Archive for the ‘Other News’ Category

FRA Clears New Bridge in Albany, NY, to Move to Final Design Phase

December 29, 2022

Replacement of a bridge in Albany, New York, used by Amtrak will advance to the final design phase after winning approval from the Federal Railroad Administration.

The bridge is owned by CSX but leased to Amtrak, which uses it for its Lake Shore Limited and Empire Service trains.

The FRA determined that replacement of the Livingston Avenue Railroad Bridge would have “no significant impact” on the environment.

The movable swing bridge over the Hudson River was built in the 19th century and has a top speed of 15 miles per hour.

New York State Department of Transportation officials said the new bridge will be a lift structure with two tracks on a parallel alignment.

As part of the project changes will be made to the triangular ju8nction of tracks on the Rensselaer side of the river to help facilitate train turning movements.

Officials said the new bridge will better serve maritime traffic and provide pedestrians and bicyclists with access across the river.

FRA Has NEC Capital Funding Available

December 29, 2022

Funding is being made available for capital projects in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity that said the agency has $9 billion to devote to upgrading and expanding passenger rail service along the Northeast Corridor.

The funds are being channeled through a Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program administered by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The FRA said in the funding notice that it “will fund projects of national and regional significance; improving infrastructure; equipment; and facilities, including bridges and tunnels, rail stations and track.”

The agency defined the Northeast Corridor as extending from Boston to Washington. Intercity and commuter rail service in the corridor currently hosts 200 million annual trips.

The FRA said this makes the NEC one of the highest-volume rail lines in the world, accounting for 20 percent of the nation’s GDP.

According to the FRA, the number of Americans using NEC trains is now approaching pre-pandemic levels, with Amtrak ridership alone more than doubling in the past 12 months to 9.2 million passengers annually.

The partnership program has already begun funding such projects as new bridges over the Susquehanna River in Maryland, the Connecticut River in Connecticut, and the Portal Bridge in New Jersey,

Brightline Aventura Station Opens 3 Days Late

December 29, 2022

Brightline’s new Aventura station has opened, but the opening was delayed for three days beyond what had previously been announced.

The station opened on Dec. 24 although a ribbon cutting ceremony had been held three days earlier.

Officials with the Florida intercity rail carrier attributed the delay in opening due to issues with the elevators raised during a final inspection of the facility.

Aventura station is located 20 minutes north of MiamiCentral station, the southern terminus for Brightline.

The northern terminus is located in West Palm Beach although an extension to Orlando is expected to open next year.

In time Aventura also will serve as the northern terminus of a planned commuter rail operation of Miami-Dade Transit.

Another new Brightline station in Boca Raton opened this month as scheduled.

Amtrak to Get $2.45B in Spending Bill

December 23, 2022

An omnibus budget bill working its way through Congress contains $106 billion in federal transportation funding for fiscal year 2023, which began on Oct. 1.

The $1.7 trillion spending bill was approved by the Senate on Thursday with House approval expected to come on Friday.

The transportation budget includes increased funding for Amtrak and public transit agencies.

Amtrak is to receive $2.45 billion, which is $121.6 million above what the passenger carrier was granted in fiscal year 2022.

However, it also is short of the $3 billion requested by the Biden Administration and less than the $3.3 billion requested by Amtrak.

The Amtrak funding breaks down to $1.26 billion for the Northeast Corridor and $1.19 billion for the national network.

The legislation says that up to $66 million can be used to support planning, capital costs, and operating assistance for projects included in the Corridor Identification Program.

The latter is a program stemming from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  That money can be used to develop new intercity rail passenger routes and/or to improve service on existing passenger rail routes.

An analysis published on the website of the Rail Passengers Association said that Amtrak may face a squeeze from trying to do too much with the funding provided for the national network.

RPA noted that the passenger carrier is having a difficult time getting all of its pre-pandemic service back in service as well as hiring additional personnel. That might not leave much funding to develop new services.

Congress also banned Amtrak from using its operating grant to discontinue, reduce the frequency of, suspend, or substantially alter the route of any long-distance route except in the case of an emergency or a planned maintenance outage.

The Federal Railroad Administration will receive $1.05 billion. That is broken down to $44 million for railroad research and development; $100 million for the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Rail grant program; and $560 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program.

The legislation specifies that at least $150 million in CRISI grants shall be used for development of new passenger rail corridors.

Other FRA spending earmarks included $25 million for the development and implementation of measures to prevent trespassing; $5 million for maglev; $30.4 million for Congressionally directed spending; and $5 million for workforce development training.

The Federal Transit Administration was allocated $16 billion of which $13.6 billion is to be used for Transit Formula Grants to address transit state of good repair; and $2.6 billion for Capital Investment Grants to create new transit routes nationwide.

The latter is a $387 million increase above fiscal year 2022 funding.

CRISI grants may be used to fund commuter rail projects, authorizing the transfer of funds by the USDOT to the appropriate agencies to be administered under public transportation laws.

Cascades Airo Fleet to Have Own Livery

December 22, 2022

The Airo equipment that will be assigned to Amtrak Cascades service in the Pacific Northwest will have its own livery.

The scheme will feature Cascades evergreen and mocha colors with graphics of Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier on each car.

The equipment is expected to begin revenue service in 2026 between Vancouver, British Columbia, and Eugene Oregon, via Seattle and Portland.

“The branding of our new trains is unique to the Amtrak Cascades corridor, distinguishing them from others in the Amtrak fleet,” said Ron Pate, director of the Washington Department of Transportation Rail, Freight and Ports Division.

The Airo equipment is being built by Siemens Mobility in Sacramento, California.

Airo equipment will replace Amfleet equipment on eastern corridor routes. That equipment, though, will feature another livery that Amtrak recently unveiled that features red, white and blue as its primary colors.

In a news release, WSDOT said the Airo equipment to be used in Cascades service will arrive over a period of several months and be subjected to testing and inspections before it is put into revenue service.

The Cascades trains are funded largely the WSDOT and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Izaak Walton Inn Sold

December 22, 2022

Many travelers who use Amtrak’s Empire Builder to reach Glacier National Park have stayed at the Izaak Walton Inn.

The historic hotel, which was built 80 years ago by the Great Northern Railway, has been sold to LOGE Camps, which owns properties in Washington, Oregon and California, and is based in Seattle.

Although terms of the sale were not announced, hotel had been for sale for $17.9 million although that price was later lowered to $13.5 million.

LOGE Camps told Railfan & Railroad magazine that it plans to update the inn, which is a popular destination for railfans and has railroad artifacts throughout the facility.

The renovation plans will retain the inn’s historic character.

VIA Creates Subsidiary to Oversee Development of High-Speed Rail Corridor

December 22, 2022

VIA Rail Canada has created a subsidiary to oversee development of high-speed intercity rail service in the Toronto-Quebec City corridor.

The subsidiary is named VIA HFR and will act as a project office. the HRF denote “high rail frequency.”

Three founding members of the VIA HFR board were name including Robert Prichard, who will serve as chairman; Marie-José Nadeau, vice chair; and Robert Fonberg.

In a news release, VIA said the board will lead the search for the company’s CEO, as well as recruitment of the other directors to complete the seven-member board.

Brightline Begins Service at 2 New Stations

December 22, 2022

Brightline began serving stations in Boca Raton and Aventura stations on Dec. 21.

It held ribbon cutting ceremonies at both stations on Dec. 20. The new stations increased to three the number of intermediate stops between West Palm Beach and Miami.

The other stop is in Fort Lauderdale. The new Boca Raton station is at 101 Northwest 4th Street; the Aventura station is at 19796 West Dixie Highway.

The Aventura station is located 16 miles north of Brightline’s MiamiCentral station. Plans call for this to become the endpoint of a commuter rail service under development by Miami-Dade County.

FRA Seeking Passenger Rail Proposals

December 21, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration this week issued a Notice of Solicitation and Funding Opportunity for intercity passenger rail corridor development.

The program is funded by $1.8 billion from the Infrastructure Improvement and Jobs Act.

The FRA began last May accepting expressions of interest by those interested in participating in the corridor development program.

In a news release, the FRA said the Corridor ID Program will be used to determine which passenger corridors will receive funding.

The corridors could establish new intercity passenger rail service or improve existing service.

Formal project proposals must be submitted to the FRA by March 20, 2023.

Grant Sought for Mass. Rail Expansion

December 9, 2022

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Amtrak, and CSX are seeking $108 million in federal grants to rebuild a line in the state between Springfield and Worcester.

The work would be part of the East-West Rail project, which seeks to boost Amtrak service on the route by two daily roundtrips between Boston and Springfield.

Current service on the line includes the Chicago-Boston Lake Shore Limited.

The rehabilitation would raise the top speed between Springfield and Worcester to 80 miles per hour.

MassDOT will contribute an additional $18 million and Amtrak will add $9 million toward the project.

The grant is being sought from the federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program.