February 16, 2018
Amtrak To Suspend Service If PTC Deadline Not Met; Rail Passengers Association Opposes WH Infrastructure Initiatives; Rail Passengers Association Welcomes New FRA Administrator; FRA To Award $73M In Rail Projects
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In testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over rail, Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said unequivocally that Amtrak will suspend services on routes operated over host railroads that haven’t advanced Positive Train Control (PTC) installation enough to apply for potential extensions through 2020. Furthermore, Amtrak could likely suspend service on routes that don't have PTC fully installed and implemented by the end of the year, even if an extension is granted. Anderson said the railroad itself will be able to meet the 2018 deadline and service in the Northwest should not be affected, as PTC is being tested to launch before the end of the year. In addition, Anderson said Southern California will also be ready, but other regions where Amtrak operates on another railroad’s tracks may not be as fortunate.
House Democrats, with some Republican support, have proposed $2.5 billion in loans and grants to help passenger and freight railroads meet the 2018 deadline. Railroads were already loaned $2.3 billion in 2015, committee members said at the hearing, which was set in order to review PTC implementation and how to move the process along faster, following the Amtrak derailment in DuPont, Washington.
“Safety should be the number one priority for federal lawmakers, and the way to ensure that it is, is to provide additional support for railroads to install PTC this year,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews in response to the announcement. “We already know that PTC works and it could have saved lives in several recent Amtrak accidents, including the derailment in Washington State where two Rail Passengers Association members, Jim Hamre and Zack Willhoite, lost their lives.”
Anderson also declared that he is going to bring the aviation safety culture to railroading, and faulted Amtrak for "running a freight railroad that carries passengers" over its history.
As part of his testimony, Anderson said:
"First, many routes outside the NEC will face a situation where the host railroads will apply to FRA for an alternative PTC implementation schedule. At Amtrak that question raises for us whether -- even if that alternative is approved -- whether we will even operate.
Second, there are host railroads that appear unlikely to achieve sufficient progress to apply for the alternative PTC implementation schedule, and for those segments Amtrak will suspend operations.
Third, a small portion of services operate on routes that have received FRA mainline track exclusions, which exempt them from the PTC requirements. We are newly reviewing under our [Safety Management System] SMS program our policy regarding these exclusions, and for those instances where we will not have PTC, even after the 12/31 deadline because it's not required by statute, we have a question about whether we're going to operate it all. And I doubt we will.
Lastly, there may be railroads that operate over our NEC tracks which may not have sufficient PTC-commissioned rolling stock to operate normal services by the end of the year. Under the present rules we cannot permit non-compliant equipment on our railroad after the deadline and we are working with the railroads and the FRA to determine the path forward."
Rail Passengers Association CEO Says Shutting Down Parts of Amtrak Will Not Make America Safer, but applauds Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson For Strong Safety Stance on PTC
Rail Passengers Association President and CEO Jim Mathews, who observed the testimony of Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson, called for immediate action on PTC, noting that it will make rail safer. Mathews responded to the testimony by stating:
“We're in a place in this country where Amtrak may not feel comfortable operating on the nation's rail network. That should never have been allowed to happen. Shutting down parts of the passenger rail system over PTC implementation will in no way represent a safer transportation system for Americans. It will strip citizens of a transportation choice that a growing ridership warrants, and force them onto far more dangerous roads. Millions more who cannot drive will be left with no options at all.
Let's not lose sight of the important fact that rail -- even as it's configured today -- is at least 10 times safer than driving on the highway. Amtrak's National Network, state-supported corridors and Northeast Corridor services are still safe for passengers and will be made safer-still by full implementation of PTC.
What I saw this morning in the House hearing room was a remarkable, and refreshing, display of bipartisanship, with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle demanding that everyone involved in rolling out PTC simply get on with it and ask for money and help if they need it. For the first time in a long time, there appears to be enough pressure from both Congress and the public that the freight and commuter railroads will feel the need to meet the December 31st deadline for implementation.
Speaking as not only the Rail Passengers Association President, but also as an aviator, an air search-and-rescue volunteer and a former first-responder, I have to applaud Mr. Anderson's observation that it's time for railroading to learn from aviation when it comes to passenger safety. We at Rail Passengers Association stand ready to help in any way that we can.”
The Rail Passengers Association has long argued in favor of implementing Positive Train Control. In the wake of recent fatal accidents, including one in Dupont, Wash., in December 2017, which took the lives of two of the organization’s members, the Association has re-doubled its call for rail safety now.
The White House released a disappointing package of infrastructure initiatives and transportation budget cuts, including--for a second time-- plans to gut Amtrak’s long-distance services by cutting $757 million from the annual Amtrak grant - a move that will not help Amtrak run a safe and effective level of service.
The Administration contends that the money needed to operate the National Network after the cuts can come from the states served, but also suggests that devolving costs to the States “is only one tool in the menu of options for reform the Administration will be exploring to improve the current system and reduce Federal subsidies in the Long Distance network.”
Rail Passengers Association is asking its members to take action immediately to stave off these draconian cuts to vital National Network services. Rail Passengers Association has set up an online tool to permit riders and members alike to let the White House know directly that they disagree with these proposed cuts.
Visit www.railpassengers.org/whitehousebudget to take action NOW!
Donald Trump campaigned on a message of bringing America's infrastructure into the 21st Century. He specifically cited passenger rail, saying it was embarrassing how far behind the US has fallen compared with China, and promised to close that gap.
This new budget proposal, however, calls for the virtual elimination of Amtrak's National Network, slashing the railroad’s budget roughly in half, from $1.4 billion to $738 million.
“They know full well that asking states to absorb more costs is not feasible, and the default choice will be to drop service,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews in response to the budget.
This approach failed before, because the long-distance train network serves markets that overlap on state corridors. The question of what entity pays for which service got messy when the same approach was tried in 1971 for service added between New York, Buffalo, Cleveland & Chicago (on the route that would become the Lake Shore Limited in 1975), the end result of which was a collapse of the service in January 1972, after only nine months, when the states being served couldn’t or wouldn’t pay their share of the costs.
Another proposed item on the “menu” involves phasing out first class sleeping cars. Sleeping car fares cross-subsidize coach services on long distance trains. The federal cost of moving one person one mile in a sleeping car is less than it is in coach. This change would actually worsen the financials of the national network.
If funding for Amtrak's National Network is cut, more than 220 communities will lose service, and more than 140 million Americans will be left at the station. These are mostly smaller and rural towns, many of which don't have airports or Megabuses.
“Just because these towns are small doesn't make them fly-over country,” Mathews continued. “They are the cities and towns that voted for [Trump] because they felt disconnected from the American dream, and they deserve a government that invests in them. Amtrak provides that connection, letting these Americans access critical services, jobs, and family.”
Other cuts include the popular and effective grant program known as TIGER, or Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, which so far has injected a little more than $5 billion into transportation investments nationwide.
“The move to eliminate TIGER grants flies in the face of the goals of both the White House’s budget and Mr. Trump’s infrastructure proposals, which are ostensibly aimed at encouraging more private investment,” Mathews added. “In some ways, TIGER is the ultimate public-private partnership, attracting nearly $4 of additional investment for every TIGER grant dollar awarded.”
The Rail Passengers Association continues to urge the President to fulfill his promise to rebuild and modernize America's rail network, and just as they did last summer, Rail Passengers Association members will #Rally4Trains at stations nationwide to show their support for a true national rail service.
Rail Passengers Association was not the only group to dismiss the infrastructure package from the White House as harmful to the nation. Democrats, for example, said the proposal was a profiteering scam for Wall Street.
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), a ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said in a press release, “This is not a real infrastructure plan — it is simply another scam, an attempt to sell our nation’s infrastructure and create windfall profit for Wall Street while rolling back environmental protections.”
The American Public Transportation Association (APTA), like Rail Passengers Association, also called out and rejected the proposed cuts to federal programs that fund public transit infrastructure, such as Amtrak and TIGER grants.
"The $200 billion proposed by the administration for infrastructure would be paid for by cutting funding for critical public transportation infrastructure programs, including the Capital Improvement Grants (CIG), Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program (TIGER) and Amtrak, in the fiscal-year 2019 budget," Paul P. Skoutelas, APTA President and CEO said in a statement. "This would be a big mistake and counterproductive to fostering prosperous communities."
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) also said that an infrastructure bill could be ready "closer to the summer" as he begins the bill-writing process following President Trump's infrastructure overhaul rollout.
In the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) annual funding recommendations to Congress for the Capital Investment Grants (CIG) program, the agency downgraded two projects for the Gateway program in the NEC - a reflection of the Trump administration’s effort to withdraw federal support for transit projects. These recommendations provide a priority rating for transit projects to receive federal grants, and the FTA rated both the Hudson Tunnel and the Portal North Bridge replacement projects as "medium-low.” As a result, the FTA further lowers the likelihood that the Gateway program will receive federal support.
"In case it wasn't clear before, President Trump today tried to land another death blow to Gateway, by having his Federal Transit Administration vindictively and inexplicably downgrade the project in order to cut off critical federal funding," said U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) in a press release that criticized the President’s infrastructure initiatives.
The scope of these two projects is extensive, as the Hudson Tunnel is 106 years old and was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy. Amtrak has said the only permanent solution is to build a new tunnel. The Portal North Bridge is even older, dating back to 1907, and has become a major bottleneck for daily Amtrak and NJ Transit trains.
Make Plans NOW To Attend Rail Passengers Association’s Spring 2018 Advocacy Summit and ‘Day on The Hill’: Annual Congressional Reception and Meeting - Sunday, April 15 to Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Rail Passengers Association’s ‘Day on The Hill’ is Tuesday, April 17. The Annual Rail Passengers Association Congressional Reception will be held that evening from 5:30pm-7:30pm in the Capitol Visitors Center.
This is THE opportunity of the year for rail passenger advocates to have their voices heard directly by the decision makers on Capitol Hill. With drastic cuts being proposed for Amtrak and successful grant programs such TIGER being targeted for elimination, it is VITAL that rail advocates make this year’s Summit and ‘Day on The Hill’ the largest event ever. We need to flood ‘The Hill’ with our message that passenger rail matters! Please join in this effort.
- Event registration is now available!
- The host hotel is the Hilton Old Town Alexandria, located adjacent to the King Street Metro & Alexandria Amtrak Stations. Discounted group rate room reservations are now available! Don’t delay...discounted rooms are limited and going fast!
Arlington, TX may soon join the ranks of cities with transit services after Mayor Jeff Williams said he will request an election to join a regional transit agency - either Dallas Area Rapid Transit or Trinity Metro, formerly the Fort Worth Transportation Authority. However, Mayor Williams will only make the election call after it is certain that a high-speed rail line to Fort Worth, TX will happen. This line will provide community members with an HSR link to the proposed routes of Dallas-to-Houston and Oklahoma City-to-Laredo.
Mayor Williams said in a statement that Arlington wants to be a founding member of the local government corporation (LGC), and that, "Arlington is committed to the vision of making high speed rail in North Texas, with a station in our community, a reality.”
The mayor’s comments stem from efforts by Dallas City Council members and Michael Morris of the North Central Texas Council of Governments, urging either Arlington or Grand Prairie to join a regional transit agency in order to get an HSR stop. Once joined, the cities would create a LGC, making them able to have a HSR line. Despite their efforts, neither Arlington nor Grand Prairie officials have moved forward in joining either transit agency. As a result, Dallas City Council members said they were ready to move forward without either city’s involvement.
In Florida, officials in Martin and Indian River counties, along with CARE (Citizens Against Rail Expansion), filed a new lawsuit in an attempt to halt the expansion of Brightline’s higher-speed rail service from West Palm Beach to the Orlando Airport. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., against the U.S. Department of Transportation and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao. Brightline won approval from the Federal Railroad Administration to sell $1.15-billion in Private Activity Bonds (PABs) in December, and the complaint describes the agency’s approval to issue PAB’s, “as arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, in excess of statutory authority and otherwise contrary to law.”
“Brightline brings not only an exciting service to Florida, but a critical one that people throughout the state have a need for,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews.
CARE issued a press release on the suit, which said the USDOT, “cast aside their responsibility to take a hard look at its (Brightline’s) environmental impacts, rigorously explore and objectively evaluate all reasonable alternatives, and identify all reasonable means to mitigate the harms from the Project. Instead, they (USDOT) acted as its cheerleaders.”
Brightline officials responded to the lawsuit in a statement that said, “This is the seventh lawsuit Treasure Coast counties have filed to stop a privately funded transportation project that is critical to Florida’s growth. The anti-progress vision of the Treasure Coast has already cost taxpayers $7 million. Apparently, there is no limit to how much more taxpayer money they will waste.”
Rail Passengers Association has started an online campaign for our Florida members to reach out to their local elected representatives and offer support for the Brightline project. This link will take Florida members directly to a campaign page that will connect them to their representatives. Rail Passengers Association will keep the campaign active throughout Florida’s legislative session.
Don’t Let MARC Commuter Service Disappear
We don’t want MARC service between Maryland and West Virginia to disappear and we need your help to save the service! This is even more urgent today because West Virginia's part-time legislature, in session right now, will soon conclude its business. Budget adjustments by the state legislature to include funding for West Virginia MARC service must be decided this month.
It is crucial that appropriate West Virginia legislators and officials hear from everyone who supports continued operation of Eastern Panhandle MARC service right away! Telephone calls or emails urging that MARC operational funds be added to the West Virginia budget should be addressed to the following:
Governor Jim Justice
Secretary of Transportation Thomas J. Smith, P.E.
Senator Patricia Rucker
(16th District, Jefferson County
and part of Berkeley County)
Senator Craig Blair
(15th District, part of Berkeley County and Morgan, Hampshire and Mineral Counties)
Members of the House of Delegates
To determine your Delegate, visit http://www.wvlegislature.gov/Districts/maps.cfm#HD01
NJ Transit has not been able to make advances in the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC) that officials would have liked, according to a new progress report submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration. The agency has until the end of this year to install the remote braking technology on 440 locomotives, and train 1,100 employees on how to use it, but the new report finds that NJ Transit is far behind on its goal. This should not come as a surprise for commuters or state lawmakers, as Governor Phil Murphy'’s administration said in January that it would be unlikely that the agency meets Congress’s 2018 deadline.
Based on the progress report, dated January 31:
- NJ Transit had installed PTC on 35 locomotives out of it’s goal of 55 for the end of 2018;
- Only 143 employees have been trained, however, the agency’s 70 train dispatchers have not received any training;
- Only five of 200 maintenance workers have been trained;
- Only five of 200 supervisors have been trained; and
- Only one train engineer out of 450 have received training.
Nancy Snyder, a spokeswoman for NJ Transit, said the agency remains committed to meeting the deadline for implementing PTC and training employees. She also said that NJ Transit’s contractor that has been installing PTC, has started working a second shift in order to meet the deadline. If the deadline is not met, FRA officials have proposed a $12,000 civil penalty against NJ Transit.
Kevin Corbett has been confirmed as the new executive director of NJ Transit by the agency’s board. Corbett was nominated by Governor Murphy after Steven Santoro announced he would be retiring from the position come April.
"Kevin is taking on one of the toughest jobs in New Jersey – turning NJ Transit around and restoring it as a world-class transportation agency that our commuters can rely on. Every New Jerseyan who takes the train or bus every day, and the thousands of employees who show up for work, deserves visionary leadership committed to getting this system right. Kevin’s confirmation signals that we have begun the difficult process of rebuilding NJ Transit and, in time, regaining commuters’ trust in the system,” Governor Murphy said in a press release.
Corbett, who has previous experience as a VP at the engineering transportation firm AECOM, will take over the country’s third busiest transit agency after years of funding cuts, maintenance and repair issues, problems with safety, and unsatisfied passengers.
Following the confirmation of Corbett, Santoro said NJ Transit is receiving positive feedback from customers. A recent customer survey showed satisfaction levels rising from their low point last spring when repair work at New York Penn Station caused delays.
Unfortunately, in January NJ Transit’s on-time performance was the worst it has been since June 2017 when the agency had to reschedule trains during Amtrak’s summer of renewal. Overall, 87.5 percent of trains systemwide arrived within six minutes of their scheduled times.
To help with the issue and ensure that commuters are not overcrowded on trains, NJ Transit will add 40 rail cars for service. Governor Murphy said that NJ Transit will put 20 cars that had been waiting for PTC implementation back on the rails, and the agency will lease another 20 cars from the Maryland Transit Administration.
“We understand the increased frustrations rail commuters have been feeling the past several weeks and this plan will start providing them with some relief in the short term,” said acting Department of Transportation Commissioner and Chairwoman of NJ Transit’s Board of Directors Diane Gutierrez-Scaccetti. “I want to assure customers that this is just the beginning of our effort to restore NJ Transit to the national transportation leader it has been in the past.”
The addition of the cars is part of the state’s new Initial Commuter Relief Plan for NJ Transit that will be implemented over the next few weeks.
Rail Passengers Association Welcomes Ron Batory As New FRA Administrator
The Rail Passengers Association welcomed the confirmation Tuesday evening of Ronald Batory as the new administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
Batory was nominated by President Trump in July 2017, but his confirmation has been held up for months leaving the primary agency charged with rail safety without a permanent leader. In the vote yesterday he received bipartisan support from the Senate. He will replace former FRA administrator Heath Hall.
“Ron Batory is universally respected as a knowledgeable professional with great experience and understanding of the needs of all railroad stakeholders,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “He is well-versed in the railroad industry, with decades of experience working on passenger and freight rail issues, and eminently qualified for his role at FRA. We look forward to advancing the safety needs of passenger rail nationwide under his guidance at this vitally important agency.”
Batory, who is a member of Rail Passengers Association, has worked in the railroad industry for more than 45 years. He previously worked for the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad (DT&I); the Chicago, Missouri and Western Railway; and the Southern Pacific Transportation Company. Batory was also the president of the Belt Railway of Chicago from 1994 to 1998, and president and CEO of the Consolidated Rail Corporation from 2004 until 2017.
Over the course of his career, Batory garnered the support of unions and railroads, as well as rail passenger groups and agencies, all of which support his nomination to head the FRA.
Oklahoma City is one step closer to launching its MAPS 3 streetcar service after the city’s first streetcar was delivered this week. The city will receive one new streetcar every three weeks through May from the Brookville Equipment Corp. in Pennsylvania, which is a four-day trip by truck. Once service launches on the $131-million system in December, commuters can take the streetcar through the central business district, Midtown and Bricktown. Regular service is planned Monday through Saturday, with limited service on select Sundays and special events.
“It’s an exciting step in the process to have our first modern streetcar delivered to our maintenance facility,” said MAPS 3 Program Manager David Todd in a press release. “We expect to begin testing the streetcars on the Bricktown Loop this summer, so people will see them on the street pretty soon.”
With Boston in the running for Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2), there are several notable transit projects, some rail, that would make the city more appealing. These projects include:
- North/South Rail Link (NSRL): The most transformative project on the list, completing the 100 year old goal of connecting North and South stations with a tunnel. Effectively it would connect Maine to North Carolina with continuous rail service, and allow for an exponential increase of frequent service throughout the Boston metro region.
- GLX Project: The Green Line Extension has been in development for years but has also been plagued by cost overruns of $2 billion. Officials plan to open the extension in 2021.
- Blue Line/Red Line Connector: The Blue Line is the only line in Boston that does not connect to the city’s main transit line, the Red Line. Connecting the two will be important for East Boston as it could be the site for Amazon’s HQ2.
- Northern Avenue Bridge: The bridge opened in 1908 but was shutdown in 2014. There is support to open the bridge back up in a similar manner as New York City’s popular High-Line, which was developed on a former New York Central Railroad spur on the west side of Manhattan.
- Downtown Silver Line Tunnel: The Silver Line tunnel was proposed years ago after an elevated rapid transit line was torn down. Silver Line buses were used instead of the tunnel, but traffic has mitigated the rapid service of the buses.
Rail Passengers Association Launches $10,000 Sweepstakes for Education
The Rail Passengers Association launched a new educational program for college students, with the chance to win $10,000 for higher education. A goal of Rail Passengers Association is to ensure that people across America, young and old, have access to passenger rail and other transit services. In doing so, Rail Passengers Association recognizes that many college students rely on having reliable and quality public transit to commute to and from class.
With this in mind, Rail Passengers Association wants to support college students in their education and is offering $10,000 to help pay for higher education during the 2018-2019 school year. Students can nominate themselves for the chance to win, or a student can be nominated by you. The main criteria is that the winning student must be enrolled in a U.S. accredited college, university or graduate program for the 2018-2019 school year.
For details on how to enter or nominate a student, as well as rules for the sweepstakes, please visit: www.crowdrise.com/rpascholarship.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will award $73 million in grant funding for projects that benefit passenger rail service and safety initiatives. As part of the application process, the FRA is specifically looking, “for projects that can strengthen intercity passenger rail, support capital projects and boost safety initiatives that may include the implementation of positive train control, improved highway-rail grade crossings, and congestion mitigation.” The grant funding is available under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act and funded through the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017.
“These grants are important resources in the Department’s ongoing efforts to strengthen our Nation’s overall rail systems, deploy positive train control and improve highway-rail grade crossings,” U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a press release.
The FRA’s announcement was made following the release of the White House’s Infrastructure principles.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued three urgent safety recommendations following its investigations into two, separate passenger rail accidents involving Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). One Emergency Order was to the FRA as a result of the NTSB’s investigation into an Amtrak train colliding with a CSX freight train in Cayce, SC on February 4. The recommendation would have trains travel at slower speeds, “when signal suspensions are in effect and a switch has been reported relined for a main track.”
In this accident, NTSB officials said that CSX personnel suspended the traffic control signal system to install updated traffic control system components for the implementation of positive train control. As a result, the safe movement of the trains depended upon proper switch alignment, which was not the case. The NTSB recommendation also said that, “after the switch position is verified, the train crew must report to the dispatcher that the switch is correctly lined for the main track before trains are permitted to operate at maximum-authorized speed."
The NTSB's recommendation to Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is based on the agency’s findings from its investigation of an LIRR accident in 2017, in which a roadway worker died near Queens Village, New York. During the investigation, the NTSB identified an improper practice by LIRR roadway workers who were working on or near the tracks. LIRR employees were using, "train approach warning," as their method of on-track safety, but they did not clear the track, as required, when trains approached and their, "predetermined place of safety," did not comply with LIRR rules and procedures.
The NTSB said it is concerned LIRR management is overlooking safety practices and is normalizing noncompliance with safety rules and regulations. The two urgent safety recommendations to the MTA call for MTA to audit LIRR's use of, "train approach warning," for worker protection and to implement corrective action for deficiencies found through the audit.
Upcoming Regional Rail Passenger & State Association Member Meetings and Other Events:
- Saturday, February 17 - ColoRail Meeting - Denver, CO
- Saturday, March 10 - Empire State Passengers Association & Rail Passengers Association Annual New York State Meeting & Lunch - Schenectady, NY
- Saturday, March 10 - Galveston Railroad Day - Galveston, TX
- Saturday, March 24 - Rail Passengers Association New England Regional Meeting - Boston, MA
- Saturday, March 24 - Iowa Association of Railroad Passengers - Grinnell, IA
- Saturday, April 14 - Delaware, Pennsylvania & New Jersey Rail Passengers Association Regional Meeting - Philadelphia, PA
Please contact Bruce Becker to have a local, state or regional event or meeting added to the Rail Passengers Association calendar of upcoming events!
Former congresswoman and Virginia state delegate, Thelma Drake, was nominated by President Trump to serve as administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). Drake, a Republican, has several years of experience in transportation, and is currently an assistant director of public works for Norfolk, VA. During her time in Congress, she served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and served on the Transportation Committee in the Virginia House of Delegates. She is also the former director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT). During her time at DRPT, Drake helped develop new processes and performance metrics that streamlined the department's operations and enhanced accountability for its projects, White House officials said in a press release.
“Thelma Drake will bring extensive knowledge and an experienced background in public works and transportation to the FTA,” said Rail Passengers Association President Jim Mathews. “If confirmed, we look forward to working with her on how to build a stronger, more robust transportation network in the U.S.”
Drake has also worked with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Virginia Railway Express.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is moving forward with four capital improvement projects for its Metro system. Project officials announced the agency will work on:
- The network's tightest curve between McPherson Square and Smithsonian stations, which will require crews to rebuild the track infrastructure;
- Structural repairs and rail infrastructure improvements on the Yellow Line bridge over the Potomac River, which will involve grout pad reconstruction and fastener replacement along the bridge;
- Structural repairs on the Rhode Island Avenue Station, which is the agency's oldest outdoor station; and
- Upgrade several switches outside Reagan National Airport and install new concrete pads beneath the rails on an aerial structure at the airport station.
"We're gearing up for the busy tourism season and, for many visitors, Metro is the best way to get to all the attractions," said Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld in a press release. "We have made significant improvements in getting Metro back to good and want visitors to know that Metro is a convenient, affordable option to get around."
WMATA will conduct work on these projects during the second half of 2018. During this timeframe, Metro ridership is lighter and it will have less disruption on overall service. During fiscal-year 2018, the agency will spend a record $1.25 billion on projects aimed at improving safety and reliability. For FY2019, WMATA has proposed $1.3 billion in capital investments, including continued delivery of 7000-series rail cars and additional track maintenance.
Nominations Now Open For 2018 ‘At-Large’ Rail Passengers Association Council of Representative Seats And Rail Passengers Association Officer & Director Positions
Rail Passengers Association/NARP is inviting members in good-standing to consider running for one of the up-to 10 available ‘At-Large’ positions on the Council of Representatives (the Association’s volunteer governing body). These positions are for a two-year term commencing immediately upon election by the State Representatives at the Council of Representatives Annual Business Meeting held on Wednesday, April 18, 2018, in Alexandria, VA.
Any Rail Passengers Association/NARP member who has paid dues for at least one year, is at least 18 years of age and is a U.S. resident is eligible to self-nominate and seek a seat to be elected at the April meeting. The Council consists of 112 elected state representatives, up-to 10 elected ‘At-Large’ representatives and up-to 15 elected Board Officers and Directors.
The Council of Representatives assists the Rail Passengers Association/NARP membership by setting and approving the overall policy and direction for the Association. For more information on these ‘At-Large’ positions, including the duties, responsibilities and required qualifications, please visit: http://ow.ly/Yxzs30hxl4P.
In addition, self-nominations are now being sought from qualified members interested in being elected to an Association officer position (Chair of the Board; one of four Vice-Chairs; Treasurer or Secretary) or to one of three available Board Director positions. Board officer positions are for a two-year term and the Board director positions are for a three-year term, both commencing at the conclusion of April’s Annual Business Meeting. For complete information on these Board, Officer & Director positions, including the duties, responsibilities and required qualifications, please visit: http://ow.ly/LGSj30hxlaf.
To complete and submit the required ‘At-Large’ Representative and Board Officer & Director Candidate Information Statement form, go to: http://ow.ly/VZvW30hxl7h.
The deadline to submit a Candidate Information Statement for any position is March 31, 2018.
Central Florida Rail Corridor (CFRC), which operates the SunRail passenger rail line, is moving forward with the WabTec Corporation to lead the agency’s effort on PTC. Wabtec officials signed a $62-million contract with CFRC, that will see the company design, install, test and commission PTC along the corridor, which runs 60 miles of track through central Florida.
“The scope of our work on this project demonstrates the wide-ranging roles that Wabtec can play in the implementation of PTC for our customers,” Wabtec President and CEO Raymond T. Betler said in a press release. “We are continuing to invest worldwide in this important segment of our business.”
Installation of PTC on the SunRail route, and its 24 locomotives and train cars, is expected to be completed by the end of 2018.
A draft map that showcases the proposed, “high capacity transit system,” for Austin, TX leaked this week and created a bout of excitement for transit enthusiasts who have been pushing for the service for decades. The draft proposal included a 12-mile, light-rail line that would run through Austin on Guadalupe Street and North Lamar Boulevard at the cost of $2.1 billion. Despite the leak, questions were raised about the viability to fund the light-rail line, known as Project Connect.
“That’s always the question that comes to mind: Where’s the money?” said Lyndon Henry, a former Capital Metro board member who has been advocating for light rail in Austin since the early 1970s. “But where there’s a will, there’s a way. Mostly,” he said.
The draft plan was to be released in a few weeks, after incoming Capital Metro President and CEO Randy Clarke takes over the agency on March 7.
"Thank you to Jim Mathews and the Rail Passengers Association for presenting me with this prestigious award. I am always looking at ways to work with the railroads and rail advocates to improve the passenger experience."
Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3)
February 14, 2020, on receiving the Association's Golden Spike Award