Florida legislators May 1 rejected a proposed $1.2 billion regional rail system, "SunRail," centered in Orlando and envisioned to serve five nearby counties, but Florida’s Department of Transportation still must honor $44 million in costs owed numerous suppliers.
The costs include $462,000 owed to CSX Transportation, for rail safety inspection, flagging, and signal maintenance. CSX had planned to sell right-of-way to the state as part of the proposal.
State Sen. Paula Dockery, who helped defeat the proposed rail plan, said the cost was "an outrage," saying FDOT and other SunRail supporters spent "a quarter of a million taxpayer dollars to lead rallies and bus businesspeople upto Tallahassee to lobby this flawed CSX commuter-rail deal." SunRail backers said the costs were necessary to prepare for the proposed service. Moreover, "We don't see this as a waste of money," said Christine Kefauver, representing Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who supported SunRail. "A lot of environmental work has been done that has a shelf life."
FDOT records show that the largest sum, $10.1 million, is owed to EarthTech, the project’s primary consultant. Other contractors reimbursed, or to be paid, include: Lochrane Engineering, $3.4 milllion: WRS Environmental Services, $2.6 million; URS Corp., $1.9 million; and Shutts and Bowen, real estate attorneys, $1.7 million.
Unless other means are found to fund SunRail, the deal struck by CSX and FDOT expires June 30.
New Jersey Transit's need to provide enough power to haul 10-car bilevel trains spurred the corporation Wednesday to approve a $72 million contract with Bombardier Transportation for nine ALP-46A electric engines. The order supplements NJT’s current fleet of 27 ALP-46 units, and will help replace 32 older ALP-44 engines ordered as early as 1990.
“It’s more cost-effective than rehabilitating the old ALP-44s and the first ALP-46A will be delivered by next year and the order filled by 2011,” said NJT Executive Director Richard Sarles.
NJT’s increasing use of Bombardier multilevel equipment on its three primary electric lines—the Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast Line and Morris & Essex Lines—has increased passenger capacity, but at times prompted the need for the company to use two electric engines to ensure prompt performance of 10-car trains.
The ALP-46A units are each rated to sufficiently power a 10-car consist; in addition, the ALP-46A units are expected to provide more rapid acceleration, reducing potential dwell time issues, particularly on the Northeast Corridor.
Lake Oswego, Ore.-based railcar supplier Greenbrier Cos. will receive a $75 million term loan from New York investment firm WL Ross & Co. LLC, allowing the company to pay down debt and prepare for future industry growth. The two parties continue to discuss a possible increase in the loan’s size, to $150 million.
In return, Greenbrier has issued warrants to WL Ross to purchase 3.4 million shares, amounting to a company stake of 17% stake, with a $6 “strike price,” or roughly a 25% discount to the stock’s closing price Wednesday. WL Ross will also buy at least $1.5 million in stock.
The squeeze on railway suppliers already has forced Greenbrier Cos. to slash its dividend and implement cost-cutting measures. Greenbrier Cos.also has diversified by pursuing other related businesses, including refurbishment and parts, leasing and services, and marine manufacturing. More than half of the company's revenue in its latest fiscal year came from outside railcar production.
Shortly before noon Thursday, shares of Greenbrier Cos. traded at $8.33, up 4.52%.
Toronto-based GO Transit will commence summer weekend and holiday rail service to Ontario’s Niagara Region beginning June 27. The service will offer four train trips daily in each direction on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from June 27 through through Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, October 12.
The two-hour trip will link Toronto’s Union Station with Port Credit GO Station, Oakville GO Station, Burlington GO Station, St. Catharines VIA Rail Station, and Niagara Falls VIA Rail Station.
An adult single ride fare from Union Station to Niagara Falls will be C$15.90.
"This new GO rail service will bring tourists to Niagara's wineries, restaurants, and attractions such as the incomparable Niagara Falls. Our government is expanding public transit across the province, making investmentsthat build our economic infrastructure and put people to work," said Ontario Minister of Transportation Jim Bradley in a statement.
The Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) is expected Thursday to approve a $4 million environmental and engineering study of the Columbia Pike Streetcar, a five-mile line extending from Washington Metro’s Pentagon City Station in Arlington, Va.
The streetcar plan, backed by Virginia’s Arlington and Fairfax counties, will overlap and supplement existing bus routes currently handling about 14,000 passengers per day. The streetcar is projected to cost at least $160 million, up from an estimate of $150 million in 2008; it would include 12 stops, according to the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, a non-profit public/private partnership pursuing the project under its Pike Transit Initiative subsidiary.
“We’re quite enthusiastic about it in Arlington,” said Christopher Zimmerman, an Arlington County supervisor who sits on WMATA’s board of directors. “For us, it’s one of our top transportation priorities in Arlington. It’s critical to the development planned in the corridor.”
MTA Maryland has received a State Employee Risk Management Administration (SERMA) Award of Excellence in the Health & Safety Working Groups category for implementing an advanced warning system. MTA implemented the system on Feb. 8, following two years of testing, tapping ProTran 1 LLC’s Protracker wireless advance warning system.
MTA says the technology warns train operators of dangers ahead such as track workers, emergency responders, and speed restriction locations. The technology also alerts track workers and emergency responders of approaching trains. The technology is also capable of giving advance warning to the train operator of fire and chemical releases.
The agency claims to be the first transit property in North America to have a fully operational wireless advanced warning system, and says other U.S. transit properties are using MTA’s approach as a model.
U.S. senators from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York are vocally backing a 20-year effort to restore passenger rail service along the Lackawanna Cut-Off, a famed rail right-of-way that last saw active rail service in 1981. The Cut-Off this week received a “finding of no significant impact,” or FONSI, from the Environmental Protection Agency, clearing the way for the states to seek funding.
Recent media attention has focused on support from Pennsylvania’s two senators, Arlen Specter and Bob Casey (both Democrats), but any service introduction likely will begin in New Jersey, with New Jersey Transit extending its existing operations west of Port Morris, N.J. New Jersey’s U.S. Senate contingent ,Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg (also both Democrats), have supported the line’s resumption for many years.
A relative newcomer is U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has voiced support for efforts to extend the Cut-Off project north of Scranton, Pa., across the state border to Binghamtom, N.Y, in New York State’s Southern Tier region.
For New Jersey, one factor driving the project is the potential loss of federal highway funds if the state fails to improve air quality under the Clean Air Act. Service on the Cut-Off route would offer a travel alternative to citizens in northwest New Jersey and northeastPennsylvania who now use Interstate 80 as the primary travel option.
Most involved with the project at present presume that NewJersey Transit would be the initial operator of any service, though some have argued that the tristate nature of the larger plan requires Amtrak to play an eventual role.
Lawrence Malski, chairman of the Northeast Pennsylvania Regional Railroad Authority, said the project will be completed in phases to allow for lower funding requests. Though Malski and others suggest that the initial Pennsylvania service from Delaware Water Gap could be up and running in four years, many industry observers, citing the 20 years already logged by project proponents, say such a timetable is optimistic at best.