Posts tagged Rail and Transit.

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

The Maryland Department of Transportation and Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT/ MTA) announced on December 11, 2013 that six private-sector teams responded to a Request for Qualifications to design, build, construct, finance, operate and maintain the Purple Line project.  The list of proposer teams is included in the joint press release.

The 16-mile light rail line, which will be constructed under Maryland’s newly adopted Public-Private Partnership law, runs between Bethesda in Montgomery County, Maryland and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  ...

Last week I attended an invitation only round table organized by Karen Hedlund, Deputy Administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration.  The round table was held in conjunction with the High Speed Rail Conference held at LA Metro's headquarters in Los Angeles, California.  With the House T&I Committee expected to begin marking up a rail bill, Ms. Hedlund sought ideas about how to expand the Railroad Rehabilitation Improvement Financing credit program to be a more useful source of low cost debt capital for commuter rail projects.  Around for a number of years, RRIF has been ...

On Saturday, October 19, 13 cars on a Canadian National train derailed west of Edmonton, Alberta, and three cars carrying liquefied natural gas leaked and burned.  No injuries were reported.  This accident follows a similar incident in July in which a train with 72 tank cars of crude oil derailed in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec.  That derailment triggered a series of explosions that killed 47 people. The tank cars carrying the oil were non-pressure tank cars that meet specific DOT containment standards, classified as DOT-111 cars.

These incidents have attracted scrutiny from ...

On April 24, 2013, Norfolk Southern (NS) CEO Wick Moorman spoke before the US House of Representatives Transportation Infrastructure Committee’s Special Panel on 21st Century Freight Transportation about the need to focus on long-term investments in railroad infrastructure.  The NS CEO stated that In the past decade Norfolk Southern helped locate 1,021 new and expanded facilities along Norfolk Southern rail lines, representing $28.7 billion in customer investment and generating more than 48,000 jobs. That’s just one railroad. What an incredible incentive to support ...

Possibly lost in the shuffle of the rollout last week is the news that the President’s budget proposal (PDF) includes $130 million to help fund two significant transit system improvements in Los Angeles, the Regional Connector and the West Side Extension.

The Regional Connector would be a 1.9-mile underground line that would tie together the Gold, Blue and Expo lines and allow a one-seat ride from Montclair to Long Beach and from East Los Angeles to Santa Monica.  The West Side Extension would build out the Purple Line subway from Wilshire & Western to Westwood, a distance of 9.5 ...

More evidence of the beneficial impacts of transit-oriented development has arrived in the form of a new property values study by the American Public Transportation Association, the Center for Neighborhood Technology and the National Association of Realtors.  

(See also our blog post regarding the EPA report released last month promoting funding mechanisms and other strategies for communities to provide more transit-oriented development.)  

The study found that homes closer to public transit performed 42 percent better (in terms of resilience of property values)  than those ...

This week the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) issued a Request for Information (RFI) requesting private sector involvement to collect best practices for delivery and financing of the planned Maryland National Capital Purple Line and Baltimore Red Line.  The proposed Maryland National Capital Purple Line is a 16-mile light rail transit line project that will extend between Bethesda and New Carrollton, Maryland.  The proposed Baltimore Red Line is a 14.1 mile, east-west transit line that will connect Woodlawn, Downtown Baltimore and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center ...

The Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority (Authority) has announced the completion of the Iconic Freeway Structure Design-Build Project (Iconic Freeway Structure) on-time and on-budget. Awarded to Skanska USA in 2010, the project involved the design and construction of the Gold Line Bridge, a 584-linear foot sculptural bridge. 

The $18.6 million dual track bridge is the first element completed for Phase 2A of the 11.5-mile Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension (Foothill Extension) that will connect the existing Sierra Madre Villa Station in the city of ...

In an important victory for the $5 billion Honolulu rail transit project, on December 27, 2012 the U.S. District Court in Hawaii issued a judgment allowing construction of the first three phases of the 20-mile Project to continue pending the completion of additional environmental analysis regarding the last construction phase the Project in downtown Honolulu.  The Court’s judgment keeps in effect in Federal Transit Administration’s approval of the Project and the $1.5 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Project recently executed by the FTA and the City.  The Court’s ...

On December 19, 2012 the Federal Transit Administration executed a $1.5 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement for $ 5 billion, 20-mile, Honolulu rail transit project.  The Project will serve the heavily congested corridor between the west side of O'ahu and downtown Honolulu.  The Project will provide transit access to major employment centers, activity centers, and tourist destinations in Honolulu, including the Pearl Harbor Naval Base, Aloha Stadium, the Honolulu International Airport, Chinatown, the downtown business center, the Civic Center, the Port of Honolulu, and the Ala ...

In a decision of importance to transportation projects throughout California, the California Court of Appeal rejected environmental challenges to the $1.5 billion extension of the Exposition Corridor light rail line in Los Angeles.  Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (2012) __ Cal.App.4th __ (April 17, 2012, B232655).  The decision is cause for optimism, not only for transportation agencies, but for all Californians who stand to benefit from transportation projects designed to reduce air emissions and traffic congestion.  Nossaman ...

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has authorized the City and County of Honolulu to begin construction of a 20-mile, $5 billion rail transit project.  The FTA Letter of No Prejudice allows the City to begin up to $184.7 million in construction and other activities on the project, including the first sections of raised guideways from East Kopolei to Pearl Highlands.  The 20-mile rail project will extend from Kapolei to Ala Moana Center in downtown Honolulu and includes a station at the Honolulu International Airport. 

Hawaii state courts have rejected state law challenges to the ...

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood plans to name Karen J. Hedlund as Deputy Administrator at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).  Hedlund moves to the Deputy Administrator position from her current role as Chief Counsel at FRA, replacing Karen Rae, who Gov. Cuomo recently appointed as New York State Deputy Transportation Secretary.  Before moving to FRA, Hedlund served as Federal Highway Administration Chief Counsel from June 2009-June 2010, where she helped implement the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including new investments in highway ...

As discussed in a previous blog post, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) recently set new level-entry boarding requirements for disabled passengers on intercity and commuter railroads through amended regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (76 Fed. Reg. 57924).

In the proposed rule, USDOT stated its intent to require passenger railroads to provide level-entry boarding at all new or altered station platforms, unless the passenger railroad could show that level boarding was infeasible.  In the final rule, USDOT retained the level-boarding ...

In a recent move that will have wide-ranging impact on the rail industry, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) set new level-entry boarding requirements for the access of passengers with disabilities to passenger railroads, applicable to new and altered station platforms where construction or alteration begins on or after March 2, 2012.  Through a final rule promulgated on September 19, 2011, USDOT amended its Americans with Disabilities Act regulations to require intercity and commuter passenger railroads to provide that disabled passengers can access any passenger ...

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Utah Transit Authority (UTA) brought online this week two new extensions of its well-regarded Salt Lake City TRAX light rail network.  The first projects in UTA’s ambitious Frontlines 2015 program, UTA delivered the new West Valley and Mid-Jordan TRAX lines 20% under budget and a year early, boosted by funds the federal New Starts grant program and from a quarter-cent local sales tax increase.

The 5.1-mile West Valley extension ($370 million total cost) forms part of a new TRAX green line that will eventually run from downtown Salt Lake City to the Salt Lake City ...

Yesterday, the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority awarded a $486 million design-build contract to a Kiewit/Parsons joint venture. The contract is for the 11.5 mile extension of the Metro Gold Line light rail from the Sierra Madre Villa station in the City of Pasadena to Citrus Avenue near the boundary of the City of Azusa and the City of Glendora.  The Authority previously awarded a separate design-build contract to Skanska for the Iconic Freeway Structure within the same alignment.

The Authority made the award decision for the Foothill Extension project using ...

On June 15, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica and Rep. Bill Shuster, Chairman of the Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Material Subcommittee, introduced the Competition for Intercity Passenger Rail in America Act.

Chairman Mica said: After 40 years of costly and wasteful Soviet-style operations under Amtrak, this proposal encourages private sector competition, investment and operations in U.S. passenger rail service. The legislation would force Amtrak to sell the Northeast Corridor (NEC) to the U.S. government, establish a committee ...

The Railroad Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) was the most comprehensive rail safety legislation in several decades.  Many railroads are busy with the rollout of positive train control, but there are many other rail safety initiatives underway at the same time.  This is the second in a series of posts on what else is going on in railroad safety, besides positive train control.

FRA is in the midst of a rule making to implement the RSIA requirement that  passenger and freight railroads to establish risk reduction programs.  As part of the programs, railroads would be required to produce ...

The roll-out of positive train control (PTC) is a daunting task for many railroads.  Even without PTC we would still call this a very busy time in the realm of railroad safety.  The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), which included the PTC mandate, was the most comprehensive rail safety legislation in several decades.  It would be easy in light of PTC to lose sight of all the other RSIA initiatives underway, but that would be a mistake.

In an effort to help our readers stay current, we will devote some space here to a series of posts on RSIA implementation issues other than PTC.  I will be ...

Kevin M. Sheys joins Nossaman's Infrastructure Practice Group as a partner.  He brings expertise in all areas of railroad transportation, including all aspects of the rail industry, both freight and passenger.  His extensive experience includes successfully representing government entities in railroad construction and relocation projects, advising states and transportation agencies in publicly-funded passenger rail service expansions and infrastructure projects, assisting buyers and sellers in rail line transactions, and counseling clients on a wide range of rail ...

Earlier this week USDOT Secretary LaHood announced the winners of the highly competitive TIGER II grant application cycle. Forty-two capital construction projects and 33 planning projects in 40 states will share nearly $600 million in grant funds.

According to the announcement, USDOT received nearly 1,000 construction grant applications for more than $19 billion from all 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.  Roughly 29 percent of TIGER II money goes for road projects, 26 percent for transit, 20 percent for rail projects, 16 percent for ports, four percent ...

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently published a progress report (PDF) presenting its ambitious vision for the congressionally-mandated National Rail Plan (NRP).  The NRP is being developed as part of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008.  The progress report builds upon the Preliminary National Rail Plan (PDF) submitted to Congress last year.  When completed, the NRP is expected to present a framework for improving our transportation network for future generations.

The progress report emphasizes the importance of efficient and effective ...

State and local strategies to bridge the gap between traditional funding and current needs – which has been referred to as alternative finance – are now becoming mainstream. 


Consider Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s plan to speed up the development of LA’s transit infrastructure, which the LA Times reports would include financing from ‘a combination of private financing and bonds, such as Build America Bonds, established in the economic recovery bill to cut interest costs for local and state infrastructure projects.’ 


In fact, this model has already been ...

The Obama Administration recently outlined its proposal for enhanced federal safety oversight of subways, light-rail and municipal bus systems. USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood said, Now, would we prefer that states regulate their own systems? You bet. But some states simply lack the resources to do that. And, in a pinch, some state will cut safety items from their budgets. For transit passengers those cuts are too dear.

The proposed Public Transportation Safety Program Act of 2009 would authorize the Secretary, through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), to set and enforce minimum federal transit safety standards and ensure that transit safety efforts grow in tandem with increased ridership.

USDOT is currently prohibited from establishing federal transit safety standards, and instead relies on 27 State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSAs) to monitor transit safety as provided in 49 CFR Part 659.   Following several transit incidents earlier this year, FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff announced the Administration’s intent to enhance federal oversight.  [See FTA Considering New Safety Oversight for Rail Transit.]  Funding, independence, and enforcement powers are critical concerns for SSAs, which average less than one staff person per transit agency and in some cases rely on transit revenues from the systems they oversee.

Under the proposed program, FTA would be authorized to promulgate minimum national standards for rail transit safety, applicable to all fixed rail systems not currently under Federal Railroad Administration jurisdiction. (The legislation would also authorize bus safety regulatory authority but DOT expects its initial focus to be on rail transit safety.)

States could choose to continue transit safety oversight on behalf of FTA, but only when FTA finds that the SSA has:

  •          an adequate number of fully-trained staff to enforce federal regulations;
  •          been granted sufficient authority by its governor and state legislature to compel compliance by the transit systems it oversees; and
  •          sufficient financial independence from any transit systems under its purview.

 

The Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) has released a Lessons Learned Report which gives a realistic and sober review of what’s gone well and what should be done differently to implement the FasTracks program. The FasTracks is the RTD’s voter-approved, multi-billion dollar program to build 122 miles of rail transit, including six new commuter rail and light rail lines and extensions of three existing lines, build 18 miles of bus rapid transit service, add 21,000 new parking spaces, redevelop Denver Union Station and redirect bus service to better connect the eight-county District.

The report reviews lessons learned in nine main areas that can be used throughout the completion of FasTracks itself – currently one of the most ambitious transit expansion efforts in the country – as well as for future programs.  Among those lessons are things that have worked well including:

In the last week, much has been written about the submission of more than $50 billion in Track 2 high-speed and intercity passenger rail (HSIPR) funding applications to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).  But the resolution of FY 2010 transportation appropriations may be just as important in determining the direction of HSIPR and freight rail projects.

The OneRail Coalition, a coalition of passenger and freight rail stakeholders promoting investment in rail infrastructure, has written to House and Senate appropriators urging the highest possible support for HSIPR in the ...

Two potential public-private partnership transit projects appear closer to leaving the station, after several delays. Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) recently held a public hearing on the Eagle P3 project and is poised to issue a request for proposals to three prequalified/shortlisted teams on September 30th with proposals anticipated in March 2010. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is on an accelerated schedule for its stimulus-revamped Oakland Airport Connector project, with proposals due in late September and contract award slated for December.

The Federal ...

It isn’t often that infrastructure makes the Arts pages of the Los Angeles Times.  So the recent publication of glamorous renderings of transit projects that transcend typical configurations of concrete and steel may herald a new golden age for rail and transit.

HOK's award-winning design for Orange County Transportation Authority’s Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center  radically transforms the traditional concept of art in transit into transit as art; the designers employ a train station and transit hub as the medium to create an iconic visual symbol ...

New subway safety standards may be coming soon to a city near you.  The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has assembled a team of transportation safety experts to explore rail transit (subway, light rail, and commuter rail) safety reforms, which may extend to bus operations.

FTA is currently prohibited by law from establishing national safety standards, requiring Federal inspections, or requiring specific operating practices, but that may soon change.  In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff condemned several recent ...

At the June 2009 meeting of the Texas Transportation Commission, TxDOT Assistant Director Phil Russell provided a first look at a proposed Rail Division for TxDOT, focusing on both passenger and freight rail planning for the future.  If created, the new  Rail Division would have a Rail Division Director, with  four departments under that to-be-named person's purview including Operations, Railroad Crossings, Safety and Project Development.

Commissioners indicated that it would be a wise move to create a Rail Division.  Commissioner Bill Meadows voiced that "the Commission needs ...

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) are in the early phases of procuring a firm to enter into a Public Private Partnership to design, construct, operate, maintain and finance a cross regional passenger rail service known as the Cotton Belt Rail Line starting on or about 2013.

The Cotton Belt Rail Line PPP project is intended to provide regional rail connectivity for communities along the project corridor to Fort Worth, Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Airport, the DART transit network, and major activity centers along the corridor.  This ...

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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