Many of the state’s 29 short line railroads are local and serve farmers in agricultural and timber-growing communities by hauling their products to larger railroads. The study found that more than 55 percent (740) miles of all short line track miles within the state are not able to efficiently handle the 286,000-pound rail cars used in modern freight transport. That means trains have to go slower on the lines, cause more wear and cost more to operate.
Capacity for heavier rail cars is important because products often move from short line rails to larger rail systems to reach national and global markets. Because they’ve been neglected for many years, bringing the lines up to modern standards could cost more than $600 million, the study determined.
The study also highlighted the benefits of short line railroads. In addition to getting goods to market, the rail lines help cut down on roadway congestion and highway wear and tear. As an example of savings from short line railroads, the study found that the Tacoma Rail alone generates public benefits in excess of $11 million annually in addition to cost savings to businesses and shippers. Public benefits include increased safety due to reduced truck trips in addition to less wear and tear on roads.
Study findings can be used by lawmakers and others to plan for future rail investments as well as exploring funding sources. Recently, the Washington Legislature passed, and Gov. Jay Inslee signed, a new revenue package which included over $107 million for statewide freight rail track improvements. The funding includes $47 million for the state-owned short line rail system and $31 million for the Freight Rail Assistance Program, which supports economic development and rail preservation initiatives.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, in the light of problems affecting tens of thousands of NJTransit and Amtrak riders between New Jersey and New York Penn Station of the last eight days, has called respective Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo to meet with him sometime before Aug. 10.
Christie (R) while campaigning for the Republican Presidential nomination in New Hampshire July 28, said that his staff is working with Foxx’s counterparts for a meeting date. Cuomo (D) the same day said that he too will join Christie and Foxx, added that the federal government must chip in more than the $3 billion Uncle Sam has first offered to fund Gateway’s estimated $12 billion cost.
“If the federal government can make a significant contribution,” said Cuomo in a Tuesday interview, “then let’s go. I mean we have shovels – we need it.”
In Maryland, a century-old rail tunnel needed emergency repairs this winter because of soil erosion from leaks, causing widespread train delays.
In Connecticut, an aging swing bridge failed to close twice last summer, stopping train service and stranding passengers.
And last week, New Jersey Transit riders had a truly torturous experience. There were major delays on four days because of problems with overhead electrical wires and a power substation, leaving thousands of commuters stalled for hours. One frustrated rider, responding to yet another New Jersey Transit Twitter post announcing a problem, replied: “Just easier to alert us when there aren’t delays.”
The U.S. Senate recently pointed the way forward for the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) on the issue of ensuring sufficient revenue at freight railroads to pour back into the nation’s infrastructure.
The Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization Act of 2015, which was passed by unanimous consent in June, would provide commonsense process improvements. They would allow the STB to work more efficiently and, at the same time, recognize the need for freight railroads to provide billions of dollars in private spending to build, maintain and grow the nationwide rail network, so taxpayers don’t have to.
In fact, the bill explicitly states that in considering the concept of revenue adequacy, the Board must consider the “infrastructure and investment needed to meet the present and future demand for rail service.”
Washington, D.C. – At a time of record auto recalls and high-profile train wrecks, Republicans are working on legislation to roll back safety regulation of the auto and railroad industries.
A bill approved this week on a party-line vote by a Senate committee brims with industry-sought provisions that would block, delay or roll back safety rules. The measure is to be part of a must-pass transportation bill that GOP leaders hope to put to a vote in the Senate as early as next week.
They are under pressure to act quickly because authority for transportation programs expires on July 31. Without a cash infusion, the government will have to delay highway and transit aid to states.
The U.S. Travel Association is criticizing House Republicans for planning to use fees that are paid by airline passengers for the Transportation Security Administration to pay for an extension of federal highway spending that is set to expire at the end of the month.
House Republicans unveiled an approximately $8 billion highway patch Monday evening that includes about $3 billion in “savings” from redirecting the TSA fees to the nation’s beleaguered Highway Trust Fund, which is currently set to dip below critical levels July 31.
U.S. Travel Association President Roger Dow said Tuesday that the travel industry is opposed to the idea of using airport security fees to pay for roads, although it supports the broader goal of extending the federal government’s infrastructure spending.
Washington, D.C. – The Highway Trust Fund is set to expire on July 31. Without action from Congress, federal funding for transportation will come to a screeching halt. And with it, so will traffic in many places across the country.
Over the last six years, Congress has passed 33 short-term measures rather than funding transportation for the long term. And our transportation system –our roads and bridges, especially– is in a dire state of disrepair because of it. The table of state-by-state road and bridge conditions, shown below, demonstrates this.
Experts agree: The only way to prepare our transportation system for the next generation is to stop this cycle of short-term measures and pass a long-term transportation bill.
The following letter was written by Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission Chairman Stephen R. Miller.
Genevieve is a young woman pursing graduate work in computer science at a university in Pennsylvania. She is home visiting her family in Kansas City for a month this summer. I met Genevieve at Union Station in Kansas City. I was there on Sunday afternoon to catch the train to St. Louis for early morning meetings in St. Louis with business and civic leaders to discuss “The Road to Tomorrow” – MoDOT’s latest effort to re-vitalize public interest in the reconstruction of Interstate 70. For me, the trip represented an attractive option – I did not have to fight airport security and crowds nor worry about the traffic on I-70. It gave me a relaxing ride during which I had a quiet, serene environment to work on revisions to an appellate brief due later in the week and prepare for my meetings the next morning.
For Genevieve, the train was not an option, it was a necessity. Genevieve is blind. Her aunt dropped her off at Union Station, spotted me in the waiting room and asked me if I would allow Genevieve to take my arm as she navigated the stairs and railroad platform along with her guide dog, Peru. Genevieve was traveling to Warrensburg to visit her friend, Kelsey, another blind young woman, for the week and the train represented a safe, affordable means for her to travel. As Peru stretched out on the floor of the train, Genevieve spoke excitedly about her travel. She has ridden the train before, even taking it from Pennsylvania back to Kansas City. It is a long trip but less stressful than air travel on both her – and Peru.
As I walked through the four cars of the Missouri River Runner, I saw Missourians of all ages, races and economic backgrounds. Each had their own reasons and story for being on the train that day. I stopped and spoke with a Boy Scout leader returning from Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico with 12 scouts from St. Louis. (He seemed a little worse for the wear with his leg in a cast but grateful for the additional space of the rail car.) There was a father and son, a young male millennial watching a movie on an iPad, mothers traveling with young children and some businessmen.
As the beautiful Missouri countryside raced by, the train rocking gently and the low horn of the locomotive occasionally sounding, I was struck once again by the importance of transportation – in all its various modes. Passenger rail travel is just one of those modes for which the Commission is responsible. In my six years on the Commission, I have watched on-time performance and ridership increase dramatically. Ridership has grown by 72 percent since 2007, and of all the Amtrak routes in the country, the Missouri River Runner has climbed from 29th to second in the nation in customer satisfaction.
Missourians have told us they want more opportunities for passenger rail. They want increased frequencies on the existing route as well as new routes serving additional areas of the state. This increasing demand is not unique to Missouri and is prompting many states to invest in improving service, speed and frequencies of passenger rail. Capital investment in passenger rail in Missouri is falling further and further behind other states, which is unfortunate. Passenger rail is not only a safe and environmentally friendly form of transportation, but also an engine for economic development and civic pride.
My trip reminded me that even as we fight to save our current roads and bridges and as we look to the future for ways to rebuild I-70, we must also look to the past as a reminder that the transportation of the future must be an integrated system that embraces all modes of transportation. So, thank you Genevieve and Peru for showing us the way – and safe travels!
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Jan. 27 introduced legislation to rebuild America’s crumbling network of roads, bridges, transit systems and other infrastructure projects. The five-year plan would invest $1 trillion in the effort and create or maintain at least 13 million decent-paying jobs, according to Sanders, the Senate Budget Committee ranking member.
The legislation is cosponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), the appropriations committee ranking member, and is supported by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the AFL-CIO and many others.
“For too many years, we’ve underfunded our nation’s physical infrastructure. We have to change that and that’s what the Rebuild America Act is all about. We must modernize our infrastructure and create millions of new jobs that will put people back to work and help the economy,” Sanders said.
“My legislation puts 13 million people to work repairing the backlog of infrastructure projects all across this country. These projects require equipment, supplies and services, and the hard-earned salaries from these jobs will be spent in countless restaurants, shops and other local businesses. It’s no surprise that groups across the political spectrum – from organized labor to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – agree that investing in infrastructure will pay dividends for future generations.”
Sanders’ bill makes targeted investments in roads, bridges, transit, passenger and freight rail, water infrastructure, marine ports and inland waterways, national parks, municipal broadband and the electric grid. A short summary of the bill can be found here and the text of the bill itself is here.
“By making smart federal investments in our nation’s infrastructure, we can create jobs and opportunities today, while strengthening our economy for tomorrow. I’m proud to cosponsor the Rebuild America Act,” Mikulski said.
Tom Trotter, legislative representative for the AFL-CIO, said Sanders proposal will “raise the profile about the serious needs of our nation’s infrastructure. This proposal provides a stark blueprint of what needs to be accomplished and provides an opportunity to create millions of new jobs.”
Casey Dinges, senior managing director at the society of engineers, said: “Senator Sanders’ initiative to invest $1 trillion over five years through his Rebuild America Act will have a far-reaching impact on restoring and modernizing our nation’s aging infrastructure.”
And former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a leader of the Building America’s Future initiative, said: “America’s infrastructure is falling apart. It is time to get serious about modernizing our infrastructure as the consequences of further inaction are unconscionable.”
WASHINGTON – During 2014, Amtrak plans to move forward on key improvement projects, including continued installation of positive train control safety technology, the start of major construction to upgrade Northeast Corridor high-speed rail and expansion of station accessibility for passengers with disabilities.
“With limited federal capital funding we are doing the work that needs to be done to keep the railroad operating and taking action where we can to achieve safety, operational and passenger travel improvements,” said President and CEO Joe Boardman. “However, to truly realize the mobility and economic benefits offered by passenger rail, there must be dedicated federal funding to support a multi-year planning and construction program.”
In 2014, Amtrak is continuing its aggressive program to install PTC on an additional 1,200 track-miles beyond the approximately 530 track-miles where it is already in operation on some Amtrak-owned sections of the Northeast Corridor and all of its Michigan Line. Amtrak is also taking action to obtain needed radio spectrum to transmit data critical to make PTC operational in the new areas. PTC safety technology can control train movements to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed and certain human-caused incidents such as misaligned track switches. Amtrak is on target to meet a 2015 federal deadline.
In 2014, Amtrak is beginning major construction activities on a 23-mile section of the Northeast Corridor between Trenton and New Brunswick, N.J., to increase top train speeds to 160 mph from 135 mph and improve reliability along this heavily used section. The project will upgrade track and various elements of the electrical and signal systems to support the higher speeds and reconfigure track switches at Penn Station New York to mitigate congestion issues.
In 2014, Amtrak will advance its Accessible Stations Development Program with continuation of existing construction work at eight stations in three states and new construction activities at 21 stations in eight additional states. In addition, necessary ADA-related design work will be completed for 61 stations in 20 states.
Amtrak will also move forward in 2014 on other infrastructure projects including: various planning elements of the Gateway Program to expand track, tunnel and station capacity between Newark, N.J., and Penn Station New York; ongoing construction of a concrete casement through the Hudson Yards commercial development project to preserve a possible pathway for a future Hudson River Tunnel into Manhattan; and design work for replacing major Northeast Corridor and century-old assets such as the Susquehanna River Bridge (Md.), the Pelham Bay Bridge (N.Y.), the Connecticut River Bridge (Conn.) and the B&P Tunnel (Md.).
By the end of its 2014 maintenance program, Amtrak expects to install or replace nearly 165,000 cross ties, 23 miles of rail, and several dozen track switches, turnouts and interlockings. The railroad is also upgrading numerous sections of its electrical and signal systems along the Northeast and Keystone Corridors, and performing various maintenance projects on property it owns in Chicago, New Orleans and elsewhere in the country.
In addition, Amtrak forces will perform significant work as part of state-led projects to upgrade tracks and signal systems between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, Mich.; Poughkeepsie and Albany, N.Y.; and New Haven, Conn., and Springfield, Mass.
President Barack Obama came to St. Paul on Wednesday to showcase the city’s newly refurbished Union Depot transit hub as an example of the kinds of transportation development he wants for the rest of the nation.
“This project symbolizes what’s possible,” Obama told a standing-room-only crowd of 1,300 ticketed enthusiasts in the 90-year-old Lowertown depot’s ornate concourse.