Transit Briefs: Brightline, NYMTA, OCTA, SacRT, SCVTA

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
New York MTA’s Metro-North Penn Station Access Project would bring MTA Metro-North commuter rail service to Penn Station and Manhattan’s west side, along Amtrak’s Hell Gate Line on the Northeast Corridor (artist’s rendering shown).

New York MTA’s Metro-North Penn Station Access Project would bring MTA Metro-North commuter rail service to Penn Station and Manhattan’s west side, along Amtrak’s Hell Gate Line on the Northeast Corridor (artist’s rendering shown).

Ahead of service to Orlando, train testing of up to 110 mph continues for Brightline, Florida’s private-sector passenger railroad. Also, New York MTA’s Metro-North Penn Station Access Project faces delays; Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) and Metrolink unveil track and station improvements in Anaheim, Calif.; Sacramento Regional Transit District (SacRT) in California begins station modifications to accommodate new LRVs from Siemens Mobility; and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (SCVTA) offers limited-edition trading cards.

Brightline train in Orlando. (Photo by David C. Lester)

Brightline on Jan. 27 reported that its test trains will run at maximum speeds of 110 mph in northern Palm Beach County as soon as Feb. 11. Testing is slated to continue through March, taking place in Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach, Lake Park, Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach.

Brightline is conducting high-speed testing in preparation for service to Orlando this year. Testing is occurring in phases along the 129-mile rail corridor between West Palm Beach and Cocoa.

High-speed testing at 110 mph began in fall 2022, through Martin and St. Lucie counties. Brightline has also completed 79 mph testing through Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Brevard counties.

For more on Brightline, read “Rolling Into Orlando,” by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief of Railway Track & Structures, a Railway Age sister publication.

The New York MTA’s $2.9 billion Metro-North Penn Station Access project will be completed in October 2027 rather than March 2027, according to a Jan. 30 Bloomberg report. The project will bring MTA Metro-North commuter rail service to Penn Station and Manhattan’s west side, along Amtrak’s Hell Gate Line on the Northeast Corridor (see map above); the final stop for all Metro-North trains currently is Grand Central Terminal on the east side. (In 2019, Amtrak’s Board of Directors approved an agreement with New York MTA that paved the way for the new service.)

“The hold up is because the MTA relies on the owner of the existing tracks, Amtrak, to allow access to those lines during construction,” Bloomberg reported. “While the MTA has a deal with Amtrak to open up the tracks and provide staffing, it has yet to fully deliver on that commitment, Jamie Torres-Springer, president of the MTA’s Construction & Development, said Monday [Jan. 30] during a monthly committee meeting.”

The “good news is that Amtrak acknowledges these problems and in part, due to that strong agreement that we negotiated with them, they’re working collaboratively with us on a recovery schedule,” Torres-Springer told meeting attendees, according to Bloomberg, which noted that Amtrak “didn’t have an immediate response to the MTA’s comments on the delays.”

Also included in the project are four new stations in the East Bronx—at Hunts Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-Op City—which would be part of the New Haven Line. At Penn Station, riders from Connecticut, Westchester and the Bronx would be able to connect with MTA Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corp. (PATH), and MTA New York City Transit subway and bus services. According to MTA, the commute from Co-op City to Penn Station would be reduced from 75 to 25 minutes, and the commute from Hunts Point to Penn Station would be cut from 45 to 16 minutes.

The MTA “wants to avoid potential cost overruns” with the Metro-North Penn Station Access project, Bloomberg reported. “A similar problem with Amtrak resulted in about $1 billion of additional expense to bring Long Island Rail Road service to [the new] Grand Central [Madison], which began last week, Janno Lieber, the MTA’s chief executive officer, said during the meeting.”

According to Bloomberg, Lieber said, “We have delay. We have a repeat of that Harold Interlocking dynamic [in which MTA said Amtrak did not provide enough rebuilding support during the Grand Central Madison project], but we have legal rights and none of us wants to exercise them. Amtrak is our partner and in fairness they’ve been trying to improve.”

In February 2022, RailWorks Transit LLC, in a joint venture with Halmar International, was awarded the design-build contract for the Metro-North Penn Station Access Project.

OCTA on Jan. 30 reported wrapping up a $34.2 million improvement project at the Anaheim Canyon Metrolink station. Located just north of SR-91 near La Palma and Tustin avenues, the station is part of the Inland Empire-Orange County line, with more than 36 trains traveling through the area daily.

The station now offers a new second passenger platform; new benches, shade structures and ticket vending machines; an extension to the previous passenger platform; a new second track of approximately 3,400 feet to allow more than one train at a time to stop at or pass through the station; and improvements to at-grade crossings at La Palma and Tustin avenues. An OCTA bus stop was moved closer to the train platform to facilitate connections, as part of the project.

The project was paid for with local dollars from Orange County’s voter-approved Measure M sales tax for transportation improvements (OC Go), and with federal funds, according to OCTA, which funds Metrolink rail service in Orange County.

“Improving the passenger experience is vital to encouraging more people to get on and continue riding the train in Orange County,” said OCTA Chairman Gene Hernandez, who is also the Mayor of Yorba Linda. “The Anaheim Canyon Station is an important link in our rail network, and I think it’s clear these improvements will enhance the traveling experience for everyone who uses the station.”

(SacRT Rendering)

SacRT on Jan. 30 reported that it is beginning station modifications to accommodate new LRVs (light rail vehicles) from Siemens Mobility.

The station platforms are required to be at least eight inches above the top of rail track to allow for a ramp to deploy from the LRV to the station platform with the proper slope for passengers to board, SacRT reported. Most stations (48 of 53) serving the light rail system do not have platforms meeting that requirement and will need to be raised with the addition of concrete (see rendering above). 

The Gold Line’s 59th Street Station will be modified first, and additional stations will be worked on in phases, according to the transit agency.

The station modifications are one part of SacRT’s Light Rail Modernization Project, which also includes adding a passing track to provide 15-minute service to Folsom-area stations and the purchase of 28 new low-floor LRVs.  

The first new trainset of three LRVs is scheduled to be delivered next month; it is currently undergoing testing. The contract with Siemens includes options for the purchase of up to 76 LRVs. (SacRT awarded the manufacturer a 20-car contract in April 2020 and ordered another eight cars in December 2021.) SacRT said it expects to have the Gold Line station conversions and the first trains ready for service by summer 2024.

“This is the beginning of a comprehensive effort to make our entire light rail system more modern, efficient and attractive to riders,” SacRT General Manager/CEO Henry Li said.

Pictured: SCVTA limited edition trading cards.

Selected SCVTA train and bus operators are now handing out limited-edition trading cards to riders, the transit agency reported Jan. 30. The free cards feature light rail and bus photographs by SCVTA bus operator Danny Quintana as well as public transit facts and information about SCVTA. The agency is producing 10 different cards. Copies of the first two are being distributed this week and include images of a VTA light rail train in front of Levi’s Stadium and a VTA bus in a crystal ball; copies of two new cards will be distributed each month thereafter.

Riders can request the cards from operators and can win prizes if they collect all 10, according to the transit agency, which noted that the cards will eventually be available at VTA Customer Service Centers at 55 w. Santa Clara Street, or 3331 North First Street, San Jose, as well.

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