Officials from both Aurora and Barrington, Ill., have accused Canadian National of failing to file complete reports on incidents related to CN’s acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway Co., completed last January. The two municipalities say CN failed to report a brushfire in its report to the Surface Transportation Board, while including a minor personnel incident.
Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner and Barrington Village President Karen Darch say CN’s first month report omitted 18 train delays of more than 10 minutes, as well as the brush fire started by locomotive operations and several alleged violations of quiet-zone operations.
CN says it has complied with reporting requirements, which STB has mandated it must do monthly for five years. CN spokesman Patrick Waldron said the brush fire was not listed because it didn't meet the reporting criteria.
Weisner and Darch are co-chairs of The Regional Answer to Canadian National, or TRAC, the coalition of suburban Chicagoland municipalities along the EJ&E still opposed to the acquisition. TRAC seeks an “independent party” separate from STB to review CN's incident logs and submit the reports.
CN has reached mitigation agreements with 16 of the 33 communities along the EJ&E, including a pact with Elgin, Ill., reached last week.
CN says its mitigation agreements now cover more than 50% of the population along the EJ&E in Illinois and Indiana.
But TRAC continues to seek a reversal of the acquisition agreement, citing increased noise and congestion issues.
CN's reports can be viewed on the STB website at www.stbfinancedocket35087.com.
Alstom plans to open a railcar refurbishing plant on Mare Island west of downtown Vallejo, Calif., northeast of San Francisco on the east shore of San Pablo Bay.
"Alstom Transportation will be required to maintain rail lines leading from its Mare Island base at the former shipyard Building 599, said Jason Keadjian, spokesman for island developer Lennar Mare Island.
The site had been used by Kinki Sharyo Co. Ltd. to build light rail transit cars for Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s LRT system centered in San Jose. Alstom plans to lease at least 112,000 square feet of space on Mare Island.
Alstom’s move could aid the company’s plan to bid on at least a portion of California’s $44 billion high speed rail project now being developed, though initially the site would be used for railcar remanufacturing.
Buffeted by budget shortfalls in both operating and capital construction budgets, Elliot G. Sander announced his resignation, effective May 22, as executive director of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The resignation came even as Gov. David Paterson signed legislation easing the fare increases, and eliminating many proposed service cuts, for the massive system.
Observers say the resignation gives Gov. Paterson wide latitude in appointing a successor, with some noting the governor considered Sander not respectful enough of the political landscape. Without mentioning Sander specifically, Paterson declared, “We’re going to have a widespread cleanup and cleanout of the MTA and start getting this place working in an effective way.”
"That's typical of a politician to say something mean-spirited and uninformed like that, especially one who understands almost nothing about public transportation or the kind of resources it takes to run the MTA," said one rail industry observer. "Elliot can hold his head high. He's a transportation professional, not a political hack. He was doing an excellent job."
Sander and current MTA Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger were appointed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Still uncertain is whether Paterson will also replace Hemmerdinger, whose term of office now expires within 30 days, as mandated bythe recently signed legislation. Hemmerdinger, or a new chairman, also would assume the title of chief executive, responsible for daily oversight of the system.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Thursday identified $742.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds targeted for numerous specific rail transit projects nationwide. Unclear to some observers, however, was whether the funds released are a cash advance, simply making funds pledged earlier available more quickly, or additional funding support for various projects, made available now and to be “swapped” later.
For at least one recipient, Portland’s TriMet, the issue is crystal clear. Says TriMet spokeswoman Mary Fetsch, “It’s not new money; it’s money, faster.” The speed is significant for TriMet, Fetsch points out, because “since the funds are advanced to us ahead of schedule, getting those funds means we’re saving roughly $750,000 in financing costs.” TriMet was granted $32 million for its South Corridor I-205/Portland Mall LRT project, already under way.
The Obama Administration has made clear its desire to get “stimulus package” funds out quickly to live up to the suggested goal. “This money will not only put people back to work and spur the economy, it will also provide an alternative form of transportation for people around the country to get to their homes, work and school,” LaHood said in announcing grants, funneled through the Federal Transit Administration’s already established list of “full funding grant agreements” with at least nine states.
But, significantly, DOT noted, “The ARRA grants announced [May 7] do not increase the federal commitment to the projects, but expedite funds committed under the agreement between the federal government and thetransit agencies.”
Other recipients named by LaHood include: Phoenix-Central Phoenix/East Valley Light Rail ($36 million); Los Angeles’ Metro Gold Line Eastside Extension ($66.7 million); Denver’s West Corridor LRT ($40 million); Springfield, Ore.’s Pioneer Parkway EmX Bus Rapid Transit ($2.9 million); Dallas’ Northwest/Southeast LRT ($78.4 million); Salt Lake City’s Mid-Jordan LRT ($90.9 million); the northern Virginia (Washington, D.C.) Dulles Corridor Metrorail Extension to Wiehle Ave. ($77.3 million); and Seattle University Link LRT extension ($44 million).
New York’s MTA Long Island Rail Road East Side Access was awarded $195.4 million, while MTA New York City Transit’s Second Avenue Subway Phase I was granted $78.9 million.
Despite the Florida legislature's repeated rejection of a 61-mile central Florida regional rail service, dubbed SunRail, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) and the Florida Department of Transportation continue to explore ways to keep the proposal alive.
“We've got to explore all of our options and see if we can move forward. There may be a delay in the service,” Mica said. “We've invested eight years. We have $100 million in public hearings and planning."
For its part, FDOT “is already working to save the regional rail system,” FDOT District 5 spokesman Steve Olsen said. “Our official position is, we're in the process of looking at the options. We're talking with our funding partners.”
FDOT, acting on behalf of the state, was to purchase right-of-way from current owner CSX between DeLand and Poinciana, at a cost of about $615 million. Legislators objected to several issues but especially the portion of the proposed agreement absolving CSX from any liability on the route, even if CSX was involved in any incident.
Adding moral support to the SunRail effort was DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, who said, “Commuter rail for Central Florida is important to the state and the nation.”
But the clock continues ticking. At a meeting hosted by the Railway Supply Institute in Washington May 7, CSX Director of Federal Affairs Stephen Flippin said time was running out for SunRail, and CSX’s deal with the state was set to expire on June 30.
Modoc Northern Railroad Co., which operates a short line railroad covering northern California and southern Oregon, has been criticized by Union Pacific and by Lake County, Ore., commissioners for a violation of contract.
Lake County Commissioner Ken Kestner said problems involving the railroad include poor maintenance and financial mismanagement. Kestner said Modoc Northern wrote the county a $45,000 check last fail that did not clear.
UP did not comment on specifics; the Class I interfaces with Modoc Northern at Klamath Falls, Ore.
Tulelake, Calif.-based Modoc Northern Railroad operates 160 miles of track covering four counties.