Hotline #953

Hotline #953

On Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump highlighted is support for high-speed trains in the U.S. Trump noted the discrepancy between train service in China, as compared to the U.S., stating ““They have trains that go 300 miles per hour. We have trains that go chug … chug … chug.” Trumps support for high-speed rail aligns his platform with President Obama’s push for the service, which included a $478 billion infrastructure bill to fund roads, bridges, and rail lines.

Nearly 15 years after September 11, the World Trade Center Transportation Hub opened this week. The station, which opened months ahead of schedule, and connects to 11 subway lines in New York, as well as the underground PATH trains that link New York to New Jersey. Despite the early opening, the hub’s cost soared to $4 billion, twice the estimate when it was unveiled in 2004, and the space has been described by some residents as an architectural wonder and by others as an expensive eyesore.

Richard Manson, Program Vice President for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), a DOT LadderSTEP partner, highlighted how mass transit systems in low-income communities provide economic growth with lasting benefits for housing jobs, schools, safety and health. To date, LISC has invested more than $400 million in transit-oriented projects, and have seen dramatic growth in communities in Phoenix, AZ, as well as Richmond, VA.

Bloomberg reported that the New Jersey Transit’s contingency plan for a possible rail strike this month would accommodate only 38 percent of riders to New York. Manhattan accounts for 87,130 of 295,173 train trips a day on NJ Transit, the nation’s third-largest mass transit provider. With a strike deadline of March 13, New Jersey railroad employees are scheduled to meet in Washington on Friday in hopes of averting a stoppage in a dispute over wages and benefits. Labor contracts expired in 2011 for 4,200 unionized rail workers.

Ask Congress for A Connected America today!

The bipartisan FAST Act was passed overwhelmingly by Congress. Now, as Congressional appropriators consider the Fiscal Year 2017 budget, they need to hear from Americans to make sure this bold vision for passenger trains is funded!

As the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) begins preparing its new 2018 Rail Plan, the agency is also accepting public comments. The 2018 plan is intended to provide a 20-year framework for California's rail network and set the stage for new and improved rail and community connections. Overall, the plan will provide a long-term strategy that will enable Caltrans, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, intercity and commuter-rail operators, freight railroads and communities to prepare for the future and prioritize state funding.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority signed a $444.2 million contract for the third construction package of the the high-speed rail line in the San Joaquin Valley. The contract is with California Rail Builders, who was selected to design and build the 22-mile stretch from the Tulare-Kern County line to Poplar Avenue. Under the contract terms, the contractor will have just over two years to complete the project, once it gets approval from the rail authority to begin.

The state of Maryland has chosen the team of Purple Line Transit Partners to develop and maintain the Purple Line, a light-rail system outside Washington, D.C. The project is expected to take six years, and service will begin in the spring of 2022. The line will run 16 miles between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County, inside the Capital Beltway.

In the past two years, passengers on Texas Eagle trains have experienced delays or been forced to ride on buses due to construction of a third north-south mainline track in the Fort Worth, Texas, Tower 55 project, the higher speed rail construction between Chicago and St. Louis and significant weather events on the route.

So to celebrate the completion of track upgrades and anticipated reduction in track delays in 2016, the Texas Eagle Local Revenue Management team, in conjunction with the Texas Eagle Route Director and Amtrak Central Division Marketing, will begin a special promotion for passengers between January and March 2016.

Passengers will receive a free companion rail fare when they buy one regular (adult) fare. The ticket must be purchased at least one day in advance of travel between January 5 and March 15, 2016, for travel between January 6 and March 20, 2016.

These fares may be upgraded to a sleeper after paying for an accommodation charge. The promotion is valid for travel only on the Texas Eagle. It is not valid for local travel between Chicago and St. Louis, or for local travel between San Antonio and Los Angeles. Fares are subject to availability, and seating is limited. Please use discount code V344 when booking the fare.

It was announced that U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer. and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York, and Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, introduced legislation to expand U.S. jurisdiction over American Customs and Border Protection agents that operate in Canada, pursuant to border security agreements. The legislation will be used to establish a pre-clearance customs process for Amtrak trains between Montreal and New York City, traveling through the Adirondacks and Albany. Baggage would be cleared when passengers board the train in Montreal, instead of trains making lengthy stops at the border.

Under the new 5-year federal transportation bill, Pennsylvania officials are looking more closely at the enhancement of a passenger rail line between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. The idea has been considered and studied since the 1980’s, and currently, the state House Transportation Committee is discussing who could lead the planning of the project. Overall, train ridership statewide is up and increased from 199,484 riders in fiscal year 2009-10 to 233,214 in 2014-15.

Registration for NARP’s annual Spring Conference and Council Meeting being held Sunday, April 10 through Wednesday, April 13 at the Sheraton Silver Spring Hotel is now available on the event webpage. The draft agenda is now posted and information on NARP’s ‘Day on The Hill’ can be found here.

Due to unusually high demand, only a few group-rate hotel room reservations are still available at the Sheraton. Click here to make your room reservations. The deadline to make reservations is March 10th. NARP is continuing to examine the possibilities for additional hotel space near the main venue.

The House Public Works and Highways Committee is reviewing New Hampshire's decade-long Transportation Improvement Plan (2017-2026), and notably the possibility of a $4 million addition for the development phase of the New Hampshire Capitol Corridor to construct a new rail line from Massachusetts north through Nashua and Manchester. The $4 million for engineering and environmental permitting was originally pitched last year in Gov. Maggie Hassan's budget but later removed by the Legislature. Federal funds with the newly enacted FAST Act would cover 80 percent of the development phase. The remaining 20 percent contribution from the state level could utilize accrued toll credits - generated through construction and maintenance of the turnpike system.

The Pasadena Star-News noted that with light rail expanding east into the San Gabriel Valley in California, cities along the Foothill Gold Line extension are investing millions in the transformation of nearby neighborhoods into urban hubs. The area was once an industrial corridor for freight rail, but has become an economic catalyst for cities, such as Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, Irwindale and Azusa. The extension is 11.5 miles and will begin service on March 5.

Manage Your Membership! You can instantly change your address, your phone number or any other important detail in your membership by yourself using the NARP website, at manage-your-membership. Just enter your membership number, or create an account to get started.

Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman stated that about nine firms are vying to redevelop Baltimore’s Penn Station, and the passenger rail service is reviewing their proposals. While Amtrak previously tapped Baltimore's Beatty Development to create a master plan for Penn Station and nearby land owned by Amtrak, it issued a new call in January for firms interested in serving as a master developer for the project. Amtrak has spent $22 million on improvements at Penn Station since 2010 and expects to spend about $3 million this year, including upgrades to the platform, station Wi-Fi and lighting in the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel.

NARP is inviting members in good standing to consider running for 10 open seats on the Council of Representatives, the association’s volunteer governing body, for two-year terms. The next election for seats is for the term starting March 1, 2016.

Any 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 run. The Council consists of 112 elected state representatives. The Council of Representatives represents the overall NARP membership in setting and approving the overall policy and direction for the association. For more information, click here. For an 'At-Large' Representative Candidate Information Statement form, go here.

In addition, nominations are now being sought from those members interested and qualified in being elected as an Association Officer (Chair; 4 Vice-Chairs; Treasurer & Secretary) and for the 8 Director positions. The Officers and Directors are elected by the Council of Representatives at the April meeting. For more information on these positions including duties, responsibilities and required qualifications, go here. For an Officer & Director Candidate Information Statement form, go here.

The deadline for all submissions is 11:59 p.m. (local time) on March 31, 2016. It must be postmarked no later than March 31, 2016.

NARP thanks those members who have sent in industry-related news stories, op-eds, editorials or letters to the editor from your communities. We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Please send your news items to Will Hubbard,, and we will continue to share it with the membership. We also ask members to send events that we can put on the website, here. And please follow NARP on Facebook and Twitter.