Friday, July 22, 2011

July 22, 2011 weekly rail news

Let's see what I've gathered this week...
  • A segment of Interstate 405 shut down in the Los Angeles area last weekend, and showed that normal days are the true "Carmageddon" there. Relatively empty streets led some to call it "Carmaheaven". Many people stayed home or took to alternative methods of getting around. Their Northstar-like Metrolink commuter system posted record weekend ridership of close to 20,000. JetBlue ran promotional $4 flights across the metro area, to fly above the anticipated chaos that never came about. A race between the Wolfpack Hustle cycling group and a JetBlue passenger resulted in the bikes winning by a wide margin. The (fairly elite) cyclists had a total travel time of 1h34 compared to 2h54 for the passenger who drove to the Burbank airport, flew to Long Beach, and took a taxi to a nearby lighthouse which was the finish point—they could have made it almost the whole way back by the time the jet passenger arrived! A team walking and taking public transportation finished in 1h44.

  • A BNSF freight train derailed in Fridley shortly after 7 AM on Saturday, July 16th, knocking out bridges for both tracks over Rice Creek. The first main line returned to service at about 10 PM on Monday, allowing freights and Amtrak's Empire Builder to pass through both Monday night and Tuesday morning—the first two Amtrak trains to run anywhere between St. Paul and Havre, Montana since flooding in North Dakota closed the line in June. Northstar service remained suspended until Tuesday afternoon.

  • In Wisconsin, the legislature's Joint Finance Committee has voted to pay $31.6 million for projects related to the Milwaukee–Chicago Hiawatha Service. $21.4 million of that would go toward setting up a Talgo maintenance facility (which the state was obligated to pay for by an agreement between ex-Gov. Jim Doyle's administration and the company) for two trainsets currently being built for the line, while the remaining $10.2 million would go toward a project to upgrade the Milwaukee train station. WisDOT had previously attempted to get funding for these projects through a TIGER grant.

  • Delta Airlines announced planned service cuts to 24 communities, a mixture of subsidized and non-subsidized routes. Many of them are fairly close to other significant airports, though some are not. At least a few routes have drawn interest from other small airlines such as Great Lakes Aviation. I'm working on my own post about it.

    View Delta rural air service cuts, 2011 in a larger map

  • Political brinksmanship is threatening a temporary extension of the out-of-date reauthorization for Federal Aviation Administration funding (extended 20 times already), which could result in a shutdown. Rural airport subsidies are a major sticking point.

  • Train Festival 2011 started yesterday in Rock Island, Illinois, and will run through the weekend. Some related gimmicks have been reported, such as Iowa Interstate setting a 21st-century steam-hauled tonnage record with their two Chinese-built locomotives.

  • Michigan's DOT is attempting to purchase a rail line to Detroit in order to improve Amtrak Wolverine service on the route. Norfolk Southern currently owns it, but has been reducing train speeds from 79 mph down to 60 mph. In some places, speed has gone down to 25 mph. Amtrak already owns the line west of there and added Positive Train Control technology to it in 2005, allowing it to be one of the few segments of track in the country to support passenger train speeds above 79 mph: Trains have been allowed to go 95, and upgrades have been occurring to allow speeds up to 110 mph.

  • Partially following up on last week's note, Bus Driver Dude gives a rundown of Gateway Corridor alternatives, including options for buses, light rail, commuter rail, and MnPASS lanes.

    There are still two meetings scheduled for this week:

    • 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

  • A pedestrian was struck and killed by a BNSF freight train just east of Waverly, Minnesota at about 1 AM today.

    View Larger Map

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