Posts Tagged ‘Gulf Coast Working Group’

Capitol Costs for Gulf Coast Service Put at $177.6M

July 19, 2017

The price of restoring rail passenger service to the Gulf Coast is $177.6 million in capital improvements, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

The FRA made that assessment in a report sent to Congress this week that is the final version of the Gulf Coast Working Group’s report for reinstating Amtrak service east of New Orleans.

However, CSX, which would host the service, disputes the report, saying that a consultant’s study put required capital improvements at $2.2 billion.

That prompted the the Southern Rail Commission to say that CSX has, “demonstrated a commitment to obfuscation and deceit, which culminated the sentiments they expressed in (the Working Group’s) May 10, 2017, meeting.”

The FRA said it considered information from Working Group participants, which included representatives of CSX, Amtrak, the Florida Department of Transportation, and the Southern Rail Commission, to come up with the $117.6-million figure for capital improvements.

In its report, the FRA said it “does not endorse every recommendation” made in the report. FRA staff participated in the working group activities.

The Southern Rail Commission has received funding for some station restoration, but the report said $5.48 million of additional annual funding is necessary to operate a daily New Orleans-Orlando, Florida, extension of Amtrak’s City of New Orleans.

Operating a separate service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, would add another $4 million cost.

The report did not specify the cost for positive train control installation.

The Gulf Coast has been without rail service since the Sunset Limited was suspended east of New Orleans following damage to the route inflicted by Hurricane Katrina in August 2005.

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CSX Disputes SRC Comments on Gulf Coast Service

June 21, 2017

CSX has taken issue with comments made by a member of the Southern Rail Commission that it has increased the amount of money needed for capital improvements to restore Amtrak service to the Gulf Coast.

Commission member Jerry Gehman said that since E. Hunter Harrison became CEO of the railroad that it has demanded a $2.3 billion investment to restore passenger service east of New Orleans.

Gehman contended that the railroad had agreed to a lower sum in negotiations held before Harrison became CEO.

“The truth is that, according to a study that the Federal Railroad Administration co-sponsored in 2016, a minimum investment of more than $2 billion is required to create the infrastructure needed to safely support the desired service, and even at that level of spending it may not be possible to meet customers’ expectations and federal laws that require minimum on-time performance by passenger service,” CSX said in a statement.

The statement said the figure was arrived at by the engineering consulting firm of HDR Inc. working with the FRA and CSX to analyze what it would take to initiate Amtrak service between New Orleans and Sanford, Florida.

CSX said that the cost included additional track, signals, bridges and other improvements, including meeting new federal laws requiring positive train control and on-time performance.

“Those facts have been available to the Gulf Coast Working Group since August 2016, and have been consistently communicated and discussed in letters and monthly meetings with the FRA and other stakeholders since then,” CSX said. “At no time has CSX reached any agreement with the Gulf Coast Working Group about the cost at which new or modified service could be provided, so assertions that CSX recently changed its position are inaccurate.”

In its statement, CSX contended that even with a $2 billion investment, computer models suggest that passenger trains operating on the Gulf Coast route would not be able to achieve federally mandated on-time performance standards

“Without the much-needed additional tracks and other capacity improvements and due in part to the fact that the route includes 17 drawbridges where maritime traffic has priority over rail traffic, the new service would not meet customer expectations nor federal regulations,” CSX said. “Failing to meet that standard would expose CSX to uncapped penalties and unhappy passengers; CSX, as a responsible public company, is unwilling to support the initiation of a service that is impossible to provide in compliance with federal law.”