Posts in Rail and Transit.

The Port of Vancouver USA and its rail partners BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad have substantially completed a $251M railroad access improvement project which significantly increases rail access in the port. The project creates a new rail entrance to the port, increases the port’s internal track miles from 16 to more than 50 (including a new loop track at the port’s Terminal 5 facilitating unit train transport) and increases rail capacity on BNSF and UPRR lines outside the port.  According to port CEO Juliana Marler, the project reduces rail congestion on the mainline and ...

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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has released its latest Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation progress report for the 2nd quarter of 2018. The FRA’s latest report indicates that railroads are making steady progress toward PTC compliance.

FRA says that 15 railroads have installed 100% and 12 railroads have installed between 95 and 99% of the mandated PTC system hardware. In addition, all but one railroad has acquired sufficient spectrum required for PTC Implementation.

FRA states that railroad implementation of PTC has improved since December 2016, where ...

Last week FRA issued a notice of grant funding of $318 million for rail infrastructure and safety improvements through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Grants Program known as CRISI.  The deadline for applications is September 17, 2018.

CRISI grants are designed to assist with financing passenger and freight rail system improvements to achieve safety, efficiency, and reliability benefits.  Eligible applicants include states, public agencies, Amtrak, and Class II and Class III rail carriers and railroad or equipment manufacturer working with ...

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation (Commerce Committee) recently held a nomination hearing to fill two vacancies on the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the economic regulator of railroads.  The nomination hearing of Patrick Fuchs and Michelle Schultz provided Senators with a venue to vent concerns related to the U.S. rail system.  In particular, Senator Wicker (R-MS) voiced concern over freight train interference of Amtrak passenger trains.

Congress created Amtrak in 1970 to relieve freight railroads of their responsibility to provide ...

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The Northern Lights Express intercity rail proposal, connecting Minneapolis and Duluth, Minnesota with a stop in Superior, Wisconsin, advanced forward following a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).  The FRA’s decision found that the proposed rail project would not have any significant environmental impacts and allows the project to advance beyond the environmental phase.

Project proponents envision a rail service connecting six stations operating across existing BNSF Railway track.  The Northern Lights Express ...

Infrastructure Ontario and Metrolinx have awarded a fixed-price design-build-finance $245.5 million contract to upgrade Agincourt, Milliken, and Unionville GO stations on the Stouffville GO corridor.  The winning bidder, EllisDon Transit Infrastructure (EDTI), will deliver the project using Infrastructure Ontario’s Alternative Financing and Procurement model.  EllisDon constituents will provide financing and construction while WSP / MMM Group will be in charge of the design.  The project includes upgrades to tracks, platforms with canopies, new pedestrian ...

Much has been said already about President Trump's call to "rebuild our crumbling infrastructure," in his first State of the Union address. The President asked Congress to advance a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that, in part, should be "leveraged by partnering with state and local governments and, where appropriate, tapping into private sector investment."

But not all "crumbling infrastructure" is state and local infrastructure. The federal government's infrastructure also needs attention (e.g., river locks, some dams and levees, federal buildings, etc.). In late ...

Bombardier and Metrolinx announced that they have amended their Eglinton Crosstown LRV contract and settled their pending arbitration, showing how re-negotiation and compromise can preserve project schedule and quality, cement customer relationships and eliminate financial uncertainty.

Under the agreement, Bombardier’s LRV production is dramatically cut from 182 to 76 vehicles. However, Bombardier also secured an 18 month extension on its Metrolinx-owned GO Transit operations and maintenance contract.  The amended contract "resets the relationship ... and brings ...

Humber College students and Toronto West residents will soon be able to access Canada’s largest subway system in five years.  The CA$1 billion Finch West LRT project is slated to open in 2022.  The new dedicated light rail transit line will run 11 kilometres along the surface of Finch Avenue from Humber College’s north campus to the new Finch West subway station on the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension that opened yesterday.  There will be 16 surface stops and 2 below-grade termini at Humber College and the subway station.  The Finch West LRT project includes a maintenance and ...

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (NYMTA) board has approved a $1.8 billion expansion project for another important milestone in Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s, comprehensive, interconnected plan to improve transit and transportation throughout the New York metropolitan region.

The project includes signal system and bridge state-of-good-repair elements, but the central element is the addition of a 9.8-mile third track between Floral Park and Hicksville, NY on a segment of the LIRR mainline that handles more than 250 trains per weekday.

The project also ...

President Trump recently appointed former Seyfarth Shaw LLP (Seyfarth) attorney Juan D. Reyes, III as Chief Counsel of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).  Mr. Reyes was previously a partner in the real estate department of the New York City office of Seyfarth and he led the firm’s P3 practice.  Proponents of P3s may be pleased to have a Chief Counsel that understands the potential benefits of P3s.

The appointment of Mr. Reyes marks a continuation from the Obama Administration of appointing counsel with P3 experience.  President Obama’s first FRA Chief Counsel, Karen ...

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) District kicked off passenger rail revenue service in Sonoma and Marin counties last week. The 43-mile rail line includes ten stations from the Sonoma County Airport to Downtown San Rafael.

The new service operates across former Northwestern Pacific Railway Co. (NWP) rail line. Acquisition of the rail line dates back to 1969 when the California Legislature directed the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway, and Transportation District to develop a transportation facilities plan. In its plan, the district recommended the preservation of ...

In Florida, All Aboard Florida, a private entity, is about to launch passenger rail service from Miami to West Palm Beach, with future service extending to Orlando. In California, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is currently constructing a high-speed passenger rail line with the long-term goal of connecting the metro areas of San Francisco and the Los Angeles.  These projects have a common denominator: each envisions intercity passenger rail service entirely within one state.  But when it comes to economic regulation by the federal government, these projects are treated ...

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant recipients and the firms that work on the projects have a twenty years in the making, updated resource to assist them in one of the more complex areas of FTA projects. The FTA last week published its Buy America Handbook, which contains the FTA’s best practices for conducting pre-award and post-delivery audits for rolling stock procurements.  The Handbook replaces the FTA’s 1995 handbooks for both rail vehicles and buses and is a nonbinding guidance document for use by grant recipients, auditors, manufacturers and suppliers.

FTA’s ...

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is calling for project applications for $850 million in transportation infrastructure grants, representing the second opportunity for funding from a program that has already received tremendous interest from public project sponsors and the infrastructure community. The grants, announced in a Notice of Funding Opportunity posted on the USDOT website on October 28, find their genesis and funding authorization in the FAST Act (P.L. 114-94), which President Obama signed into law on December 4, 2015.

The FAST Act created a ...

Financing for the Maryland Purple Line closed on Friday, June 17 – marking an important milestone for the Maryland Transit Administration’s (and Maryland Department of Transportation’s) plan to deliver a transit solution to ease travel between the Maryland suburbs and Washington, D.C.

Once the project reached commercial close in early April, the winning concessionaire, Purple Line Transit Partners LLC (PLTP), worked closely with the MTA/MDOT team to finalize the financing structure and various other issues. This culminated in a week of financial closings which allowed ...

Commonly when we think about state government owned railways, the image of commuter or light rail operations come to mind.  But many states own freight railroads as well.  In a few instances a state may have started its own line, while in other situations a state may have stepped in to preserve a rail line from abandonment.

Oklahoma is one of these states that have purchased rail corridors facing abandonment.  One such example is the Cowboy Sub, a 22-mile rail line originally purchased from the BNSF Railway Company in 1998 to save the rail line from abandonment.  Now, the Oklahoma DOT seeks to ...

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposes to amend (81 Fed. Reg. at 26611) (May 3, 2016) a 2004 rule, restricting expenditure of proceeds from passenger facility charges (PFC) funds to airport access infrastructure used only by airport patrons and workers, in order to allow more flexibility on the use of PFCs on airport rail projects. The proposed PFC policy change could provide additional funding and finance options for airports and transit systems working to improve intermodal connections and give the public better access to the nation's airports.

PFCs are airline ...

On May 13th, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) published the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the Metropolitan Council’s Southwest LRT Project, a major step forward for the $1.79 billion project. The Met Council is the regional policy-making body, planning agency, and a provider of essential services for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan region.

The FEIS

The FEIS outlines the Met Council’s commitments to deal with those impacts throughout construction and operation of the Southwest LRT Project.

Input from the public directly shaped the ...

For years, policymakers and economists around the country have been well aware that the federal gas tax is dying.

In its report to Congress, the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission, on which I was honored to serve, made clear that we must replace the 18.4 cent federal gas tax with other means of funding transportation in order to maintain and improve our highways, bridges and transit systems in the United States.

The commission recommended a road user charge as the most effective approach to solving this problem.

[If] we fail to address the immediate ...

On April 6, 2016, the Maryland Board of Public Works unanimously approved the public-private partnership (P3) agreement for the Maryland Purple Line light-rail transit project, concluding the 30-day review period described in our previous blog.  The contract documents previously signed by the concessionaire have now been signed by the Maryland Department of Transportation’s (MDOT) Secretary Pete Rahn and the Maryland Transit Administration’s (MTA) Administrator, Paul Comfort.

At the Board of Public Works hearing, Comptroller Peter Franchot praised both the Governor ...

On Wednesday, March 30, 2016, Florida’s Governor Rick Scott signed two bills that further advance the state’s existing public-private partnership (P3) framework and provide additional guidance for implementing P3s. The two new laws will go into effect on July 1, 2016.

SB 124 amends the 2013 law that authorizes counties, municipalities, school boards, and other political subdivisions to use P3s for a wide range of facilities, including education facilities, transportation facilities, water/wastewater facilities, roads, highways and bridges, healthcare facilities ...

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The wait is nearly over:  for those living on the Westside of Los Angeles, passenger rail transit will be available in just a few short months.  Officials announced last month that the final extension of the Expo Line will open on May 20, extending service from Culver City to just a few blocks from the Santa Monica pier.

This will be the first passenger rail transit service to the far Westside since Pacific Electric streetcars stopped running to Santa Monica in 1953.  The project completes the 15-mile Expo Line between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica.  Train trips between downtown ...

On March 2, Governor Larry Hogan and Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) Secretary Pete Rahn greenlighted procurement of the Purple Line by MDOT and the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA).  The contract has been posted and is scheduled for review by the Maryland Board of Public Works in early April.

Part of the region’s ambitious transit strategic plan, the Purple Line is a 16.2 mile, 21 station light rail line that provides additional mobility to the region.  MTA estimates total daily ridership will be 69,000 per day by 2030 (74,000 by 2040).  The new line will interface ...

State and local governments can now obtain railroad bridge inspection reports by making requests on the website of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). This new tool will help state and local governments gain better information regarding this important aspect of railroad safety in their communities.

Access to the public version of bridge inspection reports is required by section 11405 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). Under the FAST Act, the following information about a bridge will be included in the report:

  • The date of the last inspection;

An Amtrak Blue Ribbon Panel formed in 2014 that included Nossaman partner Linda Morgan has released a report recommending how to fix the congestion plaguing Chicago’s rail network.  As the hub of the U.S. rail network, the gridlock in Chicago has ripple effects throughout the nation.

As part of its year-long investigation of the causes and potential solutions to Chicago’s gridlock, the panel met with nearly 100 stakeholders and rail experts.  The panel’s report resulting from these efforts includes the following recommendations:

  • Ensure real-time coordination among ...

Expected to dramatically improve mobility in one of the more highly congested regions in Southern California, the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority (Authority) completed the Foothill Gold Line from Pasadena to Azusa on September 23, 2015.  After achieving this milestone, the Authority turned the project over to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) to complete testing and training and then operate the project.  Metro expects to announce a start date for passenger service within 30 days of turnover, and anticipates ...

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grants fund billions of transit-related projects throughout the United States.  In an effort to improve the project delivery process for those projects, the FTA on September 3, 2015, announced the establishment of the Expedited Public Transportation Improvement Initiative (XPEDITE) in the Federal Register.  The FTA is soliciting participation in an online dialogue regarding XPEDITE, the goals of which are to facilitate the transit industry's implementation of the following:

  • Proven technologies to improve service delivery and ...
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Tags: FHWA, FTA, NEPA, XPEDITE

At the dedication celebration for the Gold Line’s Arcadia Station last weekend, Phil Washington, the CEO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said he expects passenger service on the Gold Line to begin next spring. The exact date for start of service will be announced after the system is turned over to Metro for testing. Arcadia Mayor Gary Kovacic, who emceed the event, made a point of telling Mr. Washington (who recently moved to Los Angeles from Denver) that spring begins much earlier in Arcadia than in Denver, perhaps as early as December or January.

The ...

Houston residents enjoyed free rides on Saturday, May 23, 2015 as part of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO’s) opening of the Green (East End) and Purple (Southeast) light rail lines.  The two new lines are part of an approximately $1.22 Billion expansion of METRO’s existing light rail system which also includes a 5.3 mile extension to the Red (North) line that began service in December 2013.  With the addition of the two new lines, Houston’s light rail transit system increases from 12.5 miles to 23 miles.

Since the opening of the Red Line extension, from the ...

The House Transportation Committee has approved the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act, a bill that would reauthorize Amtrak and other rail programs.  The bill is substantially the same as the 2014 legislation and is described by the Committee as bipartisan legislation that improves the infrastructure, reduces costs, creates greater accountability and transparency, leverages private sector resources, and accelerates project delivery for Amtrak and the Nation’s passenger rail transportation system.  The 2014 bill did not receive a vote in the full House and the Senate ...

In the Reason Foundation’s recent Surface Transportation News #132, Robert Poole authored a blog post that discusses a report by Andrew Owen and David Levinson of the University of Minnesota Civil Engineering Department called Access Across America: Transit 2014. Their report is concerned with data on how many jobs are accessible by transit within certain time periods in 46 of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the US.

Poole’s post analyzes both the percentage of jobs in a metropolitan area that one can reach within a given travel time, as well as the percentage of commuters ...

A Federal Court has ordered the Department of Transportation (DOT) to respond to a lawsuit filed by three environmental organizations—Earthjustice, Sierra Club and ForestEthics—in which the parties asked the court to order DOT to respond to the organizations’ request for an emergency order banning the use of DOT-111 tanks cars for the shipment of crude oil by rail.

DOT has 60 days to provide the Court with a response to Sierra Club’s lawsuit, which alleges that DOT is in violation of the law for failing to respond to its Unsafe Tank Car Petition.  The petition, filed with DOT on ...

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., has signed California Senate Bill (SB) 785. As my colleague Nancy Smith has observed, enactment of SB 785 is a major step forward for the State of California, because now many more state and local agencies can use design-build.

One of the immediate benefits of this change is that the much-anticipated Caltrain electrification project will be able to proceed as a design-build procurement.  The authority of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB) to issue design-build contracts was slated to expire at the end of this year, but SB 785 ...

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Tags: Rail

On July 28, 2014, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) and Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) issued the final request for proposals for a public-private partnership to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Purple Line light rail transit project using an availability payment approach.  The Purple Line is a 16-mile route extending from New Carrollton in Prince George’s County to Bethesda in Montgomery County, with 21 stations and three links to the Washington DC, Metro and MARC commuter train systems.  The Purple Line has estimated project value of ...

The U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) today released a much-anticipated Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to improve the safe rail transportation of flammable liquids, including petroleum crude oil and ethanol. 

PHMSA also released a companion Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on oil spill response plans, seeking comments on current thresholds and their applicability to rail and a summary of a study finding that crude oil from the Bakken field presents greater ...

On June 23rd, the U.S. Supreme Court granted the government’s Writ of Certiorari to review the decision of the D.C. Circuit that many believe may be hampering Amtrak’s leverage with freight railroads and its on-time performance.

According to Amtrak’s most recent issued Monthly Performance Report (May 2014), end station on-time performance (OTP) is approximately 74 percent so far this fiscal year (which started October 2013) down 12 percent from FY 2013, when the same performance measure finished at 85 percent.

While the particularly harsh winter weather may have been a ...

As speculation over the federal government’s forthcoming rule on rail shipments of crude oil grows, two items hit the press last week increasing speculation over the details of the reforms.

On July 15, 2014, Bloomberg reported that representatives from the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) met with the Transportation Department at the Office of Management and Budget on July 11 to present a joint plan for the phase-out of older tank cars.  According to Bloomberg, two people familiar with the proposal, who were not identified, said ...

The 141-year-old Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel is a major bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor, but Amtrak, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are conducting a study to examine alternatives to improve or replace the tunnel. 

The two-track B&P Tunnel is used by Amtrak, Maryland's MARC Commuter Rail trains and Norfolk Southern freight trains. The track geometry of the outdated tunnel creates a low-speed bottleneck impacting approximately 85 Amtrak trains, 57 MARC commuter trains and one to two freight trains each day.

On June 12 and 13, 2014, Railway Age’s Crude by Rail Conference and Expo brought together representatives from the oil and gas industry, railroads, rail car manufacturers, Federal government, emergency response organizations and Wall Street, to address the implications of the dramatic increase in shipments of petroleum by rail (CBR).

Several informative presentations were made on tank car specifications and numerous other technical topics.  This posting will summarize the policy and regulatory issues.

Ed Hamburger, President of the Association of American Railroads ...

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) held its Rail Conference on June 15 through 18, 2014, in Montréal, QC.  In addition to the technical sessions for which APTA is well-known, a main theme of the Rail Conference was the nexus between transit and economic development.  The shift in themes demonstrates transit organizations’ changing philosophy from building and operating transit infrastructure to also catalyzing transit-oriented communities.  Much of the focus on transit and economic development relates to joint development and Transit-Oriented ...

Two measures have been introduced in the California legislature to respond to the growth of crude-by-rail volume in the state.

State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) has introduced SB 1319, which would expand existing law regarding oil spills to cover inland waterways and direct the Governor to require the Administrator of the Office of Spill Prevention and Response to amend the California oil spill contingency plan to cover inland waterway spills, which would include any spills from railroads. 

Sen. Pavley told the LA Times, "We need to address the new and unique hazards of ...

Last week, officials from Amtrak, Norfolk Southern and the Federal Railroad Administration and Indiana Governor Mike Pence gathered to celebrate commencement of construction on the Indiana Gateway Project.

The $71.4 million project, funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will upgrade the rail line and right-of-way between Porter, Ind. and the Illinois state line.  Norfolk Southern will install universal crossovers at five locations and construct additional mainline track at three locations. 

Most significantly, NS will construct a new passing track at ...

As rail shipments of crude oil moving out of North Dakota’s Bakken formation have risen in recent years, so have derailments of trains carrying crude oil throughout the United States and Canada.  One facet of the debate over how to improve the safety of crude by rail shipments concerns the volatility of Bakken crude compared to other crude oil moved by rail.   In January the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) sent a letter to the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) requesting information on the tests and methods used to analyze and classify ...

On May 14, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) posted a reminder that Buy America, a domestic preference law, applies to the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program.  FRA posted the reminder because many potential RRIF loan and loan guarantee applicants are short line and regional freight railroads and may not be familiar with Buy America requirements.

The RRIF program was established in 1998 under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century of 1998 (TEA-21), with subsequent changes to the program coming in the Safe, Accountable ...

While federal officials continue their efforts to address railroad transportation of petroleum crude oil (crude-by-rail), Virginia intends to make a parallel but somewhat broader effort with respect to hazardous material rail transportation. 

On May 7th the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued an Emergency Order (EO) requiring all rail carriers to notify State Emergency Response Commissions (SERCs) regarding the expected routing of their unit trains of Bakken crude oil. The EO is effective in 30 days. The DOT issued the EO in response to the "startling" number of crude ...

Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman is warning that one or both of the Hudson River rail tunnels will need to be shut down within the next 20 years.  Boardman also noted that it would take seven to nine years to build and deliver new rail tunnels and that Amtrak’s plan for new tunnels is still unfunded. CEO Boardman made these remarks at the Regional Plan Association’s conference on April 25th in New York City.  

Readers will recall that Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) was a passenger rail infrastructure project that would have significantly expand transportation access between Midtown ...

On Tuesday, March 4th federal officials recommended the Maryland Transit Administration’s Purple Line Public-Private Partnership Project ("Purple Line") to receive $100 million in federal construction money as part of the Obama Administration’s 2015 fiscal year budget. The Federal Transit Administration recommended the Purple Line as one of seven large transit projects in the nation to receive full funding grant agreements, which allow for a longer-term payment commitment by the federal government. The other six projects are the Westside Subway Expansion – Section 1 ...

On Nossaman's website, we report on the result of decisions by the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the United States District Court for  the District of Hawaii that allow the construction of a 20-mile, $5 billion, rail transit project to proceed.  This project will transform the City of Honolulu, which now has some of the worst traffic  in the United States.  Nossaman was counsel to the City of Honolulu in the litigation.

These cases clarify important aspects of the alternative selection process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and section 4(f) of the ...

On Saturday, December 21, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) celebrated the opening of the North Line in Houston, Texas.  The 5.3-mile northern extension of METRO’s Red Line includes eight new stations and connects the University of Houston-Downtown and the Northline Commons Mall, making the entire Red Line nearly 13 miles.

The opening of the first new rail line in 10 years is going to bring "positive changes for the community," interim METRO president Tom Lambert said.  As the first to serve residential neighborhoods, the line will allow METRO "to see how we ...

Nossaman LLP’s 30-plus infrastructure attorneys offer clients, colleagues, strategic partners, and industry media a wealth of practical experience, insider insight, and thoughtful analysis here on Infra Insight. We blog about what we know best, from industry-leading procurements to local and national policy developments that affect the market and our clients.

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