Transit Briefs: MBTA, PANY/NJ, SFMTA, TriMet, VPRA, WMATAWritten by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has asked Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to resubmit 12 corrective action plans addressing required safety improvements. Also, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANY/NJ) has issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to replace AirTrain Newark with a new 2.5-mile elevated guideway train system; San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) will offer Central Subway system riders wireless connectivity; Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) form a strategic alliance; Virginia Passenger Rail Authority (VPRA) and Amtrak celebrated 10 years of service between Norfolk and Washington, D.C.; and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s (WMATA) long-awaited Potomac Yard Station is slated to open in May 2023.
According to a Dec. 8 Sentinel & Enterprise report, FTA earlier this month asked MBTA to revise and resubmit 12 corrective action plans “pertaining to hiring challenges, safety procedures and rail transit operations.”
MBTA Deputy Chief of Quality Meredith Sandberg told the Fitchburg, Mass.-based newspaper that the plans are due by Jan. 3; three other plans were approved, she said, which pertain to “more effective safety communication.”
“The T has only received approval for eight of 20 corrective action plans, which are aimed at addressing 20 findings included in the four special directives issued by the FTA in its Aug. 31 safety management inspection report,” the newspaper reported.
A special directive, according to FTA, “is an order from the federal government that requires an FTA-regulated transit agency or oversight organization to take immediate action on safety issues within a specific period.” The FTA required MBTA and the Massachusetts agency responsible for safety on the transit system to submit Corrective Action Plans in response to each of the special directives issued in June and August. For more details, read Railway Age Contributing Editor David Peter Alan’s fall report.
PANY/NY on Dec. 8 issued an RFQ for replacement of the AirTrain Newark people-mover system. The first phase, part of a multi-phase procurement process, includes the design and construction of the new AirTrain’s system technology, and the operations and maintenance of its components. Also included are the furnishing, delivery, installation, testing and commissioning of the system technology, according to the PANY/NJ.
The systems technology Request for Proposals (RFP) is slated to be issued to the shortlisted proposers in first-quarter 2023.
“We are committed to building a brand-new AirTrain Newark system, which is an integral part of modernizing and improving Newark Airport,” PANY/NJ Executive Director Rick Cotton said. “A new rail link—which is a perfect complement to the new world-class Terminal A—will enhance the travel experience with seamless connections and quick access to the airport, as well as the new parking garage and consolidated rental car facility.”
PANY/NJ reported that additional procurement phases in the AirTrain Newark Replacement Program may include, but are not limited to, the following separate contract packages: early works packages; design package; 2.5-mile elevated guideway structure and three stations including “back-of-house” areas; maintenance and control facility for the system technology equipment; and pedestrian connections from stations to existing airport facilities.
The current people-mover system carries on average 26,000 passengers per day or nearly 10 million passengers per year, according to PANY/NJ. It provides access to the Northeast Corridor Rail Link Station and provides customers and employees with the ability to transfer between terminals, parking lots and rental car facilities.
The Federal Aviation Administration in 2021 issued a Final Environmental Assessment (EA) for the proposed AirTrain replacement.
SFMTA has partnered with Mobilitie, a BAI Communications company, to bring wireless connectivity to the Central Subway by January 2023, when the full system opens. Wireless infrastructure provider Mobilitie on Dec. 13 reported that riders “will have unlimited access to ultra-fast and ubiquitous mobile coverage across tunnels, stations [three across the 1.7-mile alignment], and railcars, as well as surrounding communities.”
“Offering reliable and ultra-fast mobile coverage for our passengers—whether they’re underground on the train or above at a station—is a top priority in ensuring passengers are safe and they have the travel experiences they expect and deserve,” SFMTA CTO Lisa Walton said.
San Francisco’s new Central Subway opened Nov. 19 with special weekend-only service between Chinatown-Rose Pak Station and 4th & Brannan. Trains stop along the way at Union Square/Market Street Station and Yerba Buena/Moscone Station.
On Jan. 7, T Third Metro service will begin from Sunnydale to Chinatown via Central Subway, seven days a week, giving riders a direct connection from Bayview, Visitacion Valley and nearby neighborhoods to SoMa, Union Square and Chinatown, according to SFMTA.
SFMTA, in conjunction with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), partnered with Mobilitie to fund, build and operate the Distributed Antenna System (DAS), according to Mobilitie, which noted that the network in the remaining tunnels and stations will be complete in first-half 2023. Once finished, SFMTA’s network will give riders 5G connectivity in 11 miles of the existing tunnels and 11 underground stations without any planned service disruptions, Mobilitie reported. All major wireless carriers are slated to join the network in 2023.
TriMet on Dec. 12 reported forming a strategic alliance with SBA to help small businesses obtain or increase their bonding through surety bonds, allowing them to participate in transit agency construction contracts worth more than $100,000.
“Surety bonds are risk management tools that help small businesses win contracts,” TriMet said. “The SBA steps in to guarantee the surety bonds, effectively assuring that the work will be completed. It then passes them on to small businesses.”
“This helps make sure there’s a continuum of work and cash flow available for smaller businesses like ours,” said Sharon Maxwell of her firm Bratton Construction, which has completed more than 1,000 projects and created more than 200 local jobs since 1999. “It’s especially important for minority- and women-owned businesses and the BIPOC community. When we’re given access to capital, we throw down.”
The alliance also helps provide a pipeline of qualified firms capable of taking on construction projects that will improve the transit system, according to TriMet.
Generally, to be eligible for the surety bond guarantee program, TriMet said a company must:
- • Be a small business according to SBA’s size standards.
- • Have a small contract or can show that the small business is bidding on a contract (up to $6.5 million for non-federal contracts and up to 10 million for federal contracts).
- • Be able to meet the surety’s credit, capacity and character requirements.
“We are optimistic that this partnership with the SBA will help reduce bonding barriers and create more opportunities for small businesses looking to participate on our public contracts, resulting in a more diverse vendor pool,” TriMet Senior Contracts Equity Administrator Alfonso Romero said. “By initially having the SBA guarantee the surety bond, the objective is to enable small businesses to eventually become bondable on their own and grow their capacity.”
“We’re here to help small businesses do business with the government,” SBA Portland District Director Martin Golden said. “What makes today’s [Dec. 12] partnership important is that often public agencies such as TriMet have difficulty finding qualified small businesses to partner with. We’re excited to work with TriMet to increase the pipeline of small businesses who can take on these important infrastructure projects.”
Thirty-five years after the last train left the station in Norfolk, Va., Amtrak service returned to the city in 2012, and on Dec. 12, 2022, VPRA and Amtrak celebrated 10 years of service. It was launched through an agreement between the commonwealth, Amtrak, Norfolk Southern (NS) and CSX, beginning with one round-trip and adding a second round-trip in March 2019 and a third round-trip in July 2022. It has carried more than 1.7 million riders.
The Amtrak Northeast Regional service after departing Norfolk makes stops at Petersburg, Richmond, Ashland, Fredericksburg, Quantico, Woodbridge, Alexandria, and Washington, D.C., before continuing up Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, providing same-seat service to Philadelphia, New York City and Boston.
“CSX congratulates the commonwealth, Amtrak and city of Norfolk for this milestone anniversary of passenger service returning to Norfolk and the record ridership on this route,” said Andy Daly, Senior Director of Passenger Rail Operations for CSX. “This cooperative partnership and balanced approach to establishing and expanding service has successfully enhanced passenger and freight rail service, eased congestion, and supported the state and local economy.”
“Norfolk Southern is proud of our partnership with the [commonwealth] of Virginia, Amtrak and CSX to serve passengers in the [commonwealth] while continuing to move the goods that power the U.S. economy,” said John V. Edwards, General Director, Passenger Policy at NS. “This service remains an example of how thoughtful collaboration and deliberate investment come together to fulfill transportation needs for all.”
“This route provides a very attractive option for Hampton Roads residents seeking to travel toward the nation’s capital, allowing them to take to the rails at three different times of the day and avoid one of the most congested highway corridors on the East Coast,” Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller said.
WMATA on Dec. 13 reported that its 98th rapid transit station, Potomac Yard Station, will launch in May 2023 in Alexandria, Va., between Ronald Regan Washington National Airport and Braddock Road stations on the Blue and Yellow lines.
Work to tie-in the station and new tracks with the rest of the WMATA system wrapped up Nov. 5, and trains are now passing through the station without stopping, according to the transit authority. WMATA said it “continues working collaboratively with the city of Alexandria and the contractor to complete station construction.”
The project was initiated by the city of Alexandria and is funded by tax revenues and developer contributions generated by planned new development in the Potomac Yard neighborhood, as well as state grants, loans and regional sources, according to the transit authority.
Potomac Yard Constructors, a joint venture of Halmar International and Schiavone Construction Co., in 2018 was selected as the prime construction contractor. At that time, completion was set for late 2021 or early 2022.
“While delayed longer than expected, it is exciting to start the countdown to opening Potomac Yard Station for our customers,” WMATA Board Chairman Paul C. Smedberg said. “By adding this infill station to the Blue and Yellow lines, we are anchoring Potomac Yard as a hub for employment, education, housing and recreation.”
“Our team, the city of Alexandria and contractors are working hard to complete the station and we look forward to providing new transit service to this rapidly developing area,” WMATA General Manager and CEO Randy Clarke said.
According to WMATA, “the station is expected to generate billions of dollars in new private-sector investment over the long term and eventually support 26,000 new jobs and 13,000 new residents. New development immediately adjacent and north of the station is a mix of retail, residential and commercial development, including the new Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.”