Efforts to (re-)establish the first streetcar route in Washington, D.C. were first dashed, then resurrected, in a 24-hour period, as the City Council first cut $47 million in funding, then restored the amount Wednesday following a public outcry, fueled in part by email and blog activity.
The H Street Streetcar, estimated to cost $60 million, already is under construction along its namesake street and on Benning Road in the city’s Northeast quadrant.
Funds originally were cut when D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray said the streetcar line, part of a larger, long-range plan, it needed more planning, including power source options given the ban on overhead wires in much of the city. But news of the cut, reported by the Greater Greater Washington blog, generated substantial public outcry, prompting the council to restore funding.
“What a splendid relief this is,” said Councilman Jim Graham, a supporter of the project. “The streetcars are back on track. We will not have a delay.”
The H Street Streetcar currently is slated to begin service in 2012, though six more streetcars are needed to supplement three cars already acquired from Czech Republic-based Inekon Group a.s.
House Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), considered on of thetop U.S. proponents of light rail transit and streetcars, reportedly called council members urging the body to reconsider any cuts in funding. “We're working with a dozen cities that are in some stage of streetcar programs. None has more promise than the District of Columbia,” Blumenauer said.
The Railway Systems Suppliers, Inc. C&S Exhibition, held May 17-19 in Omaha, Neb., drew 1,712 attendees, “not including spouses,” RSSI said in a statement Wednesday.
Of those attendees, 989 were supplier representatives, while the remainder 723, represented railroad, transit, or government organizations.
The annual event also sported 334 booth spaces, staffed by 164 exhibitors.
RSSI also said its Innovation Theatre had 12 member companies participating “with varying results.” The theatre drew more than 100 participants. “We have had several requests to continue this service,” RSSI said.
RSSI said 32 companies exhibited at the annual event for the first time.
In 2011, RSSI will be joining forces with RSI (Railway Supply Institute), REMSA (Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association) and AREMA (American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-way Association) for the first-ever Railway Interchange
2011 in Minneapolis, Minn,. Sept. 18 - 21. The event will feature
hundreds of exhibits, both indoor and outdoor, and technical sessions with AREMA and CMA (Coordinated Mechanical Associations). For more information, visit www.railwayinterchange.org.
U.S. Class I railroad employment totaled 149,749 in mid-April, up 1.21% from March but down 2.93% from April 2009, according to a Surface Transportation Board count posted Wednesday on STB's website.
The biggest numerical increase in April was in the transportation (train and engine) category, where the number of operating crew members on the job increased 1.74% to 58,814.
The biggest percentage increase was in the maintenance of way and structures group, where employment rose 2.2% to 34,202.
The April Class I roster also showed 24,170 maintenance of equipment and stores workers on the job, up 0.48% from March; 13,155 professional and administrative, down 0.66; 8,935 executives, officials, and staff assistants, down 0.68%; and transportation (other than train and engine), 6,473, up 0.86%.
Bombardier Transportation said Wednesday it has signed a cooperation agreement with the Augsburg Transport Authority (Stadtwerke Augsburg Verkehrs GmbH) to “install the contactless and catenary-free BOMBARDIER PRIMOVE system for trams as apilot project in the city of Augsburg,” Germany.
The Primove system will be installed on a 0.8-kilometer(one-half mile) section of Line 3 to the Augsburg fairground. The pilot project intends to demonstrate the technical capability and electromagnetic compatibility Primove offers light rail vehicles in an urban environment, where overhead wires are deemed impractical or otherwise undesirable. Installation work will start this summer.
Bombardier says Primove involves cables laid beneath theground and connected to the power conditioning and supply network. They are only energized when fully covered by the vehicle, which ensures safe operation. A pick-up coil underneath the vehicle turns the magnetic field created by thecables in the ground into an electric current that feeds the vehicle traction system.
We are delighted to extend our long and successfulpartnership with the Augsburg Transport Authority to include this innovative development in electric mobility. The Primove catenary-free technology is now mature for installation into a demanding urban tram network. Over timecatenary-free operation will become a standard element of light rail systems and we are confident that Primove will be the clear choice for many cities inthe future", said Eran Gartner, president, Systems Division, Bombardier Transportation.
Josef Doppelbauer, chief technical officer, Bombardier Transportation, said, "By dispensing with the need for overhead catenary, the PRIMOVE system will open upnew opportunities for urban planners in the design of integrated transportation systems for cities.”
Norbert Walter, managing director of Stadtwerke Augsburg, said, "Our expectation for the Primove pilot project is to gain further insights into newdevelopments in energy management and energy savings in tramway operations. Wewill also cooperate with the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences for this. Public transport stands to benefit from this innovative project in the field of electric mobility."
Bombardier already has a contract to supply a fleet of 27 Flexity Outlook vehicles to Augsburg Transport Authority; delivery began in 2009 andwill continue through to the end of 2010.
The Chlorine Institute (CI) isn’t yielding any ground on a CI-sponsored Positive Train Control cost-benefit study purporting to show that contrary to railroad arguments, the government-mandated installation of PTC by 2015 will provide strong economic benefits to the rail industry.
If its findings are accepted by the Federal Railroad Administration, the study would seriously undercut the railroads’ position that the federal government should help pay the multibillion-dollar bill for installing the safety system. It could also relieve shippers of hazardous materials from responsibility for indirectly funding PTC through higher rates.
CI on Tuesday sent the FRA what it called the final report of the study, which it said confirms that a regulation implementing the mandate “vastly understates the technology’s benefits to the railroad industry and public.”
Based on initial findings of the study, the institute asked the FRA in March to reissue the rule with a new cost-benefit analysis. CI said Tuesday that while it “strongly supports PTC, the faulty cost-benefit analysis in the current rule fosters a situation that could allow railroads to impose on shippers of chlorine and other toxic inhalation hazard (TIH) chemicals an unfairly large share of the costs of applying PTC technology.”
The CI study was conducted by L. E. Peabody & Associates, Inc., Alexandria, Va.
The fate of 233 miles of rail in Maine's Aroostook and Penobscot counties may be determined by a referendum on June 8 in which the state will seek approval to issue bonds to buy the line if the Surface Transportation Board approves the abandonment application of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.
In view of this, the STB issued a decision Tuesday slightly altering the schedule of the mediation that is now under way between the State of Maine, which thinks continued rail service is essential, and the railroad, which says it’s a losing proposition.
In Tuesday’s decision, the board said: “On April 22, 2010, following a meeting attended that day by MMA, the state, and board mediation staff, MMA filed a motion requesting that the Board extend the procedural schedule for a period of 3 weeks so that MMA and the State could enter into confidential mediation concerning the future of the line. In a decision served on April 26, 2010, the board granted this request and made MMA’s rebuttal due on May 26.
“Mediation between MMA and the State is progressing. Theboard believes that a negotiated settlement would be in the best interests of the parties and the public in this case. The board understands that the parties may not be able to reach a final agreement concerning the sale of the lines without knowing the outcome of the June 8 referendum. Accordingly, MMA and the state are directed to submit a joint status report outlining their progress toward an agreement on the sale by June 17, 2010. If the parties have not reached an agreement or have not made substantial progress toward reaching an agreement by June 17, 2010, the board will resume its consideration of the merits of this abandonment proceeding and prepare a final Board decision.”
St. Paul, Minn.’s Central Corridor light rail transit project Tuesday “received permission today to enter final design, the last step before award of a federal Full Funding Grant Agreement for the biggest public works project in Minnesota history,” according to the Metropolitan Council, the prime governmental advocate for the controversial light rail route linking the state capital with neighboring Minneapolis and the existing Hiawatha LRT line.
In a statement, Met Council said, “Immediately upon receiving permission to enter final design, the project office will submit all documentation to the Federal Transit Administration for award of a Full Funding Grant Agreement. An FFGA represents the federal government’s commitment to reimburse project partners for half the cost of building the $957 million, 11-mile line connecting St. Paul and Minneapolis. “
Anticipated funding for the route is 50% from federal sources, 30% from the Counties Transit Improvement Board, 10% from the state of Minnesota, 7% from Ramsey County (which includes St. Paul), 3% from Hennepin County (which includes Minneapolis), and residual sums from St. Paul, Metropolitan Council, and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.
“The FTA’s approval represents another important step in transforming this project from a 20-year-old dream into reality,” said Peter Bell, chair of the Met Council. “It will mean improved access for thousands of metro area residents to employment, educational, and economic opportunities all along the corridor and beyond.”
Affordable coal-based electricity has helped ensure America’s position as a global economic superpower, and freight railroads are a big reason for that, Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger said Tuesday, addressing the Congressional Coal Caucus.
Railroads deliver 70% of all coal shipments to their final destinations, and the cost-effectiveness of freight rail has made it themode of choice for moving coal, Hamberger noted, adding that today twice as much coal can be shipped for roughly what it cost 30 years ago. “Policy makers should take steps to ensure the continued use of our nation’saffordable domestic coal resources,” said Hamberger (pictured at left), adding support for development of carbon-capture-storage (CCS) technologies and aligning carbon reduction timetables with its commercial availability. “Investing in CCS will ensure America can produce affordable electricity from coal, promote energy independence, and protect our environment.” Coal is the single largest customer segment for railroads, representing roughly 25% of total revenue for the nation’s major Class I railroads. One in every five railroad jobs is related to the movement of coal. “Without coal, the U.S. rail network would face a need for vast restructuringwith greatly reduced capacity to invest in the nation’s rail networkinfrastructure,” Hamberger said.
With various climate change proposals before Congress threatening to curb coal consumption, railroads are urging lawmakers to consider enacting contingent allowances in legislation. Specifically, contingent allowances would be made available to railroads that see a decrease in coal revenue as a direct resultof federal climate change law. If coal markets go unaffected, the contingent allowances would not take effect. However if coal use falls, contingent allowances would help railroad businesses cope with the loss of billions of dollars in unique coal-related assets and revenues decimated from the change in law. “The loss of these coal-related assets and revenue would significantly impede railroads’ ability to meet the transportation needs of businesses all across the country that rely on rail to get to the global marketplace,” Hamberger said. “If railroads cannot afford to renew and expand their capacity, more rail passengers and freight will move by less efficient, less environmentally sound ways across overcrowded highways.”
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has selected Cubic Transportation Systems to manage and operate WMATA’s SmarTrip®Regional Customer Service Center (RCSC), a smart card-based fare collection system, designed and integrated by Cubic more than 10 years ago.
Valued at $10 million, the three-year contract goes into effect in July, and includes operation of the patron call center where cardholders can call or email to register their smart card, receive account information, and retrieve lost passwords for online ordering, among other services. Cubic also will deliver and operate a smart card fulfillment center for SmarTrip card orders, and will deliver and support a merchant retail network where customers can buy and reload value on their smart cards.
The patron call center will be co-located in Cubic's customer service center in Concord, Calif., and smartcard orders and merchant retail support will be managed locally from Cubic's Washington, D.C. office.
The SmarTrip system includes WMATA rail services and also nine regional bus operators in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Cubic's services are expected to expand to include the CharmCard system operated by the Maryland Transit Administration, also designed and delivered by Cubic.
The Rusk County (Tex.) Rural Rail District has acquired the Henderson-Overton rail spur from Union Pacific, and expects to begin work to reactivate the route. The district expects to designate Sulphur Springs, Tex.-based Blacklands Railroad as the short line operator.
“We own a railroad,” said Henderson Economic Development Corp. General Manager Sue Henderson. “Rusk County owns a railroad.”
The value of the rail spur was appraised at $4.2 million, but the District's cost was $1.026 million.
The District plans to celebrate the acquisition in mid June,with a locomotive coming down the spur and parking at the historic Henderson depot. “We want it to be a celebration,” said Henderson. “This is a big deal for all of Rusk County.”
Roughly 15.7 miles in length, the Henderson-Overton spur intersects with UP at Overton, Tex. UP ceased operating over the spur last August after the Surface Transportation Board ruled the company could do so.