The Federal Railroad Administration has awarded $28 million for continued planning of a proposed maglev operating linking downtown Pittsburgh with the city’s international airport. The proposal has survived for nearly 30 years, with previous federal grants totaling $22 million helping to keep it alive.
Backers of the project envision a maglev link between Pittsburghand Philadelphia at speeds topping 250 mph, and say maglev is ideally suited to overcome the hilly terrain along much of that route. Area backers also seek to establish Pittsburgh as a maglev manufacturing hub.
FRA’s $28 million grant will be awarded formally to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which will direct the funds to the project's longtime backer, McKeesport, Pa.-based Maglev Inc.
"We're excited about it," said Maglev President and CEO Fred Gurney. "Maglev can climb grades of 10% easily. It can negotiate the terrain of Western Pennsylvania easily."
Jay Walder, confirmed by the New York State Senate Thursday as the new chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, has vowed to initiate change within the organization, starting with its management structure.
"It's my intention to form a management team, and bring new people into the MTA with a broad range of experience and success in different parts of the world," Walder said, addressing a state Senate committee. "It's a fair expectation to say the MTA will be moving forward with a new team."
Walder previously was a management consultant based in London, as well as serving a previous stint with MTA and with Transport for London. He did not specify specific personnel changes to be made within MTA, however.
Walder replaces Dale Hemmerdinger as board chairman and also will be the MTA's top chief executive, as the two positions were merged earlier this year. He follows former MTA CEO Elliot Sander, who resigned last May under pressure from Gov. David Paterson in May. Many of Sander’s management staff still remain at MTA.
In terms of technology, Walder said he wants to make the transit system "more inviting" with improvements like electronic message boards at bus stops and on subway platforms telling riders when the next bus or train will arrive. MTA New York City Transit currently employs such technology on its L subway line, the first line also to be equipped with communications-based train control (CBTC).
Seven of the 19 carload freight commodity groups charted by the Association of American Railroads showed gains for the week ended September 5, compared with the corresponding week in 2008. The gains ranged from 2.3% formotor vehicles and equipment to 11.4% for chemicals. Among decliners, metallic ores fell most steeply, 46.2%.
All told, U.S. railroads reported originating 284,715 cars, down 6.7% compared with the same week in 2008. Carloadings were down 7.1% in the West and 6.0% in the East. U.S. intermodal traffic was down 0.2% from the same week last year.
Canadian railroads reported carload volume down 14.0% for the week compared with last year, and intermodal fell 4.9%. Mexican railroads reported carload volume was down 33.6% for the week, while intermodal slumped 30.4%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 35 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 11,786,932 carloads, down 19.2% from the comparable period last year. Combined North American intermodal traffic fell 16.6%.
The Chicago Transit Authority has awarded a $4.3 million contract to Teleste Corp. of Georgetown, Tex., for the supply of two new types of high-resolution digital security cameras and related equipment.
One type will be installed at all 144 CTA rail stations by 2011. The other will track the location of buses.
Seventeen stations on the Green Line with a high incidence of pickpocketing and other crime will get the first new cameras by the end of this year, said President Richard Rodriguez. "If individuals know their faces are being captured when they walk into our stations, they will think twice about harassing our passengers," Rodriguez said.
The CTA has received $17.9 million from the Department of Homeland Security to strengthen surveillance of rail stations and yards.
Norfolk Southern Corp., reflecting the growing interest by Class I railroads to cooperate with passenger rail interests to the benefit of both parties, says it would cost just $75 million to upgrade right-of-way between Virginia cities Petersburg and Norfolk.
Addressing the Urban Land Institute Wednesday, Deborah H. Butler, NS’ executive vice president of planning and chief information officer, said the $75 million for improving the route is about half that of an earlier NS estimate. Both estimates are far less than the $262 million projected by Virginia itself.
Chip Badger, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation director, said the state numbers include passenger stations and other costs not counted in Norfolk Southern's estimate. Pricing details will not be released for possibly several weeks, he said. The commonwealth’s estimate does include increasing top speeds along the route from 79 mph to between 90 and 110 mph.
The Petersburg-to-Norfolk route is a stub to the much larger Southeast Corridor high speed rail proposal, which would link both Jacksonville, Fla., and Atlanta to Washington, D.C. (and the Northeast Corridor). That project is competing with nine other proposals, plus the NEC, for $8 billion in stimulus funds targeted for HSR by the Obama Administration.
Blue Anchor, N.J.-based ProTran1 says it has worked with both Amtrak and the Fire Department of New York to develop a wireless 30KV voltage sensing device, initially designed to be used as part of an emergency response procedure covering Penn Station-New York and nearby tunnels that provide access to and from Manhattan on the Northeast Corridor.
Amtrak has awarded ProTran1 a contract to supply 30 units initially for linemen and electricians. Robert J. Verhelle, Amtrak’s deputy chief engineer, Electric Traction, says the device’s use will expand to include more of the Amtrak system in the future.
The voltage sensing device works on 25 Hz and 60 Hz power sources, ProTran1 says. The unit will initially be used as part of the emergency response procedures to inform first responders that the dangerous high voltage has been removed from the tunnel catenary system.
Denver is opting for electric multiple-unit (EMU) rail service to link the city’s proposed regional rail system, with its hub at Denver Union Station, with Denver International Airport.
The city’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) has released a Final Environmental Impact Statement for the East Corridor, and for the proposed Gold Line linking Denver with Arvada, Colo.; both lines would use EMU equipment.
RTD will hold public meetings on the East Corridor on Sept. 23 and 24. The FEIS is available for public comment at http://www.eastcorridor.com/reports.html.
EMU use is widespread among transit properties in the Northeast and in Chicago, given historical and geographic factors. But should Denver stick with the modal choice, the city would become the first U.S. city west of the Mississippi to commit to EMU equipment for regional passenger rail service.
Amtrak Wednesday implemented a “multi-force security surge” at stations and on trains in the Northeast Corridor, which included “random passenger bag inspections at unannounced locations,” according to the Transportation Security Administration. A mix of federal, state, regional, and local officers were on patrol along the route, some accompanied by canine units.
The effort, part of Allied Law Enforcement for Rail and Transit Security (ALERT), was scheduled to improve coordination among many law enforcement and security agencies, covering roughly 150 rail stations in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
“We look forward to conducting more of these operations in the future, varying in size, timing, and location” said John Sammon, a TSA assistant administrator. TSA emphasized that the exercise was not in response to, or anticipation of, any specific security threat.