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Rail News Home Passenger Rail

December 2007

Rail News: Passenger Rail

Full speed ahead


Last month, several transit agencies completed or advanced work on new passenger-rail lines.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) opened the Greenbush Line, the agency’s 13th commuter-rail corridor. The $512 million line features seven stations and serves the towns of Braintree, Weymouth, Hingham, Cohasset and Scituate, Mass. MBTA will provide 12 round trips between Boston’s South Station and Greenbush Station in Scituate each weekday and eight round trips on weekends.

The Charlotte Area Transit System also opened a new line — the LYNX Blue Line, the agency’s first rail corridor. The 9.6-mile, 15-station line runs from Interstate 485 at South Boulevard to downtown Charlotte.

In Oregon, the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District is gearing up to open a new commuter-rail line. Last month, the agency announced it will call the 14.7-mile Washington County commuter-rail corridor WES, which stands for Westside Express Service. Scheduled to open on Sept. 12, 2008, the 14.7-mile line will run along existing freight tracks and provide service to Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville. Construction is about 75 percent complete; TriMet has rebuilt more than 14 miles of track, reconstructed 14 crossings, and built five new and rehabilitated two bridges.

Meanwhile, other transit agencies are hoping to soon get proposed passenger-rail projects off the ground.

New Jersey Transit is conducting environmental work on the West Trenton passenger-rail corridor. The agency is seeking to restore service along the 27-mile, five-station line, which would run from Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s West Trenton Station in Ewing to NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line in Bridgewater. The project’s cost estimate is $219 million.

In California, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority held a public meeting on the proposed Santa Clara-Alum Rock Transit Improvement Project. The agency plans to provide single-car light-rail transit or bus rapid transit service along the 4.3-mile corridor from the San Jose Diridon Station to the Eastridge Transit Center. The agency expects to release a Draft Environmental Impact Report for the project in spring 2008.

And, the Maryland Transit Administration held a series of open houses to provide information on the proposed Red Line project, which calls for buildng a light-rail or bus rapid transit line from the Woodlawn area to Edmondson Village, through downtown Baltimore to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center Campus in East Baltimore. The 12-mile line would connect with existing MTA subway, light-rail and bus services, as well as MARC commuter-rail service.

More funds committed for NYC projects

Two transit agencies recently obtained significant funding commitments last month for projects in the Big Apple.

New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority received a $1.3 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement from the Federal Transit Administration for the first phase of MTA New York City Transit’s Second Avenue Subway project. To be distributed during a seven-year period, the grant will cover 27 percent of the project’s $4.9 billion cost.

Scheduled to open in 2014, the line’s 2.3-mile first phase will run along Second Avenue north from 63rd Street to 105th Street and include three stations.

The entire Second Avenue Subway project includes three additional phases that will extend the line up to 125th Street and down to Hanover Square in the Financial District. Once complete, the line is expected to accommodate 560,000 riders daily.

Meanwhile, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced it will contribute an additional $1 billion toward New Jersey Transit’s Trans-Hudson Express Tunnel project, under which NJ Transit will build two single-track passenger-rail tunnels beneath the Hudson River to a new station below 34th Street in Manhattan.

The port authority now has pledged $3 billion toward the $7.5 billion project.

VRE first-ever commuter road to land a RRIF loan

Last month, Virginia Railway Express (VRE) received a $72.5 million Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan from the Federal Railroad Administration, making VRE the first commuter railroad to obtain a loan under the RRIF program.

VRE plans to use the loan to purchase 50 new bi-level passenger cars, which will enable the agency to replace old cars, expand its fleet, add seating capacity and improve service. The commonwealth of Virginia will provide $20 million for the car purchase.

The RRIF program authorizes the FRA to provide $35 billion in direct loans or loan guarantees to eligible railroads, state and local governments, and government-sponsored authorities.


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