Latest Rail News

BNSF received $2.5 million in grant money to rebuild three switch engines as part of an ongoing effort to improve air quality in the Puget Sound area of Washington.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson presented emission reduction grants during ceremonies at Bell Harbor Pier 66 in Seattle. The grants, provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, will fund emission reduction projects that cover maritime, rail, trucking and port activity across the Puget Sound region.

Officials speaking at the event discussed BNSF's leading efforts to protect the environment in Seattle. One example they cited is the installation of electric cranes at the Seattle International Gateway.

Tracksure, a Bedfordshire, UK-based safety engineering company, has secured a contract, awarded by ProRail, for its locking devices in the brake system at a Rotterdam marshalling yard in Holland.

According to the company, Tracksure locking devices are a unique and failsafe means of preventing nut loosening caused by vibration and settlement; they offer infrastructure managers the dual benefit of dramatically improving safety, as well as tangible cost benefits.

The marshalling yard is one of many such installations across Europe and is operated in an environment where the demands on day-to-day maintenance are critical. The yard features more than 60 separate brake retarders and is amongst the biggest in Holland.

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation said they have been granted early termination of the mandatory waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvement Act of 1976, as amended, in connection with the previously announced Berkshire acquisition of BNSF. This regulatory action is an important step in satisfying the closing conditions as set forth in the merger agreement. BNSF and Berkshire continue to expect the transaction to close in the first quarter of 2010.

Starting Dec. 7, Sound Transit contractors will begin smoothing the surface of the light rail tracks between Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport. The work will impact evening light rail service through the end of the month. The work is expected to reduce the high-pitched noise some residents near the tracks have expressed concern about.

It was a high-tech feat more than a year in the making - all leading up to a moment that came with a fairly simple act.

Lattes flow for commuters at Tinley Park's $5-million Metra station, an architectural gem. But the only thing flowing at Cicero's dreary train stop is the rainwater that blows through the corrugated-metal shelter, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Construction to replace the 80-year old Vandeventer Bridge in St Louis will result in the closure of Vandeventer Avenue for approximately two months, beginning on December 7. Recognizing that Vandeventer Avenue is a major thoroughfare for area commuters, Metro has partnered with the City of St. Louis to plan a detour to keep traffic flowing through that area while work to replace the bridge continues.

Enough people would board a train in the Phoenix area's suburbs that a future commuter-rail system would be as popular as some of the busiest lines in the West, new studies have found, The Arizona Republic reports. A trio of yearlong rail studies, in nearly final form, indicates commuter rail could carry almost 18,000 passengers a day by 2030. Planners at the Maricopa Association of Governments say, based on the findings, they favor a 105-mile, X-shaped system that could feature 33 stations and cost roughly $1.5 billion. That's a little more than the Valley's 20-mile, light-rail starter line. The commuter-rail network would use existing freight track through downtown Phoenix, with lines from Queen Creek to Buckeye and from Chandler to Wittmann. The northeast Valley, whose light-rail line lacks funding, would remain without commuter rail.

(The editorial below appeared in the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot
.) This much is sure: Light rail will transform the city of Norfolk, Va. How, and to what extent, nobody knows. But the ripped-up streets and chaotic traffic downtown will end, and Norfolk will get back to the business of reinventing itself. This time, though, the landscape will be fundamentally different, bisected and improved by a new mass transit system. The experience of several U.S. cities offers some clue to what the next few decades will hold in Hampton Roads.

By the end of next year, the $288-million light rail line - more trolley than Amtrak - will connect the eastern border of Norfolk with the western, linking Norfolk State University with Harbor Park with City Hall with downtown businesses with the new library with MacArthur Center with Eastern Virginia Medical School.

It will take time, but those destinations will build significant gravity, attracting customers and new businesses. Neighborhoods strung out along the Elizabeth River will become as central to city life as anyplace. Stores will sprout around each station.

A few thousand cars will be diverted off streets and highways by people taking the train. But until the cost of commuting rises radically or traffic worsens massively, the primary effect of The Tide will be on where people live and work.

Even as The Tide's opening gala starts to appear on municipal calendars, light rail's opponents still point to that impact as if it were some sort of secret, proof of depraved intent on the part of city fathers. Changes to development and commuting patterns were, of course, the goal all along.

"The way people use downtown will change," Cathy Coleman, president of the Downtown Norfolk Council, told The Virginian-Pilot's Debbie Messina. "People will be in places they've never been before.

Highways - which can cost more to build, especially in an area like this - wouldn't do that. And adding capacity to highways is expensive, as every commuter in Hampton Roads knows all too well. Once light rail's tracks are laid, adding more capacity is both trivial and cheap.

Think of light rail - even a starter line like The Tide - as an amenity. Good schools, safe streets and reasonable taxes will not individually attract many people or businesses. But put them all together into a livable community, and over time, things will change for the better.

It doesn't have to stop there, of course.

Add an extension to the Navy's facilities, to the Oceanfront or across the Elizabeth River, and the transformation would reach well beyond Norfolk. Virginia Beach is looking for a way to transform Virginia Beach Boulevard from a collection of outdated strip malls into a place where people go because they want to. Chesapeake and Portsmouth have taken painful note of Richmond's failure to pay for roads and see a commuting alternative.

Expect every step along the way to be opposed by the same folks who rail against The Tide, who rail against every penny spent on any amenity. Opposition to light rail isn't a failure of mass transit to make a difference in the lives of people who use it and live nearby. Opposition is a failure of imagination, and Hampton Roads can dream bigger than that.

BNSF Powder River Division employees celebrated the Orin Line's 30-year anniversary in honor of the first unit-coal train that traveled the 116-mile rail line across the Wyoming prairie on Nov. 6, 1979, according to the company newsletter.

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