The Surface Transportation Board has granted the request of the state-owned Alaska Railroad Corp. (ARRC) to build and operate the 80-mile as the Northern Rail Extension, subject to extensive environmental mitigation conditions.
In an announcement late Wednesday, the STB said: "After considering the entire public record before it, including both the transportation aspects of ARRC's proposal and potential environmental issues, the Board was satisfied that the proposed line would provide reliable, year-round freight and passenger service to the region south of North Pole, AK; access to training areas used by the United States military; and an alternative to the Richardson Highway, now the sole means for surface transportation of commercial freight in the proposed project area. The Board was also satisfied that the proposal would foster development o fAlaska's economy by expanding ARRC's passenger and freight network to an area currently without rail service."
The decision follows the board's analysis of the Sept. 192009, Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) issued by the agency's Section of Environmental Analysis. STB said the FEIS reflects "careful comparison of potential alternatives to the proposal to identify environmentally preferred rail alignment alternatives, as well as conditions to avoid, minimize, or mitigate potential environmental impacts." STB said it was "satisfied that the preferred rail alignment alternatives it authorized, along with the environmental conditions the Board imposed, would avoid, minimize, or mitigate, to the extent practicable, potential environmental impacts."
Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo and FRA Deputy Administrator Karen Rae will be keynote speakers at three regional seminars on high speed rail in February, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) and the International Union of Railways (UIC) both announced.
APTA and UIC developed the three regional seminars to provide U.S. decision makers with the information necessary to implement high-speed rail.
Entitled “International Practicum on Implementing High-Speed Rail in the United States,” the seminars will take place February 8-9 in Washington, D.C., February 9-11 in Chicago, and February 11-13 in Los Angeles.
Railway Age is the official media sponsor of the event.
The programs feature practitioners from high-speed railsystems around the world and will focus on best practices and lessons learnedfrom European and Asian systems. APTA and UIC say experts from Spain, Germany, Japan, Korea, Italy, and France will share their experience and knowledge, with U.S.-based speakers providing appropriate context for application in the North American operating environment.
The Toronto Transit Commission and Metrolinx, the Ontario provincial transportation authority, have reached agreement on one aspect of Toronto’s light rail transit future: LRT growth under the “Transit City” plan will take place on standard-gauge track.
TTC’s current streetcar system runs on track measuring four feet, 10 7/8 inches, wider than the standard gauge of four feet, 8 ½ inches. Metrolinx seeks to establish standard gauge in part to capture cost efficiencies both for LRT orders affecting Toronto itself, and for possible future LRT purchases which could involve other Ontario cities considering the mode, including Mississauga, Hamilton, Waterloo, and Ottawa, the nation’s capital.
Still to be addressed is any conversion of existing TTC LRT/streetcar lines to standard gauge. But Metrolinx Vice President John Howe says such conversion also would aid the the province with future streetcar purchase orders.
"What we want to do is remove as much vehicle customization as possible, because we think we can achieve better value for the taxpayer by taking an international off-the-shelf standard design, basically the same proven LRT vehicles that are used elsewhere in Canada, the U.S., and Europe," Howe said.
Also unresolved is the future modal status of TTC’s Scarborough Line, which uses linear induction motor-powered equipment similarto that of Vancouver’s Skytrain. The line itself operates over standard gauge, making its conversion to conventional light rail transit operation more likely (but not yet certain) following the commitment to standard gauge on other portions of Toronto’s urban rail network.
Fairport, N.Y.-based RailComm said Tuesday it has provided a wireless remote control yard system at CSX’s Osborn Yard in Louisville, Ky. The RailComm Domain Operations Controller (DOC®) system provides remote control to several GETS HydraSwitch machines.
RailComm’s DOC® system is configured to control all switches individually as well as provide eNtrance eXit (NX) routing functionality, the company says. The company’s 2.4 GHz RADiANT™ data radios provide a wireless communications network to link the office with the field locations.
Harbin, China-based Harbin Electric, Inc. said Tuesday it participated in the successful testing of the first domestically developed linear motor (LM) propulsion system in Changchun, on a metro train operated by Changchun Railway Vehicles Co. Ltd. (CRC). The company called the test a “breakthrough for China,” crediting “the result of more than two years of joint efforts between Harbin Electric, the Institute of Electrical Engineering of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and CRC.”
Harbin Electric said the test is “part of China's efforts to develop its own advanced technology in many sectors of its fast-growing economy.”
The company said LM technology can negotiate steep grades and cope with tight curves and corners, lower maintenance costs, provide a safer ride under severe weather conditions such as rain and snow, and is quieter and more comfortable.
"We are extremely proud of our successful participation in China's development of a technologically advanced urban metro transit industry. The first 'made-in-China" LM metro train relies on our proprietary technology and has met international standards, with significant lower production costs than similar foreign products. With the success of this trial production, I believe that Chinese enterprises have entered into the high-end LM driving metro transit market and possess the skills and strength necessary to compete with world-class metro rail car manufacturers," said Tianfu Yang, chairman and CEO of Harbin Electric.
Rutherford, N.J.-based PTSI Transportation has scheduled a second one-day conference on railroad physical characteristics training and testing, Friday, February 19, in Los Angeles. The event follows what PTSI terms a successful session in New York last October, which it says included “participation by officers of seven railroads and rail transit lines, and the Federal Railroad Administration.”
“Railroads and rail transit systems have various ways of qualifying their crews on physical characteristics (route-learning) and, increasingly, there is a need to share this information, not just with railroad employees, but also with first responders of various types, such as EMS, hazmat, Homeland Security, and law enforcement,” says PTSI Managing Director Michael Weinman.
“Rail lines--whether freight or passenger, from Class I torapid transit--must have information in the hands of various categories of their own employees, from train crew members to dispatchers and other supervisory and management personnel. Many of these are not initially familiar with their own territories, or must occasionally be requalified," Weinman says.
“Beyond the railroad’s own employees, various incidents, accidents, and security concerns, require that authorized non-railroad employees access the right-of-way. These responders must have information that enables them to quickly locate the incident, to avoid placing themselves or others in harm’s way, and to ensure quality communication and coordination with railroad personnel,” says Weinman.
For more information, contact PTSI Transportation at (201)933-5530, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amtrak President Joseph Boardman will continue to serve in his current position, as Amtrak’s Board of Directors extended his interim contract for an indefinite period while postponing any decision to install a permanent president.
Boardman (pictured at left) was appointed interim President in November 2008, following the resignation of Alex Kummant. Boardman, a voting member of the Amtrak board, did not vote on his own contract extension.
As Amtrak president, Boardman has advocated bolstering service frequencies on existing Amtrak routes and pursuing incremental improvements to trains speeds and schedules. Though Boardman supports the Obama Administration’s efforts to kick-start U.S. high speed rail (HSR), he has noted that any widespread U.S. effort would likely be more along the lines of Higher Speed Rail (HrSR).
U.S. railroads reported 8,861 accidents and incidents to the Federal Railroad Administration in the first 10 months of 2009, down 18.2% from the prior-year period, according to a preliminary report released Dec. 31 by the FRA's Office of Safety Analysis.
Rail fatalities for the period, mainly caused by grade crossing collisions and trespassing incidents, declined 12.8% to 598. Crossing fatalities dropped 13,6% to 294. Trespassing deaths were down 6.6% to 350.
There were 13 employee fatalities during the 2009 period, down 40.9% from last year's 23 and the lowest since the 10 deaths recorded in the first 10 months of 2006.
Train accidents were down 29.9% to 1,514 in January-October 2009, collisions were down 29.2% to 114, derailments were down 28.7% to 114, and yard accidents were down 29.8% to 814.