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MTA begins Culver F Line signal modernization project

Rail News Home Communication and Signal 5/29/2020 Rail News: Communication and Signal
image MTA's Culver Line signal modernization project includes replacing 70-year-old signals with a CBTC system.Photo – MTA

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) crews yesterday began the next phase of the agency’s signal modernization project on the Culver F Line in Brooklyn, New York.

This phase of the project — which was delayed from its original March start date due to the COVID-19 outbreak — includes replacing 70-year-old signals between Church Avenue and Coney Island stations with a communications-based train control (CBTC) system. 

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Brightline in talks with Miami-Dade to run commuter-rail line, report says

Rail News Home Passenger Rail 5/29/2020 Rail News: Passenger Rail
image The company is continuing to pursue those plans even though it has shut down its rail service completely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.Photo – Brightline

Brightline/Virgin Trains USA is discussions with Miami-Dade County in Florida about building five train platforms between Miami and Aventura and launching a $425 million commuter-rail system, The Miami Herald reported Wednesday.

The proposed deal was revealed Tuesday, the newspaper reported. Under the arrangement, Miami-Dade would pay the company $350 million to construct stations after Brightline spent $75 million building platforms that could be used to launch the commuter service.

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CSX recognized for 'Pride in Service' program

Rail News Home CSX Transportation 5/29/2020 Rail News: CSX Transportation
image CSX has received a 2020 Halo Award for the Class I's "Pride in Service" initiative. Presented by the Engage for Good organization, the awards honor corporate social initiatives and cause marketing. CSX launched Pride in Service in 2018 to support and recognize military, veterans and first responder service members and their families. From connecting with families to bridge the civilian-military divide, to raising funds and participating in events, to writing letters of gratitude and packing care pouches, CSX employees have contributed nearly 5,000 hours to the cause and reached 85,000 individuals in the initiative's first full year, CSX officials said in a press release. "At CSX, service is an integral part of our culture and we are so proud that one in five of our employees have served our country and communities, either in the military or as a first responder," said Nathan Goldman, CSX's executive vice president and chief legal officer. This is the 18th year that Engage for Good will honor businesses and nonprofits with Halo Awards.

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FTA to offer grants for transit technology innovation

Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation 5/29/2020 Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
image The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) yesterday announced the availability of $1.25 million in funding to demonstrate innovative technologies that improve the state of good repair for transit agencies.  The grants will be provided through the federal Public Transportation Innovation Program, funds research, development, demonstrations and deployment projects aimed at improving public transportation.  FTA emphasized the Real-Time Transit Infrastructure and Rolling Stock Condition Assessment Demonstration Program as a competitive demonstration opportunity under its research area of infrastructure. The demonstration program's primary goal is to enhance asset management of infrastructure and safety through technology that can provide real-time condition assessment of transit capital and facilities, FTA officials said in a press release. Eligible applicants include public transportation agencies, state and local departments of transportation and technology system suppliers.

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UP publishes annual sustainability progress report

Rail News Home Sustainability 5/29/2020 Rail News: Sustainability
image Union Pacific Railroad yesterday published its 2019 Building America report that highlights the company's progress toward meeting social, economic and environmental initiatives. The report outlines the company's assessment results detailing subjects such as customer service and satisfaction, rail safety and maintenance, and employment practices. "We've taken measurable steps to enhance customer communication, and we invest billions annually in our capital program to strengthen infrastructure, and we are dedicated to engaging employees and cultivating a work environment that celebrates diversity," said Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Lance Fritz in a press release. Among goals outlined in the report are UP's effort to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Women make up 5.5 percent of the railroad's total workforce, but UP is working to double the representation of women to 11 percent by 2030. "To have the best employees, we can't overlook any segment of the population," said Chief Human Resource Officer Beth Whited. "Businesses such as ours face a growing shortfall of skilled trade workers due to fewer people choosing to learn a trade. We're looking at potential barriers for women in this line of work and finding solutions to these roadblocks." Gender equality is one of the United Nation's 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). UP's report also outlines the company's commitment to seven SDGs, including gender equality.    

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BART, Metra outline reopening plans

Rail News Home Passenger Rail 5/29/2020 Rail News: Passenger Rail
image Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco will be following a 15-step reopening plan.Photo – BART Facebook

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Metra this week released plans to welcome back more riders as their coronavirus restrictions are lifted in their regions. 

BART in San Francisco will implement a 15-step plan, which calls for enhanced cleaning and disinfection routines; running longer trains to allow social distancing among riders; increased train frequencies and requiring face coverings on trains.

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Minneapolis unrest prompts Metro Transit to suspend rail service

Rail News Home Security 5/29/2020 Rail News: Security
image Protests over the death of George Floyd while in police custody escalated in Minneapolis.Photo – Metro Transit Flickr

Metro Transit yesterday suspended light-rail and commuter-rail service through the weekend out of concern for rider and operator safety as protests over the death of George Floyd while in police custody escalated in Minneapolis. 

Metro Transit’s Blue Line airport shuttle service will continue to operate as the only exception to the service suspension. 

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Rail supplier news from Fugro, Alstom, Uber, TekTracking, Rajant and RSI (May 28)

Rail News Home Railroading Supplier Spotlight 5/28/2020 Rail News: Railroading Supplier Spotlight
image ProRail awarded Fugro a three-year framework contract for geotechnical investigations.Photo – Fugro

ProRail awarded Fugro a three-year framework contract for geotechnical investigations to support renewal work of existing rail lines across the Netherlands. Under the contract, Fugro will work with ProRail to identify and develop geotechnical solutions, such as faster cone penetration test techniques, that will increase efficiencies and reduce line closures, Fugro officials said in a press release.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit's (DART) board approved a contract with Alstom Signaling Operations LLC to upgrade the agency's Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system. Alstom will replace software, servers, workstations, tunnel ventilation control systems, an overview display wall and a cyber security program, as well as provide data backup with remote-site archive sub-systems. Meanwhile, DART awarded Uber Technologies Inc. a three-year contract for rideshare services to supplement the agency’s GoLink on-demand shuttle service. 

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OCTA awards OC Streetcar operation, maintenance contact

Rail News Home Passenger Rail 5/28/2020 Rail News: Passenger Rail
image Herzog Transit Services Inc. will operate and maintain the planned OC Streetcar (rendering pictured).Photo – OCTA

The Orange County Transportation Authority's (OCTA) board last week awarded a $45 million to Herzog Transit Services Inc. to operate and maintain the planned OC Streetcar light-rail system in California. 

Herzog will provide operation and maintenance services over a 17-month pre-revenue service period, with an initial five-year revenue-operations term and two, two-year options.

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Amtrak to restore Hiawatha service

Rail News Home Amtrak 5/28/2020 Rail News: Amtrak
image More Hiawatha trains will be restored to service as driven by demand, Amtrak officials said.Photo – Amtrak

Amtrak on June 1 will restore its Hiawatha service between Milwaukee and Chicago in response to anticipated increased demand, the national intercity passenger railroad announced yesterday.

Two Hiawatha trains and continued service by two Amtrak Empire Builder trains will together offer morning and afternoon departures daily on the route.

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Iowa Northern Railway's Sabin elected to ASLRRA board

Rail News Home Railroading People 5/28/2020 Rail News: Railroading People
image The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association's (ASLRRA) board earlier this month elected Dan Sabin as the small railroad-at-large member for a three-year term. President of the Iowa Northern Railway Co., Sabin succeeds Jack Parliament, who retired from the D&I Railroad Co. in December 2019, ASLRRA officials reported in the association's May 27 newsletter. Sabin also will chair the Small Railroad Committee. The election took place May 19 during a board meeting held via Zoom. Also at the meeting, ASLRRA Chair Doc Claussen created the Environmental Committee as a standing committee of the association. Sean Strong, assistant vice president of environmental at Watco Cos. LLC, will chair the committee. In addition, Nicole Teska, partner at Bowers & Co. CPAs LLC, was appointed chair of the Finance and Administration Committee. Last month, Progressive Railroading named Teska a railroad industry Rising Star.  

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Paterson, CP mark launch of largest grain unit train

Rail News Home Shippers 5/28/2020 Rail News: Shippers
image The train, consisting of 167 new high-capacity hopper cars, was loaded at the company's Foothills Terminal and transported 16,313 metric tons of grain.Photo – Paterson Grain

Paterson Grain announced earlier this month the shipment of Canadian Pacific's largest ever grain train moved from Paterson's terminal in Bowden, Alberta, to Vancouver, British Columbia.

The train, consisting of 167 new high-capacity hopper cars, was loaded at the company's Foothills Terminal and transported 16,313 metric tons of grain to the Alliance Grain Terminal in Vancouver, Paterson officials said in a press release.

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CHSRA to release draft EIR for Burbank-to-LA section

Rail News Home High-Speed Rail 5/28/2020 Rail News: High-Speed Rail
image The high-speed rail project section will connect Burbank Airport Station and Los Angeles Union Station.Photo – CHSRA

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) tomorrow will release the draft environmental impact report for its 14-mile high-speed rail project section between Burbank and Los Angeles for public review and comment.

The draft environmental impact report/environmental impact statement (EIR/EIS) evaluates the impacts and benefits of CHSRA’s plan to realign existing rail tracks in the corridor to allow for two additional tracks.

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AAR: Week 21 traffic trends show 'encouraging signs'

U.S. freight railroads logged 428,715 carloads and intermodal units during the week ending May 23, a 19.2 percent decrease compared with the same week last year, Association of American Railroads (AAR) data shows.

Total carloads for the week tumbled 27.5 percent to 190,649 units, while intermodal volume fell 11.2 percent to 238,076 containers and trailers.

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Metro-North, LIRR increase service

Rail News Home Passenger Rail 5/27/2020 Rail News: Passenger Rail
image MTA Metro-North Railroad increased train availability by 26 percent.Photo – Metro-North Railroad

MTA Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) today increased capacity on some lines to accommodate increased ridership as some services in the Hudson Valley and Long Island, New York, reopen. 

Metro-North today added 18 trains to its schedule to increase train availability by 26 percent, MTA officials said in a press release.

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Toronto Transit Commission lays off 450 workers

Rail News Home Passenger Rail 5/27/2020 Rail News: Passenger Rail
image The pandemic has resulted in an 80 percent drop in TTC ridership and a loss of $90 million in monthly revenue.Photo – TTC

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) late last week temporarily laid off 450 employees as part of a cost-cutting measure during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The pandemic has resulted in an 80 percent drop in ridership and a loss of $90 million in monthly revenue — money that was essential to sustain operations, TTC officials said in a press release.

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SMART approves plan to acquire California short line

Rail News Home Short Lines & Regionals 5/27/2020 Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals
image Under the plan, the insolvent state agency known as the North Coast Railroad Authority would be dissolved, ceding 21 miles of track not owned by SMART from downtown Healdsburg to the Mendocino County line.Photo – SMART

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit's (SMART) board last week approved a California state-sponsored plan that calls for the agency to take ownership of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad Co.

The complex agreement was years in the making, with the sale's framework established in a 2018 bill that provided SMART with $4 million to buy the railroad, its equipment and exclusive rights to its track from Larkspur to north of Cloverdale, The Press Democrat reported last week.

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FTA advances KC Streetcar extension project to engineering phase

Rail News Home Passenger Rail 5/27/2020 Rail News: Passenger Rail
image The approval moves the Main Street extension project into the final phase of the FTA’s CIG New Starts program.Photo – KC Streetcar Facebook

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) last week approved Kansas City Streetcar Authority’s (KCSA) Main Street extension project to enter the engineering phase of the federal Capital Investment Grants New Starts program.

The approval authorizes KCSA and the agency’s partners to execute engineering and construction contracts for a project to extend the streetcar route from Main Street to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

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New Orleans Public Belt Railroad updates locomotive fleet

Rail News Home Mechanical 5/27/2020 Rail News: Mechanical
image Now that the locomotives have arrived, NOPB will reduce its fleet size from 15 locomotives to eight.Photo – portnola.com

The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad (NOPB) has upgraded its locomotive fleet with the arrival of eight Tier 1 Electro-Motive Diesel locomotives to replace aging engines and improve efficiency and overall emissions, the short line announced last week.

Now that the locomotives have arrived, NOPB will reduce its fleet size from 15 locomotives to eight. NOPB officials expect to reduce the railroad's annual fuel consumption by 25 percent and nitrous oxide emissions by 40 percent, they said in a press release.

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Bill would increase federal funding for grade crossing safety projects

Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation 5/27/2020 Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
image U.S. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) last week introduced legislation that would add $250 million annually to an existing rail-safety program starting in fiscal-year 2021. The Warren Cowles Grade Crossing Safety Act would modify the federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program to increase funding available each year for grade-crossing safety improvement projects. The bill is named after Warren Cowles, a town worker who was struck and killed by an Amtrak train in 2017 while he was plowing snow at the Tina Lane and Birnie Road grade crossing in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. The increased funding will prevent unnecessary deaths by allowing for the installation of grade separations, crossing signals, gates, lights and other barriers or cautionary signage at grade crossings nationwide. Thirty-three percent of rail-related fatalities occur at grade crossings, according to a press release issued by Markey's office.  Cowles' death was the fifth fatality and seventh collision at the Longmeadow crossing since 1975, Markey said. Safety improvements were completed there last year after Markey helped secure a joint funding arrangement between Amtrak and Massachusetts that allowed for installation of a new gate and warning lights. The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) endorsed the legislation.  "These projects can be expensive to construct and establishing a specific source of funding for passenger-rail grade crossing safety will help our commuter railroads combat this critical safety issue," said APTA President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Skoutelas.  

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