Our Japan high-speed study tour is a must for those who seriously love trains and believe in their future — as I know those of you reading this do. It’s an intensive, 13-day look at everything on Japan’s rails, from bullet trains to trams.
Chicago’s Metra Electric District is an under utilized asset that could be used to change the economic position of Chicago’s south side and south suburbs while providing the Chicago access point for Amtrak and high-speed rail. With this vision in mind a group of south side and south suburban organizations have joined together to create the Coalition for a Modern Metra Electric (CMME). Their mission is to work with Metra as well as local, state, and federal elected officials for an improved Metra Electric.
On April 29 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit made another ruling regarding section 207 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. Section 207 required Amtrak to work with the FRA to develop performance standards and metrics for passenger trains. If these standards aren’t met than the Surface Transportation Board (STB) could initiate an investigation of the freight railroads.
The Federal Aviation Administration released a Notice of Proposed Policy Amendment and Request For Comments on Tuesday, May 3, regarding a potential change to how airport passenger facility charges (PFC) can be used on airport rail projects. The current policy restricts the use of PFCs to rail projects that will be used exclusively by airport customers and employees.
Existing policy has led to projects that, as stated in the Notice, “can produce financially and practically inefficient outcomes,” hurting airport stakeholders.
In recent weeks New York Times ran a thought provoking Op-Ed piece about reorganizing our infrastructure investments around America’s seven mega regions. This would involve a renewed focus on regional planning in order to increase the connectivity of our mega regions.
The Senate Appropriation THUD Committee released their proposed appropriation levels on April 19th, which would provide increased levels of funding for critical passenger rail programs. Two of these programs were recently introduced in the FAST Act and are essential to strengthening our national network.
The Restoration and Enhancement Grants program would provide federal operating assistance for up to six new, reestablished or expanded passenger rail services. The appropriation proposed is $15 million out of the $20.5 million authorized.
New railcars, meant for Missouri, Illinois, Michigan and California have been delayed and could lose important federal funding if the project is not completed on time. In 2012 Caltrans and IDOT awarded a contract for up to 430 bi-level passenger railcars to be built by Nippon Sharyo in Rochelle, IL. The first railcars, similar to the California Surfliners pictured to the right, were supposed to begin replacing Amtrak's Midwestern fleet by late 2015.
Indian Railways is making progress in their effort to implement a high-speed rail network.
Progress continues on the nation’s first high-speed line.
Earlier this month, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled that opponents of the project offered no evidence that the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) would not comply with restrictions voters imposed on the project. CHSRA chairman Dan Richard stated that the “ruling confirms that we are indeed delivering fast, modern and environmentally friendly high-speed rail system that meets the voter approved requirements under Proposition 1a”
A new high-speed rail service, the Hokkaido Shinkansen, will be debuting in Japan on March 26th. The 92.5 mile line extends from Shin-Aomori to Shin-Hakodate and features the 33.4 mile Seikan tunnel that was once the longest in the world. The completion of this line will connect Hokkaido, the northernmost of Japan’s three main islands, to Japan's high-speed rail network for the very first time.