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7/15/2009



Rail News: Passenger Rail

Kansas DOT and Amtrak make headway with ARRA applications, allocations


The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) recently submitted three grant pre-applications to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) seeking more than $17 million under the High-Speed/Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) program created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

The HSIPR proceeds would help fund a $6.95 million project that calls for replacing 19 miles of jointed rail with continuous-welded rail and installing heavier rail on a passing siding on BNSF Railway Co.'s line between Barclay and Emporia. Amtrak's Southwest Chief uses the track segment and the improvements will enable the railroad to operate at speeds up to 79 mph instead of 60 mph.

KDOT also is seeking ARRA funds for a $500,000 project aimed at preparing a Service Development Plan (SDP) for implementing state-supported Amtrak service between Kansas City, Mo., and Oklahoma City, Okla.  The SDP would identify capacity investments required to accommodate faster passenger trains on current freight-only tracks.

Finally, KDOT filed a pre-application for $10 million in HSIPR funds to upgrade signal timing devices and grade crossings along BNSF track between Newton and the Kansas/Oklahoma state line for the potential K.C.-to-Oklahoma City Amtrak service.

KDOT will work with the FRA to determine the appropriate approach for developing final grant applications, which are due between late August and early October for the three projects, according to the department. The FRA expects to announce final award recipients by year's end.

Meanwhile, Amtrak yesterday unveiled the first of 81 passenger-rail cars to be removed from storage, restored and returned to service as part of an ARRA-funded program aimed at adding seating capacity on trains.

The car — which has been out of service for four years — is one of 60 Amfleet cars that will be rehabilitated at the Amtrak's Bear, Del., maintenance facility through $58.5 million in ARRA funds. Stimulus funds also will support similar work at the railroad's Beech Grove, Ind., facility, including $19.3 million to restore and return to service 20 Superliner cars and one Viewliner car, and $13 million to upgrade 15 P-40 locomotives.

Amtrak has hired 55 employees at the Delaware facility and 108 at the Indiana shop to complete the restoration work.


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