Latest Rail News

After years of wrangling, paving work has begun on a contentious 26-acre automobile-to-rail transfer facility off Willow Road in Ayer, Mass., owned by Billerica-based Pan Am Railways, the Lowell Sun reports. But news of the paving isn't sitting well with the state Department of Environmental Protection and federal Environmental Protection Agency officials. Environmental officials are calling out Pan Am for beginning to pave without stormwater-management devices in place. As a result, the attorney general is also investigating whether the start of work without "best management" stormwater controls in place violates the terms of the Pan Am's probation in Middlesex Superior Court.

The parking garage at the Franconia-Springfield Metrorail station in the Washington, D.C., area at the end of the Blue Line will undergo a major rehabilitation project beginning October 1, resulting in the temporary loss of up to 220 parking spaces during the 18- to 20-month project. 

The garage rehabilitation will take place in 12 phases and includes concrete, structural and electrical repairs of the 12-year-old facility, which opened in June 1997. Throughout the course of the rehabilitation project, approximately 220 of the 5,069 parking spaces will be unavailable.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said she won the commitment of the Federal Rail Authority to complete critical repairs to railroad tracks in Middletown, N.Y. Constituents in the area brought the worn down tracks to Senator Gillibrand, who took their concerns to the FRA and urged them to make repairs to the Crawford Industrial Track at Railroad Avenue, Wisner Avenue Crossing and other locations in the area.


The William W. Hay Award for Excellence presented at the AREMA 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition went to Union Pacific for the second year in a row for its recovery efforts at the Frazier River Landslide near Oakridge, Ore. Bill Van Trump, UP's senior assistant vice president engineering, and other officials accepted the award.

In January 2008, an estimated 2.3 million cubic yards of debris and 700 million board feet of timber cut loose from Coyote Mountain and slammed into UP's line at an estimated 60 mph. The slide scoured away 1,500 feet of track in one place and another 150 feet further down the mountain.

The track runs through Willamette National Forest land and the railroad had to work with nine separate agencies and obtain seven different permits to perform the work. UP moved enough dirt during the recovery effort to fill an area as long as a football field and as high as the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower).

AREMA, which has presented the award 11 times, received nine entries for the 2009 award, more than any other year.
CSXT proposed an $842 million plan to raise roofs on bridges and lower some railroad tracks across the mid-Atlantic so that it could carry double-stacked cargo containers on its trains. The proposal is gaining steam because of its promise of clearing tractor-trailers off the region's congested highways and improving commuter train service.

It also would mean rebuilding some railroad bridges around the region, including the Virginia Avenue tunnel just south of the Capitol. Raising the roof of that tunnel alone would cost an estimated $140 million. The 12 other local projects proposed, including replacing the bridge on Deer Park Drive in Montgomery County's historic Washington Grove, would add millions more.

The freight company would pay about $393 million of the National Gateway initiative, while state and federal dollars would pay the rest. The project is seeking stimulus dollars for some of the costs.
A preliminary report on restoring service on the Amtrak Pioneer route included four options with rail passenger service to Eastern Oregon and Southern Idaho.

Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mike Crapo of Idaho said the report is an important step toward bringing back a passenger rail line that should never have been closed in the first place.

The senators obtained a congressional mandate forcing Amtrak to study restoring the former Pioneer line that ran from Portland, along the Columbia River Gorge and on to Pendleton, La Grande, Baker City, Ontario, Boise, Shoshone and Pocatello to Utah. It was discontinued in 1997.

The preliminary study contains four scenarios about restoring passenger service in Idaho and Oregon. It says "Restoration of the Pioneer would enhance Amtrak's route network and produce public benefits, but would require significant expenditures for initial capital costs and ongoing operation costs not covered by farebox revenues."

A private consultant has estimated annual operating costs for the Pioneer could run between $30 million-$40 million annually, with a third of those costs paid by passengers. Capital and startup costs, including those for locomotives, passenger cars, sleeping and food service cars could exceed $400 million.

Amtrak officials say interested stakeholders have until Oct. 1 to offer comment on the preliminary study. The final report must be presented to Congress by Oct. 15. Congress may have the final say in restoring Pioneer service.

Michigan is vying for its part of the $8 billion federal stimulus to upgrade passenger train service. The state wants $830 million as its part of a Midwest high-speed rail plan.

Contracting giant Balfour Beatty said it has reached an accord to purchase consultant Parsons Brinckerhoff for approximately $618 million, U.K. media report. The agreement is subject to approval by the shareholders of both companies.

The Chicago Transit Authority is inviting the public to meetings to provide input on the proposed Red, Orange and Yellow Line Extensions.  Attendees will have an opportunity to provide comments on the proposed alternatives, the purpose and need for the project, the potential effects and mitigation measures to be considered in the Environmental Impact Study (EIS).

The Frankford elevated line, which was completely rebuilt in the 1980s and 1990s to last for 75 years, needs significant repairs because of a basic flaw in its reconstruction design, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. To prevent pieces of concrete from falling onto cars or pedestrians, SEPTA crews have installed 8,000 metal mesh belts on the underbelly of the El and plan to install 2,000 more, beginning Sept. 21.

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