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April 2015 ProRail Newsletter Posted Online
Click here to view a PDF copy of the newsletter.
ProRail Nebraska Changes Its Objectives for 2015
Click here to view our updated objectives
Nebraska Legislative Wrap-up for 2015
ProRail was opposed to LB 317 which was introduced by State Sen. Bill Kitner (Dist. 2 - Cass and southern Sarpy Counties). LB 317 would remove Nebraska from the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (MIPRC). Although LB 317 was passed and signed by the Governor, ProRail and others supporting Nebraska's continued membership in MIPRC were able to get the bill amended extending the termination date from July 2015 to July 1, 2018. This will give us three years to convince the Legislature that belonging to the Compact is worthwhile. Thanks to Sen. Ken Haar with assistance from Senators Harr and Lindstrom for getting the bill amended.
ProRail supported LB 644 that would revive and restudy public transit to include Omaha/Lincoln rail. The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Nordquist, was indefinitely postponed by unanimous vote of the Transportation & Telecommunications Committee. That in effect killed it for this session. Although the bill could be acted on in next year's legislative session, that's complicated by Sen. Nordquist's recent announcement that he is resigning his seat in the Legislature on June 30th. On July 1 he will begin serving as the Chief of Staff for Congressman Brad Ashford (NE-Dist. 2) in Washington, DC.
ProRail Opposes LB 317
Repeal the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact
By Matthew Roque, ProRail Director & Lobbyist
ProRail is opposed to LB 317 which was introduced by State Sen. Bill Kitner (Dist. 2 - Cass and southern Sarpy Counties). LB 317 would remove Nebraska from the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (MIPRC).
The Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission (MIPRC) brings together state leaders from 12 states in the Midwest and the Plains regions to advocate for passenger rail improvements. This organization has been instrumental in moving states forward for new or expanded passenger rail options.
planning and development of passenger rail infrastructure in the Plains will
occur with or without Nebraska’s participation. ProRail Nebraska suggests
that it would be foolish for our state to deny itself the opportunity to
participate in this planning.
FRA’s planning process would build on the work that Midwestern and Plains
states have accomplished through coordination over the past 20 years. It is
expected that corridor projects be identified and prioritized and a process
for their on-going advancement will be developed. This process will include
preliminary planning to environmental review to construction. Results from
the multistate planning effort will give guidance to the National Rail Plan.
It is critically important
that Nebraska be a part of this planning process.
Otherwise our state will not be at the table to provide input that
represents the best interests of the state.
Click here to read Matt's testimony before Nebraska Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee hearing on LB 317 on February 24, 2015.
UPDATE 3/17/2015: I have some rather bad news. LB317 was made a priority bill by the Speaker of the Legislature. Although we had hoped that this year would run out before this saw the whole legislature, this basically guarantees that it will be heard by the legislature. I will continue to follow it, and will make calls to both Senator Smiths office and the Speakers office. Of all the bills out there, I would like to know why he thought this was worthy of being a priority....Matt
ProRail Supports LB 644
Adopt the Nebraska Transit and Rail Advisory Council Act
By Matthew Roque, ProRail Director & Lobbyist
Nebraska is a non-profit advocacy group that focuses on increased passenger
rail services as well as other public transportation options within our
a group focused on rail issues, ProRail participated in and has studied the
Nebraska Transit Corridors Study completed for the Nebraska
Transit and Rail Advisory Council in 2003. Although a good document, it
did contain several flaws that have continued to impact transportation
planning to this day.
One of the major flaws is its lack of any medium and long-range analysis or recommendations. The study simply analyzed the feasibility of developing commuter rail or bus systems by the year 2010. In addition to the limitations of the 2003 study imposed by the short term planning framework, the study did not undertake any in-depth origin and destination analysis. Commuting by University of Nebraska undergraduate and graduate students, for example was not considered, nor was an analysis of non-work related demand considered. Based on the limited research undertaken for the study, the report concluded that it was probably not feasible to initiate rail or bus commuter service by 2010.
Both the Lincoln and Omaha metropolitan areas have experienced significant growth since 2003 and this same rate of growth is expected for the next 20 to 30 years. Studies conducted by the Joslyn Castle Institute, The Nebraska Innovation Zone Commission, The Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance, The Lincoln-Lancaster Planning Commission and the Metropolitan Area Planning Agency among others, have projected considerable population growth and development activity within the Lincoln Omaha corridor. The construction of additional traffic lanes on I-80 in the corridor between Lincoln and Omaha demonstrate the importance the state places on serving the transportation needs of this growing population.
ProRail Nebraska implores our state to adequately prepare for the future transportation needs of its citizens in Lincoln, Omaha, and the areas in between. We believe the provisions of LB 644 offer the state a timely opportunity to examine alternatives for developing successful and cost effective transportation solutions for the future. ProRail Nebraska recommends LB 644 be used by the state to begin an incremental transportation planning and development strategy to take advantage of opportunities that can be implemented in the short term which will result in significant cost savings in the future. In order to accomplish these objectives, we suggest detailed analyses and projections be conducted for a planning period extending 20 years or more into the future through a revitalized Nebraska Transit and Rail Advisory Council.
Click here to read Matt's testimony before Nebraska Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee hearing on LB 644 on February 24, 2015.
UPDATE 3/14/2015: The news is not good. LB 644 to revive and restudy public transit to include Omaha/Lincoln rail was indefinitely postponed by unanimous vote of the transportation committee. That in effect kills it.....Bob Kuzelka
UP charts $102 million in Nebraska rail infrastructure improvements
In another in a series of
infrastructure investment announcements this week, Union
Pacific Railroad officials said yesterday the Class I will spend nearly
$102 million this year to improve rail infrastructure in Nebraska.
UP also plans to spend more
than $12 million to upgrade a line between Marshall and near Jefferson City,
Mo. The work — which began April 6 and is slated for completion by May's
end — calls for replacing 82,600 ties and about one-quarter of a mile of
rail in various curves, installing 45,700 tons of ballast and repairing
surfaces at 84 crossings.
DOT begins Zip Rail environmental study
Track & Structures, Tuesday, March 17, 2015
options for high-speed passenger rail service between the Twin Cities and
Rochester, Minn., known as Zip Rail, will undergo the first phase of a
two-step environmental impact statement review process.
Department of Transportation (MnDOT), the Federal Railroad
Administration and the Olmsted County Regional Railroad Authority filed a
Notice of Intent to prepare a Tiered Environmental Impact Statement for the Zip
on public and agency input gathered during the scoping process and the
technical analyses conducted to date, MnDOT determined that the no-build
alternative and eight end-point to end-point corridors will be evaluated in
the first phase (Tier 1) of the EIS. The Tier 1 EIS will examine the social,
economic and environmental impacts of each option.
The Zip Rail study area covers approximately a 100-mile corridor between Rochester and the Twin Cities, which includes Dakota, Dodge, Goodhue, Hennepin, Olmsted, Ramsey and Rice counties and various end points in the Twin Cities and Rochester. There is no continuous existing railroad connection between the Twin Cities and Rochester, so many of the potential corridors would create new transportation routes.
plans $226 million capital program in Nebraska
From Friends of BNSF – February 11,
BNSF 's 2015 capital program for its operations in Nebraska will be an estimated $226 million for rail capacity improvement projects and maintenance. Unlike other modes of freight transportation, U.S. railroads own and maintain their own networks. To ensure BNSF's network operates at optimal efficiency, each year the company allocates capital for infrastructure and expansion projects that will enable it to serve the growing needs of customers from a broad cross section of the economy.
year's substantial investments in Nebraska are a clear reflection of how
important our operations in the state are to our overall network and our
unwavering commitment to always operating safely - for our people and the
communities in which we operate," said Janssen Thompson, BNSF general
manager operations Nebraska Division. "We know our customers are
competing in a fast-paced, global economy where a smooth, efficient supply
chain can be the difference between winning and losing in the marketplace.
This year's planned expansion and maintenance projects will help give BNSF
the capacity flexibility it needs to support our customers' growing demands
and connect Nebraska products to key markets."
2015 capital projects in Nebraska include constructing two double track
segments on the Ravenna subdivision between Bradshaw and Aurora and Pleasant
Dale and Milford totaling 18 miles. These projects will greatly improve
capacity on this heavily-trafficked coal route.
maintenance of BNSF's infrastructure ensures an optimized, safe and reliable
network. Maintaining the railroad is important for keeping it in optimal
condition and helps limit the need for unscheduled service outages that can
slow down the rail network and reduce capacity. BNSF's maintenance program
in Nebraska will include 2,014 miles of track surfacing and undercutting
work, and the replacement of close to 55 miles of rail and about 214,000
ties as well as signal upgrades for federally-mandated positive train
planned capital investments in Nebraska are part of BNSF's record 2015
capital commitment of $6 billion, which was announced last November and is
the company's largest planned capital expenditure in its history. These
investments include $2.9 billion to replace and maintain core network and
related assets, nearly $1.5 billion on expansion and efficiency projects,
$200 million for continued implementation of PTC and $1.4 billion for
locomotives, freight cars and other equipment acquisitions.
View a map showing details of BNSF's $6 billion capital spending plan across its rail network.
order hits Chicago-Rockford rail plan
by Douglas John Bowen
- Monday, February 09, 2015
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an executive order Saturday, Feb. 7,
2015, putting major state construction projects on hold, apparently
including improved passenger rail service between Chicago and St. Louis.
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed an executive order Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, putting major state construction projects on hold, apparently including improved passenger rail service between Chicago and St. Louis.
The move bars agencies from awarding contracts without the administration's approval, freezing plans by the Illinois Department of Transportation to implement Amtrak service between Chicago and Rockford over Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way.
Rauner's executive order also prohibits state agencies from entering into and awarding state contracts and grants until July 1.
Illinois already has spent $3 million on engineering items related to the rail line prior to the freeze, an IDOT spokesman said. Local media reported that Huntley, Ill., local officals had committed $50,000 to engineering study as well to establish a rail station for the municipality.
Rauner's decision also counter efforts by his predecessor, Gov. Pat Quinn, to expedite service to Huntley and other northwest Illinois communities. Last April Quinn identified $60 million for re-establishing Amtrak service linking Chicago and Rockford, Ill., with service targeted to begin late this year.
Gov. Dayton proposes $11 billion to fix aging transportation system
Gov. Mark Dayton yesterday unveiled an $11 billion transportation proposal
to improve the state's aging transit systems, roads, highways and bridges.
Minnesota budget would greatly increase taxes on railroads, state railroad
29, 2015 Progressive
Gov. Mark Dayton's proposed $42 billion state budget for 2016-17 would
triple the taxes and assessment that railroads now pay to the state and use
about half of that for homeowner property tax relief, according to the Minnesota
Regional Railroads Association (MRRA).
Rauner spending freeze results in 'review' of Quad City Amtrak project
Bruce Rauner’s spending freeze resulted in the Illinois Department of
Transportation reviewing plans to bring passenger trains to the Quad Cities.
May of 2015, Paul Rumler, executive director of the QC Passenger Rail
Coalition, said he expected passenger train service to be available in the
Quad Cities in 2016, and the hotel and train station in Moline would be
finished by November 2015.
plans are currently under review after Gov. Rauner signed an executive order
for state agencies to halt nonessential spending, putting state contract
activity on pause until July 1. “We
believe the project will be released and things will move ahead and be right
on track,” said Scott Vandewoestyne, director of government affairs for
the Quad Cities Chamber.
said the governor is reviewing the benefits of various statewide projects,
and he believes the rail-passenger service will gain the governor’s
Lahl and his father own Dead Poet’s Espresso in downtown Moline and said
they were counting on gaining more customers from the Amtrak’s Quad-City
stop. “It would
really be a good overall improvement to help attract extra customers who
don’t usually get here.”
In addition to the passenger-rail project, the governor is reviewing the proposed direct flight from the Quad City International Airport to Washington D.C.
Passenger Rail System Option
for Nebraska’s Highly Dense Metro
Victoria Nelson – A member of ProRail Nebraska, a recent
graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor of science in
environmental studies and is currently a master’s student in the Community
and Regional Planning Department.
It is time to seriously begin planning for better public
transportation because we have a growing population base and we are able to
financially sustain it. The state is planning on expanding the entire
Interstate 80 to six lanes, but why not direct these resources to building a
passenger rail service similar to initiatives in Iowa and other surrounding
states? What we lack is political support. A regional system is being
planned with Chicago as the hub. If we delay serious thinking about future
plans for a high-speed rail system, it may go through Kansas instead of
Nebraska, which could hurt our economy.
How we can start getting the people of eastern Nebraska at
state and local levels to think about a passenger rail system? Clyde
Anderson, a retired Union Pacific employee and a Pro Rail Nebraska board
member, believes the first step would be to start off small, using a
well-planned commuter bus system. This bus system would use park and ride
areas for stations to pick up passengers then have assigned stops for each
bus. W. Cecil Steward, president and founder of the Joslyn Institute for
Sustainable Communities, believes a well-planned bus route could be designed
to lead the way for a light rail system to follow, with the aim of getting
people thinking about using public transportation. A rail system that
eventually replaced the bus route would be familiar. Any successful bus
system would have to run all the time, not just selected times and days like
the current system. We need commuter buses between Omaha and Lincoln at
least four times per day to help carry a portion of the thirty thousand
people in commuter autos daily. Buses would have to be well maintained,
safe, and comfortable for passengers. This would be a slow but productive
way of introducing people to the benefits of riding a public transportation
system. As population grows and more people see the advantages, support and
demand for a passenger rail system would grow. It would be crucial that any
bus system follows closely the eventual route of the rail system, so that
when a rail system is implemented, there would be no passenger hesitations
Until Nebraska residents and politician realize we need to
start investing in passenger rail, we can start the momentum by encouraging
the use of current buses so more people will enjoy the benefits, such as
less expense than owning a car, safety, and reduced environmental impacts.
here to read the full news article.
We think trains need more prominence in the U.S. because:
(above courtesy National Association of Railroad Passengers)
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