Archive for the ‘Other News’ Category

Virgin’s Las Vegas Station Plans Revealed

February 22, 2020

Virgin Trains USA has submitted plans for its Las Vegas station.

Documents submitted to the Clark County Commissioners office indicate the Las Vegas terminal will be built on 110 acres on South Las Vegas Boulevard across from the South Premium Outlets.

The 273,300 square-foot station would be a 15 minute drive from the Las Vegas strip. Plans also call for a parking garage adjacent to the station.

Virgin has proposed establishing a high-speed rail service between Las Vegas and Southern California that would eventually serve Los Angeles.

The documents submitted for Virgin indicated that construction of the route is expected to begin later this year with service getting underway in 2023.

The Las Vegas terminal will contain a departure lobby, space for retail businesses and a baggage claim area.

Tennessee Committee OKs Amtrak feasibility Study

February 22, 2020

A Tennessee legislative committee has approved a bill authorizing a study of the launching Amtrak service between Atlanta and Nashville, Tennessee.

The bill will fund a feasibility study to determine how much the service would cost and who would pay for it.

During a hearing earlier, an Amtrak government affairs executive told Tennessee lawmakers that state and local governments would be expected to underwrite any operating losses of the service.

Amtrak has been touting in the past year corridor services between unserved or underserved urban centers.

The website Curbed Atlanta reported that Tennessee Rep. Jason Powell said the Amtrak service would provide a crucial connection between the fast-growing cities, with possible stops in Chattanooga, Tullahoma, and Murfreessboro.

“This corridor is one of those where it’s just glaring that there’s not a connection on the map,” Powell said.

However, he acknowledged that if the study determines the service would be costly “that might lessen the enthusiasm, but I think the appetite is there.”

It is not clear if Amtrak has approached Georgia lawmakers about supporting the proposed service.

A Georgia Department of Transportation spokesperson told Curbed Atlanta it has “not been approached by Amtrak at this time.”

However, the agency has been working on a proposal for high-speed rail service between Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina, and, eventually, Washington.

Atlanta is served by Amtrak’s New York-New Orleans Crescent but Nashville has not had Amtrak service since the October 1970 discontinuance of Chicago-Miami/St. Petersburg Floridian.

The proposed Atlanta-Nashville corridor would have multiple trains a day operating with a six-and-a-half hour running time.

VIA Lays Off Workers in Wake of Blockade

February 21, 2020

VIA Rail Canada has laid off 1,000 workers in the wake of blockages of the tracks of its host railroad.

Most VIA service has been shut down by the blockades, which are being staged to protest construction of a natural gas pipleline across Wet’suwet’en Nation land in northern British Columbia.

Although Canadian National has said that VIA may resume some service in southwestern Ontario and Quebec, a plan to reinstate VIA service between Montreal and Quebec City was canceled after a new blockade sprang up near St. Lambert, Quebec.

VIA officials said in a statement that they would continue the suspension of service on a large part of its network while CN lines remain closed due to the blockades.

VIA Rail President Cynthia Garneau described the situation as unprecedented.

“In 42 years of existence, it is the first time that VIA Rail, a public intercity passenger-rail service, has [had] to interrupt most of its services across the country,” Garneau said in a statement.

CN has temporarily laid off 450 of its workers after canceling more than 400 trains over the past week.

The Montreal-based freight hauler said it has shutdown operations in Eastern Canada until the blockades are removed.

CAHSRA Issues Revised Business Plan

February 15, 2020

The California High-Speed Rail Authority has released an updated business plan that reiterates its intention to develop the Merced-Fresno-Bakersfield corridor.

The plans said trains operating on that segment of the network would electric powered.

Testing of the service in that corridor is expected to be done by 2028-2029.

The plan also called for environmental reviews of all segments of the Phase 1 system between San Francisco and Los Angeles/Anaheim to be completed in the next 18-24 months.

CAHSRA also pledged to complete the “bookend” projects in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

The agency acknowledged that its plans face political opposition from the federal government and additional funding sources need to be found before it can move ahead with plans to connect the Central Valley to the Bay Area and Southern California.

Minnesota Proponents Seeking State Funding

February 14, 2020

Supporters of a proposed Amtrak service between the Twin Cities and Duluth, Minnesota, are seeking $40 million from the state legislature.

The funding would be used to fund improvements needed to launch the Northern Lights Express.

Much of that money would be used to pay for an additional track between Duluth and St. Paul, and to repair a bridge between Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin.

“We’re now in the year 2020, the support is there because the people of the country want to connect, and also because Amtrak is the way to go,” said Representative Mary Murphy, who is leading the project in the legislature.

Proponents of the Northern Lights Express said they do not plan to seek this year any funding for the project from the Wisconsin legislature.

The Minnesota legislature began its 2020 session this week.

Portal Bridge Gets Favorable FTA Rating

February 14, 2020

The Federal Transit Agency this week gave a favorable rating to one component of the Gateway Project in the Northeast Corridor but continued to rate low the other major component.

The replacement of the Portal Bridge in New Jersey received a “medium high” rating from FTA while construction of a new tunnel between New York City and New Jersey continues to receive a “medium low” rating.

It means that the $1.8 billion bridge replacement plan can move to the engineering phase.

The bridge spans the Hackensack River and sometimes fails to lock into place after opening, which delays Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains.

New reports have indicated that the $11 billion tunnel project continues to languish due to the assertion of the federal government that the project is not receiving enough local funding.

The “medium low” priority rating means the tunnel project continues to be ineligible for federal funds.

Blockades Still Idling VIA Service

February 14, 2020

VIA Rail Canada service continued to be thwarted by groups blocking Canadian National tracks as part of a protest against construction of a natural gas pipeline.

CN has shut down operations in eastern Canada, which has led to VIA suspending operations through Friday of most of its services.

In a statement on Thursday VIA said it could estimate when service would resume.

The 416-mile pipeline would extend across the Wet’suwet’en land in northern British Columbia. Some members of the tribe oppose the pipeline and say the tribal government does not have the authority to deal with GasLink, which is building it.

Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en have been blocking for more than a week rail lines, roads and seaports.

Teamsters Canada has urged the government to end the blockades, saying some rail workers could be laid off if the blockade continues.

House Members Outline Infrastructure Proposal

February 3, 2020

House Democrats in Congress last week issued the framework of a five-year, $760 billion proposal to address infrastructure needs, including those related to rail.

The proposal, known as Moving America and the Environment Forward, was said to address a massive infrastructure maintenance backlog and undertake projects that a news release described as “smarter, safer and made to last.”

The $434 billion includes $105 billion for public transit and $55 billion for passenger rail.

Future details are expected to be announced over the coming months.
A statement by a Republican member of Congress, Sam Graves, said Republicans are looking forward to a bipartisan effort.

Graves issues his own statement that Republicans will focus on development of a surface transportation reauthorization bill that addresses the long-term sustainability of the Highway Trust Fund.

He said any serious effort toward enacting infrastructure legislation must incorporate Republican principles as well.

Groups Pushing For Indiana Passenger Rail Commission

February 3, 2020

Two Indiana-based passenger rail advocacy groups are pushing for the state to established a passenger rail commission.

The Indiana Passenger Rail Alliance and the Northern Indiana Passenger Rail Association said the proposed Indiana Passenger Rail Commission would focus on and coordinate the efforts of state advocacy and regional planning organizations to develop modern passenger-rail systems within Indiana.

The commission would include officials from the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

The Indiana General Assembly would have to include the proposal to create the commission in its summer study sessions, which would allow the IPRA and NIPRA to have draft legislation ready to be introduced during a future General Assembly session.

VIA Hires Firms for Engineering Work

February 3, 2020

VIA Rail Canada has hired a joint venture of AECOM and Arup as the engineer to analyze a proposed high-frequency rail service in the Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor.

The joint venture will provide technical and engineering matters during the pre-procurement phase of the project.

Engineering and technical analysis is required for the project to receive final recommendation. The project also involves conducting an environmental assessment and undertaking site investigation studies, including geotechnical studies.

The Canadian Infrastructure Bank has committed CA$55 million in funding for planning and pre-procurement work for the project while the Canadian government added CA$16.1 million in funding for Transport Canada and VIA Rail to support the project.