NARP letter to Surface Transportation Board

Dear Ms. Brown:


The Rail Passengers Association, also known as the National Association of Railroad Passengers, is the nation’s oldest and largest organization speaking for the nearly 40 million Americans who rely on passenger rail every year. In response to the letter submitted March 2 by the National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), the Association is submitting this letter to the above-referenced docket based on the significant interest of our members who travel on Amtrak, who are among the millions of fare-paying passengers who ride on routes hosted by Canadian National.

Click here to read the full text from the National Association of Railroad Passengers.

 

Southern Rail Commission Sees Big Wins in Omnibus Bill

On March 23, President Trump signed the FY18 omnibus appropriations bill that provides big wins and great opportunities for the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) and for the return of Amtrak's Gulf Coast service.  The bill provides significant increases in funding for passenger rail capital and operating programs, and includes report language that is supportive of the ongoing work by SRC to support passenger rail projects across the southern coast.

“The Southern Rail Commission is grateful to Senator Thad Cochran, Appropriations Committee Chair and Senator Roger Wicker of the Commerce Committee - as well as the Congressional delegations from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi - for the commitment to the restoration of passenger rail service across America’s Gulf Coast.  These programs can provide the resources that will get passenger rail up and going,” said SRC Mississippi Commissioner, Vice Chairman Knox Ross.

The final bill represents the largest single year increase for the full Amtrak budget as well as the national system. It includes the following funding:

  • CRISI (Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements): $592,547,000 including $35,547,000 set aside to restore lost passenger rail service such as the Gulf Coast route.

o   This represents an increase of over $68 million from FY17

o   Includes $250 million for PTC (Positive Train Control)

  • REG (Restoration and Enhancement Grants): $20 million which provides operating support for new passenger rail service

o   This represents an increase from $5 million in FY17

  • Amtrak:

o   National Network (includes the Crescent and City of New Orleans that serve SRC states)- $1.292 billion

o   Includes $50m for PTC

o   Increase over FY17 level of $1.1b

Previously the SRC has championed a report by a FRA Working group which facilitated an Amtrak feasibility study (here) that was completed in December 2015. This study found the estimated annual operating assistance for long-distance trains from New Orleans to Orlando is $5.48 million and adding a state-supported route from New Orleans to Mobile would cost an additional $4 million per year.

Work is underway in collaboration with the FRA, the States of LA, MS, AL, and FL, the Gulf Coast Congressional leadership, CSX, Amtrak and the SRC to identify needs and specific funding for phasing capital construction and operations for the restored passenger rail service.   Some of this funding could be acquired through the newly appropriated federal rail programs, CRISI and REG. The SRC has also received significant interest and initial commitments from private sector partners across the gulf coast interested in contributing to the rail project. 

Amtrak Gulf Coast service to Pensacola back on track

Buried in the $1.3 trillion omnibus bill that kept the government open through September and was signed by President Donald Trump on Friday is a bit of hope for those wanting to see passenger rail service return to the Gulf Coast — including to Pensacola.

The law contains $20 million for a grant program aimed at initiating, restoring or enhancing passenger rail service, according to Bryan Gulley, a Senate Commerce Committee spokesman for Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

"The program, which Florida Sen. Bill Nelson helped establish in 2015, is competitive but it was created with the Gulf Coast service in mind," Gulley said in an email to the News Journal. "For example, the grant program gives priority to restoring service on routes formerly operated by Amtrak. So, if the Gulf Coast line gets approval, the grant money could be used to help restore the line."

To read more, CLICK HERE

Budget Bill Puts Gulf Coast Amtrak Service Back On Track

The $1.3 trillion omnibus bill signed by President Donald Trump provides big wins and great opportunities for the Southern Rail Commission (SRC) and for the return of Amtrak service on the Gulf Coast, including Pensacola and Atmore.

The bill provides significant increases in funding for passenger rail capital and operating programs, and includes report language that is supportive of the ongoing work to support passenger rail projects across the southern coast, the SRC said Monday.

“The Southern Rail Commission is grateful to Senator Thad Cochran, Appropriations Committee Chair and Senator Roger Wicker of the Commerce Committee – as well as the Congressional delegations from Alabama, Louisiana, and  Mississippi – for the commitment to the restoration of passenger rail service across America’s Gulf Coast. These programs can provide the resources that will get passenger rail up and going,” said SRC Mississippi Commissioner, Vice Chairman Knox Ross.

Click here to read more.

Big Wins, Bigger Opportunities

This afternoon, President Trump signed the FY18 omnibus appropriations bill that provides big wins and great opportunities for the Southern Rail Commission and for the return of Amtrak's Gulf Coast service.

Thank you Senator Thad Cochran, Appropriations Committee Chair and Senator Roger Wicker of the Commerce Committee - as well as the Congressional delegations from Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

The final bill represents the largest single year increase for the full Amtrak budget as well as the national system. It includes the following funding:

  • CRISI (Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements): $592,547,000 including $35,547,000 set aside to restore lost passenger rail service just like our Gulf Coast route.
    • This represents an increase of over $68 million from FY17
    • $250 million for PTC (Positive Train Control)
    • Positive SRC report language
  • REG (Restoration and Enhancement Grants): $20 million which provides operating support for new passenger rail service
    • This represents an increase from $5 million in FY17
  • Amtrak:
    • National Network (includes the Crescent and City of New Orleans that serve our states)- $1.292 billion
    • $50m for PTC
    • Increase over FY17 level of $1.1b

Now is the time to capitalize on these opportunities!

Click here to read the SRC's full release.

Amtrak Platform Extension Project on Pause

An official said a project to extend the platform of Anniston's Amtrak station has been paused because of a request from the Federal Railroad Administration.

The FRA in 2016 approved Anniston for a $138,000 grant to extend the 500-foot platform by 400 feet. Currently, Amtrak trains must make what's called a double stop to load and unload passengers. In a double stop the train stops, unloads several cars and then moves forward to unload the final set of cars.

City leaders say the extension would allow passengers to load and unload baggage such as bicycles -- something that could mean increased tourism for sites such as Coldwater Mountain's biking trails and the Chief Ladiga Trail.

But Toby Bennington, director of economic development and city planning for Anniston, said Tuesday that the FRA has paused the project and asked Amtrak to see if baggage can be unloaded with the current platform without affecting train schedules.

Bennington said that if Amtrak officials find they can do without the extension, the grant will be used for another project, such as extending the station's parking lot.

To read more, CLICK HERE

President Trump Sought to Cut Funding to Amtrak Before Deadly Derailment

President Donald Trump claims his infrastructure bill could have prevented Monday’s deadly Amtrak incident, but his own administration sought to cut funding to the nation’s rail system earlier this year.

In May, President Trump released his transportation budget, which dramatically slashed federal aid to Amtrak by 13 percent. The budget, which reflects White House priorities and serves as a guide for Congress, proposed deep cuts in funding for long-distance service, expanding transit lines and construction grants.

“I’m just looking at the smoking wreckage,” Sean Jeans-Gail, the vice president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said in an eerily predictive comment this May.

To read more, CLICK HERE

Stakeholder meetings explore passenger rail station locations, transit options

The engineering firm hired to design the stations for a New Orleans to Baton Rouge passenger rail held stakeholder meetings this week downtown and in the health district, diving into the specifics of how to integrate the rail with other forms of transit and spur economic development. 

HNTB, which landed a $450,000 city-parish contract to come up with conceptual designs for two train stations in Baton Rouge, is now in the “listening and data-gathering phase,” says Bryan Jones, HNTB’s Gulf Coast District Deputy Office Leader. 

The stakeholder meetings—which included local officials and leaders of neighborhood associations—as well as a steering committee meeting, also held this week, kicked off discussions over how to best integrate the two proposed rail stations with the Capital Area Transit System, ride-hailing services and bike programs, like the nascent Bike Share. The groups also began discussing in greater detail where exactly the rail stations would go.

To read more, CLICK HERE

Infrastructure planning for Gonzales train station on track

GONZALES - A kick-off meeting last week between Gonzales city administrators and train transportation experts set into motion the planning for what will be needed, and how much it will cost, to build a train station here.

Gonzales would be one of seven stops along a future commuter rail line envisioned between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, although a financing source has not yet been identified for the long-discussed major initiative. 

To read more, CLICK HERE