In a December
6 hearing held by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and
Transportation, transportation officials gathered to speak about the
devastating impact Hurricane
While Amtrak was able to minimize damage to the Northeast
Corridor through careful preparation, the railroad did see extensive flooding
To address these critical needs, and
to compensate Amtrak for increased costs and revenue lost during Hurricane
Sandy, Amtrak is requesting $336 million in emergency federal funding. Of this
amount, $276 million would be for measures that provide enhanced protection and
improved recovery capability of Penn Station
“[Amtrak needs] a system that’s robust enough to support our
operational needs not just on good days, but every day,” Boardman emphasized. He highlighted key capital investments that
have taken place over the past decade—such as improved pumping systems and
expanded ventilation—that were ultimately successful in reducing the total
damage experienced as a result of the storm.
The railroad chief also identified three key improvements to further
improve operations and resiliency in and out of the
1.) Design a high density signaling system to provide
greater operational flexibility in the four East River Tunnels used by Amtrak
2.) Rebuild a major electrical substation at
3.) Advance design and early construction elements of the
Gateway Program, including two new Hudson River tunnels between
NJ Transit Tallies Losses
The head of NJ Transit outlined $400 million in immediate funding
needs following the hurricane, providing details for the widespread damage
inflicted on the second largest transit system in
Altogether, we estimate the cost of
In addition to the $400 million in repair funds, Weinstein stated that he believes it will take another $800 million “harden” the transit system against future storms.
Near Term Funding Prospects Uncertain
President Barack Obama has outlined a $60 billion aid
package for the state of
The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee held a hearing on the high speed and intercity passenger rail program on December 6, eliciting a vociferous defense of the program from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Led by outgoing-Chairman John Mica (R-FL), the hearing was the latest in a series critical of Amtrak and the Obama Administration’s passenger rail program.
“Beginning with the $8 billion included in the stimulus, the President’s high-speed rail program has gotten off to troubling start,” Mica said. “Unfortunately most of the high-speed rail funding has been spread around to projects that are not high-speed.”
Somewhat ironically given Mica’s statements, the hearing directed its harshest criticism at the California high-speed rail project, the only 220 MPH passenger rail service in development in the U.S. (Washington State’s Transportation Secretary testified about the development of conventional passenger train service along the Cascades corridor in the Pacific Northwest—but those projects have been an exemplary model of incremental development, which focuses more on frequency, reliability, and steadily decreasing trip time than reaching ultra-fast top speeds).
Some of the most vocal opponents of the
“There are a lot of things we would like in
This past June, Denham pushed through an amendment in a
funding bill that prohibits federal spending on the
“We're not going to get one dollar as long as there's
language in appropriations bills that says no federal money can be spent on
“We’re not giving up on high-speed rail,” concluded LaHood. “The president will include funding in his budget. I think we’ll get there with public money, but in the absence of that we’ll get there with private money.”
Overall, however, Denham appeared to soften his position somewhat. He asked about environmental exemptions for high speed rail to help expedite the project. LaHood—saying this had never come up in his discussions with the state or with his own staff—promised to look into that.
Of the California High Speed Rail Authority, LaHood said, “I
think the right people are in place now.
I would not have said this two years ago. I spent three days in meetings with farmers
This resonated with Denham, who acknowledged that the authority “had done a good job of outreach before the 2008 vote.” Then there were changes. LaHood said, “I don’t know if we’ll get them [farmers and others who have been alienated] back [as rail supporters] but we’re trying.”
Mica said “one reason I’ll be back” in the T&I Committee next year, albeit not as chairman, is to see that we “do” the Northeast Corridor.
The U.S. DOT grant will go towards the Mount Vernon Siding Extension Project. This $8.4 million project will act to reduce intercity passenger and freight rail congestion by adding rail capacity and easing a significant regional bottleneck.
“This project will provide greater rail capacity and
improved reliability for passengers and businesses in the
The corridor is used by Amtrak’s Cascades service. By extending existing siding tracks, the project will allow host railroad’s BNSF trains access to the siding, which is currently to short for many of the freight’s consists. Easing freight/passenger congestion will add necessary capacity; the service is an increasingly important people mover in the region, with annual ridership growth averaging 9.5 percent over the past 17 years.
“With nearly one in four people traveling between
A group of Minnesotan
students are organizing in support of a proposed high performance passenger
train service between
“We are looking for ways to be less reliant on automobiles,”
Brian Downing, co-chairman of the University of Minnesota Duluth chapter of the
Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), told
the Duluth News Tribune. “High-speed
rail is a good option for the future of transportation in
Dubbed the Northern Lights Express (NLX), the service would travel a 155-mile route in about two hours and 15 minutes, reaching speeds of 110 MPH. Early estimates put the project’s costs at around $900 million, and it is expected to create 13,800 construction jobs and spur $2 billion in new economic development along the proposed corridor.
“It is a matter of thinking in the long term and thinking about all the things that we need to happen,” Downing added. “...This is what we as students want the future of transportation to look like.”
The NLX Alliance, made up of regional transportation officials, will finish up the initial environmental study by the end of this year. The group will hold public meetings beginning January 2013 to reach out to community stakeholders.
MPIRG’s rallies are tomorrow, and will includes speeches from U.S. Representative-elect Rick Nolan, St. Louis County Intergovernmental Affairs Director John Ongaro, NLX Alliance Board members Doug Carlson and Diane Gibbs, and state Representative Frank Hornstein.
New York Governor
Andrew Cuomo announced a long-term lease agreement between CSX Corporation and
Amtrak on December 4, clearing the way for Amtrak to take full control of the
“High-speed rail is a critical part of the transportation
network of New York State’s future and these four projects made possible by an
historic and long-awaited agreement between passenger and freight rail partners
are another step toward improving New York State’s economy by fostering a rail
system that is fast, reliable and efficient for business and leisure travelers,
as well as for companies shipping goods across the state,” Governor Cuomo said.
“Communities, especially in upstate
The contract took effect December 1, and ensures that
passenger trains will have scheduling priority, improving on time performance for
Amtrak trains. The lease will also allow
$181 million in capital improvement projects to go forward, reducing congestion
and travel time along the Empire Corridor from
“For years I have been working to improve passenger rail
service across the Empire Corridor in
The Federal Railroad Administration has launched a new iteration of its website, featuring new graphics and an improved set of search tools to allow for easier navigation and better functionality.
“The improvements are the result of feedback that we received from visitors to our site,” wrote Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo. “We are committed to continuously improve the content, look and feel of our website so that it meets your needs. More updates are coming, so I encourage you and your colleagues to continuing taking our user surveys and letting us know how we can improve the site even more.”
The FRA is introducing its brand new eLibrary, a central place where you can find all of the documents the agency produces.
Due to bridge work being performed by Canadian Pacific
Railway near Red Wing,