Perhaps echoing liability concerns voiced frequently by North America's Class I freight railroads, Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman has cited similar concerns “emerging as a significant obstacle to the improvement of existing passenger rail service and the development of new, including high speed and intercity corridor, passenger rail service in the United States.”
Boardman, in a five-page letter to four congressional leaders dated Feb. 26, says in part, “The core of the problem is the unwillingness or inability of a growing number of entities, including states and other public bodies, to enter into the kind of agreements for risk allocation … and/or to purchase insurance at all or at sufficient levels …”
“Moreover, the attitude from a number of private parties and state entities alike seems to be that Amtak, in significant part because of its federal funding, should assume the greater share or risk of liability.” That, Boardman warned, could curtail or terminate state-supported services Amtrak currently provides.
Boardman (pictured at right) specifically cited the potential difficulties involved (and reported earlier) “as the State of Florida seeks to purchase a CSX rail line in Central Florida and begin operation of its new Sunrail commuter service.”
Stressing the concern is of national import, Boardman notes, “If Amrak continues to operate service on this 61-mile rail line after Flroida close on its purchase from CSX, it exposes the citizens of California, Washington, and New York to paying for personal injury claims by Sunrail commuter passengers.”
Boardman addressed the letter to: Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chair of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), ranking member of the Commerce Committee; Rep. James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; and Rep. John L. Mica (R-Fla.), ranking member of the House T&I Committee.
“Amtrak recognizes that there are no easy solutions,”Boardman says, but “unless solutions are developed, the expansion of passenger rail service that both Congress and the Administration have decreed as an important policy directive will be delayed.”
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle Tuesday announced that Talgo, Inc. (the U.S. subsidiary of Patentes Talgo, S.A.) will locate a U.S. “high speed” rail manufacturing and assembly facility in Milwaukee. Talgo, Inc. will acquire the former Tower Automotive site in the state’s largest city.
Though it has a Minnesota state lawsuit filed, the University of Minnesota Monday said it wouldn’t add make its squabble with the St. Paul Central Corridor light rail line a federal case, at least for the present.
The university has objected to the routing of the $1 billion, 11-mile LRT route planned for the state capital, saying noise and vibrations could disrupt some of its research facilities and at times claiming student and pedestrian safety would be jeopardized. It previously had filed a state lawsuit in Hennepin County, across the Mississippi River from adjacent Ramsey County (St. Paul also serves as the Ramsey County seat).
But Monday’s announcement was hailed as “very, very good news” by Nancy Homans, a spokewoman for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.
The university and the Metropolitan Council have clashed repeatedly in recent months over the Central Corridor, which will link up with existing Hiawatha Line LRT in Minneapolis. Rough agreement has been reached over addressing purported potential disturbances to sensitive research equipment by vibrations and electromagnetic fields generated by LRT. But a final accord has proved elusive.
Both sides are expected to enter "lockdown" negotiations, perhaps this week, officials said Monday. The stated goal of both sides is to emerge from such talks with a memorandum of understanding that will lead the university to withdraw its existing lawsuit.
Besides the University of Minnesota, Minnesota Public Radio also has filed suit, saying the Metropolitan Council has reneged on its commitment to protect the radio station from noise and vibrations caused by trains running along Cedar Street, close to its downtown St. Paul facility.
Critics of MPR, both locally and nationwide, have noted the seeming contradiction of public radio’s general support for light rail while (in MPR’s case) protesting its actual implementation, and have accused MPR of a Not-In-My-Back-Yard (NIMBY) mindset.
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey Board of Commissioners has awarded a $525 milion contract, the largest to date, toward construction of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, which will eventually serve more than 200,000 rail customers each weekday.
The contract went to Skanska USA Civil NortheastInc./Granite Construction Northeast Inc./Skanska USA Building Inc.
It covers construction of the PATH Hall in the World Trade Center site's West Bathtub as well as four rail platforms and the installation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
Previously, the board awarded a $338.8 million contract to DCM Erectors to furnish, fabricate, and erect 22,305 tons of structural steel for the hub.
Transit officials in Vancouver are evaluating various transit services set up in part to handle Winter Olympic crowds, trying todetermine which pieces should remain in operation to handle the city’s residents and workers.
TransLink may embed the price of transit into ticket prices for one-day sporting events, such as Vancouver Canucks hockey games, to help maintain the TravelSmart program established during the winter games.
During the 17-day Olympic activities, which formally ended Sunday, record numbers of people used transit, with 280,000 boarding the Canada Line on Feb. 18 alone. During the first week of the Olympics, an average of more than 1.6 million people a day used buses, SkyTrain, the SeaBus, and the West CoastExpress.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chaired a meeting in Sochi Feb. 27 at which Russian Railways (RZD) President Vladimir Yakunin announced that the company’s investment budget for 2010-2011 is 555 billion rubles (more than $18.5 billion).
Yakunin noted that 78% of the investment budget, 120 billion rubles ($4 billion), will be used to build a road/rail link between Adler and the Alpika-Service mountain resort.
Other investments include 72 billion rubles ($42.4 billion) to buy new rolling stock, plus funds to renew and improve track, bridges, signaling, and communications systems.
Yakunin says Russian Railways has found investment funds "severely restricted" by the world economy and now depends on the willingness of state regulators to approve rate increases.
The presence of Prime Minister Putin at the meeting was seen as an indication of the priority railways command in the national transportation policy.
While the Russian railway budget exceeds those of many systems, it pales in comparison with the $60 billion planned this year by China's railways.
Railroad purchases of new wood crossties dropped 5.6% in 2009 to 19.60 million and are expected to decline a further 1.3% this year to 19,37 million, according to the Railway Tie Association's latest forecast.
Class I purchases will account for a projected 15.234 million wooden ties this year, and "small market" purchases for 4.03 million ties.
"Recent purchases peaked in the period 2006 [20.78 million] to 2008 [20.76 million]," said the RTA. "By 2012, purchases are expected to exceed records of the recent past."
Focusing on "growth path after recovery," RTA said its econometric forecast model predicts a strong market emerging in the next two years, adding: "This may be somewhat surprising, and it must be admitted that timing is far from certain. However, it is also the conclusion reached by the 'Freight-Rail Bottom Line Report' from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials."
Doublestack clearance projects are central to the Heartland Corridor and Crescent Corridor projects. Domestic intermodal, says Wick Moorman, “is going to be a driver of the industry's growth.”
As job locations and residential housing patterns shift throughout Chicagoland, Metra continues to thrive, and continues preparing to expand, setting an example other regional railroads might envy.