Archive for October, 2019

Senate May Act on Transportation Spending Next Week

October 26, 2019

Senate approval of funding for Amtrak and other transportation agencies in fiscal year 2020 may come next week.

Leaders in the Senate are seeking to move a four-bill appropriations package that will increase Amtrak funding as approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee in September.

In the process, the Senate leadership is seeking to limit the number of controversial amendments that could bog down passage of the spending bills.

Once the Senate passes the spending bills, a conference committee with the House will need to agree to changes acceptable to both chambers.

The proposed federal spending on transportation in the Senate bills is comparable to that of a House bill passed earlier.

But sticking points could occur over policy riders that were attached to the spending bills in both chambers.

The Rail Passengers Association reported that among these policy riders are provisions regarding replacement of Amtrak station agent positions that the carrier has already eliminated and improved relationships with private rail car owners.

Funding for FY2020 is currently authorized under a continuing resolution that will expire on Nov. 21.

Although Senate leaders say they might be able to win approval of spending bills before then, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) said that “unless a miracle happens around here with the House and the Senate, we will have to come forth with another CR.”

House leadership is pushing to keep any additional continuing resolution of short duration as a strategy to keep pressure on legislators to approve permanent appropriations bills.

Initial Atlanta-Charlotte High-Speed Study Released

October 26, 2019

A draft study conducted by the Georgia Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration has concluded that high-speed rail service could operate between Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina, in just over two hours.

Creating the service would cost up to $15.4 billion.

The study said the service, if implemented, could reduce air pollution and improvement mobility for millions of passengers.

Three routes are being eyed for the service in the 280-mile corridor.

  • Using the Norfolk Southern railroad corridor that hosts the existing Amtrak Crescent.
  • Building along the Interstate 85 right of way between Gastonia, North Carolina, and Suwanee, Georgia, and transitioning to existing railroad rights of way in the approaches to the Atlanta and Charlotte terminals.
  • Developing a new “greenfield” high-speed rail corridor between Atlanta and Charlotte, and transitioning to existing railroad rights of way in the approaches to the Atlanta and Charlotte terminals.

Public comments on the study are being accepted by the GDOT in the next 45 days.

After that, the department will select a preferred route and conduct a final study.

Virgin Eyes Mid 2020 Groundbreaking on Vegas Route

October 26, 2019

Virgin Trains USA indicated in a recent presentation to the Clark County Board of Commissioners in Las Vegas that groundbreaking for construction of its proposed Las Veglas-Southern California service will occur in mid 2020.

Virgin is seeking support from Nevada public officials for tax-exempt, private activity bonds that will be used to fund the project.

Similar funding was used to start and expand service in Florida.

In its Nevada presentation, Virgin indicated that it is moving faster than others have in the past to get revenue trains in service by late 2023 between Las Vegas and Victorville, California.

In time, Virgin said it will expand service Victorville to downtown Los Angeles.

New York ClubAcela Lounge Closed for Refurbishment

October 26, 2019

The ClubAcela Lounge at New York Penn Station will be closed this weekend (Oct. 26 and 27) for refurbishment.

Temporary seating will be available in the Amtrak/New Jersey Transit ticketed waiting room, located on the main concourse near Tracks 13 and 14 East.

The ClubAcela will reopen on Oct. 28.

 

50 Rally in New Mexico for Southwest Chief

October 26, 2019

Fifty people attended a rally held recently in Lamy, New Mexico to show support for saving Amtrak’s Southwest Chief.

The rally was sponsored by the New Mexico Rail Passengers Coalition at the former Santa Fe station now used by the Chicago-Los Angeles Chief.

Elected officials and their representatives pledged support for the continued operation of the Chief.

Speakers backed the train for its providing of transportation to rural communities in the state.

Borings Being Made for Proposed Hudson River Tunnel

October 26, 2019

New work is getting underway in the Hudson River rail tunnel project that is part of the Gateway Program initiative in New York and New Jersey.

Workers are conducting dozens of geotechnical exploration borings along the proposed alignment of the new tunnel that will connect New Jersey with New York City.

The work began this month and will last through early 2020.

Gateway Development Corporation said in a news release that the project involves making 36 borings covering river- and land-based locations and extending to depths ranging from 55 feet to 280 feet; four seismic cone penetration tests; a bathymetric survey in the Hudson River; and a surface-based geophysical survey along the Hudson Bergen Light Rail tracks in New Jersey.

Amtrak is implementing the project and the information gathered will help engineers better understand geotechnical characteristics of the Hudson River, New Jersey Palisades and the west side of Manhattan, reduce unknown subsurface conditions, and reduce project risk for future bids, GDC officials said.

“In addition to the $1.5 billion we’ve already trimmed from the cost of the Hudson Tunnel Project, this geotech exploration is a great example of streamlined and efficient project delivery leading to potential cost savings,” said GDC Chairman Jerry Zaro. “Our work with the private sector on this initiative is a model we look forward to following as we advance this critical project.”

GDC oversees the Gateway Program, which involves infrastructure projects to improve commuter and intercity rail services along the Northeast Corridor. Part of the Gateway Program, the Hudson Tunnel Project is intended to preserve the function of the Hudson River rail crossing between New Jersey and New York, and strengthen the rail corridor’s resiliency.

The existing Hudson River rail tubes are in a deteriorating condition, which was worsened by saltwater damage that occurred during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Microsoft Hosting High-Speed Rail Summit

October 26, 2019

Software maker Microsoft will host along the U.S. High Speed Rail Association a summit meeting on Nov. 6-9 that will discuss building a high-speed rail line between Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia, via Seattle.

It is not the company’s first involvement in high speed rail. It granted $573,667 toward the cost of feasibility studies of high-speed rail in the Pacific Northwest, where Microsoft is headquartered.

The summit will seek to build on early studies of the market viability of high-speed rail.

Summit organizer hope to create momentum for the project and to begin planning, financing and governance work.

The speaker list includes officials from Washington State, the Oregon Department of Transportation, the city of Vancouver, Microsoft, WSP, Talgo, Siemens and Alstom.

The summit will be held at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

Hearing Set for Proposed NC Station Project

October 22, 2019

A second platform is planned by the North Carolina Department of Transportation for the Amtrak station in Kannapolis, North Carolina.

NCDOT will host a public meeting on Oct. 24 to gather opinions on the need for the platform at the station that is served by the state-supported Carolinian and Piedmont trains.

The existing single platform is located on one side of the double-track North Carolina Railroad/Norfolk Southern Main Line.

NCDOT has proposed building a pedestrian overpass from South Ridge Avenue and South Main Street to the platform.

In addition to the public meeting, NCDOT will accept comments via email and phone through Nov. 7.

All comments will be reviewed and considered for the final design, department officials said.

Going Away

October 20, 2019

Going away images of Amtrak motive power are not among my favorites to make, but I made an exception on this day largely because of the time of day when I was here.

It is just after 8 a.m. in Waterloo, Indiana, and a late westbound Capitol Limited is pulling into the station.

The sun hasn’t been up all that long so the traditional coming photograph would be a challenge due to strong back lighting.

I did make some images of No. 20 coming toward me, then swung around and got the going away shot of the head end.

It does have the quality of giving a sense of direction and showing where the train is heading.

The warm morning light is a nice attribute, too.

NB Silver Star to Run Later Due to CSX Track Work

October 20, 2019

CSX track work being conducted this week will affect operations of Amtrak trains in North Carolina.

Between Oct. 20 and 23, the northbound Silver Star, will be renumbered 1192 and operate on a later schedule from Jacksonville, Florida, to New York.

The train will depart Jacksonville at 12:03 a.m., one hour later than the current schedule, and depart Savannah, Georgia, at 3:52 a.m, 2 hours 30 minutes later than the current schedule.]

Train 1192 may have 15 to 30-minute delays between Rocky Mount and Petersburg.

Between Oct. 21 and 24, Trains 52, 53, 79, 80, 89, 90, 91, 97 and 98 can expect 15- to 30-minute delays between Petersburg and Rocky Mount.

Passengers scheduled to connect from the northbound Silver Star to Piedmont Service No. 75 at Cary, North Carolina, will be re-accommodated on Train 77 instead.