Rail news from Cdr Jim for 8/7/2016

  1. CT split on “NEW-build” or “RE-build” of NEC



  1. PATH achieves highest ridership ever



  1. NARP 8/5/16 Hotline



  1. MBTA to begin PTC installation next spring



  1. VP candidate Kaine has long, successful resume in rail/transportation/infrastructure issues



  1. MBTA to implement automated fare collection system by 2019



  1. Next NYC new subway car order could support over 33,000 new American jobs



  1. NYMTA’s role in fighting Zika virus



  1. MBTA infrastructure going solar



  1. Central Maine & Quebec RR named “REGIONAL RR of the YEAR” by Railway Age Magazine



  1. Cincinnati’s new streetcar gearing up for September revenue service



  1. Amtrak’s new ACS-64 Locomotives having positive impact on NEC and Keystone corridors



  1. Freight RR traffic slide continues



  1. 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

Don Nickel

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.

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