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Northeast Corridor

Transportation Nation

Feds Posit Ambitious Plan for Northeast High Speed Rail

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

The shoot-for-the-moon, Level D plan: a second Northeast Corridor "spine," Long Island-to-New England service, and 220-mph rail (image via NEC FUTURE)

Over a dozen plans for improving rail in the Northeast Corridor are under consideration by the federal government, ranging from minor improvements to a future with 220-mile-per-hour bullet trains between Washington and Boston -- not to mention new service between Long Island and New England.

These various options are detailed in a new report released Tuesday by the Federal Railroad Administration. NEC FUTURE sketches out 15 alternatives representing different levels of investment through the year 2040 in the 457-mile corridor.

Related: Amtrak Updates High-Speed Rail Vision, What’s Changed

The options, in turn, have been grouped into four separate categories which grow progressively more ambitious: while those in Level A focus on achieving a state of good repair, Level D would build a separate high-speed rail line between Boston and D.C. and bring new service in the region, primarily in Long Island, New England and the Delmarva peninsula.

The report aims to jump-start public debate about how rail capacity should be shaped in the region. "It is intended to be the foundation for future investments in the Northeast Corridor, a 150 year-old alignment that has guided the growth of what is now one of the most densely populated transportation corridors in the world,” said Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, NEC FUTURE program manager for the Federal Railroad Administration.  “(It) will further the dialogue about the rail network in the Northeast and how it can best serve us over for the years ahead.”

Over the next year, these 15 options will be winnowed down. The federal government wants to have a single alternative in place by 2015.

Because it's conceptual, no cost estimates are included in the report. But existing documents provide a baseline. In 2010, Amtrak identified $9 billion alone in state of good repair projects for the NEC, with an additional $43 billion in investment just to meet projected 2030 ridership levels for the current system. Meanwhile, another Amtrak report estimated the cost of bringing high-speed rail to the NEC at $151 billion.

Related: Amtrak’s 220mph Vision for the Future

Dan Schned, a senior transportation planner at the Regional Plan Association, said "what’s possible and what Congress has the stomach to spend are two different things."

But he said that funding need not come solely from Congress. "Successful high-speed rail projects around the world have private sector participation," Schned pointed out, adding that "the arrangement of public and private financing and project delivery issues will be the most challenging" aspects of overhauling the NEC.

The Federal Railroad Administration is holding workshops in New Haven, Newark and Washington D.C. next week to present the plan to the public. For more information, go here.  Read the full report below.

NEC Future: A Rail Investment Plan for the Northeast Corridor

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak to Test New Top Speed of 165 m.p.h

Monday, September 24, 2012

 Rendering of an Amtrak NextGen high-speed rail train (not on the tracks yet).

Amtrak is testing a new top speed this week. The national rail network will be running empty test trains at 165 m.p.h at several locations along the Northeast corridor. The current top speed is 150 m.p.h. on stretches between New York and Boston, and 130 m.p.h south of New York. Those are the fastest rail speeds in the U.S.

These tests are part of a long slow process to transform the Northeast Corridor into true high-speed rail  service. See the vision for that here.

The tests, beginning tonight and stretching through the week, are designed to pave the way for passenger service of 160 m.p.h. on about 100 miles of route between Boston and Washington D.C.. Each stretch being tested is between 20 and 30 miles long. Federal regulations require tests of 5 m.p.h. above maximum operating speeds.

European and Asian high-speed trains routinely top 200 m.p.h.

Existing Acela equipment will be used for the tests. Though Acela service tops out at 150 m.p.h. for about 34 miles in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, average operating speeds are lower: 81.8 m.p.h. between NY and Washington, D.C. and 75.4 m.p.h between NY and Boston.

Acela trains top 125 m.p.h for 45 percent of the Boston to D.C. trip, but reach what Amtrak calls the "very high speed" of 150 m.p.h for just 5 percent of the NY-DC trip. Track congestion, route curvature, station stops, and infrastructure factors inhibit higher speeds on other portions. Federal regulations, like the one requiring this week's test of a new top speed, also limit speed.

Here's the full announcement from Amtrak with test locations:

AMTRAK TO OPERATE TEST TRAINS AT 165 MPH

Four test areas cover more than 100 miles of the Northeast Corridor

WASHINGTON- Beginning tonight and continuing into next week, Amtrak plans to operate high-speed test trains at 165 mph in four areas covering more than 100 miles of the Northeast Corridor.  The tests in Maryland / Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are locations that may at some future time experience regular 160 mph service.

The tests will utilize high-speed Acela Express equipment and will measure the interaction between the train and the track, rider quality and other safety factors. The test runs must be performed at 5 mph above the expected maximum operating speed of 160 mph.

The test areas between approximately Perryville, Md. - Wilmington, Del. (21.3 miles) and Trenton - New Brunswick, N.J. (22.9 miles) currently have a maximum speed limit of 135 mph.  The test areas between approximately Westerly - Cranston, R.I. (29.2 miles) and South Attleboro - Readville, Mass. (27.8 miles) currently have a maximum speed limit of 150 mph.  The same areas were used for similar high-speed tests before the introduction of Acela service.

The initial test run is in New Jersey where Amtrak is presently advancing design, engineering and other pre-construction activities for a $450 million project funded by the federal high-speed rail program.  The project includes upgrading track, electrical power, signal systems and overhead catenary wires to improve reliability for Amtrak and commuter rail service, and is necessary to permit regular train operations at the faster speeds.  Some construction activity is anticipated in 2013, but the project will ramp up dramatically thereafter to be completed in 2017.

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak On Track for All-Time Ridership Record

Monday, September 10, 2012

(photo by Aaron Hockley via flickr)

Amtrak had its single best month ever this July, and the railroad says when it closes the books on September, it will have set ridership records for each of the last 12 months.

Joe Boardman, Amtrak's CEO, said in a statement Monday that "the demand to travel by Amtrak is strong, growing and undeniable" and that the railroad is experiencing "improved management and financial health.”

The railroad says it's on track to break last year's record of 30.2 million passengers.

Read Amtrak's press release here.

Northeast Corridor passenger? New York commuter?  Read TN's tips on how to get the most out of Penn Station here.

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Transportation Nation

Q&A: Amtrak President Joe Boardman on the Rational Inevitability of High-Speed Rail

Monday, August 06, 2012

Rendering of an Amtrak NextGen high-speed rail train. 

Amtrak plans to build a next generation high-speed rail network along the east coast zipping business travelers from New York to Philadelphia (or D.C.) fast enough to get them to their cheesesteak power lunch in a little more than half an hour. But the $151 billion plan lacks a dedicated funding source--a source that railroad executives are asking Congress to provide at a time of hostility to big projects. So Transportation Nation's Alex Goldmark chatted with Amtrak President and CEO, Joe Boardman about the future of our nation's rail network, and the prospects for Northeast corridor bullet trains in particular.

"The same kinds of arguments were delivered during the days of the building of the Erie Canal."

Amtrak's president predicted the business community will demand high-speed rail in the Northeast and pressure Congress to overcome its spending worries. He compared today's opponents of high speed rail to early 19th century naysayers of the Erie Canal, which enriched the city by bringing the bounty of the American midwest through the port of New York. Boardman believes we face a crisis of mobility similar to the one two centuries ago and that, this time, instead of canals, rail is the solution.

Joe Boardman: I think one of the things that’s most important is it’s really critical to the business community of the Northeast to have mobility and an ability to have the clustering of new technology companies. That will not happen if you do not have the mobility of something like high-speed rail for the Northeast and the increase in capacity [that would bring].

"It’s really critical to the business community..."

TN: What kind of upgrades are we talking about?

JB: A critical need here is to actually increase the capacity by actually increasing the number of tracks: having two new tunnels [under the Hudson River], improving the space within Penn Station itself, putting in a new Portal Bridge [in Northeast New Jersey], to make sure that gets done properly for the speeds we want to operate. And for the lack of being held up by movable bridges.

New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak are all working together we can begin to make a change for the future, and I think it will be a change that is very positive for the business community and all in the Northeast.

"I think the opportunities for having this funded over the next several decades are excellent."

TN: Is it realistic to expect Congress to find $151 billion for high-speed rail in the Northeast?

JB: I think the opportunities for having this funded over the next several decades are excellent. I think clearly it is absolutely required. I think it will include all levels of government and include the revenues that will come back from the improvements that we will provide for the customers in the Northeast.

JB: You’ve got right now about 20 percent of the GDP coming out of the Northeast United States. If we don’t fix this [mobility] problem, that won’t last. So the business community in the Northeast, as it begins to wake up to what’s necessary to have the free flowing mobility … is going to need to look at reasonable solutions to that mobility. That’s train travel.

"Look at China right now. A lot of the increase in their ridership came from induced demand."

TN: Aren't there other ways to get around besides the train?

JB: You can look at China right now. A lot of the increase in their ridership came from induced demand, not from taking from any other mode. You’re still going to need the highways, you’re going to need aviation, but you’re not going to be able to grow with the projection of the population of the Northeast unless what you do is improve capacity. The place to make that happen is the railroad.

And the railroad then will receive the kind of state, local, federal funds necessary -- and in some cases the indebtedness necessary -- for the railroad itself to pay off those debts in the future.

"What mode of transportation can really get built and then begin to generate revenues? "

 TN: Isn't there a reluctance to spend on large infrastructure projects?

JB: If that’s an obstacle, what mode of transportation can really get built and then begin to generate revenues? Not the highways. Not the airports largely. But on rail, what we’ve shown is an improvement in such a way that when you make these investments there is a surplus of revenues that are going to come forward. Where would you most likely want to make that investments then? It’s to the rail.

TN: Maybe the critics are right to say, "Let's delay high-speed rail and make do with what we have until we get our financial house in order."

JB: The same kinds of arguments were delivered during the days of the building of the Erie Canal. But once people saw the ability to really move products and move people in a much cheaper way and get greater mobility ... then the investments became available.

So I’m much more positive about the ability -- in the future -- for this country, and the younger people coming forward who are going to use this, to make those investments, to make us a continuing global competitor in the world.

*Transcript abridged for clarity.

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Transportation Nation

PIC OF THE WEEK: What Amtrak High-Speed Rail Trains Will Look Like in 2040

Friday, July 13, 2012

Rendering of Amtrak's "NextGen HSR" Train

According to a vision for high-speed rail from Amtrak updated with tons of renderings and slick new images of a bullet train future, this is what American high-speed rail will look like, at least from Washington, D.C. to Boston.

Here's our summary of the plan and comparison to the previous edition. Give it a read.

And here's what the NYC station will look like.

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Transportation Nation

Digest: Amtrak Updates High-Speed Rail Vision, What's Changed

Monday, July 09, 2012

Amtrak Acela Express High-Speed Train running on existing Northeast corridor tracks in Bristol, Penn. (photo by Gary Pancavage, Amtrak)

By 2017, the fastest train in America will zip through Central New Jersey at 160 m.p.h. Upgrades to make that happen will be paid for, in part, by money returned by Florida when Gov. Rick Scott rejected that state's high-speed rail. Those and other tidbits--combined with loads of futuristic renderings--paint a hopeful vision for high-speed rail in the Northeast as laid out in a new report by Amtrak (PDF).

In two decades: New York to Philadelphia in 37 minutes. To D.C. or Boston in 94 minutes.

Amtrak released an update to a 2010 "vision" for building high-speed rail from Boston to Washington, D.C. that scales back the total cost, drops planned stations, and devotes much more attention to realistic, phased implementation. What this vision lacks in grandiosity, it makes up for in marketing savvy with flashy renderings and optimistic fiscal projections.

“It does seem to be more cognizant of the environment in which it is presented,” said Robert Puentes Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program. It is "perhaps less aspirational than the 2010 version and more rational in terms of roll out and execution." The document lays out a "stepped" approach to investments, starting small with things like more Acela rail cars.

Puentes called the approach, "iterative," a strategy en vogue in design circles -- just the type who clamor for a 220 m.p.h. transit option they can tote their bike on.

Compared to the 2010 document, this report has far more images, graphics and charts, and futuristic renderings of stations along with the spaceship-like new trains. The document talks a lot more about including stakeholders in decision making. New terminology is stressed. The new trains aren't just high-speed rail rolling stock, they are "NextGen HSR" trains. The roll out of the plan isn't just rolling out, or dropping from they sky, it's a "stair-step" approach, showing how Amtrak will procure what is needed when it's needed and deliver results along the way, not just in 2040 when everything is built.

Starting small makes practical sense in selling the idea. For instance, according to Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm, adding those extra cars on Acela trains will increase seating capacity by 40 percent. That will be done by 2015. The purchases are already in the works. Early, visible results will help sell the project.

So will cutting costs.

This updated vision is just as fast (220 m.p.h.) but it's cheaper: $151 billion, down from $169 billion. “A lot of it is pushing off some of the station development," explains Kulm. "We realized that some of the items we wanted to do, we should put off for the future."

This vision integrates two previous plans by the rail agency, the Master Plan and the high-speed rail Vision. “What we’ve done with this report today is combine the two, and integrate the two, and through the process find some cost savings."

Commuter rail is integrated far more significantly, and in the process, shifts some station construction costs and decision-making to local municipalities.

Likewise, the document takes into account the unlikelihood that states along the route will spend big to speed the process. Call that the legacy of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie's killing of the ARC tunnel.

The Gateway Tunnel (ARC's replacement), however, plays a big role in this new vision. One way Amtrak expects to lift top speeds from the current 130 m.p.h (let alone average speeds!) to 220 m.p.h. is by relieving congestion of commuter and freight trains that block the way.

There will be dedicated right-of-way added north of New York City, but to the south the bulk of the liberated corridor space will be from making New Jersey Transit commuter service more efficient through the Gateway program, which adds two tunnels under the Hudson River and four tracks between Newark, N.J. and an expanded New York Penn Station that will be connected to a new Moynihan Station (see slick rendering pics here).

N.J. Senator Frank Lautenberg issued a statement praising the inclusion of the Gateway Tunnel in this report, saying: "Amtrak will continue to have my full support as we move forward to revolutionize passenger rail travel in the Northeast." Amtrak funding reauthorization is looming in Congress and Lautenberg will be writing the legislation in the Senate. Expect generous funding proposals for infrastructure upgrades.

Amtrak's fiscal projections are more optimistic than in 2010, but it's not clear what formula was used to develop the new numbers. Amtrak has had record ridership in recent years, so that bodes well for a bolstered bottom line for future service.

All of it is aspirational anyway. There isn't a $151 billion pot of money to make this happen. The document is an argument for why there should be and it is a detailed plan for how it could come to be -- a transportation straw horse for political times hostile to megaprojects. But this is the megaproject of megaprojects -- with a mega reason to be completed according to Kulm, "This region is the economic powerhouse of the country, it’s where the political capital is, the financial capital is… we can’t afford to come to  standstill," he said.

"The transportation network, roads, air, even the rails, are operating at or near capacity," he said. "Simply building and rebuilding what is there today is not going to be enough." Speed on the tracks means more people moving each day, each hour. So, he argues, the solution is: go faster.

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Transportation Nation

PICS: Renderings of Amtrak's Future NYC Moynihan Station

Monday, July 09, 2012

Amtrak released an updated "vision" report for the Northeast corridor high-speed rail plan on Monday. Compared to the last vision report in 2010, capital cost projections are lower, ridership projections are higher and the highlight remains fast travel times: by 2040 2030, you'll be able to go from NYC to Philadelphia in 37 minutes and to Washington, D.C. in 94 minutes. We'll have more on all that soon, including why the cost projections changed (hint: it has to do with more rail ridership).

In the meantime, here's what the eventual NYC Amtrak hub, Moynihan Station, will look like.

From the report:

"The new Moynihan intercity passenger rail station will extend the present terminal across 8th Avenue into the historic Farley Post Office Building to create a new signature station in New York. The Moyhnihan/Penn Station complex will create a consolidated Amtrak operation on Manhattan's west side and the high level of service and connectivity required for NextGen HSR."

 


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Transportation Nation

Obama Administration Fast Tracks NE High Speed Rail Review

Friday, January 13, 2012

From the the White House:

Today, the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a pilot project aimed at expediting the environmental reviews for high-speed passenger rail service in the Northeast Corridor through an innovative and more efficient process.

Through this pilot project, CEQ and DOT will work with stakeholders to identify efficiencies to speed the environmental review process that will inform selection of service types and station locations for high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor.  The pilot will engage Federal, state and local governments and the public in the environmental review process earlier to set benchmarks that maintain rigorous environmental protections and save time and costs by avoiding conflicts and delays in the later steps of rail-project development.

"The Northeast Corridor is the busiest rail corridor in the U.S.,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  “Our planned improvements will lead to more jobs, a stronger rail system and a stronger economy.  By bringing all involved parties to the table earlier in the process, we will do the job better and finish it sooner.”  

“The National Environmental Policy Act provides essential protections for American communities and the natural resources our economy depends on,” said Nancy Sutley, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality.  “This pilot project will ensure a collaborative environmental review process for quicker, better-informed decisions for the Northeast Corridor high speed rail project.”

To promote transparency and public input, DOT will post and track project timelines and progress on the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard at www.performance.gov, which launched in November 2011 to track high impact, job-creating infrastructure projects for expedited review.   

 The Transportation Rapid Response Team, a Federal interagency group also launched in November 2011 to speed Federal reviews of transportation projects, will help coordinate the high-speed rail planning process to ensure quick resolution of any interagency conflicts.  

 

The Northeast Corridor high-speed rail planning project is the fourth project selected by CEQ under its National Environmental Policy Act Pilot program, which focuses on identifying and promoting more efficient ways to do effective environmental reviews that can be replicated.  CEQ will use efficiencies identified for the high-speed rail project to develop best practices for environmental reviews across the Federal Government.

 To learn more about CEQ’s NEPA Pilot Program, visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ceq/initiatives/nepa.

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak: In 2012, We Want eTickets, Electric Locomotives, and Speedier Trains

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

(Photo: Amtrak Locomotive (cc) by Flickr User Slideshow Bruce)

Amtrak will begin the groundwork for faster trains in New Jersey, building electric locomotives, and extending electronic ticketing to all trains in 2012.

The rail company released a list of  major projects (pdf) it hopes to begin, continue, or complete in 2012.

Amtrak also will roll out an e-ticketing system this year that will allow passengers to receive tickets via email, and then display them on their smartphones in the form of barcodes -- which conductors can then scan.  The rail provider said it would also continue to work on modernizing its 30-year-old reservation system.

Many of the new projects  focus on the Northeast -- the most heavily-traveled rail corridor in the country -- and also the region that House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee head John Mica says represents the best hope for high-speed rail.

In New York, Amtrak will be moving forward on a study for the Gateway Tunnel -- a replacement option for the now-canceled ARC trans-Hudson tunnel. Amtrak had initially requested $50 million for the study but was granted $15 million by the Senate.

Amtrak will also begin working on upgrading a portion of track in New Jersey to allow trains to travel at 160 miles per hour (a 25-mph increase over current speeds), and will continue upgrading track switches at the western entrance to New York's Penn Station to minimize congestion.

The first of 70 new electric locomotives will also be built in 2012, and will be put into operation on both the Northeast Corridor (Boston to Washington) and the Keystone Corridor (Philadelphia to Harrisburg.) In the spring of 2012, Amtrak says it will release a plan on how it will meet the forecasted growth in ridership nationwide.

Amtrak set an all-time ridership record of over 30 million passengers for FY 2011 -- the eighth ridership record in the last nine years. Congress cut its funding to $1.42 billion for FY2012, or $64 million less than Amtrak received in FY 2011.

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Transportation Nation

Congressman John Mica: Northeast Corridor Must Be the High-Speed Rail Priority, and Amtrak Can Keep It

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

NY State Senator Malcolm Smith and U.S. Congress members Carolyn Maloney, John Mica and Jerry Nadler, speaking Tuesday at a U.S. High Speed Rail Association meeting (photo by Kate Hinds)

The chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said Tuesday that nation's best shot at a viable high-speed rail line is in the Boston-to-Washington corridor -- and Amtrak can be a "full participant."

"Any further money for high-speed rail needs to solely come to the Northeast Corridor," said Congressman John Mica (R-FL), who promised to direct any rejected high-speed rail money to it.

Speaking at the U.S. High Speed Rail Association conference in Manhattan -- and joined by two Democratic members of New York's Congressional delegation -- Mica said that while it was fine to develop high-speed rail elsewhere, the focus needs to be here.

"While I want to give California every chance and opportunity to be successful," said Mica, "I think we have to redirect our efforts to having at least one success in high-speed rail in the nation. And that high-speed rail success needs to be here in the Northeast Corridor."

He added: "If even one more penny gets sent back to Washington from any high-speed rail project...it needs to come back here."

Several states have already rejected funding for high-speed rail -- including Mica's own, which sent back $2.4 billion to the federal government earlier this year. And last week California released projections saying its bullet train program would cost almost $100 billion --  far above earlier estimates -- raising doubts about that project's viability.

Mica also said Tuesday that he will also hold a hearing in December on the status of high-speed rail and review the programs already in place.

But the big news was the change in Mica's attitude towards Amtrak -- and his reversal of his earlier position on privatizing the Northeast Corridor. "I'm willing to have Amtrak be a full participant in this process," he said Tuesday. "If there wasn't an Amtrak...we'd create an Amtrak."  Later in his talk he reiterated: "we can continue again having Amtrak be a partner in this, no one wants to push them overboard."

That's what Mica wanted to do several months ago, when he introduced legislation that aimed to take the Northeast Corridor away from Amtrak, deed it to the U.S. Department of Transportation, and privatize the development of high-speed rail. He said Tuesday he knew that proposal had been "controversial."

In a press conference afterward, he was asked why he had a change of heart. "We did put a proposal out there that we knew would be tough for them to accept," he said, referring his June legislation, "but that's what you do sometimes in the legislative process to get them to the point where they're willing to work with you to make something happen."

Mica has criticized Amtrak's 30-year timetable for building high-speed rail in the Northeast Corridor as too slow. He thinks it can be done in ten to fifteen years.

Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) said "there is widespread agreement that some sort of private capital can be brought into this, but I think -- I hope -- we have agreement that Amtrak has to be the main vehicle for it."

 

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Transportation Nation

Amtrak: Post-Trenton Flood, No New York - Philadelphia Service Just Yet

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Trenton, as seen from the air on Sunday, August 28 (photo by Tim Larsen/NJ Governor's Office

The aftereffects of Hurricane Irene continue to disrupt Amtrak service between New York and Philadelphia.

"There was significant flooding in Trenton," said Amtrak spokeswoman Danelle Hunter. "But water has receded and we are making progress on track repairs."

Right now there is  no Acela Express, Northeast Regional or other Amtrak service between Philadelphia and New York.

Amtrak restored service between New York and Boston on Monday, and it will resume operations between Springfield, Massachusetts, and New Haven Tuesday afternoon.

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Transportation Nation

After Months of Political Wrangling, the Northeast Corridor Gets $450 Million

Monday, August 22, 2011

(Photo: (cc) Flickr user JPMueller99)

Months of political wrangling came to an end today, when US Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the release of nearly $450 million to upgrade rail electrical systems and tracks between Trenton, New Jersey and New York City.

(Update, 5:12 pm: Amtrak is the recipient of the $450 million. An additional $295 million is going to the New York State DOT to improve the Harold Interlocking rail junction in Queens, where a new flyover will separate Amtrak trains traveling between New York and Boston from Long Island Railroad and Metro-North commuter trains, and NJ Transit trains accessing Sunnyside Maintenance Yard.)

“These grants are a win for our economy and a win for commuters all along the Northeast Corridor,” said Secretary LaHood in a statement. “We are creating new construction jobs, ordering American-made supplies and improving transportation opportunities across a region where 50 million Americans live and work.”

The Northeast Corridor is the busiest passenger rail line in the country. Pre-construction work on the upgrade is expected to begin later this year.

The money -- which had been initially rejected by Florida Governor Rick Scott -- was obligated to the Northeast Corridor in May. But in June Republican congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen, who represents New Jersey, proposed diverting the money away from the Northeast toward flood-ravaged states in the Midwest. This spurred New Jersey's senators, Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, to write Ray LaHood a letter, urging him to release the money so work on the high-speed rail project could move forward.

Senator Lautenberg expressed relief in a press release. “It is great news for New Jersey that this funding has been saved from Republicans’ chopping block and awarded to Amtrak. Rail service is the lifeblood of our state’s economy and it is our responsibility to protect and strengthen it for our commuters,” he said. “This federal funding will significantly upgrade the rail lines for New Jersey Transit and Amtrak commuters, reduce delays that plague the Northeast Corridor and make our state home to the fastest stretch of high speed rail in the country.”

And rail delays seem particularly prevalent this summer. A derailment disrupted service on NJ Transit earlier this month (and renewed sniping over the canceled ARC tunnel), and in June, power problems hobbled service on both NJ Transit and Amtrak for three consecutive days.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: More Roads Lead to More Traffic, Black Women Bike DC, and London's Bike Share, A Year Later

Monday, July 11, 2011

A recent study says that building more roads leads to ... more traffic. And more transit doesn't relieve traffic congestion.  (NPR)

New York's subways attract almost as many riders on weekends as they do during the work week -- but fewer trains and planned maintenance lead to insanely crowded cars. (New York Times)

The Republican's plan to privatize Amtrak and the Northeast Corridor could leave NJ Transit vulnerable to fare hikes. (Daily Record)

WAMU looks at how the House's transportation budget would affect the DC region.

The UAW wants to organize a foreign automaker, labor leader says union's future hinges upon it: "I don't think there's a long-term future for the UAW, I really don't." (Detroit Free Press)

A look at London's bike share system, which is almost a year old. "The bikes make 20,000 journeys a day, but in a relentlessly predictable pattern, with huge spikes during the morning rush hour at the major rail stations and then again, in reverse, as commuters dash back to catch their evening trains." (The Guardian)

Black women take their place in DC's bike lanes -- and encourage others to join them. (Washington Post)

Residents, police and business owners want Bolt Bus booted from West 33rd Street. (DNA Info)

The mayor of Birmingham wants to create a tourist transit system to transport visitors to downtown hotels and attractions like the zoo, Vulcan Park and the botanical gardens. (Birmingham News)

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Transportation Nation

DOT Announces Largest Rail Rehab Loan Ever for Amtrak NE Corridor

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This just in from the DOT.

The federal government is loaning Amtrak more than half a billion dollars to buy 70 American-built, energy-efficient locomotives from Siemens. The loan is intended to help Amtrak improve frequency and reliability along the Northeast Corridor where service has been especially poor in recent weeks.

The move will create 250 jobs according to the DOT.

 

Full Press Release:

 

DOT Announces $562.9 Million AMTRAK Loan for 70 Locomotives to Run on Northeast Corridor

American Manufacturers Get a Boost From U.S. Department of Transportation Financing Plan

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a $562.9 million loan to Amtrak under the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program that will create hundreds of manufacturing jobs across several states. This is the largest loan issued through the RRIF program to date, and the dollars will finance the purchase of 70 high-performance, electric locomotives from Siemens Industry USA. These locomotives are more energy-efficient and will enable Amtrak to improve frequency, performance and reliability for regional and intercity routes along the Northeast and Keystone Corridors.

“President Obama has a bold vision to provide Americans with a world-class, passenger rail network, while giving American manufacturers and suppliers nationwide an opportunity to get into the rail business,” said Secretary LaHood. “The Obama Administration is committed to making strategic, long-term investments that create jobs and boost the economy now, and this financing plan is already putting Americans back to work at assembly plants and supply companies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, California and Georgia.”

Siemens Industry USA is adding 250 new manufacturing jobs in order to design and build 70 new energy-efficient locomotives for Amtrak. Three of Siemens’ U.S. manufacturing plants will deliver the equipment order, with traction motors and gear units being produced in Norwood, OH, traction converters and braking choppers being built in Alpharetta, GA, and final assembly of the locomotives in Sacramento, CA. The RRIF loan will also upgrade maintenance facilities and allow for the purchase of spare parts needed to support the new locomotives.

Suppliers from communities around the country will soon be tapped by Siemens Industry USA to provide components for the order, further boosting U.S. manufacturing. For example, PHW, Inc. a company based in East Pittsburgh, PA, has already been contracted to manufacture safety-related parts for the locomotives.

“The RRIF program is a model of how we can leverage federal dollars to spur private investment and build up the economy,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “It provides steady, affordable financing for major rail construction and expansion projects, and best of all, it comes at zero cost to the taxpayer.”

As part of a comprehensive plan to modernize and expand its fleet of equipment, the 70 Amtrak Cities Sprinter ACS-64 locomotives – still in the final design phase – will replace existing units that have been in service for 20-30 years with an average of 3.5 million miles traveled. The electric locomotives will begin operating along regional and intercity routes in 2013 on the Northeast and Keystone Corridors, which together serve more than one million Amtrak passengers every month.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s RRIF program provides direct loans and loan guarantees through $35 billion available for railroads to acquire, improve, or rehabilitate rail and intermodal equipment, infrastructure or facilities. RRIF offers a responsible approach to supplementing capital investment for all types of railroads. For more information about the RRIF program, please visit www.fra.dot.gov.

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Transportation Nation

Republicans: Privatizing Amtrak Will Bring High Speed Rail to the NE Faster

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

(photo by Steven Vance/Flickr)

Republicans said today that privatizing the Northeast Corridor would bring high-speed rail to the country faster -- and more cheaply -- than Amtrak can.

Congressman John Mica, the chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has never hidden his disdain for Amtrak -- or his enthusiasm for partnering with the private sector.  In a statement today, he said:  “After 40 years of highly-subsidized, poorly-managed Amtrak operations, it’s time for Congress to change the direction of America’s failed high-speed and intercity passenger rail service...After spending billions of dollars, Amtrak and its snail speed, last-century level of service have reached the end of the line.”

The plan, which Mica unveiled today along with Congressman Bill Shuster, is called the  “Competition for Intercity Passenger Rail in America Act.”  The pair introduced it in a video conference.

A draft of the legislation can be found here.

The goal is to separate the Northeast Corridor -- Amtrak's busiest route -- from the rest of the system, transfer title from Amtrak to the US Department of Transportation, and put development of high-speed rail along the corridor out for bid. Republicans said this plan would increase ridership, lower costs, and bring fast trains to the corridor in less than ten years.

Amtrak, which had been going on the offensive this week about its high-speed rail plans for the Northeast Corridor, reacted swiftly to Mica's proposal. Joseph Boardman, Amtrak's president and CEO, aired his dismay in a  phone conference call held earlier this afternoon.  "There seems to be a lack of recognition that Amtrak is the right organization to deliver better intercity passenger rail service in this country," he said. Boardman said that Amtrak had made headway in reducing debt and improving equipment, and was already looking at a public-private partnership for high-speed rail in the Northeast. "This asset, this transportation artery is critical, and that ... is lost in this, because the focus of this particular proposal is about financing and real estate, not transportation first."

Democrats did not greet the proposal warmly. New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who sits on the Senate's transportation committee, said that "the Republican proposal to privatize rail on the Northeast Corridor would increase costs for passengers and make rail travel less reliable. I will fight in the Senate to stop any plan that threatens Amtrak and commuters on the Northeast Corridor."

Other responses were more measured, if lukewarm. Petra Todorovich, a high-speed rail expert at the Regional Plan Association, said "we don't think it's the worst idea in the world." She added that Mica's proposal was useful in that "he's starting a conversation about what it would take to implement world-class high speed rail in the Northeast Corridor. This is the first time we’ve had this conversation at the congressional level.” But she added that "I think it's unlikely that private companies would bid unless federal money is on the table. You can't have a public/private partnership without public money."

 

 

 

 

 

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: DC Metro to Shorten Station Names, and House GOP Wants To Privatize the Northeast Corridor

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cars heading toward the Holland Tunnel yesterday (photo by Kate Hinds)

Listeners have been texting the price of gas at the pump to The Takeaway. Today, TN's Andrea Bernstein discusses those findings.  (The Takeaway)

While exiting cap and trade program, NJ Governor Chris Christie pivots on Climate Change (WNYC's Empire Blog)

High gas prices won't be affecting holiday travel. (Marketplace)

House Republicans want to takeaway the Northeast Corridor from Amtrak, giving private investors the task of building and operating high-speed rail service between Washington and Boston. (Washington Post)

There may be less car owners in Manhattan, but real estate developers are betting that the wealthy will pay extra for in-house parking. (New York Times)

DC's Metro will be shortening station names. Names like U Street/African American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo or New York Avenue/Florida Avenue/Gallaudet University. (WAMU)

The Los Angeles Times debates the location of future subway stations -- and one participant protests his community's exclusion. "It is inconceivable to many of us who live, work and worship in South Los Angeles that the Crenshaw/LAX line would bypass the heart of the community."

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In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- DC's Metro unveils new LED signs...look familiar, NYkers? (link)

-- the new NY MTA website is easier to use -- unless you're mobile (link)

-- Christie pulls plug on NJ's greenhouse gas initiative (link)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Feds Tell California It Can't Change Bullet Train Route, and NY Pol Wants Delivery Bike License Plates

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The DOT told California that it can't postpone the deadline to start construction of that state's $43 billion bullet train project --  or make changes to the route. (Los Angeles Times)

NYC's bus ridership is down, subway ridership is up; MTA says traffic congestion may be partially to blame. (Wall Street Journal)

Any officer suspected of ticket-fixing in the Bronx is being asked about it on the stand -- whether it's on a related case or not. (New York Times)

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee will hold a hearing today on how to boost rail service in the Northeast Corridor through private investment. (The Hill)

Jalopnik reports that one Austin resident found a baby owl perched on his bicycle tire.

Here's a good excuse for being late to work (photo by Adam Norwood via Jalopnik)

A New York City Councilman wants delivery bikes to have license plates. (NY Daily News)

KPCC chronicles efforts to make Beverly Hills bicycle-friendly.

Good writes that Texas is spending $4.4 billion to widen a 28-mile highway at the same time it's preparing to lay off 100,000 teachers.

Vancouver says it's on track to reach its goal of 45% of all trips into town being made by bike, foot or transit by 2020. (Vancouver Sun)

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In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- thinking about taking your bike on a NY-area commuter rail this holiday weekend? Think again. (link)

-- as gas prices go up, so does ride sharing and transit use (link). And car sales go down (link).

-- the feds unveiled new fuel economy stickers (link)

-- the NY MTA's new website highlights transit apps (link)

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: BRT On The Rise -- But Not Everyone's a Fan; Mica Wants Reauthorization Bill ASAP

Monday, May 23, 2011

Select Bus Service on Manhattan's East Side (photo by Kate Hinds)

Bus rapid transit systems are on the rise, but not everyone is a fan. (Wall Street Journal, Globe and Mail)

Amtrak is seeking private investors for its Northeast Corridor high-speed rail line. (The Hill)

California's high-speed rail authority is disputing bills from Caltrain that are worth more than $108,000. (San Francisco Examiner)

Rep. John Mica's opinion piece in today's Politico: "Congress must act now" on transportation reauthorization legislation.

San Francisco's cabbies want their fares in cash instead of credit cards (Bay Citizen via New York Times). Meanwhile, NYC livery cab owners are fighting the city's outer-borough medallion plan (WNYC).

New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, a supporter of the city's bike lanes, gives a reporter a taste of his two-wheeled commute. (New York Times)

Maryland's governor signed a bill forbidding a French government-operated company from competing to run that state's commuter trains, because of the company's activities during the Holocaust. (Washington Post)

The NY Daily News blames Mayor Bloomberg for not doing enough for the city's transit.

Boston unveils three electric car charging stations today. (Boston Herald)

Riders at two Brooklyn F and G train stations have their stations back -- for now. (WNYC)

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In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- the Yankees' parking garage is losing money, plus it displaced a public park (link)

-- cab sharing on tap for this year's US Open (link)

-- bike commuting in Houston? You betcha. (link)

-- carpooling in Houston? Yep, especially as gas prices fluctuate (link)

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Transportation Nation

US DOT Announces $2 Billion for High Speed Rail

Monday, May 09, 2011

Here are the details from the U.S. DOT on the Florida money, and where it's going.  More soon.

"U. S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces $2 Billion for High-Speed Intercity Rail Projects to Grow Jobs, Boost U.S. Manufacturing and Transform Travel in America Unprecedented Investment in the Northeast Corridor, Expanded Service in the Midwest and New, State-of-the-Art Rail Equipment Top List of Rail Dollar Recipients

"WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced $2 billion in high-speed rail awards providing an unprecedented investment to speed up trains in the Northeast Corridor, expand service in the Midwest and provide new, state-of-the-art locomotives and rail cars as part of the Administration’s plan to transform travel in America.

"Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak submitted nearly 100 applications, competing to be part of an historic investment that will create tens of thousands of jobs, improve mobility and stimulate American manufacturing.

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"Earlier this year, President Obama and I made a commitment to improve and expand America's transportation system, including the development of a modern, national high-speed rail network," said Vice President Biden. "And today, we’re announcing investments that will continue our progress toward making this vision a reality.  These projects will put thousands of Americans to work, save hundreds of thousands of hours for American travelers every year, and boost U.S. manufacturing by investing hundreds of millions of dollars in next-generation, American-made locomotives and railcars."

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: High-Speed Rail Grants Announced, NY's MTA To Unveil its "Post-MetroCard" Future, and Will There Be A "No Ride" List on Amtrak?

Monday, May 09, 2011

Fifteen states and Amtrak will receive Florida's rejected high-speed rail money (AP).  The Northeast will get the biggest share; California and the Midwest also benefit (Bloomberg). Ray LaHood will be making announcements in both New York and Detroit today; stay tuned to TN for the latest.

(photo by Steven Vance/Flickr)

Meanwhile, an Amtrak derailment under New York's East River caused LIRR delays. (NY Daily News)

PATH service is back on schedule after yesterday's crash in which a train overshot the Hoboken (NJ) platform. (Star-Ledger)

Senator Schumer wants to implement a "no ride" list on Amtrak to guard against terrorist attacks. (Reuters)

An allegedly drunk tour bus driver killed a pedestrian in Manhattan this weekend. (NY Times)

The next iteration of NY's MetroCard is being unveiled this week. In the future, you could use either a credit card or the MTA's version of the E-Z Pass to ride transit. (NY Daily News)

Big week ahead on the House and Senate floors over offshore drilling and oil-and-gas industry tax breaks. (The Hill)

A Marketplace staffer talks about commuting in LA on an electric bike.

More on San Francisco's dynamic parking pricing. “If it works in San Francisco, the whole world will take notice,” says one urban planner. (NY Times)

The New York Post editorializes about the recent council hearing about the city DOT pedestrian plaza program.

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In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

--we're crowdsouring bike tickets; let us know if you were pulled over while on two wheels (link)

--rising fuel prices spur farmers to become more creative (link)

--President Obama is connecting the dots between terrorism and fuel-efficient transportation (link)

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