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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, October 28, 9:00 am 

at St. Mark's 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

Fall Members Meeting: Saturday, December 2, 9:00 am

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

Past Members Meeting: Our meeting Saturday, April 8, at the Univ. of Nebraska - Omaha included an agenda of excellent presentations focused on improvements to public transit in Omaha and the State of Nebraska. With the speakers' permissions, we will post their presentations soon on our web site.

April 8 Meeting Agenda with Links to Presentations

9:00 - Welcome & Introductions (Matt Roque, PRN President)

9:10 - UNL Student Passenger Rail Studies

9:40 - Omaha Dodge St. Bus Rapid Transit update (Jason Rose, Omaha Metro Transit)

10:10 - ModeShift Omaha (Liz Veazey, ModeShift Board)

10:40 - Break

10:50 - NE Mobility Management Study (Kari Ruse, Transit Liaison Manager, NDOR)

11:20 - Nebraska Railroad Museum Update (David Fachman, NRM President)

11:35 - NE Legislature Activities: 

  • Support LB339 NDOR --> NDOT (Bob Kuzelka, PRN Vice Pres.)

  • Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission Briefing (Matt Roque, PRN Pres.)

11:50 - PRN Business - Secretary & Treasurer Reports

11:55 - PRN Officers and Board Member Elections   (Bob Kuzelka, PRN Vice Pres.)

                     Proposed Slate:

                                                President - Matt Roque

                                                Treasurer - Ralph Hayden

                                                Dist. 1 Director - Richard Schmeling

                                                Dist. 3 Director - Dave Purdy

                   No nominations from the floor. Candidates elected by acclimation.

Noon - Adjourn

April 2017 ProRail Newsletter Posted Online

Click here to view a PDF copy of the newsletter.

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.

PRN Members Invited to Attend Burlington Station Program

Sunday, October 22, 2017 - Doors Open 1:00 pm, Program 2-4 pm

The Great Plains Chapter National Railway Historical Society has conferred the 2017 John H. Conant award jointly to KETV and the Leo A Daly architectural firm for their outstanding work in renovating the Omaha Burlington Station. 

In deference to the recipients Omaha location, the Chapter has partnered with Durham Museum to present the awards as part of a very special public lecture event at the Museum on Sunday, Oct. 22nd, devoted entirely to celebrating Burlington Station's history and rehabilitation. 

You are invited to join us for the two hour program entitled "Station to Station", which will begin at 2 p.m. with historical perspectives regarding the Burlington Railroad and its passenger operations in Omaha, by Eric Miller (Senior Rail Planner/Scheduler for Denver's Regional Transportation District). Presentations continue from the two people most responsible for successful completion of the project: Sheila Ireland (Project Architect for Leo A Daly), will help us better understand the architectural significance of the depot, the changes it underwent during its years of railroad service, and the process of restoration for an entirely different purpose. Ariel Roblin (President & General Manager KETV) will explain how the TV station decided to purchase and restore the derelict building, will describe its present use, and will take us on a video tour, offering a rare glimpse inside the renovated structure.

 Immediately following, there will be a generous period allowed for audience questions.

Click here for more details and instructions how to register to attend this event.

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.

Budget proposal disastrous for transportation

Editorial by Richard Schmeling - PRN Director, District 1 - Aug. 4, 2017

President Donald Trump's proposed budget for funding transportation represents a disaster for Nebraska.

Trump proposed to end operational funding for Amtrak in the new budget and phase out capital funding for Amtrak over five years. If his proposal is adopted, Nebraska's only two Amtrak trains, the California Zephyr, will quit running. So will most of the other long-distance passenger trains in the United States.

Click Here to read the rest of Richard's editorial in the Lincoln Journal Star.

KC Streetcar starts planning for extension to university
Progressive Railroading - Wednesday, August 9, 2017

An HDR-led team will perform the planning and engineering services for the extension.
Photo - Kansas City Streetcar Authority

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) on Monday issued a notice to proceed on planning work for a southern extension to the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 

An HDR Engineering-led team will perform planning and engineering services. The planning work will include collecting data on area conditions and utilities, refining alignment details, determining station locations and updating cost estimates.

The HDR team also will start the process required to seek federal funding for the project. 

"This effort is a critical step toward advancing the region's transit vision and completing the due diligence that will be required to make this vision a reality," said KCSA Executive Director Tom Gerend in a press release.

Expected to cost $1 million, this phase of planning is jointly funded by KCSA and the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. The planning and engineering work is expected to be completed in nine months.

The HDR team includes support from Burns & McDonnell, HNTB, Trekk Design Group, Hg Consult, Parson and Associates, VSM Engineering, and Architectural & Historical Research. KCSA selected the team earlier this year.

Union Pacific Railroad's "Nebraska150 Express"

Railway Age Aug. 1, 2017

A trio of E-9 diesel locomotives delivered by General Motor's 

EMD unit in 1955 will power Union Pacific's 

Nebraska 150 Express. (UP photo)

Union Pacific Railroad's "Nebraska150 Express" heritage train will tour the state August 4-6, to mark the 150th anniversary of the territory's entry into the Union.

The train's vintage passenger equipment and trio of EMD E-9 diesel locomotives will traverse Nebraska over three days, departing from Omaha and stopping for rallies in Columbus, North Platte, Ogallala, Sidney, Gering, Kearney and Grand Island.

To ensure the trip remains on schedule and the tour reaches as many Nebraskans as possible, public train tours and tickets are not available.

"Our connection to Nebraska dates back to President Abraham Lincoln founding Union Pacific 155 years ago, when the Cornhusker State was a bustling territory," said Union Pacific Chief Eexecutive Lance Fritz. "Our first track was laid in Omaha, not far from where the NE150 Express will be departing. Thanks to the perseverance, ingenuity and support of communities and their citizens, both Union Pacific and Nebraska blossomed with towns developing along the transcontinental railroad route. We look forward to touring the state and visiting these communities as part of the sesquicentennial celebration."

Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago passenger-rail service proposal enters next phase
Progressive Railroading  Friday, July 21, 2017

Map - Minnesota Department of Transportation

A "purpose and need" statement has been completed for a proposed expansion of daily passenger-rail service between the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) announced yesterday.

The statement's release defines the project's purpose and marks a milestone in the project's development. It also begins the project's public involvement and environmental processes, MnDOT officials said in a statement.

The proposal calls for adding a second daily roundtrip on the Amtrak Empire Builder route between the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Chicago (TCMC), with stops at smaller cities along the route.

Public information meetings for the project will begin Sept. 6 at St. Paul's Union Depot and Sept. 7 at the La Crosse County Administrative Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

The next steps in the process involve evaluating alternatives for the project and necessary infrastructure upgrades.

The Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois departments of transportation are working with the Federal Railroad Administration, Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority, Minnesota High Speed Rail Commission and La Crosse Area Planning Committee on the initial planning effort for the proposed TCMC project.

The 418-mile TCMC corridor connects the regions around Minneapolis and St. Paul, Milwaukee, Chicago and provides service to Red Wing and Winona in Minnesota; La Crosse, Tomah, Wisconsin Dells, Portage, Columbus and Milwaukee in Wisconsin; and Glenview in Illinois.

The TCMC corridor now is served by Amtrak's long-distance Empire Builder service that operates between Chicago, Seattle and Portland, Oregon. This service provides one trip per day in each direction.

State's switch to 'Transportation' historic, but for now, signs will still say 'Roads'

ZACH PLUHACEK - Lincoln Journal Star - June 13, 2017

Call it rebranding on a budget.

When the state Roads and Aeronautics departments officially merge to form the new Nebraska Department of Transportation next month, they plan to do so without spending an extra penny.

That means leaving outdated logos on most of the 35 buildings, 300 free-standing signs and 3,000 vehicles the Roads Department has scattered across the state.

"We're not going to rush out and change stickers on hundreds if not thousands of vehicles on day one," said state Roads Director Kyle Schneweis, who will lead the new agency. "We'll be rolling out changes to those kinds of things as needed."

The name change, which happens July 1, is historic: Nebraska's Department of Roads is the last in the nation to ditch its asphalt-centric appellation for a more-inclusive title.

Click here to read the full and related articles in the Lincoln Journal Star.

How should Nebraska spend its $11.5 million share
of the VW Environmental Mitigation Trust?

By Richard Schmeling, Director, PRN District 1

What is the VW Settlement? For nearly 500,000 model 2009 - 2016 motor vehicles, Volkswagen knowingly incorporated cheating computer systems that run emissions controls during testing, but do not run during normal vehicle operation. In 2014, an independent research study revealed that the emissions from Volkswagen cars were 15 - 40 times above the U.S. EPA compliance level. In September 2015, the U.S. EPA filed a complaint against Volkswagen, with other parties soon following suit.

Volkswagen agreed to settle by spending up to $14.7 billion for remediation of nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions. A majority of this money is going to vehicle buyback and modification programs ($10.03 billion) for affected consumers. Consumers had until September, 2016 to identify as an "eligible owner" and therefore qualify for the vehicle buyback/modifications programs.

$4.7 billion of this settlement money is going towards NOx reduction programs: the Environmental Mitigation Trust ($2.7 billion) and the ZEV Investment Commitment ($2.0 billion). The remediation programs to be funded by this money are still being planned. Advocates have a great opportunity to influence these green transportation programs to 1) make sure their states apply for the funds; and 2) ensure that the funds are spent wisely. 

Nebraska's share of the Settlement is $11,528,812.23. ProRail Nebraska must help make sure this settlement money gets used for legitimate mitigation purposes and not somehow diverted to highways or other undesirable investments.

I have had several conversations with officials in the Nebraska Governor's Office and the Nebraska Dept. of Environmental Quality (NDEQ), the agency that will likely be assigned responsibility for seeking and allocating Nebraska's share of the VW Settlement Mitigation funds. As recently as late May I had a conversation with Brian McManus, the Information Officer at NDEQ, about possibly utilizing some of the funds for testing battery-powered electric buses on the transit systems in Lincoln and Omaha.

Battery Electric bus in Reno, NV recharging at transit center

Note automatic charging device at rear of bus roof

What happens to the funds if Nebraska doesn't use them? Unused trust funds will be redistributed as supplemental funding among states that have used at least 80% of their allocated trust funds. Such states will be given five more years to use the supplemental funding. Let's make sure Nebraska uses its funds and that at least some of the funds go to clean, electric transit vehicles!

Click here for more information about the VW Settlement.

Mix of BRT, light rail is what Omaha needs

By Curtis Bryant, Nebraska Sierra Club Member

Those who claim that buses could replace Omaha's proposed rail system may have forgotten the 2013 Central Omaha Transit Alternatives Analysis. It studied three options: more buses, bus rapid transit, or BRT, and modern rail, or streetcar.

After much research and public input, the study recommended a combination of BRT and modern streetcar as likely to be most used and to give the greatest economic benefit.

The BRT would run along Dodge Street between downtown and Westroads Mall, and the rail system would connect north downtown, downtown and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

BRT is a service that operates like express trains, such as waiting on a nice platform, paying the fare before boarding and making fewer stops than a "local." The vehicle runs on tires, not rails.

The rail or streetcar part is important for two reasons. It would attract new transit users because many people who don't use buses would use rail, and it would encourage growth of housing and commercial development. Although it would cost more per mile than BRT, the investment is likely to pay off in economic opportunity and growth.

What I like best about the BRT-rail plan is the freedom it offers. In addition to regular Metro service and Omaha B-Cycle, I could use BRT and/or a streetcar for some or all of a trip instead of having to park. (Posted June 6, 2017)

Union Pacific continues PTC progress
June 5, 2017

We had hoped to have a speaker at our April 8 meeting provide an update on the status of the installation of Positive Train Control on the U.S. railroad network, especially those routes used by Amtrak. Unfortunately we couldn't find a speaker, but here is a recent status report about Union Pacific's progress on PTC that appeared in Railway Track and Structures. Click here to read the article.

Kansas City Streetcar marks first anniversary, surpasses 2 million rides

Progressive Railroading, May 8, 2017

The Kansas City Streetcar logged its 2 millionth ride on May 5, one day before the system's first anniversary. The system's leaders originally expected to reach 1 million rides by the first anniversary, The Kansas City Star reported late last week.

In 2016, the streetcar had a daily average ridership of 5,860, Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) officials said in a press release.

The agency has expanded Sunday hours to meet ridership demands. In addition, KCSA officials plan to purchase two additional vehicles to keep up with the growing number of passengers.

Rides on the Kansas City Streetcar now are free; the streetcar district's property and sales tax revenues cover operating expenses, according to the Star.

Minnesota DOT, FRA unveil environmental review of NLX project

Progressive Railroading - April 25, 2017

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and the Federal Railroad Administration have released an environmental assessment for the Northern Lights Express (NLX) higher-speed passenger-rail project.

The NLX would run on 152 miles of existing BNSF Railway Co. track between Minneapolis and Duluth. Trains would make four daily round trips at speeds up to 90 mph.

The assessment addresses specific project-related issues and likely environmental effects associated with proposed track infrastructure, stations and layover and maintenance facilities. The assessment also includes measures to avoid, minimize and mitigate those impacts.

The "Tier II" assessment builds on a previous assessment prepared in 2013 and will enable MnDOT to advance the project into further design and development, according to a press release from the department.

The latest assessment was developed in cooperation with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation since the line could include a stop in Superior, Wis.

MnDOT is holding three public meetings next month to provide local residents with more information on the assessment.

Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study

By Laura Kliewer, Director, Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission

The 12 Midwestern state DOTs and MIPRC are the "lead stakeholders" for the Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study. The person representing the Nebraska DOR is Abe Anshasi, the DOR's Rail Section Manager. The FRA also selected the Omaha - Council Bluffs Metropolitan Area Planning Agency (MAPA) to be on the Stakeholder Planning Group (Greg Youell, the MAPA's Executive Director, is the person representing that agency). Lastly, NARP is representing the state passenger rail advocacy groups. Jim Mathews is the designated person representing NARP, but Sean Jeans-Gail was the one at the 1st workshop in March in Chicago.

The FRA now has a website up that provides an overview of the project, meeting materials, stakeholder information, etc. It is at https://www.midwestrailplan.org/ and I encourage everyone to take a look at it. I would also encourage anyone who wants to follow the project to email the FRA's project manager for the study (Peter Schwartz, FRA Project Manager at peter.schwartz@dot.gov) and ask to be added to the interested party list. You'll then get periodic information from them, as well as information on how to call in to listen in on the stakeholder planning workshops (the next workshop is planned for June 7).

KC Streetcar Authority to buy more vehicles, increase service

Progressive Railroading - April 3, 2017

The Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) is negotiating with CAF USA Inc. to purchase two additional vehicles to meet ridership demands, The Kansas City Star reported late last week. 

The agency now operates a four-vehicle fleet. Including parts and warranty, each new vehicle could cost $5 million, according to the newspaper. 

It may take two years to build the units.

KCSA also is expanding Sunday hours as ridership grows. The agency plans to run streetcars from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday instead of 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

KCSA has logged total ridership since the system opened in May 2016 at 1,787,746 rides. The authority expects to reach 2 million total rides by the system's first anniversary.

The real welfare Cadillacs have 18 wheels 
Posted by Clyde Anderson, March 12, 2017

I'm often asked why so much truck traffic is on the highways instead of moving by rail. My answer? It's mostly economics. For short to medium-haul traffic, especially high-value commodities, movement by truck is faster and often cheaper. This essay by Joe Cortright explains why trucking is often cheaper than rail -- trucking is heavily subsidized. If railroads enjoyed a larger share of short to medium-haul traffic, they could often offer lower rates than trucks while providing reliable service. 

Link to Joe Cortright's essay

Omaha streetcar financial assessment completed
Written by Dan Templeton - Wednesday, March 01, 2017 - www.RailJournal.com

OMAHA City Council has received a final financial assessment of the proposed Omaha Urban Circulator, which is estimated to cost $US 156m and scheduled to open in 2022. The assessment estimates that the running costs will increase from $US 7.4m in the opening year, to $US 8.9m annually by 2041.

The 5.1km line would run from the University of Nebraska Medical Center on 42nd Street and Farnam Street east to TD Ameritrade Park, linking north and south Omaha to the city centre. The financial report proposes a range of funding sources including: federal grants, donations, bonds, tax-increment financing and parking fees. Omaha mayor Jean Stothert says she does not expect to raise taxes to fund the project.

The $US 181,000 financial assessment was funded by a federal grant plus with contributions from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Mutual of Omaha, Omaha Public Power District, Metropolitan Utilities District, Metropolitan Area Planning Agency and Downtown Omaha Improvement District. Investment in public transport is seen as necessary due to the continued growth in Omaha. Around 5000 housing units will be built within the study area by 2035 while the number of offices and retail buildings is expected to increase by 35%. Three major hotels are also planned, almost doubling the number of hotel rooms available within the city.

Stothert says that no decision will be made without public meetings but an advisory committee of business people, real estate developers, and city experts will now be appointed to explore potential funding options suggested by the assessment.

ProRail - Your Voice Before the Nebraska Legislature

Testimony in Support of LB 339

Transportation and Telecommunications Committee

Submitted on Behalf of ProRail Nebraska

January 30, 2017  

TO: Members of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee

RE: LB 339 - Merge the Department of Aeronautics into the Department of Roads and rename as the Department of Transportation

First, I want to thank Senator Friesen for introducing LB 339. My appreciation is also extended to the rest of this committee for their work on behalf of the citizens of Nebraska.

I am here today representing ProRail Nebraska and have just a few short comments. This non-profit advocacy group focuses on increased passenger rail services as well as other public transportation options within the state.

For some time, one of the objectives of our organization has been advocating for the creation of a Nebraska Department of Transportation. This has been one of our objectives because we recognize that fully integrating all forms of transportation into one department benefits the citizens of Nebraska. Transportation by road, air, rail, and river all play a part in ensuring the future success of our state, but currently there is no agency in Nebraska tasked with coordinating all of these transportation modes to assure the best mix and greatest value to our citizens.

Please vote to advance LB339 from your committee.

Thank You.  

Matthew Roque, President

ProRail Nebraska

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.

Attending the NARP Advocacy Symposium and Meeting in Denver

By Jim Hanna, ProRail Nebraska Director, District 4 & Liaison to NARP

I was approached in early August by Jim Souby, the president of ColoRail and the Mountain and Plains Division Leader of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), about the possibility that I might become the Nebraska representative on the NARP Council, replacing Roger Clark, who moved to Arizona and has become their state rep.  This posed a small problem, as I was not a NARP member at that time.  He suggested that I attend the fall NARP Advocacy Symposium and Meeting in Denver, scheduled for October 14 through 16, 2016.  After careful consideration I decided to attend, so I joined NARP, which can be done rather conveniently online, and began planning the trip.  

Aerial view of Denver Union Station - 2016 (RTD Photo)

NARP always schedules their meetings in cities with Amtrak service, so I decided that the event would be a good excuse for a train trip and that my wife and I would get there a few days early and do some sightseeing.  It turned out that this meeting attracted a larger turnout than expected, and by the time I got registered the discounted rooms at the downtown Embassy Suites, the conference hotel, were all booked.  Initially we were afraid that this would pose some problems without a car at our disposal, but through some web searching and verification by Google Earth and phone calls, we found a Marriott hotel that was only two blocks from the Southmoor light rail station.  One of the three lines that serve that station terminates at Denver Union Station where Amtrak also stops, which was convenient.  Two of the other lines make a loop through the downtown area with a stop at the Convention Center, which is just across the corner from the Embassy Suites.  Our transportation quandary was solved.

View of Denver Union Station's modern train shed - 2016 (RTD photo)

We boarded the California Zephyr in Omaha on the evening of October 10.  The train was actually a few minutes early arriving, so we pulled out at precisely 11:05 p.m., the scheduled departure time.  The journey was comfortable and uneventful, with large reclining seats that make it possible to sleep relatively well.  I do recall waking briefly at each of the other four Nebraska stops.

Click here to read Jim's full report (10-page PDF including more photos)

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 10/03/2017