WRR – 02-18-2011



THE WEEK’S TOP RAIL AND TRANSIT NEWS (in chronological order):

(MON) The Obama Administration proposed their budget for the Fiscal Year 2012.  The budget includes $8 billion in FY2012 and $53 billion total over the next six years for high-speed passenger rail, and calls for a $556 billion, six-year surface transportation reauthorization plan.  It proposes moving Amtrak stand-alone subsidies out of the annual appropriations process and into the six-year plan, and also includes $30 billion over six years to create a new national infrastructure bank to fund projects that would have national and regional significance to the nation’s economy. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(MON) Amtrak announced its FY2012 federal budget request.  The request includes $1.285 billion for infrastructure improvements, $616 million for operating subsidies, and $271 million for debt service.  Included in the request is a plan to acquire 40 more cars for its Acela Express service, such as would allow two coaches to be added to each of the 20 Acela trainsets.  In its request, Amtrak noted that it was now covering 85 percent of its operating costs with ticket and other revenue. (ffd: Amtrak, Railway Age)

(MON) A spokesman for Chicago commuter rail operator Metra admitted that the agency should have been better prepared for the February 2 blizzard that brought two feet of snow to the region.  The blizzard resulted in Metra having to shut down some of its lines for the first time in its history.  The spokesman said that Metra also believes it did not do a good job of getting word out to riders about reduced and delayed service. (ffd: Chicago Tribune)

(TUE) The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Credit Council Committee approved a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan to the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority.   The authority had applied for a $83.7 million RRIF loan to refinance a portion of its outstanding debt. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(TUE) The Surface Transportation Board announced new filing fees.  An STB spokesman said that, whereas shippers have previously been charged up to $20,600 for such filings, they would now be charged only $350 to file a rate or unreasonable practice complaint.  The fee to file an expedited small rate case will remain at $150. (ffd: STB)

(TUE) Amtrak announced that it now has its own dedicated section, or channel, on the YouTube website.  Amtrak said that the channel will feature videos with information on topics such as “safety and security, the Trails & Rails program, and the Amtrak vision for high-speed rail.”  The channel will also feature videos from Amtrak employees on Amtrak trips, customer experiences, and travel tips. (ffd: Amtrak, RT&S)

(WED) Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott renounced the $2.3 billion in previously announced federal funding for the development of high-speed passenger rail service between Orlando and Tampa.  The governor said that project “would be far too costly to taxpayers and…the risk far outweighs the benefits.”  The governor’s action received much criticism, including from fellow Florida Republican John Mica, who chairs the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.  Following Mr. Scott’s announcement, several state governors requested Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to redirect the Florida funding to high-speed rail projects in their states.  Following a request from several federal and state representatives from Florida hoping to work out a compromise that would allow the Orlando-Tampa project to continue, Mr. LaHood said that he would delay any further action by at least one week. (ffd: Florida Independent, NARP, Railway Age, WDBO News)

(WED) Amtrak said that it would equip 450 of its Amfleet cars with Wi-Fi equipment, such as would allow Internet access on its Northeast Regional trains and on some additional West Coast trains by the end of the year.  Internet access is presently available only on its Acela Express trains in the Northeast Corridor and on its Cascade trains in the Pacific Northwest.  Amtrak also said that it has now completed construction of a dedicated wireless network that significantly improves connectivity to trains while traveling through the New York tunnels and when stopped at New York Pennsylvania Station platforms. (ffd: Amtrak)

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