Amtrak, the state of Florida, and federal officials Wednesday reached broad agreement on the sale of CSX right-of-way to Florida as part of the planned SunRail commuter rail service, intended to serve Orlando and central Florida.
Amtrak agreed to drop its objections to a deal for the sale of the tracks, based on concerns over liability. Sale of 61 miles of right-of-way is expected before year’s end.
Florida and Amtrak have yet to resolve some details of the agreement, but “I'm just happy that we’re moving ahead,” said Volusia County Chairman Frank Bruno, who serves on the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission.
House Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) said the agreement allows SunRail to receive federal funds, “the final step in bringing commuter rail, a vital transportation alternative, to Central Florida.”
SunRail's first phase would link De Bary, Fla., northeast of Orlando, with Sand Lake Road in South Orlando. Trains would begin running by 2013, with construction scheduled to start next year. Federal funds of about $600 million would cover half the anticipated $1.2 billion construction cost, with the state contributing about $300 million and local governments supplying the remainder.
California’s Capitol Corridor, Amtrak’s third-busiest intercity passenger rail service route, has reported a double-digit increase in November ridership, with 10% more travelers compared with the same period last year.
The Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA), which oversees the route, attributes the ridership increase in large measure to “the end of the state’s ‘Furlough Fridays’ and a record-breaking Thanksgiving travel weekend.”
CCJPA “definitely saw a link between Furlough Fridays and decreased ridership,” Chairman Jim Holmes said. “We expected ridership to grow when Furlough Fridays ended in October, but we were thrilled to see ridership soar to double digits last month. Nearly 143,000 people rode our trains, up from 129,294 customers in 2009.”
CCJPA also attributes increased November ridership to an improved economy, high customer satisfaction ratings, and a 96% on-time performance record, which it says makes the Capitol Corridor the most reliable passenger rail service in the nation.
U.S. freight carload traffic rose 6.8% in the week ending December 4, measured against the comparable week in 2009, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday. Intermodal traffic for the rose 13.8%, compared with the same week in 2009, with container volume up 15.3% and trailer volume up 6.5%.
AAR said 13 of the 19 carload commodity groups increased from the comparable week in 2009, led by: metallic ores, up 64%; metals and products, up 25.3%; crushed stone, sand, and gravel, up 24.4%; and waste and scrap materials, up 22.7%; Declines included non-metallic minerals, down 10.1%, and primary forest products, down 9%. Canadian freight carload volume advanced a healthy 22.2% from last year’s levels, with Canadian intermodal almost matching that percentage gain, up 21.4%. Mexico’s two major railroads reported freight carload volume up 10.2%, while intermodal rose 8.3%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 48 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 9.3% from last year, and intermodal was up 14.8% from the comparable period in 2009.
Russian Railways (RZD) President Vladimir Yakunin has beennamed to serve on the board of directors for the International Union ofRailways (UIC), RZD said. Yakunin will fill a two-year term.
Boris Lapidus, general director of the AllRussian Railway Research Institute (VNIIZhT), an RZD subsidiary, was elected tothe position of International Railway Research Board (IRRB) chairman.
Fairport, N.Y.-based RailComm stated Wednesday that a “major western railroad” will add the company’s Blue Flag Indicator (BFI) System to its operations. RailComm did not identify the property.
The RailComm BFI System will allow a user to apply blue flag protection to the two fueling tracks through use of a centrally located field control panel. Six BFIs will be provided and will be positioned in pairs at three different locations along the track.
RailComm’s 2.4 GHz RADiANT™ spread spectrum data radios will be utilized to provide reliable and secure communication between the field and control locations, Railcomm said.
Seemingly adhering to its longstanding tradition of striving to be “anything but Dallas,” Fort Worth, Tex., Tuesday rejected further study on or pursuit of streetcars. The city had been awarded $25 million in federal funds to pursue the streetcar option.
In a 5-3 vote, Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief joined four other council members in voting against continuing to the final phase of the three-part study. “This has been a real struggle for me,” Moncrief said. “The bottom line is, many of us are still wrestling with concerns over funding.”
The $88 million project would have created a three-mile north-south line through downtown, served by three streetcars, estimated to draw 2,000 daily riders. Estimated operating costs of $1.6 million per year would have been covered by the Fort Worth Transportation Authority.
Observers had questioned whether Fort Worth was a logical choice for aiding streetcar development, given the city’s tenuous support of the mode. By contrast, the other cities offered a total of $105 million in federal funding last July included Charlotte, N.C. ($25 million), Cincinnati ($25 million), Fort Worth arch-rival Dallas ($4.9 million), and St. Louis ($25 million), all aggressively advancing their respective projects.