Manitoba’s capital city appears ready to commit to lightrail transit, after the Winnipeg Executive Policy Committee Wednesday recommended the mode to the City Council as part of a long-term plan. LRT is strongly supported by Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz.
The City Council is expected to vote on the recommendation soon, but the issue is controversial; some council members want funds to continue being targeted at a Bus Rapid Transit route now under construction. Committing to light rail would likely divert some of the funds now envisioned for BRT extensions.
Any LRT system in Winnipeg would be the first within Manitoba. Neighboring Alberta has two cities, Edmonton and Calgary, which committed to modern LRT in the 1978 and 1981, respectively—the first two North American cities to do so.
Maine officials reportedly have reached agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration on how to apply $35 million in federal stimulus funds to extend Amtrak’s Downeaster service beyond Portland, the state’s largest city.
Amtrak operates five roundtrips per day between Portland and Boston’s North Station. The Downeaster-Portland North Project will extend service north from Portland to Brunswick, with a stop in Freeport, said the FRA.
The $35 million grant, combined with additional state funds, will allow rehabilitation and upgrading of about 26 miles right-of-way owned by Pan Am Railways. The Downeaster project also will improve 36 highway-rail grade crossings, upgrade numerous wayside signals, install signals on the Brunswick branch, and provide other right-of-way improvements, FRA said.
Many Major League Baseball teams have moved into new ballparks in recent years, with most of them gaining (or strengthening) rail transit links in the process. But in Florida’s Tampa Bay metropolitan area, the goal is even more ambitious: to both create a new stadium and launch a brand new rail service, route yet to be determined.
Off-again, on-again efforts to establish rail transit in the Tampa Bay area have been bolstered as the MLB Tampa Bay Rays seek a new ballpark in the region. The site is not yet certain, and may depend on whether rail would serve it—or, conversely, the site chosen could affect any planned rail service route.
“We want to keep the Rays in Pinellas County,” said R.B. Johnson, chairman of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. “How does that play into the rail line? The time is not too far off where we’ll be talking to the Rays about how a new stadium converges with plans for rail.”
That could also include high speed rail service offered by the proposed Tampa-to-Orlando route now being advanced by state officials and bolstered by federal funding. An HSR station in downtown Tampa could be a factor in the relocation of the Rays, team ownership has suggested.
Alstom said Tuesday it has been chosen by LK Comstock & Co., Inc. for design and supply of the interlocking and signaling equipment for MTA New York City Transit’s No. 7 subway line (the Flushing Line).
The contract, valued at $43 million, “covers the renovation andm odification of the signaling and control systems” for the line, Alstom says. That’s including the ongoing extension now being constructed west of Times Square to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, on Manhattan’s Far West Side.
Alstom says design and equipment will be produced at its signaling center in Rochester, N.Y. White Plain, N.Y.-based LK Comstock will install the equipment. The contract is part of a program designed to increase headways and enhance safety on the No. 7 line, the second full line in the New York City subway system receiving communications-based traffic control (CBTC).
The Association of American Railroads has added to its website an interactive map that allows any user to take a “snap-shot” of information about railroads in a given location. AAR says the map is active for all states (including Hawaii, which has “no freight rail activity,” the map duly notes).
A state-by-state breakdown includes pie charts, divided by commodity category, for both traffic originating in a given state and ending up in that state. Other data within a given state, including freight railroad miles, number of freight railroads in operation, and number for rail employees, also is listed.
The map is available at http://www.aar.org/incongress/railroadsstates.aspx.
The Security and Emergency Response Training Center (SERTC), located at the Transportation Technology Center Inc. (TTCI) in Pueblo, Colo., is now enrolling emergency responders for hazardous material training through a federally funded program. Registration for training is available at www.sertc.org.“Public safety personnel, firefighters, and law enforcement staffs have a new opportunity to receive the training that we have offered to the private sector for over two decades,” said SERTC General Manager Mike Cook.
Front line responders from state, local, and tribalorganizations are being accepted in the first of a series of advanced, mode specific technician and specialist level courses that will prepare them with the knowledge and experience to deal successfully, effectively, and safely with large-scale emergencies involving hazardous materials and potential WMD (weapons of mass destruction) events in their home jurisdictions.
“The first NDPC class, the Tank Car Specialist class, began June 28 through July 2 and was attended by numerous DHS/FEMA funded first responders,” said Cook. “It is a five-day, advanced training course with realistic and demanding hands-on response to rail related emergencies.”
A leadership and management course addressing surface transportation incidents is expected to receive Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Administration (DHS/FEMA) authorization soon, significantly expanding the capabilities of public safety responders to receive practical training commensurate with their responsibilities.
A drive to offer voters in Virginia Beach, Va., a referendum on light rail transit this November has fallen short, with only 1,083 signatures collected to get the measure on the ballot. At least 25,000 signatures would be required.
Wally Erb, a candidate for City Council, led the fight for the referendum, which he says would better reflect the city’s will on any LRT decision. Erb opposes light rail, and suggested he would continue to fight it. “My campaign issue is going to be, ‘No means no until we have a referendum and say yes,’” he said.
At present, the Virgina Beach City Council has commissioneda study to determine if the city should extend LRT across the Norfolk-Virginia Beach border, in essence adding to “The Tide” LRT project scheduled to begin operating in neighboring Norfolk next year. Virginia Beach voters turned down LRT as an option in 1999, leaving Norfolk to proceed on its own. With traffic congestion rising, however, the city has begun reconsidering its earlier opposition.
Some Virginia Beach council members believe a referendum is desirable, but only after the current study is completed. “Frankly, I didn't think there was any chance of [Erb] getting the signatures because there's not enough information yet for people to make an educated decision, so putting it on the ballot is premature,” said Councilman Jim Wood, a board member of Hampton Roads Transit.
“The Tide” will stretch 7.4 miles through Norfolk, roughly paralleling the Elizabeth River, and will open with 11 stations. Hampton Roads Transit, on its website, says the project is 86.5% complete. Nine Siemens Mobility S70 cars (pictured above left) will service the line.
The Caltrain Board of Directors Thursday scheduled a public hearing for Sept. 2 to receive comment on possible fare increases and service reductions. The service reductions under consideration include elimination of the Gilroy extension service, elimination of weekend service, and elimination of some early morning, midday, and late evening weekday trains.
Proposed fare increases include either a 25-cent increase to the base fare or a 25-cent increase to the zone fare, with corresponding changes to the Day Pass, Monthly Pass and 8-ride Ticket. The public hearing will be held at the September Caltrain Board meeting at 10 a.m. at 1250 San Carlos Ave. in San Carlos, Calif. The fare increase and services change recommendations will be presented to the board for adoption in October. Service changes and fare increases, if approved, would take effect next January.
Community meetings will be held in mid-August to give the public additional opportunity to review proposals, ask questions and provide comment. The time and location of the meetings, which will be held in each of the three counties that make up Caltrain’s service area, have yet to be determined.
A U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit, brought by Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, claiming that Metrolink violated train engineers' rights by installing cameras to monitor their activities.
The cameras were installed after the September 2008 Chatsworth, Calif., accident in which 25 people died and more than 100 passengers were injured when a Metrolink commuter train hit a Union Pacific freight train head-on.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which found that the Metrolink engineer had been text messaging and ran a red light just before the collision, called for all passenger rail systems to install video monitors.
The District Court judge ruled that the union failed to prove violations of federal regulations. A state court case is continuing.
“The cameras are critical to making sure there are no rule violations in the cab area,” said Metrolink Board Chairman Keith Millhouse, a lawyer, adding that he hoped the ruling ends the legal battle.