FRA Awards $25 Million in Grants; Transit Agencies Warn Against Samsung Phone; APTA Reveals $200 Billion in Transit on Voters’ Ballots in November
September 16, 2016
In a major effort to increase safety improvements for the country’s railroad infrastructure, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded $25 million in grants to transit agencies across the U.S. Through the Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvement Grants fund, the FRA is supporting 23 projects in 14 states and Washington, D.C. Projects include the acquisition, improvement, or rehabilitation of intermodal facilities; improvements to track, bridges, rail yards, and tunnels; upgrades to railroad crossings; and the separation of railroad crossings and roads. The grants include a $2.35 million awarded to Amtrak to provide a new emergency egress stairway and fire suppression system in the North Hangar and Clayton Concourse, which serve trains moving north and south out of Washington Union Station in the District of Columbia.
Other grants include, but are not limited to:
$2.69 million to the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District to add two platform access points at the East Chicago Train Station in East Chicago, Ind.
$1.61 million to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) to construct a new pedestrian underpass and two new rail bridges.
$1.91 million to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to install CCTV cameras to record grade crossing movements at 43 identified grade crossings.
$1.90 million to fund installing upgrades to three grade crossings to mitigate hazardous conditions between highway and rail traffic for Metro-North.
$385,000 to the Iberville Parish Government in Louisiana to improve two Iberville Parish grade crossings by installing signals and gates. The project also will reconstruct roadway approaches and railway crossings.
$374,598 to the St. Louis and Lake Counties Regional Railroad Authority in Minnesota, to replace and upgrade the warning systems at four grade crossings along a passenger excursion line.
$2.37 million to the Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. in Massachusetts to rehabilitate 12 miles of century-old rail to improve track conditions.
$600,000 to the Ohio Rail Development Commission to upgrade 9.7 miles of track to Class II track from Hamden to Red Diamond, Ohio, on the Jackson line.
NARP’s President and CEO Jim Mathews spoke to The Washington Post in support of the recent federal loan supporting Amtrak’s purchase of 28 new Alstom high-speed trains in the Northeast Corridor to replace its aging Acela fleet. At $2.45 billion, it is the largest single loan ever given by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) program, which was originally designed to provide affordable financing for Class II and Class III freight railroads. Congress expanded RRIF eligibility to passenger rail and dramatically increased the program’s loan and loan guarantee authority to $35 billion, but had been regularly underutilized partially due to a lengthy application process. However, the bipartisan surface transportation reauthorization act passed by Congress in 2015 streamlined the application process, shortened review time, and expanded eligibility to include transit and station development.
Following in the footsteps of the Federal Aviation Administration, several passenger rail service agencies, including NJ Transit, are asking riders to not use Samsung’s recently recalled Galaxy Note 7 phones. Several of the phones over the past few weeks have caught fire, and the FAA has asked fliers to avoid charging or turning on the phones while on a flight or stowing them in checked baggage. NJ Transit has not had any incidents reported to the agency about a Samsung Galaxy Note 7, but Dennis Martin, interim Executive Director noted, "Because of the uncertainties surrounding this device, we are issuing this precautionary advisory to ensure the safety of all of our customers." However, the advisory could cause problems for some commuters who use NJ Transit's popular mobile app to buy and display tickets.
Register Today For The “A Connected America...The Future Has Begun”
Advocacy Symposium & Meeting October 14 - 16 In Denver!
Make plans now to attend NARP’s Fall 2016 Advocacy Symposium and Membership Meeting, being held in Denver, CO, Friday, October 14 - Sunday, October 16. Complete information and agenda for this exciting event is now posted on the event webpage and will be updated regularly as the final planning process continues. Event Registration is NOW open along with a full listing of the available registration options and rates.
Friday’s activities will include a daytime tour of the new Denver RTD Rail Lines and Maintenance Facility, followed by an evening Welcome Reception in the Main Hall of Denver Union Station.
Saturday’s Symposium will feature speakers and panels of interest to all advocates, including on the following topics:
Moving Ahead With Shared Passenger/Freight Corridors
Is Transit-Oriented Development The Answer?
Sneak Peek At The Future: U.S. Passenger Rail In 2025 And Beyond
Solving the Infrastructure Conundrum: The $300+Billion Elephant In The Room
Colorado Regional Challenges And Opportunities
Fulfilling High-Speed Rail’s Promise
Representatives from Texas Central Railway will give the lunch keynote address.
NARP business sessions will be held on Sunday morning, following by the wrap-up lunch with Gary DeFrange, CEO - Winter Park Resorts.
Please beware that due to higher than expected demand, the discounted group rate hotel rooms at the host hotel, the Embassy Suites Denver Downtown, are now sold out. Other category rooms are however available at the Embassy Suites. In addition, there are a number of nearby hotels within walking distance of the Embassy Suites with available rooms and attractive rates. A complete listing of these alternate hotel options is posted on the event web page.
When most people think of the forthcoming elections, they think of Democrats and Republicans duking it out over how to fix healthcare or boost the economy, but there is more to Election Day. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) revealed in a new report that come November 8, 31 public transit initiatives will be on ballots for the public to vote on. Overall, local community, county and state governments will ask voters to decide on how $200 billion will or will not be spent on expanded and increased service for trains and buses, as well as maintenance and repairs on transportation infrastructure. Some of the areas where ballot initiatives are up for a vote include: Los Angeles ($120 billion), Seattle ($54 billion), San Diego ($7.5 billion); San Francisco ($3.5 billion), Santa Clara County, CA ($3 billion); Atlanta ($2.5 billion), and Columbus, OH ($620 million). APTA also noted that public transit ballot initiatives have passed by an average of more than 70 percent, showing how important public transportation is to people and to communities of all sizes.
In addition, a significant portion of the ballot measures are targeted specifically at public transit, many on a large-scale level. The ballot measures focused on so-called “mega infrastructure projects” include:
Measure M: $120 billion over 40 years in Los Angeles for rail, bus transit, highway projects, and SOGR work;
Sound Transit Proposition 1: $53.8 billion in Seattle for 62 new miles of light rail, BRT on I-405, expanded capacity on the Sounder south rail line,improved access to stations for bicyclists, pedestrians, drivers, and pick-up and drop-off services, among other features;
Regional Transit Authority Public Transit Tax: $4.6 billion in southeastern Michigan for Detroit-to-Ann Arbor passenger rail, BRT along three major corridors, express bus services, a universal fare card and several, and other improvements;
MARTA Expansion Ballot Measure: $2.5 billion in Atlanta the Atlanta BeltLine,15 complete streets projects, Phase 2 of the Atlanta Bike Share program, pedestrian improvements in sidewalks; and traffic signal optimization;
California Proposition 51: $9 billion in San Francisco for school bonds and the city’s transit system.
Following the grand opening of the Cincinnati Bell Connector last weekend, officials are excited about the first weekend’s ridership numbers, which have supported the city’s need for public transit. According to the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, the new streetcar provided 50,646 free passengers rides. This is nearly 20,000 more rides than the new street car in Kansas City provided in its first weekend, which was also free for riders. High ridership came despite Saturday night issues that included heavy rain at times and a bomb threat that prompted police to halt streetcar service for an hour while a security check was done. The streetcar opened Friday at noon, a project eight years in the making. The $148 million streetcar runs on a 3.6-mile loop, from The Banks to Over-the-Rhine, making 18 stops.
There are still openings for state representatives on the NARP Council of Representatives in several states, including one each in Alabama; Arizona; Delaware; Hawaii; Idaho; Louisiana; Missouri; Nebraska; Nevada; New Jersey; North Carolina; North Dakota: Ohio (2 Seats) and Wyoming. Check out the full, up-to-date, list of current vacancies here.
If you live in these states and want to become more active in NARP’s work, this is your opportunity to become involved. If you are interested in being considered for an appointment to an open state seat by the Board of Directors please complete this Candidate Information Statement.
Amtrak has awarded Sal Pace, Pueblo County Commissioner, the 2016 President’s Service and Safety Award in the Amtrak Champion category for his in helping save the Southwest Chief. Pace led a multi jurisdictional effort to save Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which was known as the Southwest Chief Transportation Infrastructure Generating Economic Recovery grant team. In receiving the TIGER grant, the local match was more than $9.23 million and included $4 million from Amtrak, $2 million from BNSF Railway and $1 million from each of the states. The rest of the money is from cities and counties along the route. Former Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman sent Pace a letter last month telling him that he was selected for his contributions, and an awards ceremony is scheduled to take place on Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C. However, Pace will not be able to attend because Amtrak has asked him to speak at a conference in Cincinnati the same day of the awards ceremony. Pace has been asked to speak about Amtrak’s Cardinal train route, which is experiencing similar issues as the Southwest Chief.
Following a review of responses to a Request for Qualification (RFQ), Amtrak has selected four development teams to compete for the Master Developer of the commercial features of Chicago Union Station, as well as nearby properties owned by Amtrak. Amtrak officials, along with the City of Chicago, Metra commuter rail and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), assisted by KPMG, reviewed the RFQ’s to select teams considered capable of all aspects of project delivery including an implementable Master Development Plan, design, construction, financing the potential operation and maintenance of non-rail assets, as well as identification of expansion opportunities and commercial development in the surrounding West Loop neighborhood. Several firms responded to the RFQ and those who will bid on the project include:
Chicago Union Station Partners: Macquarie Corporate Holdings Pty, Ltd, Golub & Company LLC, and Walsh Investors, LLC. Primary General Contractor: Walsh Construction Company II, LLC; Master Plan and Architect: Gensler Architecture, Planning & Design P.C.; Engineering: Arup; Operations & Maintenance: Golub & Company LLC.
JLL Consortium: Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc., John Buck Company Fund V, Chicago Union Station Development Company, LLC, LaSalle Investment Management, Inc.; Design & Engineering: Pelli Clarke Pelli, Arup, Studio Gang; Operations & Maintenance: John Buck Co.; Property Management: Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc.
Riverside: Riverside Investment & Development; Structural Engineer: Magnusson Klemencic Associates; Rail Operations Interface Manager & Civil Engineer: WSP Parsons Brinkerhoff; Construction Management: Clark Construction Group; Operations, Maintenance & Retail Concession Manager: CBRE Inc.; MEP and Technology Engineer: ESD Global.
Sterling Bay LLC: SB Capital Partners II, LP, SBCP II Qualified Purchasers, LP; Design–Build Contractor: James McHugh Construction Co.; Design & Engineering: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP; Operations & Maintenance: Sterling Bay LLC.
New Member Benefits For You, And New Support For Us And Our Work!
Travelers United, the only non-profit membership organization that acts as a watchdog for traveler rights, now offers free reciprocal membership to all NARP members! To check out benefits and get the low-down on your passenger rights, visit https://TravelersUnited.org/welcome-narp/
Amtrak Vacations, a premier tour operator offering first-rate travel packages combining great destinations and train travel, is now offering all NARP members a 10% discount on the rail travel portion of any package booked, along with a 5% discount on parent company Yankee Leisure Group’s Unique Rail Journeys packages across Europe! Better yet, go watch a recorded webinar co-hosted by Amtrak Vacations and NARP to learn about a special offer worth up to an additional $400 off certain rail-travel packages! Click here to watch the recorded webinar, or copy and paste this URL into your web browser: https://youtu.be/uiETYMKziWA , and to learn more about Amtrak Vacations please visit http://www.amtrakvacations.com .
If you buy anything from online retailer Amazon.com, sign up for Amazon Smile so that a portion of your purchase price is donated to support NARP! The price you pay for your items does not change, but every purchase helps your Association as we do the work you want done for A Connected America! Visit http://www.narprail.org/get-involved/donate to learn more.
VSP Individual Vision Care now offers specially discounted individual and family insurance plans exclusively for NARP members that typically save hundreds of dollars on your exams, glasses and contacts. In addition, as a VSP member you -- or any family member you designate -- can also enjoy savings of up to $1,200 per hearing aid through VSP’s TruHearing plan. When you sign up for a VSP plan through our website, you not only help yourself and your family with significant savings and great benefits, but you help support NARP’s work as well! Click here to enroll today!
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the state’s rail renovation project is on track for completion. As it stands now, NCDOT is nearing the end stages of a massive rail project, known as the Piedmont Improvement Project, which is intended to improve the commute between Raleigh and Charlotte. Just last month, the state hit a major milestone in the completion of a rail overpass project at Morrisville Parkway. Drivers were able to return to the two outside lanes of the Parkway at the end of August, a section that had been closed since February. Other than Raleigh’s Union Station Project, it’s the last big project in the Triangle for a statewide rail revamp that’s been underway for six years. With the new overpass removing a railroading crossing, NCDOT expects to eliminate any chance of train and vehicle collisions, while the new bridge will allow cars to avoid traffic jams when a trains stops at the crossing. When the entire project is complete next year, trains will be able to increase their speed due to various factors, from bridges – like the one in Morrisville – to improvements on the tracks, to grading projects that eliminate slants and curves on parts of the track.
In more grant news, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) finalized a $1.04 billion federal grants with the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to extend Blue Line Trolley service from downtown San Diego to the University City area. The 10.92-mile light rail extension, referred to locally as the Mid-Coast Trolley, will serve growing population areas, including Old Town, Mission Bay Park, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center, UC San Diego, and the Westfield UTC shopping center. Officials estimate the project will serve 24,600 transit trips every weekday, with service anticipated to start in 2021.
Register now for the joint membership meeting for NARP & RailPAC, being held Saturday, September 24th at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.
Speakers will include NARP’s Chairman Peter LeCody and President Jim Mathews, Former Assembly Member Roger Dickinson of Sacramento, and Jeff Morales, CEO of the California High Speed Rail Authority. The museum features 21 restored locomotives and railroad cars, some dating back to 1862.
Hopes that service would be returning to normal were high for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) after the agency began returning repaired Silverliner V railcars to use this month, but those hopes took a hit this week. A new problem with the railcars came to light last weekend, and the transit agency has removed 18 of its repaired cars from service. The transit agency said in a statement that a Saturday inspection by SEPTA and manufacturer Hyundai Rotem found a "clearance issue" that led to "minimal, occasional contact between old and new components." The agency was forced to pull 120 Silverliner V cars – about a third of the Regional Rail fleet – from service in July due to a structural defect. With a reduction in available cars, SEPTA has experienced overcrowding, delays and reduced service throughout the summer. Hyundai Rotem made a design change, and modified cars will return to service this week. SEPTA still plans to have all cars back on the tracks in October.
Detroit is well on its way to implementing its a new streetcar. And in actuality, the city is two months ahead of schedule as Brookville’s first LRV train for the city’s QLine service, arrived for September 13. M-1 RAIL recently began the first of nearly 1,000 tests to be conducted before the start of passenger service in spring 2017, operating a small motorized inspection “speeder” to ensure the track is free of obstructions in advance of the first QLINE vehicle delivery. The QLine streetcars will feature wi-fi access for passengers, vertical bicycle racks and and an HVAC system designed to operate in all types of weather. The QLine will also allow for station-level access for pedestrians as well as persons who use mobility assistance devices such as wheelchairs.
Amtrak has released a new National System Timetable, effective September 9, 2016. As previoulsy announced, the National Timetable is no longer available as a printed booklet from Amtrak, but it is available for printing in whole or in part by downloading the above linked PDF version. Amtrak continues to print individual route schedules which are available in stations and on board trains, in addition to being available as PDF's; a full listing of all current routes schedules can be found here.
With the new timetable, trainside checked bicycle service is being introduced over the coming week on all long distance trains (except on the Coast Starlight; on the Portland section of the Empire Builder and on the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited). This new service is available between all staffed stations which offer checked baggage service. Passengers with bikes will check in with the station agent, obtain a claim check/baggage tag for their bike, and then hand the bike up to a crew member inside the baggage car at their boarding station. At their destination, the passengers will retrieve their bikes at the baggage car from a crew member. This new service replaces the need to dis-assemble and box bikes on long distance trains. The service will be introuduced on the Coast Starlight in the future.
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 Bob Brady, email@example.com, 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.