Brushing aside doubts raised by several of its own members, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors, in an 8-3 vote, Thursday awarded a AnsaldoBreda a contract option for 100 additional light rail vehicles, holding the Italian company to its pledge to build a new rail manufacturing plant with union labor in Los Angeles.
"This means that LA is going to be the center of green jobs in the nation," said city Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who ardently supported AnsaldoBreda’s package. "This facility will not only provide railcars for the MTA, but for the [California] High-Speed Rail Authority, for virtually every transit facility in the hemisphere."
Countered LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who voted against the contract proposal, ". . . . [Ansaldo]Breda has failed to deliver on time in two previous MTA contracts, and the current contract is already three years behind schedule in delivering certified railcars." MTA Chief Executive Art Leahy had also expressed reservations over exercising the contract option.
MTA staff has struggled with AnsaldoBreda over the production of the first 50 LRT cars, though AnsaldoBreda repeatedly has pledged to address all outstanding problems. Under the contract option, AnsaldoBreda must reduce the weight of its cars, which are 6,000 pounds too heavy, and make them compatible with the rest of the fleet.
Before the Board vote, AnsaldoBreda officials circulated an email indicating that the firm’s parent company, Finmeccanica, would back AnsaldoBreda's financial guarantees. The parent firm offered a $300 million performance bond, and a $75 million irrevocable letter of credit that could be used by the MTA if the company fails to perform. Mayor Villaraigosa and other board members said those financial terms were unprecedented.
AnsaldoBreda has contracted with Shangri-La Construction to build a 240,000-square-foot manufacturing plant on a 14-acre parcel of city-owned land at 15th Street and Santa Fe Avenue.
AnsaldoBreda Inc. President Giancarlo Fantappiè said the MTA set “very, very tough terms,” but that the move to Los Angeles would position the company to compete for future rail contracts. Among others, AnsaldoBreda faces competition from Siemens Transportation Systems, which is expanding its workforce and existing facility in Sacramento, Calif., to handle an expected surge in U.S. LRT orders. AnsaldoBreda has an assembly plant for railcars in Pittsburg, Calif., though the bulk of its manufacturing takes place in Italy.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chief Executive Arthur Leahy says LACMTA should open a competitive bidding process to acquire 100 new light rail transit vehicles for the city’s growing LRT system. The position comes in stark contrast to the indecision of the Boardof Directors which, for months, has shied from committing to a vendor for 100 new light rail transit cars to bolster the area’s LRT fleet.
The board had repeatedly weighed the merits of a contractoption with AnsaldoBreda, currently delivering 50 cars of a base order, which offered some attractive options, including the promise by the manufacturer to establish a production facility in the Los Angeles basin. But Leahy, acknowledging that AnsaldoBreda "has made every effort to be responsive" during negotiations, nonetheless believes AnsaldoBreda’s "commitments have not been satisfactory in all areas."
Labor unions reportedly favor the AnsaldoBreda offer, but LACMTA staff insist the company’s vehicles are too heavy and also are being delivered up to three years late. AnsaldoBreda officials defend the delays, citing change orders from MTA. LACMTA seeks the cars specifically for its Gold and Expo light rail lines, the latter of which now is under construction.
Massachusetts and CSX have agreed on the sale of CSX's Boston-Worcester, Mass., route to the commonwealth, opening up potential service capacity additions on the route and the extension of Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority service to Worcester.
CSX would retain trackage rights on the route under the deal, and contribute $500,000 to help pay the agency's liability insurance, plus pay a $7.5 million deductible for any accident where the freight railroad is foundto be at fault. Liability concerns and disagreements kept the two sides from agreeing to any sale last year.
Included in the deal is CSX's Fall River-New Bedford, Mass., route, in the southeast portion of the state, which also will be sold to the state and for which MBTA also plans to expand regional rail passenger service.
CSX will be paid an undisclosed sum for both routes, as well as for the Boston Terminal Running Track and a rail yard in South Boston. The deal also hinged on a commitment by state transportation officials to upgrade some bridges along the routes to allow for double-stack container train operations. Massachusetts also will help relocate CSX’s operations out of another rail yard in Boston.
“This is a great development for the commonwealth, its residents, its environment, and its economy,” said CSX Chairman, President, and CEO Michael J. Ward (pictured at left) in a statement. “In addition to commuter service, the plan will give the commonwealth a double-stack freight rail route that will help alleviate congestion on Massachusetts highways.”
Monterey County, Calif., officials postponed a vote this week for a rapid transit line to serve the county’s namesake city, after a former Monterey mayor voiced concerns that the city council had never chosen a preferred mode.
The Transportation Agency for Monterey County was ready tochoose either Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or light rail transit (LRT) for the Monterey Branch Line, linking Monterey and Castroville. The agency will next weigh the matter on October 28. Agency staff had recommended LRT for the route, which the agency has owned since since 2003.
Former Mayor Dan Albert argues that the city council should be given time to offer input to the project, and asserts that the route would travel through a "very sensitive area in Monterey." Albert's request for a delay was supported by other local area officials, including Del Rey Oaks Mayor Jerry Edelen and Marina Mayor Bruce Delgado.
But Monterey council member Frank Sollecito, the city's representative on the TAMC board, said the council had plenty of input into the project despite the absence of a formal vote. Sollecito said the council essentially left it up to him which way to vote on the alternatives. Albert countered that Sollecito's vote might not fully represent the views of the city.
The LRT option is projected to cost $211 million to construct, plus annual operating costs. It would accommodate about 100 passengers per car. BRT would cost about $195 million for all phases and, supposedly, would cost a little less per year to run, despite offering less passenger capacity per vehicle, at 60 per bus.
With a weekday ridership that averaged 5.225 million last year, New York City's subways face a Herculean task maintaining 468 stations. To say that some of the huddled masses are never happy with the results is an understatement.
While they see hundreds of millions of dollars being spent to rebuild whole stations with state-of-the-art architectural refinements, they also dodge pools of water and crumbling concrete in their own stations.
This has not gone unnoticed.
Starting with its new five-year (2010-2014) capital improvement program, MTA New York City Transit says it will adopt an approach to station renovation "that will allow more stations to be addressed in a shorter period of time in contrast to more costly station rehabilitations."
In a statement Wednesday responding to recommendations in a Controller's Office audit, NYC Transit said "a more cost effective, efficient, flexible, and realistic approach to station conditions ... will focus on remediation of different station components while maintaining those components that are in good condition."
While responding immediately to some of the Controller's audit recommendations, NYCT Transit said others--including some requiring the use of web-based technology--are under review for future incorporation.
Meanwhile, said the agency, "Improvements are currently under way in the areas of the procedures governing station inspections and the efficiency of these inspections, while supervisors receive additional training in the identification of station defects."
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) late Tuesday issued nine safety recommendations, six of which are “urgent,” to address concerns about the safety of train control systems that use audio frequency track circuits following results so far of NTSB's ongoing investigation into the collision between two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) trains in Washington, D.C., on June 22.
NTSB said it discovered that a failure occurred in which a spurious signal generated by a track circuit module transmitter mimicked a valid signal and bypassed the rails via an unintended signal path. The spurious signal was sensed by the module receiver, which resulted in the train not being detected when it stopped in the track circuit where the accident occurred.
NTSB made specific recommendations to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and to Alstom Signaling, Inc., the manufacturer of the track circuit modules at the Fort Totten station, where the accident occurred, to examine the WMATA track circuits and work together to eliminate adverse conditions that could affect the safe performance of these systems. NTSB also called upon WMATA to develop a program to periodically determine that the electronic components in its train control systems are performing within design tolerances.
Although NTSB stressed that the investigation is not yet complete and no determination of probable cause has been reached, it is concerned about the safety of train control system circuitry used in comparable rail and transit operations in other parts of the country. It has recommended that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) advise all rail transit operators and railroads that use audio frequency track circuits in their train control systems about these findings from the Fort Totten accident investigation.
NTSB also recommended that the FTA and FRA have transit operators and railroads that use audio frequency track circuits examine their track circuits and work with their signal equipment manufacturer(s) to eliminate adverse conditions that could affect the safe performance of these systems, and to develop programs to periodically determine that the electronic components in their train control systems are performing within design tolerances.
"After only three months, this complex investigation is far from complete, so we are not ready to determine the probable cause of the accident on WMATA," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "However, our findings so far indicate a pressing need to issue these recommendations to immediately address safety glitches we have found that could lead to another tragic accident on WMATA or another transit or rail system."
In accordance with NTSB protocol, the letters were addressed o the heads of each organization with a request for a response from each organization within 30 days on the urgent ecommendations, addressing the actions taken or planned in esponse to the Board's recommendations.
The safety recommendation letter to WMATA may be found at http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2009/R09_15_16.pdf.
The safety recommendation to Alstom Signaling, Inc., may be found at http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2009/R09_23.pdf.
The safety recommendations letter to FTA may be found at http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2009/R09_17_18_19.pdf.
The safety recommendation letter to the FRA may be found at http://www.ntsb.gov/recs/letters/2009/R09_20_21_22.pdf.