Progressive Railroading reported that a bill passed by the Senate last week includes provisions requiring Amtrak to spend its profits from Acela and Northeast Regional service on projects in the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Read the entire story here.
In the hopes of avoiding a strike that could plunge the northeast corridor into a state of economic chaos, DC officials are calling for a mandatory meeting to find resolution before that happens. Read the entire story here on NorthJersey.com.
Investment in infrastructure critical for future growth of passenger rail
WASHINGTON – Amtrak ridership and ticket revenue remained steady in its Fiscal Year ended Sept. 30, 2015, reflecting continued demand for passenger rail; however, significant and predictable investment is needed to ensure that intercity passenger rail will continue to deliver nationwide benefits including providing safe and reliable mobility and advancing America’s economy.
For Fiscal Year 2015, unaudited ticket revenues reached $2.185 billion, 0.1 percent below the prior year and ridership was more than 30.8 million, also 0.1 percent below the previous year, primarily due to service disruptions on the Northeast Corridor, significant weather events and lower gas prices.
Unaudited total revenue for the company was approximately $3.2 billion for Fiscal Year 2015, 1 percent below the previous year. Operating cost recovery remained strong; Amtrak covered 91.1 percent of operating costs with ticket sales and other revenues.
In addition, Amtrak’s unaudited adjusted operating loss was at $306.5 million which was higher than the previous year.
“We continue to make smart investments and advancements to critical infrastructure and significant improvements to the passenger experience so that the company can continue providing mobility to more passengers and make the best use of our limited resources,” said Amtrak Chairman of the Board Tony Coscia. “This year’s financial results show the resiliency of a company that faced a range of challenges and underscored the loyalty of our customers even during a period of low gas prices. Amtrak’s Board and management remain committed to moving the company forward and providing vital transportation for the country’s future.”
“This past year we continued to take America to where it needs to go, providing transportation to more than 30.8 million customers, which reflects continued strong demand and the value of our services,” said Amtrak President & CEO Joe Boardman. “We have now carried more than 30 million passengers for five straight years, which is a testament to the value we bring to intercity travelers. However, critical investment is needed to ensure future growth of intercity passenger rail.”
With ridership of 11.7 million, the Northeast Corridor (NEC) had its highest ridership year ever in Fiscal Year 2015, up 0.5 percent from the prior year, led by Northeast Regional service that saw a 1.5 percent increase and set a new ridership record with more than 8.2 million trips.
To ensure continued reliable transportation on the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak, in partnership with New York, New Jersey and the Port Authority is looking forward to forming the Gateway Development Corporation to start work on the critical Gateway Program.
In addition, Amtrak formed the Blue Ribbon Panel to address the Chicago rail gridlock that is causing major delays for passengers and for freight shipments.
Seeks input from public, stakeholders before Jan. 30, 2016 for final vision
WASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today released a Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for NEC FUTURE, FRA’s long-term investment framework for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) between Washington, DC and Boston, Mass.
“Over the next 30 years, an additional six million people will live along this corridor. To keep everyone to move safely, quickly and efficiently, we need smart planning and significant investment in the Northeast Corridor,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We are seeking input as we work toward developing a long-term vision that will prioritize rail investments to ensure a vibrant and safe future for the northeast region and the nation.”
The Tier 1 Draft EIS includes alternative visions for investment in the NEC. The visions range from maintaining the current level of investment and service to significant investment that would dramatically increase rail’s role in transportation for the Northeast. FRA will hold 11 public hearings to gather input and feedback from stakeholders that will inform FRA’s decision on a preferred investment program.
The NEC is the nation’s busiest rail corridor, with more than 700,000 passengers traveling each weekday through eight states and the District of Columbia. The NEC contributes more than $100 million every day to the Northeast’s economy, but it currently operates on outdated infrastructure, much of it built more than 100 years ago, with capacity constraints that cannot accommodate future growth. Choke points and aging infrastructure often disrupt the system’s reliability and performance.
“Trains that connect our nation’s university hub to its financial center to its capital ride over bridges built before 1910 and through tunnels built after the Civil War,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “NEC FUTURE will guide the region in developing a long-term framework to build a stronger Northeast Corridor that supports economic growth and creates jobs.”
The Tier 1 Draft EIS, which outlines the various visions, is now available for download and review by the public at www.necfuture.com. Print copies are also available at libraries throughout the region.
FRA considered a broad range of alternatives for the NEC, beginning in 2012 with a public scoping process and analysis of travel markets. In 2013, the FRA consolidated nearly 100 initial concepts into 15 visions (Preliminary Alternatives) that varied by level of investment, service, and route. In 2014, the FRA evaluated the Preliminary Alternatives and identified three distinct Action Alternatives; these have been refined and analyzed in the Tier 1 Draft EIS. Each Action Alternative represents a different long-term vision for improving passenger rail service that will enhance mobility options, improve performance, and better serve existing and future passengers in the study area.
The hearings provide an opportunity for public input on the Tier 1 Draft EIS. No decision has been made on which alternative best meets the region’s needs, and the FRA will consider all comments received during the comment period in making its decision.
FRA will hold public hearings in each of the eight states along the NEC and the District of Columbia. Hearings will be held from 4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. on the following dates and locations:
- 12/9, Boston, MA – Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley Street
- 12/14, New Haven, CT – Gateway Community College, 20 Church Street
- 12/15, New York, NY – CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue (at 34th Street)
- 12/16, Washington, DC – Hall of States, 444 North Capitol Street, NW
- 12/17, Providence, RI – Rhode Island Department of Administration, One Capitol Hill
- 1/11, Philadelphia, PA – SEPTA, 1234 Market Street, Mezzanine Level
- 1/12, Mineola, NY – Nassau County Municipal Building, 1550 Franklin Avenue
- 1/13, Hartford, CT – The Lyceum, 227 Lawrence Street
- 1/14, Baltimore, MD – University of Baltimore, 21 W. Mt. Royal Avenue, 5th Floor
- 1/19, Newark, NJ – NJ Transit, 1 Raymond Plaza East, 9th floor
- 1/20, Wilmington, DE – Delaware Technical Community College, 333 Shipley Street
Each hearing will include brief presentations at 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. There will be an opportunity to speak following each presentation. Individuals planning to speak should sign up when they arrive. A stenographer will also be available for private testimony.
In the event of inclement weather, hearings may be canceled or rescheduled. Please check the website at www.necfuture.com. Persons requiring special assistance to attend a hearing should contact the NEC FUTURE team at email@example.com.
Email links icon at least five days prior to the hearing they wish to attend.
Public Comment Period
The public comment period for the Tier 1 Draft EIS is open until January 30, 2016. Comments may be submitted orally or in writing at the public hearings listed above, online at www.necfuture.com, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email links icon, or sent to: Rebecca Reyes-Alicea, USDOT Federal Railroad Administration, One Bowling Green, Suite 429, New York, NY 10004. Comments must be received by January 30, 2016, to ensure that they are considered and added to the public record.
More information is available at www.necfuture.com.
The railroad used a catastrophe bond to secure the coverage, which lasts just under three years and helps protect against the kind of infrastructure damage that Amtrak experienced during Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.
Read more from Progressive Railroading.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is urging the federal government to use $550 million worth of leftover Hurricane Sandy relief money to fix Amtrak and commuter rail tunnels in New York City that were damaged during the storm.
Problems with rail tunnels in the New York City area have emerged as a political issue as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who cancelled an earlier proposal to build a new tunnel between New York and New Jersey, runs for president.
Schumer, a top ranking Senate Democrat, said unobligated Hurricane Sandy relief could be used to help pay for repairs to Amtrak’s East River Tunnels, which carry trains between Manhattan and Queens under the city’s East River.
Read more from The Hill.
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.”
Read more from The New York Times.
NJ Transit commuters could see benefits from a bill proposed by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) to pump $6.6 billion over four years into Amtrak’s aging infrastructure, which could repair or replace some of the signals, overhead wire and track issues blamed for delays.
The bill would add money to Amtrak’s budget to fix some of the nagging NEC infrastructure problems, such as signal problems which caused 30 minute delays to Amtrak and NJ Transit trains as recently as Monday afternoon.
“This will help with the delays by improving signaling and the rail itself,” Booker said at a Monday press conference at Newark Penn Station with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez. “This will make somewhat of a difference and put resources in place for another (Hudson River) tunnel.”
Read more from NJ.com.
FRA will take additional steps in coming days to address speed and curves on all passenger corridors
WASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today issued an Emergency Order that will assist in controlling passenger train speeds at certain locations on the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Today’s order is the latest in a series of actions the FRA has taken in the wake of last week’s derailment of Amtrak Train #188.
FRA also announced today its intention to take additional actions in the coming days to address potential speed issues on all other passenger corridors.
Last Saturday, FRA instructed Amtrak to immediately take several actions to improve safety along the NEC. As stated in that weekend announcement, today’s Emergency Order formalizes those instructions.
“Although we do not yet know what caused the derailment of Amtrak Train #188, the information we do have underscores the need to continue to do all we can to further promote safety along the Northeast Corridor,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Today’s action will help prevent similar incidents from occurring on the NEC until Amtrak completes its installation of Positive Train Control later this year.”
The Emergency Order requires Amtrak to take a series of steps to improve safety along the Northeast Corridor, including implementing Automatic Train Control (ATC) code changes and modifications, adopting other safety procedures at several curve locations with significant speed reductions, and submitting an action plan to FRA outlining additional steps.
FRA will take additional steps in the coming days and weeks to ensure other corridors are addressing potential over-speed issues as well.
“The Northeast Corridor is the busiest rail corridor in the country, and the steps we have ordered Amtrak to take will immediately improve safety on this busy corridor,” said Acting Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “But in the days and weeks to come, we will also do more – while FRA will continue to push Amtrak and other commuter lines to achieve full implementation of Positive Train Control, we will also work with them in the short term to immediately address potential over-speed issues.”
The Emergency Order requires Amtrak to immediately implement a code change to its ATC system near the Frankford Junction curve in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The change must enforce the passenger train speed limit of 50 mph, or lower, for northbound trains approaching the curve. Amtrak implemented this change prior to the restart of service on Monday.
In addition, Amtrak must survey the NEC to identify each main track curve where there is a reduction of more than 20 mph from the maximum authorized approach speed to that curve for passenger trains, and provide a list of each location to the FRA.
Following Amtrak’s identification of the curves referenced above, Amtrak must develop and submit an action plan to FRA that accomplishes each of the following:
- Identify appropriate modifications to Amtrak’s existing ATC system or other signal systems (or alternative operational changes) to enable warning and enforcement of applicable passenger train speeds at identified curves.
- Target dates for implementing each identified modification to Amtrak’s existing ATC system or other signal systems (or alternative operational changes) to enable warning and enforcement of passenger train speeds at the identified curves.
Amtrak must submit the action plan to the FRA within 20 days of the date of the Emergency Order.
In addition, Amtrak must begin to install additional wayside signage alerting engineers and conductors of the maximum authorized passenger train speed throughout its Northeast Corridor system no later than 30 days after the date of the order.
To view a copy of the Emergency Order, click here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senate Democrats representing states along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor urged the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund Amtrak’s funding request in the upcoming Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill.
The Senators also unveiled a new report from the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center detailing all the unfunded and underfunded safety and infrastructure projects along the Northeast Corridor that desperately need this funding. For years, Amtrak has been underfunded, causing Amtrak officials to have to choose between safety and infrastructure upgrades and contributing to a $21 billion backlog.
Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member on the THUD subcommittee, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Edward Markey (D-MA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) made the announcement at a press conference in the US Capitol Building.
Read more from Real Estate Rama.