“I wish to thank and applaud Ann Begeman for her tireless leadership and dedication to the Surface Transportation Board as Chairman for the last four years,” said Martin J. Oberman, STB Chairman designee. “The STB and our regulatory system are substantially better off than when she started.”

Oberman to Chair STB (Updated)

Martin J. Oberman was designated Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) on Jan. 21 by President Joe Biden. He was sworn in as an STB member on Jan. 22, 2019, and has held the Vice Chairman position since Jan. 6, 2020.

Metra’s initial order will be for 200 cars, with an option for up to 300 more. Total price tag: $1.8 billion.

Metra Orders Alstom Multi-Levels

The Metra Board of Directors has approved the purchase of up to 500 multi-level commuter railcars from Alstom to replace aging bi-level gallery cars.

Justin Vonashek, Senior Vice President-Operations of MTA Metro-North Railroad (left); and Attorney Scott Saylor, member of the Corporate and Economic Development Team at Nexsen Pruet.

High Profile: MTA Metro-North SVP Ops; Nexsen Pruet Legal Counsel

New York MTA’s Metro-North Railroad has promoted Justin Vonashek to Senior Vice President-Operations, succeeding John Kesich, who has held the position since 2013 and will retire in April. Nexsen Pruet, a North Carolina-based economic development group, has hired attorney Scott Saylor.

For House Rail Subcommittee, an Earful on Multiple Matters

“Examining the Surface Transportation Board’s Role in Ensuring a Robust Passenger Rail System” was the topic of a virtual Nov. 18 hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials.

Metra leaders report that without additional COVID-related financial assistance, the commuter rail agency “will need to cut expenses by $70 million next year.”

Metra Board Signs Off on 2021 Budget

Chicago’s Metra commuter rail agency is moving its Board-approved $700 million operating budget and $386.8 million capital program for 2021 to the Regional Transportation Authority for final approval. RTA’s Board will review them as part of a consolidated budget for the area’s public transit systems, including Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and Pace Suburban Bus.

The new Metra lawsuit seeks monetary damages and a permanent injunction demanding that “UP conductors and onboard personnel resume carrying out all of their required duties, which include selling and validating all tickets and making repeated passes through the cars to assist customers and promote orderly conduct.”

Metra: UP in Breach of Contract

Metra has filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific (UP), which operates several of its commuter rail lines, for breach of contract in Cook County (Ill.) Circuit Court.

UP employees will verify rider tickets from plexiglass booths along platforms of the UP North, Northwest and West lines.

Ticket verification begins along UP Metra lines

Union Pacific has resumed ticket sales along the Metra lines it operates under contract (UP North, Northwest and West) and is requiring riders to show valid tickets as they board outbound trains or arrive at the Ogilvie Transportation Center (OTC) in Chicago.

As part of the Homewood, Ill., station project, Amtrak is building a new 650-foot boarding platform to serve the six trains on the Chicago-Carbondale Illini & Saluki and Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans routes. (AECOM rendering for Amtrak © 2020)

Amtrak, Metra Bring ADA Compliance to Homewood

Amtrak and Metra have begun work on a combined $29 million construction project to upgrade the Homewood, Ill., passenger rail station. It is slated for completion in spring 2022.

Metra, At Odds With UP, Petitions STB

Chicago’s Metra commuter rail agency on July 21 asked the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent Union Pacific from “taking planned steps that would degrade or halt” commuter rail service on the three lines—UP North, UP Northwest and UP West—the Class I railroad operates and maintains equipment under contract. Separately, Metra also asked the STB to rule on whether UP has a legal common-carrier obligation to provide commuter service. “UP maintains that it has no such obligation,” Metra said, adding that it “strongly disagrees” with UP’s position and that “settling that dispute is critical to determining how service will continue to operate on the lines and, more important, what it will cost the public.”

Metra, Railhead Corp. Agree to $15.5MM Contract for Onboard Cameras

The Metra Board of Directors recently approved a $15.5 million contract for Railhead Corp. to install cameras inside the commuter railroad’s passenger cars.