Posts Tagged ‘Federal Railroad Administration’

FRA OKs Virginia Project Environmental Study

September 11, 2019

An environmental impact statement for the proposed higher-speed intercity passenger-rail project between Washington and Richmond, Virginia, has been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration .

FRA approval completes the EIS study process and makes the project eligible for federal funding to continue planning the project.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation won a $44 million federal grant in 2014 that paid for nearly 80 percent of environmental study.

Other funding was provided by the state and CSX. The latter owns most of the 123-mile corridor that hosts trains of Amtrak and Virginia Railway Express.

Virginia transportation officials have said that once completed, the work will increase passenger train speed and capacity parallel to the congested Interstate 95 corridor, as well as accommodating future freight-rail growth opportunities at the Port of Virginia in Norfolk.

FRA Approves Texas Central RPA Request

September 10, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has approved an application by Texas Central seeking a rule of particular applicability.

Texas Central will be able to use this to govern its system and operations once it begins high-speed rail service between Dallas and Houston.

“The FRA’s action on the RPA marks a major milestone in our quest to bring a transformative mobility solution, while minimizing impact on the environment and land use, as opposed to other options,” said Texas Central Chief Executive Officer Carlos Aguilar in a statement. “We will meet or exceed all requirements the FRA mandates, to ensure we have the safest high-speed rail system in the world.”

Texas Central asked the FRA for the RPA in April 2016.

Officials have said the system they plan to construct will be modeled after Central Japan Railway’s Railway’s Tokaido Shinkansen technology.

The RPA is the first the FRA has ever issued for rail operations above 150 miles per hour.

Public Hearing Set on Long Bridge Project in Washington

September 7, 2019

Public comment is being sought on a proposed project to rebuild the Long Bridge over the Potomac River between Washington and Virginia.

The bridge is used by Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express, Norfolk Southern and CSX and is the only railroad crossing of the river between the district and Virginia.

The Federal Railroad Administration and District of Columbia Department of Transportation recently completed a draft environmental impact statement regarding the project.

A public hearing will be held on Oct. 22 and comments are being accepted through Oct. 28.

The bridge is owned by CSX and the project will involve either rebuilding or replacing the two-track bridge, which was built in 1904.

The study examined a 1.8-mile section between RO Interlocking near Long Bridge Park in Arlington, Virginia, and the L’Enfant Interlocking near 10th Street SW in Washington.

New Equipment Will Replace Talgos on Cascade Route

August 27, 2019

The Washington State Department of Transportation will receive a federal grant to replace three state-owned Talgo 6 trainsets used in Amtrak Cascades service.

WSDOT received a $37.5 million Federal Railroad Administration grant to be used to meet half of the equipment replacement costs.

One of the three trainsets to be replaced was damaged in a December 2017 derailment that left three passengers dead.

The new equipment will be acquired through Amtrak’s 2019-2020 national equipment replacement contract.

“By participating in this national procurement process with other states that sponsor passenger service, [the state transportation department] will be able to leverage the buying power of both Amtrak and other states,” WSDOT said in a statement.

One bidder will be selected to provide various configurations depending on what each state desires.

In a statement, the FRA said the new passenger cars “will provide flexible train car capacity, reduce infrastructure lifecycle costs for the Amtrak Cascades fleet, and improve onboard amenities.”

Aside from the FRA grant, funding for the new equipment will come from state funding as well as insurance proceeds from the trainset lost in the derailment.

The new equipment is expected to arrive in the mid-2020s. In the interim, Amtrak is seeking temporary equipment to replace Talgo 6 trainsets currently in service.

New Cars Coming to Piedmont Trains

August 27, 2019

The oldest cars currently assigned to Amtrak’s Piedmont service will be replaced using a $77 million grant.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation received a grant from the Federal Railroad Administration to upgrade its Piedmont rail car fleet.

NCDOT officials said they’ll use the grant to support a fleet of new coaches assigned to the service that operates between Raleigh and Charlotte.

The project also includes improvements to NCDOT’s locomotive and rail-car maintenance facility in Charlotte that supports the Piedmont fleet.

Planning and engineering for the facility will begin once a contract agreement has been signed with the FRA.

FRA Grants to Benefit Passenger Rail

August 27, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has announced the awarding of more than $272 million in grant funding to 10 rail projects through its State of Good Repair Program.

Several of those projects will benefit passenger rail.

The Michigan Department of Transportation was awarded up to $23.3 million for a rehabilitation work on the state-owned line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn that is used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains.

The project entails rebuilding rail, crossties and track surfaces, and replacing two railroad bridges in Jackson.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation received $15.1 million to rehabilitate and upgrade an interlocking plant in Philadelphia at the junction of the Amtrak-owned Keystone Corridor and Northeast Corridor main lines.

Work will include slope stabilization and reconstruction of retaining walls, rehabilitation of an existing but underutilized track, and switch and signal reconfiguration.

Chicago commuter agency Metra will receive $17.8 million to construct a new grade-separated, double-tracked rail bridge over Milwaukee Avenue north of the Grayland Metra Station on Metra’s Milwaukee District-North Line in Chicago.

The city-owned New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal will receive $3.7 million to complete final design for upgrading station platforms and train service capabilities.

The platform modifications will bring the platforms into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, increase platform height to provide level boarding for Amtrak’s Sunset Limited and City of New Orleans, and improve the step height for boarding the Crescent.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation was awarded $41.2 million to replace and upgrade Tower I interlocking, a major rail network junction at the entrance to the Boston South Station terminal area.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation received $76.9 million for the Piedmont intercity fleet and infrastructure investments project.

The project involves the acquisition of 13 new passenger coaches for use in the Piedmont service and an expansion of the Charlotte Locomotive and Rail-car Maintenance Facility.

New Jersey Transit received $18.4 million for platform D improvements at Newark Penn Station. The project includes repairing and/or replacing Platform D slabs and joints, reconstructing platform edges, installing new tactile strips and timber rub rails, repairing the overhead canopy and upgrading lighting.
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation was awarded $12.5 million for a major rehabilitation of the Amtrak station in Providence.

The Washington State Department of Transportation was awarded $37.5 million to procure three new consists for use in the Amtrak Cascades service.

The project will replace the three Washington state-owned Talgo VI trainsets: two used in current service and one damaged in the December 2017 derailment.

The loss of the damaged trainset reduced the Amtrak Cascades schedule from six to four daily round trips.

The project will enable WSDOT to meet existing and anticipated passenger demand, and allow Washington to retire its Talgo VI trainsets.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation was awarded $25.7 million to replace deteriorated, outdated passenger cab-baggage and coach cars used in the Chicago–Milwaukee Amtrak Hiawatha service with three single-level cab-coach cars and six single-level coach cars.

FRA Reports Continued Progress in PTC Implementation

August 2, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration reported this week that positive train control is in place on nearly 90 percent of the route miles subject to the federal mandate as of June.

FRA Administrator Ronald Batory told a Senate committee that despite that progress there remains “significant work” to be done to fully implement PTC the end of 2020.

“Nonetheless, railroads must still complete significant work to full implement their PTC systems by Dec. 31, 2020, especially with respect to activating PTC systems on the remaining required main lines and achieving the necessary interoperability with their tenant railroads,” Batory said in his prepared statement.

Through the end of June PTC was in operation on 87 percent of the 58,000 route miles subject to the federal PTC mandate, based on preliminary reports railroads provide the FRA.

Batory told the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation that is a 4 percent increase from the first quarter.

PTC systems are being tested in revenue service demonstration on at least 718 route miles.

Eleven freight railroads, 30 commuter railroads and Amtrak are subject to the PTC mandate.

Among the highlights of the latest PTC report are:

• Class I railroads report that PTC is in operation on 91 percent of their required main lines, which represented a 4 percent increase from the first quarter.

• Host commuter railroads have PTC in revenue service on 443 route miles and in RSD testing on 718 route miles, which represented 37 percent of their 3,111 PTC-required route miles and a 12 percent increase since the first quarter.

• Amtrak, as a host railroad on and near the Northeast Corridor and other parts of the country, reported 899 of its 900 required route miles are governed by PTC. Operations are governed by PTC on 84 percent of route miles where Amtrak operates as a tenant on other railroads’ PTC-equipped main lines.

• Six short line or terminal railroads must implement PTC on their own main lines that provide or host regularly scheduled intercity or commuter passenger rail service. One of those six has been operating its FRA-certified and interoperable PTC system in revenue service since 2018, while the other five are conducting FRA-approved field testing of their PTC systems on the general rail network. They expect to begin RSD during the third quarter.

• Batory said host railroads reported 17 percent of tenant railroads that operate on their PTC-required main lines had achieved interoperability as of March 31.

• Host railroads also reported 33 percent of their applicable tenant railroads were installing PTC hardware and 38 percent had advanced to interoperability testing as of March 31.

“The FRA is currently directing its focus and resources to the PTC-mandated main lines that have a high concentration of host railroads and tenant railroads, including commuter railroads with significant remaining work, such as the PTC-mandated main lines in the Northeast, Chicago area, Florida and Texas,” Batory said.

FRA Wants Cameras in All Passenger Locomotives

July 28, 2019

The Federal Railroad Administration has proposed requiring passenger train locomotives to have inward and outward facing video cameras.

The cameras would be operation while the lead locomotive of a train is in motion. Data recorded would be kept in a crash resistant module.

The data would be used to conduct operational tests to determine passenger railroad operating employees’ compliance with applicable railroad rules and federal regulations.

The proposed rule would label the cameras as “safety devices” under existing federal railroad safety regulations to prohibit tampering with or disabling them.

Public comment on the proposed rule is being taken through Sept. 23. Although the FRA does not plan to hold public hearings on the rule, it said that if enough people say by Aug. 23 that they have been unable to provide a written opinion by that date a hearing will be held.

Human Error Ruled Cause of Silver Star Crash

July 24, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board has concluded that human error led to the February 2018 collision in South Carolina of an Amtrak train and a parked CSX train.

Two Amtrak crew members were killed in the collision and 74 others aboard the train were injured.

The accident happened when Amtrak’s southbound Silver Star was routed into a siding where the CSX train was sitting unattended in Cayce, South Carolina.

The NTSB investigation determined that the conductor of the CSX train had reported to the train’s engineer that a switch from the main to the siding had been realigned for the main.

The engineer in turn relayed that information to a dispatcher. However, the conductor had not realigned the switch.

At the time of the collision, the signal system on a 23-mile segment of the Columbia Subdivision has been suspended while workers were installing equipment for positive train control.

Trains were being dispatched by track warrants given over the radio.

The NTSB also concluded that the collision occurred as a result of inadequate attention to safety risks.

The board concluded that CSX failed to identify and mitigate the risk of operating trains while the signal system was under suspension.

Killed in the collision was the Amtrak engineer and conductor, who on the head end to copy train orders.

The Silver Star was traveling at more than 50 miles per hour when it struck CSX local F777.

“CSX failed to ensure that this crew was properly prepared to perform the tasks CSX assigned them to do that night,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt, about the events leading to the Feb. 4, 2018, collision.

In the wake of the Silver Star accident, the NTSB asked the Federal Railroad Administration to issue an emergency order requiring railroads to operate trains at restricted speed approaching switches when a signal suspension is in effect.

In response the FRA issued an advisory to that effect, but not a rule. The NTSB in its final report repeated its recommendation that this be made a rule.

The NTSB also said the FRA could do more to prevent accident caused by misaligned switches, such as requiring the installation of switch position indicators.

In the Silver Star investigation, NTSB personnel found that CSX never conducted efficiency testing, or a skills assessment, on either the engineer or conductor of F777 for the purposes of ensuring proper switch alignment.

“I believe that the conductor had every intention of following the rules and thought that he did,” Mike Hoepf a consultant on human performance told NTSB. “He just made a mistake.”

The final NTSB report also called into question the effectiveness of using a Switch Position Awareness Form to mitigate the risk of an improperly lined switch.

No such form used by the F777 crew on that day was found by NTSB investigators.

Funding Approved to Rehab Petersburg Station

July 5, 2019

The Commonwealth Transportation Board of Virginia has approved funding to upgrade the Ettrick Station used by Amtrak near Petersburg, Virginia.

The board approved a Six-Year Transportation Improvement Plan that includes $5.7 million to rehabilitate the station.

The action came after the Federal Railroad Administration dropped a study study that had recommended a future Amtrak station be located on the Boulevard in Colonial Heights.

Peterburg is served by Amtrak’s Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Palmetto, Carolinian and Northeast Regional train to and from Norfolk, Virginia.

The transportation improvement plan also includes funding for another Norfolk train.