Posts Tagged ‘intercity rail passenger service’

Group Wants Michigan Demonstration Trains

April 25, 2018

A Michigan environmental group is pushing for special demonstration trains to operate in summer 2019 between Traverse City and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Ground Center for Resilient Communities has been seeking intercity rail passenger service on the route for several years.

The group has raised $100,000 to conduct a study of the route’s potential that it expected to be completed this summer.

Preliminary findings have shown that the A2TC route as it has been dubbed could generate enough ridership to support a passenger train.

Much of that is based on the projection that tourism in Traverse City is expected to double from 6 million a year to 13 million by 2045.

“It could provide options for baby boomers moving up to the region and for college students at Baker, Alma, CMU, U of M,” said Jim Bruckbauer, deputy director of the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. “We see the potential for what this can do for the downtowns between Traverse City and Ann Arbor — Owosso, Clare, Cadillac.”

Permanent rail service on the route is years away, but the group is eyeing operating some specialty trains in summer 2019.

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NH Coalition Wants Rail Service to Manchester

February 1, 2018

A New England business coalition is trying to drum up support for extending intercity rail passenger service to Manchester, New Hampshire, from Boston.

The group New Hampshire Business for Rail Expansion claims that more than 50 businesses, organizations and individuals support the service, including Northwestern Mutual and University of New Hampshire.

The group is seeking to prod New Hampshire legislators to include the rail service in the state’s 10-year transportation improvement plan, which includes $4 million for the proposed project’s development phase.

That funding would go toward engineering, environmental and geotechnical analysis, as well as a financial plan for funding the service.

“New Hampshire’s economy is strong, but a well-documented lack of in-migration and aging population is hurting businesses that need to fill jobs, which is detrimental to the state’s future,” said coalition spokesman E.J. Powers. “For companies to grow and prosper right here in New Hampshire, they need access to a younger, highly educated workforce.”

The coalition said the route could serve a minimum of 668,000 annual riders.

Brightline to Start Revenue Service Jan. 13

January 11, 2018

Brightline will begin revenue service on Jan. 13 between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach,  Florida.

Fares include a “Try Our Train” fare of $10 per segment for basic service and $15 for Select service with larger seats and snacks and beverages. A segment is one way between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale over tracks of the Florida East Coast.

Service will initially be 10 daily weekday roundtrips and nine on weekends. The end-to-end trip will take 35 minutes with trains leaving as early as 6 a.m. and as late as 11 p.m. Schedules will vary between weekday and weekend service.

In an announcement, Brightline said it expects to expand into downtown Miami in the coming months.

Brightline also said it has shaken up its management team, promoting Patrick Goddard to president in replacement of Chief Executive Dave Howard, who was hired in March 2017.

Trains will operate at a top speed of 79 mph operation on the 67-mile section between Miami and West Palm Beach. Trains are projected to operate at up to 110 mph in the next 133-mile phase of the project to Cocoa Beach.

Brightline To Start Service Next Week

January 3, 2018

Brightline is expected to begin scheduled service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, starting next week.

The company has been operating test service in recent weeks to train staff and test equipment.

Service had been expected to start last summer but was delayed by legal, financial and environmental issues.

In time, Brightline plans to extend service to the Orlando airport.

FRA Clears Brightline Service to Orlando

December 19, 2017

The Federal Railroad Administration has cleared the way for Brightline to operate to Orlando, Florida.

The FTA last week issued a record of decision on the Final Environmental Impact Statement it released in 2015.

That will enable Brightline to begin constructing a route from West Palm Beach to a new terminal at Orlando International Airport.

Brightlight will use Florida East Coast tracks Cocoa, Florida, and lay new rails to the airport.

The Cocoa-airport line is expected to have sealed track and a top speed of 125 mph. It will be built adjacent to the Beachline Expressway.

A second track and safety appliances are being installed on the FEC route that will allow a top speed of 110 mph.

Recent news reports have indicated that Brightlight is testing service between

West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale and is expected to launch revenue service within a few weeks.

Brightline May Start This Month

December 5, 2017

All Aboard Florida is now expected to launch Brightline intercity rail passenger service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, Florida, this month, the Fitch Ratings agency reported.

Service to Miami is expected to start in 2018. Brightline has thus far declined to comment on the report.

Fitch said it reached its conclusions as part of an analysis of a $600-million bond issue being set up to pay for the higher-speed passenger service.

The report said Brightline’s financial potential is good based on strong revenue generated by other passenger rail service elsewhere in the U.S.

Fitch expects Brightline to earn $147.6 million in revenue in 2021 and said service can break even with revenue of $90.6 million, ridership of 1.6 million, and average fares substantially lower than those offered on Amtrak’s Acela service between Washington and Boston.

Brightline had earlier indicated that it wanted to launch service five months ago.

The inauguration has been delayed by signal work at grade crossings in Palm Beach County.

The Florida East Coast is hosting the service, the first since FEC ended its own passengers trains in 1968 in the wake of a protracted union strike.

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.

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.