Friday, July 15, 2011

July 15, 2011 weekly rail news

I'm going to try starting a periodic end-of-week news round-up. We'll see if I can remember to do this on a regular basis. Some of the items here are a bit old.

  • The front steps have been torn out at the Saint Paul Union Depot, in order to widen the carriageway underneath. Since the Central Corridor LRT line is going to block car access to the front of the depot, the carriageway is being converted to have two lanes. Historically, I understand it was primarily used for baggage-handling.

    Christo's Greek restaurant in the lobby of the depot temporarily closed in the last week of June, but is expected to reopen in November.

    The Ramsey County Regional Rail Authority's note also mentioned that tar has been partially removed from one of the skylights on the depot concourse. The windows were blacked out back in World War II. Looking back 70 years now, it seems silly that they were ever blacked out in the first place. It made sense for coastal cities, but not for us in the middle of the continent...

  • The Souris River in Minot has finally receded enough so that rail service could be restored on BNSF's busy KO Subdivision (aka the Surrey Cutoff) in North Dakota. The first of the two main tracks was open by July 5th, and the second was open two days later. Amtrak's Empire Builder remains disrupted. Following recent disruptions, Amtrak has waited to resume passenger service until enough freights can get through to allow passenger trains to travel without being excessively delayed. This time, the route is expected to resume service on Sunday (July 17th). However, the station and platforms in Minot have been damaged by flooding, so the train probably won't stop there until sometime next month.

  • A BNSF coal train derailed on Sunday (July 10) near Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. About 20 cars derailed, and 4 of them actually toppled on their sides. This occurred on the Brainerd subdivision, which runs from Staples to Carlton Junction near Cloquet, Minnesota. The train was on its way to Superior, Wisconsin.

  • The Northern Lights Express project stands to lose a $5 million grant that it won back in May. The $5 million is part of a $1.5 billion chunk of rail funding that Republicans in the U.S. House is attempting to redirect. The proposal would send $1 billion toward Midwest flood relief. It's not clear to me whether this could make it through the Democratically-controlled Senate, however.

  • One of Amtrak's Downeaster trains traveling from Boston to Portland crashed into a tractor-trailer on Monday (July 11) in North Berwick, Maine, killing the truck driver. The collision caused a fireball, apparently fueled in part by the trash being hauled by the truck. Three train passengers were treated and released from a local hospital. The Downeaster typically operates five round-trips daily.

    Site of Amtrak Downeaster collision

  • After being egged on by Tom Vanderbilt, bicyclists in the Los Angeles area will race a JetBlue "carmageddon" flight from Burbank to Long Beach, California on Saturday (July 16th). The bikes will start 1h15 early (15 minutes less than the recommended 1h30 pre-flight arrival time, and will attempt to traverse the nearly 40 mile distance before the 45-minute flight arrives.

  • The Alternatives Analysis for the Gateway Corridor from the Twin Cities eastward into Wisconsin continues. Open houses are scheduled for four locations later this month:

    • St. Croix County Government Center
      July 19, 5-7 p.m.
      1101 Carmichael Road, Hudson, WI
      Lower Level (enter by Sheriff's Office)
    • Chippewa Valley Technical College
      July 21, 5-7 p.m.
      620 W. Clairemont Avenue, Eau Claire, WI
      Room 100A, Business Education Center
    • Woodbury City Hall
      July 26, 5-7 p.m.
      8301 Valley Creek Road, Woodbury, MN
      Ash/Birch Room, Main Floor
    • Metro State/Dayton's Bluff Library
      July 28, 5-7 p.m.
      645 East 7th Street, St. Paul, MN
      Ecolab Community Room, 3rd Floor

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