Thursday, November 12, 2009

Austin begins afternoon tests for much-delayed MetroRail

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Austin, Tex.’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority says it will begin testing its Stadler diesel multiple-unit (DMU) cars (previously categorized by the agency as diesel light rail transit, or DLRT) as early as next week. CapMetro has tested the equipment over its 32-mile rail route throughout 2009 primarily during morning hours, even as its opening date has been repeatedly delayed, but this marks the first testing during afternoons.

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Trains will be running on simulated schedules comparable to what CapMetro will use when service begins sometime in 2010, with a March target the current plan.

"MetroRail will be traveling at full operating speeds, nearly twice as fast as freight trains," CapMetro said in a news release. "Additionally, train activity will increase significantly. For these reasons, motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians are encouraged to always expect a train, and to stay off the tracks."

MetroRail's route crosses about 70 streets, highways, and private drives. CapMetro has installed crossing gates at almost all crossings, including quad gates in some locations, but has had difficulties with operational timing throughout the year, contributing to the delay in commencing service.