WRR – 03-18-2011

WEEKLY RAIL REVIEW

FOR THE WEEK ENDING FRIDAY, MARCH 18, 2011

BY DAVE MEARS

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

(MON) In response to congressional urgings, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood designated Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Line as a U.S. high-speed rail corridor, bringing the total number of such corridors to 11. The decision allows Amtrak to apply for federal high-speed rail funds to make capital improvements to the NEC, including the $2.4 billion recently renounced by Florida Governor Rick Scott that Mr. LaHood said he would now work to reallocate. (ffd: NARP, Railway Age)

(MON) Sounder and Cascades passenger rail services in Washington State were suspended for approximately 48 hours due to mud slides. In the last three months, 20 mudslides have temporarily halted these services, with most of them occurring on the BNSF line between Seattle and Everett. State officials said that they would seek $10 million for initial work on ways to permanently prevent the mud slides. (ffd: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Times)

(MON) The American Public Transportation Association released a study that said that, if gas prices average $4 per gallon, 670 million more passenger trips on public transportation could be expected, bringing the annual total to 10.8 billion trips. The study added that, if gas prices average $5 per gallon, an additional 1.5 billion passenger trips could be expected, bringing the annual total to 11.6 billion trips. (ffd: APTA)

(MON) Metrolinx, the parent agency of GO commuter rail serving Greater Toronto, ON, ordered 50 new bi-level commuter cars from Bombardier Transportation. Production on the C$125 million order is scheduled to start in June, 2011 with the first deliveries in November, 2011. (ffd: Bombardier, Railway Age)

(MON) Southern California commuter rail operator Metrolink said that it had entered into a partnership with the University of Southern California’s engineering school to create an advance rail safety certification program. A Metrolink spokesman said that, whereas individual railroads have individual safety programs “that focus on rules and procedures, there is no consistent system safety certification program in the railroad industry. Technological advances over the next years…will create even high levels of human technology interface, which is why it is critical that a standardized system safety curriculum be created.” It noted that USC’s engineering school has provided aviation safety education for more than a half-century. (ffd: RT&S)

(MON) Chicago commuter rail operator Metra said that it would open a new station at 35th Street in Chicago on its Rock Island District line. The new station will serve nearby U.S. Cellular Field, where the Chicago White Sox play. Trains will begin stopping at the station on April 3 in advance of the White Sox home opener on April 7. (ffd: Trains)

(TUE) Congressional leaders announced the formation of the “Bi-Cameral High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus.” The caucus is comprised of principally Democratic members from both the Senate and the House. The caucus said in a statement that its goals include “explaining the clear economic benefits of high-speed rail and the value of investments to America’s well-being.” (ffd: NARP, The Hill)

(TUE) A U.S. appeals court upheld an earlier ruling by the Surface Transportation Board requiring Canadian National Railway to pay the majority of the costs for building two key railroad overpasses in the Chicago suburbs. The overpasses root in conditions stipulated by the STB in their oversight of the acquisition by CN of the former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway. (ffd: Chicago Tribune, Progressive Railroading)

(TUE) The Surface Transportation Board granted a coal-fired utility plant owned by Entergy and Arkansas Electric Cooperative additional rail access so that it may obtain alternatives rates and service. The plant is served by the Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad with traffic moving via Union Pacific. The STB’s order allows the utility cooperative to also seek rates and service with the MNA via BNSF. (ffd: Railway Age, STB)

(TUE) Southern California commuter rail operator Metrolink said that it would begin a pilot program of operating express trains on two of its busiest lines. Starting May 9, the San Bernardino Line, which has 13 stops, will have certain trains making only four stops: San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Covina, and Los Angeles. Also starting that date, the Antelope Line, which has 11 stops, will have certain trains also making only four stops: Palmdale, Santa Clarita, downtown Burbank, and Los Angeles. (ffd: Metrolink, Progressive Railroading)

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