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CTA Red Line Extension Receives $75 Million in Funding

December 2nd, 2016

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) have announced that the CTA Board has approved an amendment to its FY2016-FY2020 Capital Improvement Plan to include $75 million in funding for the Red Line Extension (RLE) project.

The RLE project will extend Red Line rail service 5.3 miles to 130th Street from 95th Street and includes four new rail stations on Chicago’s Far South Side. Each station will include bus and parking facilities.

“The Red Line Extension project is a transformational project to expand transit to Chicago’s southern border and create faster access to jobs, education and opportunity,” stated CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “This investment will allow CTA to move forward with preliminary engineering and planning work necessary to seek federal funding to make this vision a reality for Chicago’s Far South Side.”

The preliminary engineering and analysis allows the CTA to finalize the project alignment and to complete a final environmental impact statement. The engineering work is also required for CTA to apply for more than $1 billion in federal funds to support the $2.3 billion project.

In October, CTA released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Draft EIS) in order to seek feedback from the public on the two options of the project’s preferred alternative. CTA also held a public hearing on November 1 and will continue to receive feedback on the project until November 30. All feedback received during the formal review period will be included in CTA’s analysis of the final proposed project alignment. CTA anticipates that procurement for further environmental planning and engineering work will occur in 2017.

Final Regulations Issued for Implementation of Fast Act

December 2nd, 2016

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has issued a final rule implementing passenger rail-related dispute resolution provisions of Title XI of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (FAST Act).

Specific FAST Act provisions address STB adjudication of disputes regarding the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) cost recovery for its operation of state-supported routes, and costs allocated to states in their use of rail facilities for commuter rail operations within the Washington, D.C.-to-Boston Northeast Corridor. The FAST Act requires the Board to establish procedures for resolving such disputes with the final rule implementing these provisions.

CTA Renovates Five Blue Line Stations

December 2nd, 2016

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. announced that the renovation of five O’Hare branch CTA stations has been completed. The $43 million station modernization effort included the rehabilitation of the Addison, Irving Park, Montrose, Harlem and Cumberland stations.

“Today is an important milestone in our efforts to modernize transit infrastructure in Chicago, and we will continue making these much needed investments across the City to ensure we are providing the safest, most reliable service for commuters,” said Mayor Emanuel. “There are now new tracks, signals and power between the Loop and the northwest side – all of which will make the ride smooth, safe and speedy.”

The Blue Line station improvement project included the following station renovations:

  • Addison: New elevator; extended stationhouse and new enclosed stairway; improvements to the platform and platform canopies; refurbished platform furniture and new lighting; and painting of station and platform.
  • Irving Park and Montrose: Improvements to platform and platform canopies; renovated platform furniture; replaced walkway railings; new lighting and repainted stationhouses and platforms.
  • Harlem: Improvements to platform, platform canopies floors and walkways; repairs to stationhouse curtain walls; rehabilitation of platform furniture; and new lighting and painting.
  • Cumberland: Improvements to platform, platform canopies and walkways; replacement of stationhouse curtain walls; new lighting and painting at the stationhouses, platforms, and walkways; and upgrades to stationhouse and platforms.

The station renovations are part of the CTA’s $492 million Your New Blue modernization project for the Blue Line. Your New Blue will update a total of 14 Blue Line stations, make elevated and subway infrastructure upgrades, track signal improvements and traction power upgrades.

“We are pleased to reach the next milestone in the transformational Your New Blue project, our biggest investment in this branch since the Blue Line was extended to O’Hare from Jefferson Park more than 30 years ago,” said CTA President Carter. “The upgrades to these stations, which had a combined 5.5 million station entries last year, will provide a more pleasant customer environment and complement other Blue Line improvements that have enhanced service reliability and customer comfort.”

Metra Prepares Railroad Operations for Winter Weather

December 2nd, 2016

Metra, the operator of the Northeast Illinois commuter rail system, has completed its winter weather preparations for its rail operations in anticipation of the coming snow season.

“Snow, ice and cold temperatures make winter travel a challenge for everyone in Chicago – including Metra,” said Don Orseno, Metra executive director and CEO. “We are bracing for a challenging snow season and have taken all the steps we can to be ready for winter’s bite.”

As it has done in past years to prepare for the winter, Metra inspects its 463 mainline switches along the Milwaukee North and West, Metra Electric, Rock Island and SouthWest Service. The agency tests nozzles on 275 hot-air switch heaters, and inspects and tests the remaining 188 mainline switch heaters that use gas flames or electric current. It also inspects snow and ice shields on 73 switches, which cover part of the switch machinery.

A common winter switch problem is when snow and ice accumulates on the underside of locomotives and train cars, and then falls into a switch, preventing the movable part of the switch from making contact with the rail. As a failsafe, the signal system will not permit a train to proceed over the switch. Metra routinely assigns employees to key switching locations during winter storms to keep the switches clear.

Also included in Metra’s winterization process is: stockpiling more than 3.1 million pounds of salt; inspecting test 45 snow plows; inspecting its three cold-air blowers and five hot-air jet blowers to clear its largest and most critical yards; and inspecting doors on older cars for defects. Gaps in the door pockets can fill with fine snow that can turn into ice that jams the doors and leads to delays.

Extreme weather conditions may cause Metra to implement snow schedules, which include about 75 to 80 percent of regularly scheduled trains. Metra will provide advanced notice to customers if it implements these schedules.

Slight Increase in Weekly U.S. Rail Traffic

December 1st, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending November 26, 2016, totaled 452,759 carloads and intermodal units, a 0.6 percent increase compared to the same week in 2015.

U.S. carloads, which totaled 229,866 for the week, were down by 0.4 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 222,893 units, an increase of 1.6 percent compared to 2015.

Five of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending November 26, 2016, when compared with the same week in 2015. Grain was up by 20.2 percent to 22,438 carloads; metallic ores and metals were up 8.5 percent to 18,206 carloads; and miscellaneous carloads were up 7.8 percent to 7,461 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 23.2 percent to 9,150 carloads. Motor vehicles and parts declined by 15.3 percent to 12,773 carloads, and forest products dropped 8.4 percent to 8,511 carloads.

For the first 47 weeks of 2016, U.S. rail volume totaled 24,048,709 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 6 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 11,848,889, were down by 9.2 percent, and intermodal, with a total of 12,199,820, dropped by 2.6 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending November 26, 2016, was 617,702 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.3 percent.

For the first 47 weeks of 2016, North American rail volume was down 5.5 percent, with a total of 31,506,124 carloads and intermodal units.

Draft EIS Released for LIRR Expansion Project

December 1st, 2016

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced that the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has reached a major milestone on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) Expansion Project with the release of its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The project’s Draft EIS is available for download at the project’s website at www.aModernLI.com.

“Expanding the Main Line is crucial to the future of Long Island and its residents,” stated Governor Cuomo. “By increasing capacity on one of the LIRR’s busiest corridors and eliminating all street-level grade crossings, this project will result in less traffic, less congestion and a transportation network that meets the needs of current and future generations of Long Islanders. Today’s action marks an important milestone in this project’s completion and is another major step forward in our efforts to build a brighter future for Long island.”

The LIRR Expansion Project will add a third track to 9.8 miles along the Main Line of the LIRR between Floral Park and Hicksville.

The proposed project includes:

  • No residential property acquisitions;
  • Eliminating all grade crossings within the 9.8 mile project corridor;
  • Building sound walls to reduce noise;
  • Station upgrades and additional parking.

“Governor Cuomo challenged us to undertake a project to transform the LIRR experience for both passengers and local communities and to do so with an unprecedented level of community consultation and outreach – and that’s exactly what we’re doing now,” remarked MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast. “We have gone to extraordinary lengths to listen to what the public wants out of this project. We will continue to study the impacts of this proposal and take input from all stakeholders, including our neighbors along the tracks and Main Line customers from across Long Island and New York City.”

The public comment period for the Draft EIS will continue through January 31, 2017. Anyone may comment on the Draft EIS by writing via www.aModernLI.com, to info@aModernLI.com or visiting the Project Information Office at Mineola Station, south platform. Another six public hearings, focused on the Draft EIS, will be held in January 2017. Input from the current public comment period will be incorporated into the publication of the Final EIS, expected in 2017.

French Government, Alstom Announce Progress on Rail Maintenance in Belfort

December 1st, 2016

French Secretary of State for Industry Christophe Sirugue and Alstom Chairman and CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge, met in Paris to present the progress of the commitments made by the French Government and Alstom for the maintenance of rail and industrial activities at the Belfort site.

The national monitoring committee, involving the State, the management and the trade unions of the Alstom group, and the elected representatives of the territory of Belfort and the Burgundy-Franche-Comté region, was assembled for the first time. The committee will be set up under the authority of the Prefect of the Territory of Belfort and will provide a forum for dialogue, information and monitoring of the honoring of the commitments made, in conjunction with follow-up at a national level.

“The commitments made by Alstom on 4 October have made good progress,” said Poupart-Lafarge. “Investments have begun both for new service infrastructure and development programs for the rail vehicles of the future. We note with interest the clarifications made regarding the order schedule, also announced on 4 October, which should ensure the continuity of industrial production on the sites of Belfort, La Rochelle and Reichshoffen.”

The State is committed to supporting the program to develop a new range of locomotive for an amount of 4 million euros, by the Investing in the Future Program. The program represents 30 million euros which directly benefits the Belfort site. The Future program is continuing to make progress as part of a partnership with SNCF, France’s national state-owned railway company.

The State has initiated the process of definitive validation of the order for 30 regional TET trains (Trains d’équilibre du Territoire), which will be registered with the Board of Directors of SNCF Mobilités in December alongside SNCF’s order for 6 TGV trainsets for the Paris-Milan line. The order for 15 TGV trainsets for the Bordeaux-Marseille line will be submitted to the SNCF Board of Directors in January 2017. The order for 20 emergency locomotives will be confirmed by March 2017.

“Through the concrete implementation of the announcements made on 4 October, the Government shows that it is fulfilling its commitments to the sustainability of the Belfort site and to defend the knowhow and expertise of the French railway industry,” remarked Sirugue. “Two projects must be jointly carried out: in the short term, the development of service activities and orders that secure the workload, and in the long term, investment in railway equipment of the future. These two issues will be the focus of the Strategic Railway Committee, which I will call together on 5 December.”

Since October, Alstom has invested one million euros in a new industrial building for the maintenance of TGV trainsets, with the financial support of local authorities and the State. This site will employ 20 people as of 2017.

Contracts Awarded for Charlotte’s CityLYNX Gold Line Phase 2 Project

December 1st, 2016

The Charlotte, N.C., City Council has awarded vehicle manufacturer and construction contracts for the CityLYNX Gold Line Phase 2 project. ​

The Johnson Bros. Corporation was awarded $80,671,158 to construct the Phase 2 segment of the CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar and $13,432,362 for associated city improvements. Siemens was awarded the contract to build six new S70 streetcars for the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), the public transit system operated across Mecklenburg County and four surrounding counties.

“The CityLYNX Gold Line is an essential component of our region’s overall transit system, complementing the LYNX Blue Line and future extension in the south and northeast corridors,” said John Lewis, CATS CEO. “Linking east to west, this streetcar line provides connectivity and opportunity throughout Uptown and its neighboring communities. We are excited to work with The Johnson Bros. Corporation and Siemens as we move forward with the expansion of this vital project.”

Siemens S70 hybrid streetcars are designed with hybrid capability, allowing for operation in portions of Uptown without the need for power from an overhead catenary system (OCS). The S70 streetcars are a compact version of the S70 light rail vehicles that currently operate on the LYNX Blue Line. The cost to purchase these six vehicles and spare parts is $40,400,000.

The new streetcars include traffic light preemption, an automatic passenger counter, large passenger windows and an unobstructed floor concept, allowing more space for bicycle storage and wheelchairs. The S70 streetcars will be built at Siemens rail manufacturing hub in Sacramento, Calif.

“Siemens is thrilled to continue our partnership with the CATS by being chosen to provide riders with the industry’s most modern streetcars,” remarked Michael Cahill, president of Siemens Rolling Stock. “Cities like Charlotte are leading the way in redefining what transportation means in America, and we’re proud to build rail vehicles in the U.S. for the U.S. that help make this possible.”

The CityLYNX Gold Line Phase 2 project is set to break ground in January 2017 with revenue service beginning in 2020.

TransLink to Celebrate Opening of Evergreen Extension

December 1st, 2016

TransLink, Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation authority, will celebrate the opening of its Millennium Line Evergreen Extension at noon on December 2. The authority is inviting the public to ride the train and participate in community celebrations, including a virtual scavenger hunt, live entertainment, kid’s activities, games and food.

“The opening of the Evergreen Extension is a significant milestone for this region,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond. “The new 11-km extension to the Millennium Line opens up new transportation choices for Tri-City region residents and will help reduce road congestion and foster economic growth for the community. It’s important that we celebrate this important day with the community. I hope that people will come out, ride the train and have some fun.”

More than 14 community organizations will be offering activities or performing at the celebration, which will include a LEGO-building station, ukulele lessons, and kids’ crafts. A stage at Coquitlam Central Station will host a variety of talented community music groups.

“I am immensely proud of the project team, our partners and all our staff across the enterprise who have worked tirelessly to see this project through,” Desmond added. “We now have the longest, driverless, automated rapid-transit system in the world. I am looking forward to seeing everyone on opening day. Come experience the new Evergreen Extension first-hand.”

The celebration runs from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Coquitlam Central Station and from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at other Evergreen Extension stations.

RTD Protects Environment While Constructing Rail Extension

November 30th, 2016
Testing a new track pad to prevent erosion and mitigate dust. Photo: courtesy of RTD.

Testing a new track pad to prevent erosion and mitigate dust. Photo: courtesy of RTD.

The Denver area’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) and Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. (BBII) have been adopting best management practices that conserve the environment and reduce waste while constructing the Southeast Rail Extension.

The project teams have been implementing site specific measures to ensure environmental stewardship is taking place throughout construction and into 2019 when the extension is scheduled to open. The project involves multiple work sites across 2.3 miles and includes the construction of three bridges and three stations.

The Southeast Rail Extension project has an environmental management team consisting of RTD and BBII members who ensure the project is implementing the RTD approved Sustainability Plan.

Several environmental mitigation measures have already been implemented including dust control, noise mitigation and erosion control.

The Dust Control Plan reduces dust from the project by covering excavated materials, re-vegetating exposed areas to prevent erosion and utilizing water trucks throughout construction. The Noise Mitigation Plan reduces noise from the project by locating stationary equipment away from sensitive sites, placing noise-absorbing materials on equipment and conducting high-noise activities during daytime, when possible.

The Erosion Control Plan protects waterways and prevents erosion from construction related activities by constructing safety barriers, or orange fencing, to visually identify the construction work zone. This barrier protects wetlands and other sensitive areas from construction traffic and equipment. The project teams also attach tracking pads to vehicles that remove mud and sediment from the tires and help to reduce soil transport from the site to minimize sediment leaving the area. On this project, a new maintenance tracking pad is being tested, which requires less maintenance than traditional tracking pads. Erosion logs are also set in place to prevent sediment and debris from entering storm drain inlets.

The project’s environmental manager conducts regular inspections to ensure inlets are protected from construction debris, and that construction vehicles/equipment are not tracking mud onto city streets or other sites. The construction team is dedicated to following best practices to ensure that environmental protection on the Southeast Rail Extension project remains a top priority.