Posts Tagged ‘intercity rail passenger service’

FRA OKs Atlanta Corridor Review

October 2, 2017

The Federal Railroad Administration has released an environmental impact statement of the Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tennessee, high-speed rail corridor.

FRA said in a news release that the completion of the Tier I combined Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision for the High-Speed Ground Transportation marks the completion of the environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act and documents FRA’s identification of a preferred corridor.

“This project will benefit both Atlanta and Chattanooga with more efficient transportation, while also providing rail access to the rural communities in the region,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a statement.“This has been a long time in the making and represents a response to numerous transportation needs along the Interstate 75 corridor.”

The proposed corridor would parallel for 120 miles I-75 and feature eight stations, including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport at the proposed airport-Southern Crescent station. Trains would make the journey in 88 minutes.

The Georgia Department of Transportation studied the corridor as part of Georgia’s 1997 Intercity Rail Plan, which recommended further study – specifically with an emphasis on high-speed rail service.

Georgia DOT and the Tennessee Department of Transportation have identified 15 potential corridors between Atlanta and Chattanooga, but have narrowed the list to three.

A decision on the exact alignment will be part of a Tier II environmental study, if additional funding is approved.

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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.

Planning Continues for Louisiana Rail Route

June 23, 2017

The rejection of a proposed gasoline tax increase will not necessarily stop a proposed passenger train service between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, officials say.

The 17-cent tax hike would have raised $510 million for transportation projects, but officials say the rail service was only in the planning stages.

The officials acknowledged that for the service to begin, transportation officials will need to find funding for it.

Shawn Wilson, the Louisiana secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development, said federal funding might be able to cover most of the roughly $260 million cost of launching the service with public-private partnerships picking up some of the rest of the cost.

Louisiana would have to pay some costs and is responsible for coordinating the project.

Had the tax increase been approved, $30 million of it would have gone toward multimodal transportation, including rail service.

“We will continue to try and work to deliver it,” Wilson said. He acknowledged it could take longer to find the funding now. “It would be unfair to say this initiative relies solely on the state.”

Tommy Clark, commission of the Office of Multimodal Commerce, said the state has made some progress in convincing Amtrak and Kansas City Southern, which would have hosted the train, that the service would be worthwhile.

Clark said state officials tried to pitch to KCS that capital improvements to the rail line would provide benefit for freight transportation as well.

“We’re just at the baby steps of having those dialogues,” he said. “There are so many milestones that have to happen before even one train moves.”

The Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority has received a $250,000 federal grant to design a train station for the project, and the city-parish put up matching funds.

A request for proposals is expected to be issued in the next two months.

Columbus to Help Fund Passenger Rail Study

June 12, 2017

The city of Columbus has agreed to contribute $250,000 toward the planning efforts to establish intercity rail service between Ohio’s capital city and Chicago.

That amount will be added to the $350,000 already committed by other cities, businesses and others.

All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger advocacy group, reported in its June newsletter that some central Ohio entities that it didn’t name might contribute another $100,000.

Work on the proposed Chicago-Columbus route is being conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration and the engineering firm HNTB.

Their planning efforts are currently focused on the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline between Lima, Ohio, and Gary, Indiana, that was once used by Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Broadway Limited and Chicago-Washington Capitol Limited.

The preferred route from Columbus is the CSX Toledo Terminal and Scottslawn subdivisions, which cross the ex-PRR mainline at Dunkirk, Ohio.

In a related move, the FRA is reported to be well along in creating a Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study.

That document will create a 40-year vision that builds on the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative that was proposed more than a decade ago but has never been implemented.

The Midwest Midwest rail concept would cost an estimated $2.5 billion for new locomotives, passenger cars, upgraded tracks, modernized stations, increased train frequencies and faster travel times.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission is participating in the plan, which will establish the priorities, and studies and investments needed to implement projects in the coming decades.

Colorado Front Range Service Study Get Green Light

May 25, 2017

A bill requiring a study of expanding rail passenger service along Colorado’s Front Range has been signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The legislation authorizes creation of the Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission.

The 11-member Commission includes representatives of various Front Range communities and Union Pacific and BNSF railroads.

The study is expected to be completed and submitted to the state by Dec. 1.

Officials Optimistic About Gulf Rail Restoration

April 13, 2017

Amtrak and members of the Southern Rail Commission are expressing optimism that intercity rail service will be restored to the Gulf Coast east of New Orleans.

During a meeting in Mobile, Alabama, they said that efforts to restore Amtrak service lost in August 2005 following Hurricane Katrina are close to being realized despite the proposal by the Trump administration to gut funding for Amtrak’s long-distance trains.

“When we look at the situation of where we are, we are closer now than we have ever been over the course of the last 12 years,” said Thomas Stennis III, Amtrak’s director of government affairs south.

Stennis urged residents of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida to ask their respective members of Congress to reject President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. “I cannot urge that enough,” he said.

Although neither Amtrak nor the Commission has provided any details about how the service would be funded or when it might be restored, Stennis said that Amtrak CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman supports the restoration of service to the line once served by the Sunset Limited.

Nos. 1 and 2 continue to operate tri-weekly between New Orleans and Los Angeles.

One proposal to serve the Gulf Coast has the daily City of New Orleans operating east of its namesake city.

During a meeting in Mobile, officials estimated that 154,000 passengers would use the proposed New Orleans to Mobile segment annually.

Knox Ross, a Mississippi Commissioner of the SRC, said that negotiations with CSX, which owns the rail line that would be used have been difficult.

“We are working very hard to come up with a number,” said Knox. “It’s a hard negotiation because we are working on their railroad and they own it and they wanna make money.”

Knox said Amtrak matched the $125,000 appropriated by the City of Mobile to carry out necessary upgrades to its station.

He said similar deals could be worked out with other cities along the Gulf Coast city stations that require upgrades, said Knox.

NY Southern Tier Advocates Form Study Group

March 4, 2017

Intercity rail passenger advocates in New York State have formed a group to study the feasibility of restoring service to the Southern Tier cities of Binghamton, Elmira and Corning.

The proposed service would be an extension of a New York-Scranton, Pennsylvania, route that has yet to launched.

The New York group hopes to raise $100,000 to fund the study.

MDOT to Seek Proposals for Feasibility Study of Ann Arbor-Traverse City Rail Passenger Service

February 11, 2017

A request for proposals to evaluate intercity railroad passenger service between Ann Arbor and Traverse City has been issued by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

MichiganKnown as the A2TC Train, the service is specified in MDOT’s 2011 Michigan State Rail Plan, which called for service to the northern part of the state.

The feasibility study will cost $160,000 of which half comes from a federal transportation planning grant. The other half will be split between the state and local agencies.

The not-for-profit Traverse City Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities led the drive to raise the local matching funds for the study.

Work on the study is expected to get underway in May.

MDOT Director Kirk Steudle said in a statement that demand for passenger rail service is “increasing because of high energy costs and increased congestion of highways and air travel.”

The A2TC route would serve Petoskey, Cadillac, Mt. Pleasant, Alma, Owosso, Durand, Howell and Ann Arbor.

It would connect with Amtrak’s Chicago-Detroit corridor at Ann Arbor.

The feasibility study is established to take nine months, but some officials are hoping it will be completed by November.