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Amtrak Tuesday unveiled an ambitious vision for “Next-Generation High-Speed Rail service” in the Northeast, superseding and complementing its existing Northeast Corridor, designed to dramatically reduce travel times between Boston and Washington, D.C. upon full build-out in 2040.
Speaking from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia during a teleconference, Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman (pictured at left) called the plan “a new vision for Amtrak” and for U.S. passenger rail development, “one that we haven’t seen for 100 years.” Under the plan, trains traveling at top speeds of 220 mph, or greater, would link Washington and New York in one hour 36 minutes, New York and Boston in one hour 24 minutes, and New York and Philadelphia in a brief 38 minutes.
Boardman, along with incoming Amtrak High Speed Rail Vice President Albrecht Engel, noted the new service would require 420 route-miles, most of it dedicated HSR right-of-way, particularly north of New York. About 32% of the new service—almost all of it south of New York—would run in close parallel to the existing NEC; 44% “will be brand new right of way”; and 15% would use existing infrastructure.
The New York-Boston alignment would take an “overland route” often proposed in the past, bypassing the current meandering ex-New Haven Line coastal route in favor of travel through interior Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. The alignment offers suggested station stops at White Plains Airport, N.Y., Danbury, Waterbury, and Hartford, Conn., and Woonsocket, R.I.
The overland route would allow an average speed of 148 mph between New York and Boston, with the 84-minute trip time besting current rail travel time by more than two hours, Amtrak said. An average speed of 137 mph would prevail for the 96-minute trip linking New York and Washington.
Noting that “connectivity” with other transportation modes “is critical,” Boardman pointed to the numerous air/rail stations proposed for the route, which include Newark Liberty International Airport, Philadelphia International Airport, and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport.
In a press release, Amtrak stated that “A Vision for High-Speed Rail in the Northeast Corridor (NEC),” when implemented in 2040, would provide HSR ridership approaching “18 million passengers with room to accommodate up to 80 million annually as demand increases in the years and decades that follow.” Amtrak estimates the service would generate an annual operating surplus of $900 million. Implementation would cost $4.7 billion each year for 25 years, or roughly $110 billion; Engel said the investment would generate 2.2 times that amount in economic development along the new route, including at or near new station sites in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Hartford.
Asked by Railway Age Editor William C. Vantuono if the new alignment would be accepted by cities excluded, such as Providence, R.I., Boardman replied, “We don’t intend to stop any service to Providence.” Instead, the entire Northeast would benefit from the overlayer of true HSR, complementing current Acela service, conventional Amtrak service, and regional rail operations such as MBTA, New Jersey Transit, and MARC.
Asked whether the vision might be too ambitious, Boardman asserted: “We don’t need a five-year vision to paint highways black; we need a 100-year vision of where we need to go.”
Amtrak officials also stressed that the NEC plan was only the first the railroad anticipated. “This is more than an NEC story; we have intentions beyond the NEC,” Amtrak said.
Boardman, Engel, and other Amtrak sources stressed that the actual HSR alignment, including station stops, “represent only one of a wide range of possible network and service configurations that could be developed.”
The proposal has been endorsed by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), both longtime Amtrak supporters.
The Association of American Railroads said Monday the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA) has become the association’s newest associate member. SFRTA operates Tri-Rail, the 70.9 mile regional rail line linkingMiami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, Fla.
As an affiliate member of AAR, SFRTA will have access to association services and will be eligible to serve on select AAR committees.
“We are pleased to welcome South Florida Regional Transportation Authority to the AAR family,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “Expanding our membership in both the freight and passenger communities is important for the future of the industry as we continue to promote the benefits of moving both people and freight by rail.”
SFRTA was formed in 2003 through legislation passed by the Florida Senate and House of Representatives and signed by Gov. Jeb Bush.
The new authority was created with a vision to provide greater mobility in South Florida, thereby improving the economic viability and quality of life of the community, region, and state. Tri-Rail’s governing board consists of representatives from all south Florida counties.
Bombardier Transportation and two consortium partners announced Monday that they will design, deliver, and install a $1.44 billion, 18-mile BOMBARDIER INNOVIA Monorail 300 system that will serve as an extension of the Sao Paulo Metro Line 2. Bombardier’s share of the contract is $818 million.
Known as Expresso Tiradentes, the line will be able to transport 40,000 passengers per hour per direction between the Vila Prudente and Cidade Tiradentes urbanizations. A journey that now takes almost two hours will be cut to approximately 50 minutes, benefiting 500,000 users daily.
The consortium is led the Brazilian contractor Queiroz Galvao and incorporates construction firm Construtora OAS, with Bombardier as electrical and mechanical equipment supplier. Bombardier will design and supply 17 stations and 54 seven-car trains as well as providing project management, systems engineering and integration, testing, and commissioning for the new trains and signaling.
Manufacture of the initial cars will be carried out by Bombardier in Pittsburgh and subsequent cars will be built in Brazil at Bombardier's plant in Hortolandia. Phase One of the system is expected to open for passenger service by 2014.
The Greenbrier Companies Monday said it has received orders for 3,000 new railcars with an aggregate value of approximately $200 million. The orders announced Monday, which consist of 2,250 doublestack intermodal platforms, 500 covered hopper cars, and 250 railcars of various types for the European market, are expected to be delivered in calendar 2010 and 2011.
Lake Oswego, Ore.-based Greenbrier noted the new orders are incremental to the orders to build 1,700 new railcars and refurbish 1,100 existing railcars announced on August 25.
The company Monday also announced preliminary unaudited financial results for its fourth quarter ended August 31, 2010. Based on the Company’s initial closing, revenue is expected to be approximately $185 million. Greenbrier anticipates a net loss for the quarter, before a special item, to be in the range of $0.15 to $0.20 per share. In addition, the company anticipates earnings of $0.50 per share, related to a special non-cash item for the release of the liability related to the 2008 deconsolidation of its former subsidiary, TrentonWorks.
Net earnings (including the special item) are anticipated to be in the range of $0.30 to $0.35 per share. The preliminary quarterly results announced are subject to further review by Greenbrier and year-end audit, and the company stressed that the results “should be considered preliminary and subject to change.”
In a statement, William A. Furman, president and chief executive officer of Greenbrier, said, “Over the past two months, we have received orders for over 4,700 new railcars and refurbishment work for 1,100 existing railcars, which taken together have a combined value of approximately $330 million. These new orders are expected to have a meaningful positive impact on our financial results in 2011 and reinforce our view that a recovery is under way in the overall North American new railcar market.”
He continued, “Our fourth-quarter financial results were below our expectations, due primarily to our refurbishment & parts and marine operations. New railcar manufacturing and leasing & services exceeded our expectations.”
CN and the Montreal Port Authority have signed memorandum of understanding that they say commits them to “develop a best-practices vision for the gateway’s supply chain, improve productivity, and leverage these gains to increase their transportation market share.” They noted that “the Port of Montreal is a leading gateway for freight traffic moving between North America's industrial heartland and northern European and Mediterranean markets.”
“The agreement flowing from this MOU will fulfill CN’s objective of reaching supply chain collaboration pacts with all of Canada’s major east coast and west coast ports,” said Claude Mongeau, CN president and chief executive officer. “We believe these agreements will bolster the competitiveness of these important maritime gateways and enhance the competitiveness of our customers in global markets.”
“There is no doubt that this agreement will help strengthen the Port of Montreal’s position as the market leader in the North Atlantic,” said Sylvie Vachon, president and chief executive officer of the MPA. “It will also confirm the status of the port as an intermodal gateway serving global markets.”
U.S. energy options in the coming decades will need to be plentiful and diverse. Count on the Reading & Northern Railroad to contribute to any solution.
The Maryland Transit Administration has reached a contract agreement with Bombardier Transportation.
In a letter to congressional leaders, the Association of American Railroads has made clear its objections to proposals increasing truckweight limits on Northeast U.S. highways to 100,000 pounds. The exemption is included in the Obama Administration’s continuing resolution proposal.
AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger (pictured at left) said such increases, particularly onInterstate highways in Maine and Vermont, could provide enough momentum to trucking interests to lift the federal truck weight ban elsewhere.
“Not only do extremely heavy trucks today exact a serious wear and tear toll on America’s already overextended highways, but much of the costs to repair roads and bridges damaged by heavy-load trucks is paid by taxpayers and not thetrucking companies responsible for the damage,” said Hamberger.