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Welcome to ProRail Nebraska

Dedicated to supporting and advocating for railroad service 
in the State of Nebraska.

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Commuter Rail - Light Rail - Intercity Rail

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ProRail Nebraska Meetings  

Next Meeting: Saturday, March 3, 2018, 9:00 am (Doors open about 8:30 am) 

at St. Mark's Episcopal Church on the Campus, 1309 R Street, Lincoln

For more information call Bob Kuzelka (402) 417-9424 (Lincoln) email rkuzelka1@unl.edu

All ProRail Nebraska meetings are open to the general public!

If you can't attend in person, a conference phone line may be available.

If interested, please contact Bob Kuzelka 402-417-9424 rkuzelka1@unl.edu

ProRail Annual Meeting - Saturday, May 12 - 9:00 a.m. to Noon

Mark you calendar now!

Location: Second Unitarian Church of Omaha

3012 South 119th St. (SW corner 119th & Westwood Lane)

Agenda will be posted in Mid-April

November 2017 ProRail Newsletter Posted Online

Click here to view a PDF copy of the newsletter.

ProRail Supports Legislative Bill 769

Retain Nebraska's Membership in the MIPRC

On January 23rd ProRail President Matt Roque testified before the Nebraska Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee in support of LB 769. This bill would retain Nebraska's membership in the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (MIPRC).

You may recall that during the 2015 Session Sen. Kintner introduced LB 317 that would have withdrawn Nebraska from the MIPRC. ProRail opposed LB 317, but a compromise was reached where Nebraska would remain a member only until July 1, 2018.

At the beginning of the 2018 Session Sen. Quick from Grand Island introduced LB 769 that would eliminate the July 1, 2018 deadline and keep Nebraska in the Compact indefinitely. LB 769 is co-sponsored by Senators Walz, Harr, and Kolowski.

The Compact created the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission which brings together leaders from nine Midwest states (Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) to promote, coordinate and support improvements to passenger rail and connecting bus services. Nebraska's withdrawal from MIPRC would put our state outside this planning process. Senators Quick and Walz represent Nebraska on the Commission. The Governor hasn't appointed the other two NE representatives to the MIPRC.

In addition to retaining our state's membership in the MIPRC, LB 769 would also allow non-government parties to help pay the annual MIPRC dues which are $15,000 annually.

Click here to read Mr. Roque's testimony (PDF).

Kawasaki gets $1.4 Billion MTA subway car order

Much of the work to be done at Lincoln, NE plant

Railway Age - January 24, 2018

New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to spend more than $1.4 billion to purchase 535 new subway cars to replace the oldest cars operating on its lettered lines.

The initial order with Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. was approved by the agency Board's Transit Committee Jan. 22, and the Japan-based company could eventually design and build a total of 1,600 cars for more than $3.6 billion over the coming decade. They will be built at Kawasaki's facilities in Yonkers, N.Y., and Lincoln, Neb.

The first new R211 test cars are scheduled to be delivered by mid-2020, part of an order that includes 440 standard closed-end cars and 20 open-gangway test cars with through vestibules for NYC Transit, and 75 new cars for the Staten Island Railway. The design for the new cars features wider doors, closed-circuit surveillance cameras, new lighting and color schemes, and improved digital displays.

Reports said that under the terms of the contract to be voted on by the full board Jan. 24, the MTA has an option to have Kawasaki build about 1,100 more cars for $2.2 billion by the end of 2027.
The new cars will replace R42 cars dating to 1969-70, and some R32 cars, which are more than 50 years old.  The new deal comes after MTA in 2012 placed a $599-million order with Bombardier of Canada for new R179 cars. The test cars arrived two years behind schedule and experienced a number of failures soon after delivery. The contract with Kawasaki includes penalties for late delivery, and the builder has agreed to beef up its warranties on certain parts and systems.

Click here to view more details in Progressive Railroading article Jan. 25, 2018.

Minnesota ends Twin Cities-to-Milwaukee high-speed rail study

Progressive Railroading - January 11, 2018

An environmental study exploring the viability of a high-speed passenger-rail service between Minnesota and Wisconsin has been halted after two Minnesota state lawmakers objected to its funding.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Passenger Rail Director Dan Krom yesterday confirmed in an email a news report that the state has stopped its high-speed rail study, which was examining an environmental process that would be used to move the project forward. 

The proposed rail corridor would have featured high-speed passenger-rail service from Minnesota's Twin Cities to Milwaukee and then on to Chicago.

Last month, Minnesota Republican State Rep. Paul Torkelson and Republican State Sen. Scott Newman objected to MnDOT's accepting of federal grant money to complete the study largely because of Wisconsin state officials' opposition to high-speed rail, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported earlier this week. "Minnesota should not be squandering precious tax dollars - whether local, state or federal - on a wasteful project actively opposed by other states whose support is necessary to proceed," the legislators wrote in a letter to the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget, the newspaper reported. Torkelson and Newman chair the transportation committees in the Minnesota House and Senate, respectively.

About $1 million in state and federal funding has been invested to date toward the study over the past several years, said Krom. Wisconsin pulled out of the study years ago, due to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's objection to high-speed rail projects. But Minnesota continued to study the prospect of a high-speed passenger-rail corridor. The Tier 1 environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed rail line was funded under a federal High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program stimulus grant issued during President Obama's administration. The grant called for $600,000 from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) with a $600,000 match - $300,000 from each state. 

After Wisconsin pulled out of the study, Minnesota committed the full $600,000 state share to match the FRA's portion. About $181,000 in federal grant funds remain, which Krom said he assumed would remain in the grant program until it is closed in the future.

In 2010, while campaigning for his first term as governor, Walker said if elected he would send back $810 million in federal stimulus funds the state received for a proposed high-speed rail connection between Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. After Walker won the election, the U.S. Department of Transportation took back the federal stimulus money and distributed it to other states.

KC Streetcar Get's FTA Permission to Begin 

Proposed Extension Project's Development

Progressive Railroading - January 8, 2018

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority will develop 

refined capital and operating costs, as well as ridership estimates.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has authorized the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) to move its Main Street streetcar extension into the project development phase.

The agency now will develop refined capital and operating costs, estimate ridership, assess environmental impacts and create a detailed funding plan, KCATA officials said in a press release. The work will include an HDR Inc.-led study now underway.

The FTA's authorization is a key step toward securing federal funding for the extension, agency officials said.

"KC Streetcar's downtown starter line has proven its worth and this Main Street extension will further strengthen our investment while connecting our most dense neighborhoods and business centers in a new and exciting way," said Tom Gerend, executive director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority. 

The project's primary area extends from downtown Kansas City and Union Station toward the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Presentation By Roger Figard, Executive Director
Lincoln Railroad Transportation Safety District
December 9, 2017 ProRail Meeting in Lincoln
Click here to view PowerPoint slides
Click here to view map of conceptual plan to abandon Amtrak Route in Lincoln, NE
Click here to view map showing proposed Hobson Yard Bypass

ProRail Board Votes to Oppose Abandonment of Lincoln's Amtrak Line

Clyde Anderson - November 3, 2017

The ProRail Board met in Lincoln Saturday, October 28. After discussing the proposal by Lincoln's Railroad Transportation Safety District to abandon a segment of the Amtrak Line that extends from a point just west of the Amtrak Station 7.3 miles southwest to Cobb, the Board voted unanimously to oppose the abandonment. See the news article below for details. The Board opposes closure of the line to through traffic for several reasons:

  • Closure would require Amtrak's California Zephyr and other through trains that use the Amtrak Line to reroute past BNSF's Hobson Yard which is longer and would likely result in delays by freight trains waiting to enter this often congested yard facility.

  • Eliminating the alternate Amtrak Line would eliminate redundancy often needed when the Hobson Route is blocked by congestion, track maintenance, or derailments.

  • The option of rerouting all traffic via the Hobson Route is more expensive because a new signaled main line would have to be constructed past the south side of Hobson Yard, and the Freight Bypass between Hobson and Cobb would have to be upgraded.

  • ProRail supports the less expensive option of upgrading the grade crossings on the Amtrak Line to create a Quiet Zone.

  • BNSF doesn't support the proposed rerouting of traffic off the Amtrak Line.

We hope to have a spokesperson from the Railroad Transportation Safety District at our December 9 meeting.

Lincoln will buy two all-electric buses with a federal grant

NANCY HICKS Lincoln Journal Star Oct 27, 2017

StarTran has received a $1.45 million federal grant to purchase two electric buses to replace heavy-duty diesel buses. StarTran's project was one of 51 projects in 39 states selected for $55 million in grants from the Federal Transit Administration's low- or no-emission vehicle program.

The grant, which also funds electric-charging stations for the buses, will be matched by $500,000 in local funds. The electric buses, which cost about $300,000 more than a compressed-natural gas bus, will be able to travel 200 miles before recharging. 

Since most city buses run about 300 miles a day, the two buses will be used during peak hours and charged in between, according to Transit Manager Mike Davis. 

Click here to read the rest of the article and view images.

Will Lincoln's Amtrak Line Be Abandoned?

By Clyde Anderson - October 3, 2017

 According to an article in the September 10 Lincoln Journal Star, Lincoln's Railroad Transportation Safety District is concerned about grade crossing safety on BNSF's Hastings Subdivision between Lincoln's Amtrak Station and Cobb, a junction about 7.3 miles southwest of the City. This single-track line is used by the daily pair of Amtrak California Zephyr trains daily plus several BNSF freight trains. 

The Safety District is concerned about accidents at seven grade crossings on this line within Lincoln. This concern was heightened when two 17-year olds were killed August 18 when they drove around the lowered crossing gates at the West South St. crossing and were struck by a westbound Amtrak train.

Although the Safety District has considered creating a quiet zone that would include the seven crossings on the Amtrak Line within Lincoln City Limits, it is also considering a second option: abandonment of part of the line and rerouting through trains on an alternate route.

Creating a quiet zone would cost about $5 million according to a recent study. This involves changes at each crossing including additional warning signals at and raised medians that prevent vehicles from driving around lowered crossing gates. This eliminates the need for engineers to blow train horns approaching the crossings -- thus the name quiet zone.

At Cobb there is a junction with BNSF's Freight Cutoff used by most freight trains to reach Hobson Yard. It's the green line in the map above. If part of the Amtrak Line is abandoned, the Safety District proposes to reroute the through trains off that line to BNSF's Ravenna Subdivision from Downtown west to Cushman, junction with the Freight Cutoff to Cobb. This proposal involves building a new signalized main track along the south side of Hobson Yard and upgrading the Freight Cutoff to Cobb to passenger train standards. Estimated cost: $25 to $35 million. Since BNSF sees no benefit to rerouting the traffic, the cost would have to be borne by the City, State, and Federal governments.

Abandoning the Amtrak Line as a through route is a bad idea. In addition to providing a more direct and faster route for the Amtrak and BNSF intermodal trains that use it, the route provides an alternate path when the route via Hobson Yard is blocked by a derailment, natural disaster, or maintenance. Our railroad network is already plagued by past abandonment decisions that eliminated route redundancy, something railroad managers often regret!

Click here to view the excellent illustrated Lincoln Journal Star article.

KC Streetcar Authority advances riverfront extension plans

Progressive Railroading - October 2, 2017

Conceptual rendering streetcar's riverfront extension.

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) late last week approved advancing to the next phase of technical work for a streetcar extension to the Missouri River.

The next planning phase will focus on completing conceptual design for the project, KCSA officials said in a press release. Other efforts will include survey work and utility location, estimating costs, performing an environmental assessment and conducting public outreach. 

To help pay for construction, the project team is pursuing federal funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. The downtown streetcar line received $20 million in TIGER funding in 2013.

The primary study area extends from downtown Kansas City to the Missouri River and Berkley Riverfront. The area is bounded on the west by the ASB Bridge and BNSF Railway Co. right of way and on the east by Senator Kit Bond Bridge. 

KCSA late last year selected a team led by Burns and McDonnell to conduct the next planning phase for the riverfront extension. The work will occur while planning continues for a different extension to the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

NDEQ designated to administer Nebraska VW Trust, public input invited

September 25, 2017

Governor Pete Ricketts has designated the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) as the lead agency to administer the funds that are allocated to the state in the Trust (approximately $12.25 million). NDEQ will now begin seeking input from the public on the development of a plan to best use these funds to improve air quality and support local projects in Nebraska. A press release on the announcement is available at http://deq.ne.gov/Press.nsf/pages/PR092117.

A web page has been established on the NDEQ website to provide more information about the Trust and the agency's efforts to craft the initial Mitigation Plan. This page can be found at: http://deq.ne.gov/NDEQProg.nsf/OnWeb/AirVW. The page provides a link to download a Request for Public Comment on VW Mitigation Plan Development (PDF file), which provides background information on air quality in Nebraska, a summary of the eligible mitigation actions, and a list of specific questions about how Nebraska should structure its Mitigation Plan.

Public comments on development of Nebraska's Mitigation Plan are being solicited until Friday November 3, 2017. An on-line comment portal has been established at https://ecmp.nebraska.gov/DEQ-VW/. This portal allows members of the public to post comments and upload supporting documents. You are welcome to submit comments on this site. All submitted comments will be public; the portal provides public functions to search for and view submitted comments. However, you are not required to provide your name and contact information when posting comments.

You may also submit comments and questions to the Department via mail, phone, or e-mail as follows:

Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality
Air Quality Division, Attn. Randy Smith
P.O. Box 98922
Lincoln, NE 68509-8922
NDEQ.VWSettlement@nebraska.gov
(402) 471-2186

Colorado explores Front Range commuter line

Railway Age - Wednesday, September 06, 2017

A Colorado commission is exploring plans for a commuter rail line connecting cities along the state's Front Range. The commission, which includes government representatives from Denver to Trinidad, has until Dec. 1 to submit a detailed plan including funding options to the Legislature.

The state Department of Transportation estimated a commuter rail line from Fort Collins to Pueblo would cost $5 billion to $15 billion. A closer objective is the proposed rerouting of Amtrak's Southwest Chief to include stops in Pueblo and Walsenburg.

The 13-member commission will meet for the second time this week, and plans to convene at least once a month, according to media reports.

The repurposed commission, signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper in May, was created in 2014 to plan for the rehabilitation of more than 100 miles of track on Amtrak's Chicago-to-Los Angeles line, which stops in Lamar, La Junta and Trinidad in the southeast corner of the state, and consider expanding the Chief's services.

The commissioners have been tasked with finding millions of dollars needed to rehabilitate about 50 miles of track and the Pueblo station.  Pueblo voters in November 2016 approved a ballot question that would let the county spend excess revenues that otherwise would be returned to taxpayers under the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, or TABOR, to fund projects including the re-route.

But paying for the project likely would voter-approved taxes, or the first increase in the state gas tax since the early 1990s.

The line is considered essential to keeping pace with other growing areas such as Salt Lake City. The Front Range is expected to grow from more than 4 million residents to more than 6 million by 2040.

Warren Buffet: Invest some of Berkshire's $100 billion cash

in electrifying your railroad!

Clyde Anderson, PRN Director, District 2 - August 25, 2017

Instead of acquiring more companies, why doesn't Warren Buffet consider investing some of Berkshire's $100 billion cash [Berkshire Cash Pile: $100 Billion in Friday, Aug. 11 Omaha World-Herald Money Section] in its existing companies? I'm sure capital investments can be found that would generate new products and revenues or lower expenses.


For example, Berkshire's railroad, BNSF, has studied electrifying some of its high-density freight routes. Electrification not only reduces the railroad's energy costs and dependence of diesel fuel, it's more energy efficient because electric locomotives use regenerative braking that converts kinetic energy from braking into electricity that is fed back into the overhead wire to help propel other trains on the line. Today's diesel-electric locomotives waste braking energy as heat.


Electrification also offers many environmental benefits including reduced air and noise pollution. There is another benefit to Berkshire - its MidAmerican Energy subsidiary has a surplus of generation capacity, and several of BNSF's busy routes operate through MidAmerican's service area. If electrified, rail freight traffic could be an excellent baseload power customer.


Most high-density freight railroads in other industrialized countries have been electrified. Unfortunately, North American freight lines are still not electrified.


Rail electrification is a long-term investment and worthy of study by Berkshire and its subsidiaries.

Meet Omaha's new, faster bus to downtown: ORBT

Omaha World-Herald - August 17, 2017

The people of Metro transit hope a newly minted name and logo will create a hip image for their planned new bus service.

They're calling it ORBT, short for Omaha Rapid Bus Transit. It's designed to imply speed and forward momentum, Metro Executive Director Curt Simon said. He and other Metro officials and Mayor Jean Stothert unveiled the branding Wednesday at Westroads Mall, which will be the western terminus of the Dodge Street bus rapid transit route.

Click here to read the full article and related coverage in the Omaha World-Herald.

BNSF, Twin Cities & Western agree to share corridor with light rail

Progressive Railroading - August 16, 2017

The Metropolitan Council on Monday [8/14] reached agreements with BNSF Railway Co. and the Twin Cities & Western Railroad to permit light-rail operations along the same corridor as freight operations.

The pacts will enable the council to begin seeking federal funding for its planned $1.9 billion Southwest light-rail project, the Star Tribune reported earlier this week.

For about 8 miles of the 14.5-mile route, light-rail trains and freight trains will operate side by side. As part of the agreements, the Met Council will pay the railroads $58.6 million to pay for property acquisition and construction in the corridor, according to the Tribune.

The agreements were negotiated by the council's transportation committee. The pacts are slated to go before the full council today.

In fall, the Met Council plans to apply for $929 million in federal funding for the project. Last week, Met Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff said her agency will work toward starting construction on the Southwest project in 2018. 

An extension of Metro Transit's Green Line, the Southwest route would run from downtown Minneapolis to St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, Minnesota.

ProRail Receives Results for Nebraska Railroad Survey  

ProRail requested UNL's Bureau of Business Research to add four passenger rail-related questions to its Nebraska Annual Social Indicator Survey (NASIS) which was conducted last Fall. Responses to the four questions were favorable indicating a strong support for rail passenger service by Nebraska residents.  Click here to view the summary.

Results will be available for use in our legislative work in the 2017 Unicameral Session.

Posted 2/2/2017.

Transportation for America is a coalition seeking to align our national, state, and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development. N.A.R.P. is a member of this coalition.


ProRail Nebraska advocates safe, environmentally-friendly, fuel efficient, affordable, comfortable, and all-weather mobility that rail transportation can provide.

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We think trains need more prominence in the U.S. because:

  • Trains provide more mobility and travel choices, especially in the post-2001 travel environment.
  • A wisely developed train network has great potential to accommodate future travel demand.
  • Trains are energy-efficient -- Intercity (Amtrak) trains are far more efficient than airlines (2441 Btu's per passenger-mile vs. 3999 for airlines in 1998, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory).
  • Increased use of trains reduces America's dependence on foreign oil.
  • Trains are safe, especially in bad weather.
  • Trains contribute to development which is more compact and less wasteful than auto-oriented development.
  • Trains pollute less than other modes of transportation.

(above courtesy National Association of Railroad Passengers)

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Updated 01/25/2018