — on-time between intermediate stations — as well as terminal-to-terminal performance.
The Department of Transportation is also using the 15-minute standard for airline passenger flight arrivals. It is included in transportation department strategic goals published in 2013.
The Association of American Railroads said that freight railroads will continue to comply with the preference requirement of the law.
“It is a disappointment the [board] has decided to add mid-point on-time performance measures, which could result in negative impacts for freight rail customers and consumers,” the AAR said in a statement, “but the freight rail industry will continue to work with Amtrak to provide dependable passenger service in the country. In the meantime, we will review the two decisions and evaluate our further legal options.”
The National Association of Railroad Passengers applauded the STB ruling.
“NARP congratulates the STB for coming to the correct decision in these important rulemakings,” said NARP President Jim Mathews. “The STB plays a crucial role in ensuring that the national rail system operates both fairly and efficiently, and in ensuring that Congressional mandates are respected and enforced.”
The Volunteer Railroaders Association in conjunction with the Black River Railroad Historic Trust is proud to announce a special photographers Photo Freight on Saturday June 25th featuring the Black River & Western #60. The #60 is a 2-8-0 Consolidation and is New Jersey’s oldest operating steam locomotive. The train will be made up of passenger equipment, freight cars and even a caboose. At least 7 photo run-bys will be staged along the route between Three Bridges and Ringoes, which will give everyone the chance to get some great pictures.
The day will start at 2:30 pm in Flemington where participants will meet to find out all the details for the day. When the last regularly scheduled train of the day arrives, it will head for Three Bridges instead of turning back for Ringoes. Due to “excepted track” we will not be able to board the train for this leg of the trip, but instead we will follow the train and be given the chance to take some very rare photos of the #60 and her train. More info & tickets