Posts Tagged ‘Federal Railroad Administration’

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.

House Approves Transportation Funding Bill

June 29, 2019

The House this week approved a $137.1 billion appropriation bill that includes funding for Amtrak and other transportation programs.

Amtrak would receive $700 million for its Northeast Corridor, $1.3 billion for the national network, $350 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants, and $350 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants.

The Federal Railroad Administration would receive $3 billion and the Federal Transit Administration would get $13.5 billion.

The bill also states that Congress views the Gateway Project in the Northeast Corridor as a priority for federal investment, particularly the Hudson River rail tunnels and the Portal Bridge replacement.

Language was also placed in the bill requiring Capital Investment Grants for rail transit to be spent within a set time frame.

This mirrors language included in last year’s bill and reflects discontent with how the FTA has responded.

The latest language requires that if if transit grant funds aren’t distributed to new projects by Dec. 31, 2021, the FTA will be forced to redistribute that money to projects already in the engineering phase or face consequences.

NTSB Wants FRA to Implement Safety Rule Now

June 27, 2019

The National Transportation Safety Board is demanding that the Federal Railroad Administration implement immediately a passenger-rail operations safety program.

The statement, which is a recommendation and not a legally-binding mandate, followed the NTSB’s release of a report into the derailment of an Amtrak Cascades Service train in December 2017 that killed three and injured 65 others.

The safety agency concluded that a failure to provide effective mitigation of a hazardous curve combined with inadequate training of the locomotive engineer led to the derailment.
The NTSB report found the derailment occurred when the southbound train entered a 30-mph curve traveling at 78 mph.

In its report, the NTSB made 26 new safety recommendations and reiterated three existing safety recommendations, one of which is enactment of a federal regulation known as the “System Safety Program.”

Although the FRA published a rule mirroring the NTSB recommendation, implementation of the rule has been delayed six times, most recently to Sept. 4, 2019.

States to Form Gateway Commission

June 24, 2019

New Jersey and New York are expected to approve legislation setting up a body that would oversee passenger rail projects affect the two states.

The proposed Gateway Development Commission would be similar in structure and purpose as the existing Port Authority of New York and New Jersey which is the agency currently overseeing planning, financing, and construction of the critical pieces of the Gateway Project.

This included the proposed new Hudson River rail tunnels and the Portal Bridge.

New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg said the new agency will serve as a vehicle to to receive federal funding for the Gateway tunnel.

In the meantime, Federal Railroad Administration head Ronald Batory told a Congressional committee that his agency is continuing its environmental review of the Gateway project.

Testifying before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Batory said the FRA has finished 95 environmental review steps but has 27 yet to be completed.

“Does that mean another year? I don’t know,” Batory said.

Critic have accused the Trump Administration of slow walking the funding proposals for the Gateway project.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has called for the state and local governments to pay more for it because it is largely a “local project.”

Some observers have noted that the Gateway project has become a pawn in a feud between Trump and Senator Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York)

Members of Congress from New York and New Jersey have described Gateway as a critical transportation corridor, saying that if existing antiquated tunnels fail that the reduced rail traffic would have negative repercussions for the U.S. economy.

Grant to Rebuild Bridge Used by Amtrak

June 16, 2019

A federal grant will be used to repair a bridge over the Mississippi River used by Amtrak trains.

The grant of $28.8 million was awarded by the Federal Railroad Administration to the

Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis to rebuild the MacArthur Bridge over the Mississippi River.

Completed in 1917, the bridge carries Amtrak’s Lincoln Service and Texas Eagle trains and it’s the primary rail crossing of the river at St. Louis.

The work will involve replacement of the main span girders on 677-foot structure.

The project cost of $57.3 million project will also be shared by the five Class I railroads serving St. Louis.

The grant will come from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.

The FRA had in 2017 awarded $7.1 million to replace the west approach to the bridge, the Broadway Street Truss.

Officials said the rebuilding will extend the life of the bridge to 2085 and bring the structure up to current standards.

Federal Grant to Help Rebuild Chicago Junction

June 13, 2019

A busy and often congested Chicago railroad junction used by Amtrak will get an upgrade with the help of federal funding.

The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded a $19.2 million CRISI grant to the Chicago Region Environment and Transportation Efficiency program to reconfigure Dolton Junction interlocking in Dolton and Riverdale, Illinois.
The interlocking is used by more than 100 freight and passenger trains of CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian National, Union Pacific and the Indiana Harbor Belt.

The work will involve upgrading and reconfiguring the connections, including the replacement of a NS connection between the CSX and IHB lines.

A third mainline will be built to provide direct access from CSX and Barr Yard to the UP mainline.

Crossovers will be built between two IHB mainlines, the connection between IHB and UP will be upgraded and remote control will be installed to automate Dolton Tower.

The project extends from 136th Place in Riverdale on the north to Monroe Street in Dolton on the south, and from Eggleston Avenue on the west to Center Street on the east.

Amtrak trains using the junction include the Cardinal and the soon to be discontinued Hoosier State.

CREATE said the work once completed will raise freight train speeds on multiple routes from 15 mph to 30 mph.

That will mean less potential for Amtrak trains to be delayed passing through the interlocking.

Martinsburg Station Work to be Finished in 2020

June 7, 2019

Rehabilitation of the Amtrak station in Martinsburg, West Virginia, is expected to be complete by spring 2020.

The $2 million project will bring the Caperton Train Station into compliance with Americans With Disabilities Act standards.

The work includes building a new platform, upgrades to sidewalks leading to the platform, new directional signage, and the replacement of curbs and sidewalks.

Interior work will include alterations to the existing elevator, handrails and doors. The city of Martinsburg owns the station.

Funding is being provided in part by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The project received approval in April 2018 from the Martinsburg Planning Commission and was reviewed by the city’s Historic Preservation Review Commission and the Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority.

As part of the project, workers will install new fencing and gates for the historic Baltimore and Ohio Railroad shop buildings next to the station.

Martinsburg is served by Amtrak’s Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

High Court Won’t Hear AAR Passenger Rules Appeal

June 4, 2019

Amtrak and the Association of American Railroads are both claiming victory in the wake of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to decline to review an appeals court ruling in the long-running battle over the authority of federal regulators to established on-time standards for passenger trains.

The latest action by the high court means that a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration may work together to establish on-time metrics to be applied to Amtrak’s host railroads will stand.

The Supreme Court in 2015 had ruled 9-0 that the two could collaborate on those metrics.

However, the DC appeals court has also ruled that part of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court has not overturned that ruling, which was made in July 2018.

The appeals court ruled unconstitutional part of section 207, which gave the U.S. Surface Transportation Board the ability to settle disputes over on-time performance metrics and standards by appointing an arbiter to perform binding arbitration.

The court objected to the use of binding arbitration and said Amtrak could not unilaterally impose metrics and standards on a host railroad over its objections.

That same decision upheld the remainder of section 207, which dictated how on-time metrics could be developed.

It was that part of the appeals court decision that AAR appealed to the Supreme Court.

In reaction to the most recent development, Amtrak said in a statement that it is pleased with the decision and looks forward to working with FRA “to develop clear, efficient and impactful metrics that will lead to better on-time performance for Amtrak customers and the entire rail system.”

The AAR in a statement express disappointment with the high court’s refusal to accept its appeal but said it was pleased that the provision pertaining to metrics and standards remains invalidated.

“Freight railroads are committed to providing efficient and reliable service to all their customers and tenant railroads, and we will work with the FRA and Amtrak in a way that recognizes the importance of moving increased freight volume to help support the U.S. economy,” the AAR said.

The legal battle over the on-time standards dates to 2011 when AAR commenced litigation.

The essence of the latest outcome means that although the previous on-time standards are not longer valid, Amtrak and the FRA will have the opportunity to try again to come up with a different set of standards.

That process is expected to take several months and Amtrak’s host railroads may still be dissatisfied with them and seek to have then struck down in court.

Railway Age Washington reporter Frank N. Wilner said the resulting regulatory proceedings and any subsequent litigation could take up another half a decade.

Wilner speculated that the railroad industry might argue in future court cases that the standards amount to an unconstitutional taking of private property without appropriate compensation.

He said the court have yet to rule on what constitutes a reasonable compensation to remedy freight railroad delays and if such compensation even is recoverable.

FRA Suspends Study of New Petersburg Station

May 28, 2019

Efforts to create a new Amtrak station in Petersburg, Virginia, have stalled after the Federal Federal Railroad Administration suspended work on an environmental assessment of the project.

In a letter sent to the Tri-Cities Metropolitan Planning Organization, the FRA did not explain why work on the study had been suspended, but an FRA spokesman later said the agency would be willing to consider the project at an unspecified later date.

“We have not abandoned plans to evaluate the feasibility of building a new station, and will continue to discuss the next steps with the Tri-Cities MPO,” the FRA spokesman said in a statement.

Amtrak currently serves Petersburg at a station located in Ettrick. That facility was one of three locations under consideration for a new station.

The other locations are the CSX Collier Yard in Petersburg and a former department store in Colonial Heights.

Studies of a new station began five years ago and the FRA had indicated last year that it favored the Colonial Heights location, a former Nichols Department Store because of its proximity to Interstate 95.

Officials have said the station in Ettrick is 74 years old and is located near Virginia State University.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation had also favored revitalizing the Ettrick station.

Expressing disappointment in the FRA decision, David Hyder, transportation director of the Crater Planning District Commission, said he would welcome the opportunity to revive the new station study.

Petersburg is served by Amtrak’s Silver Star, Silver Meteor, Carolinian and Palmetto.

California Sues Over FRA Claw Back Efforts

May 25, 2019

As expected, California is suing the federal government in an effort to halt its efforts to claw back nearly $1 billion in grants already awarded in 2010 to develop a high-speed rail network in the state.

The suit was filed by the state and the California High-Speed Rail Authority in a federal court in San Francisco.

The Federal Railroad Administration recently said it would seek to get back the funds after California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the network would be scaled back to a line serving the state’s Central Valley.

The original grant funding had been awarded for a network linking Los Angeles and San Francisco.

California contends that the U.S. Department of Transportation, of which the FRA is a part, lacks legal authority to withhold the $929 million in federal funds previously awarded for the project.

In the interim,  U.S. DOT has agreed not to redirect the funds awarded to California to other projects while the lawsuit works its way through the courts.