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ProRail Nebraska -- Nebraska's Association of Railroad Passengers and Supporters













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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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ProRail Nebraska Board Meeting  

Saturday, March 2, 2019 - 9:00 am to Noon - Lincoln, NE

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

All ProRail Nebraska members are invited to attend.

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

If interested, please contact Bob Kuzelka 402-417-9424

November 2018 ProRail Newsletter Posted Online

Click here to view a PDF copy of the newsletter.

RPA 2018 Fall Advocacy Summit Report
By Jim Hanna - PRN Director District 4 - February 11, 2019

The Rail Passengers Association held their 2018 Fall Advocacy Summit in Miami, Florida from October 19-21. The location was selected to provide the attendees the opportunity to experience the new Brightline passenger service firsthand. I would like to have traveled by Amtrak, but that would have entailed a combination of the California Zephyr from Omaha to Chicago, the Capitol Limited from Chicago to Washington, D.C., and either the Silver Meteor or Silver Star from Washington to Miami, a trip consuming 60+ hours each way, and I had commitments at home that would not allow me to be gone that long. The chance of all three trains making connections on time was also an issue, as was the substitution of boxed meals for dining car service on the Capitol Limited. One of the true pleasures of train travel is the opportunity to socialize with other travelers, and the dining car is the best place to enjoy that.

Click here to read Jim's full report (PDF).

Nebraska Should Rejoin Rail Compact
Richard Schmeling - January 31, 2019

The failure of the Legislature to pass to restore Nebraska's membership in the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (MIPRC) results in the state losing its voice on passenger rail matters.

Nebraska was a charter member of the compact until former state Sen. Bill Kintner's bill succeeded in terminating Nebraska's participation because he couldn't see how the state benefited from its membership. But Nebraska now has a chance to regain its say.

Grand Island Sen. Dan Quick has introduced LB401, which would return Nebraska to the MIPRC -- and 10 senators have cosigned onto his legislation.

MIPRC was formed to provide central planning for passenger rail service in 10 Midwestern states. It also serves as a collective for rail passenger trains and lobbies on behalf of adequate funding for Amtrak.

This proposed rail service would be in addition to the long-distance California Zephyr trains currently running through Nebraska at night. The plan is to run passenger trains out of a Chicago hub in multiple directions to major cities.

Several of these lines are already in operation. A line from Chicago to Omaha was planned, and it would be easy to extend this service to Lincoln. With Nebraska falling out, it's possible that the trains through Illinois and Iowa will terminate in Council Bluffs, which would be inconvenient for Nebraska residents.

Nebraskans want passenger trains. A statewide poll conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Bureau of Sociological Research showed that a majority of citizens support funding for Amtrak, want rail commuter service between Lincoln and Omaha and desire to see more and better rail passenger service in Nebraska.

However, getting Nebraskans to put passenger rail on their radar scope is difficult. Unless they have gone out of state and experienced good, frequent rail service or ridden Amtrak, they are unaware of its potential.

Now that Nebraska has a Department of Transportation rather than a Department of Roads -- under which rail planning suffered -- it would be refreshing to see the department look at rail passenger possibilities rather than expend all its energies in designing four-lane expressways. I see a change at Nebraska DOT and a start at meaningful rail planning.

Quick's LB401 will restore Nebraska's membership in MIPRC, and it is hoped that the Legislature will see the wisdom of rejoining and continuing in the compact.

We don't have a currently rail passenger plan in Nebraska, and, as a result, federal taxes in Nebraska are sent to other states -- and Nebraska receives no federal rail passenger funding.

Therefore, we hope Gov. Pete Ricketts will get on board this train and direct the DOT to bring the state's rail passenger planning up to date.

While most other states have moved forward in the area of passenger and commuter rail, Nebraska has done little to nothing. The state needs to wake up and catch up. If we don't continue in the MIPRC, our chances for federal rail passenger funding are slim to none.

Senator Quick Introduces LB 401
To Reestablish Nebraska Membership in the MIPRC

By Clyde Anderson - January 20, 2019

On January 17th ProRail Nebraska ally Senator Dan Quick (35-Grand Island) introduced legislation that would enable Nebraska to rejoin the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact. LB 401 had 10 co-sponsors: Kate Bolz (29-Lincoln), Machaela Cavanaugh (6-Omaha), Ben Hansen (26-Lincoln), Sara Howard (9-Omaha), Megan Hunt (8-Omaha), Mike McDonnell (5-Omaha), Adam Morfeld (46-Lincoln), Patty Pansing Brooks (28-Lincoln), Lynne Walz (15-Fremont), and Anna Wishart (27-Lincoln).

In addition to having Nebraska rejoin the MIPRC, the bill establishes the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact Cash Fund. In addition to money appropriated by the Legislature, the fund could accept gifts, grants, or bequests from any source, including federal, state, public, and private sources. State funding Nebraska's participation in the MIPRC has been an issue, and this would allow funds from other sources to be used. Annual dues for MIPRC membership is less than $25,000. There is also the travel expenses for the four Nebraska members of the Commission to attend MIPRC meetings.

If you live in one of the districts listed above, please thank your senator for their support of LB401. Otherwise, encourage your senator to sign on as a cosponsor of LB401 and/or support Nebraska rejoining the MIPRC.

Click here to view a PDF document list reasons why Nebraska should rejoin the MIPRC.

Will Your Next Amtrak Meal

<== Look Like This?



Or This?  ==>

Photos by Amtrak


January 18, 2019 - After months of having to endure mostly cold boxed food - what some critics dubbed "Unhappy Meals" - on two Amtrak long-distance routes, the New York-Chicago Lake Shore Limited and the Washington D.C.-Chicago Capitol Limited, sleeping car passengers on those trains now can choose from several hot food choices on the menu.

When Amtrak, under President and CEO Richard Anderson (a former airline executive whose reputation with employees and customers was, according to some accounts, less than favorable), instituted cold food in a box soon after he took office and called it "Contemporary Dining," there was a huge outcry. Apparently, the often-vocal complaining, which involved Amtrak unionized employees, worked. What Amtrak is now calling "Contemporary Dining Improvements" includes three hot entrées and "deluxe breakfast choices," up from one hot-meal choice brought back in July 2018.

Sleeping car customers can now choose the following, with meals delivered to their Bedrooms or Roomettes, "or eaten in their private dining car," Amtrak said. Lunch and Dinner hot items are Chicken Penne Alfredo, Beef Provencal and Asian Noodle Bowl (there is a chilled item, an Antipasto Plate). Deluxe Continental Breakfast hot items are Oatmeal and a Breakfast Sandwich. (Chilled items are Muffins, Yogurt, Fresh Fruit, Hard-boiled Eggs and Cereals.) Customers are also offered unlimited soft beverages, a complimentary serving of beer, wine or a mixed-drink during their trip and an amenity kit, all included in their fares. A Kosher meal is provided with advance notice and children's meals are also available. Menus for both trains are on

TV Coverage of Amtrak Executive Presentation December 10th

Click Here to view KLKN-TV New Coverage of ProRail Meeting

Amtrak Executive Visits Lincoln Nebraska December 10th

By Richard Schmeling - ProRail District 1 Director - December 31, 2018  

Derrick James of Amtrak's Chicago office who is the Senior Director of Government Relations spoke at a ProRail Nebraska-sponsored event in Lincoln December 10th. The meeting was well attended and James answered a number of questions following his presentation.

Amtrak is ordering 70 new locomotives to replace older diesels that are nearing the end of their service lives and probably some electrics for the Northeast Corridor. Also being ordered are Viewliner II passenger cars which are primarily used on eastern passenger trains. There are no plans currently to order Superliner double-deck equipment.

James stated that the long-distance passenger trains, including the Southwest Chief, are safe for the time being. Congress sent a strong message to Amtrak that they don't want the long-distance trains discontinued.

Nonetheless, James says that Amtrak thinking is that they should concentrate on trains that run between major population centers about 400 to 500 miles apart because long-distance trains are not competitive with airlines. In this respect it should be noted that 83% of the current California Zephyr riders do not go all the way from Chicago to Emeryville, CA. The long-distance trains thus fulfill a role of providing regional transportation on long-distance corridors -- a strong argument for keeping the long-distance trains.

James noted that ridership on the California Zephyr trains continues to increase. Not mentioned was the fact that after Amtrak de-staffed a number of stations in Iowa, boardings have fallen 16% according to an article in the Des Moines Register.

Overall Amtrak ridership was down a bit during 2018 which James attributes to problems with the Lakeshore Limited where trains could not be operated due to track construction along that line.

James noted that Congressional support for Amtrak, including money for track upgrades, is trending upward significantly. At the same time Amtrak has been able to cut costs and the latest annual loss was $168 million, a fraction of the spending for airports and highways by the Federal government.

Regarding on-time performance, James said it varied depending upon which freight railroads the Amtrak trains were operated on. Canadian Pacific has one of the best on-time records for the freight railroads and Union Pacific and BNSF also do well. Amtrak trains are at the mercy of freight railroads. Track maintenance projects delay Amtrak trains and admittedly sometimes an Amtrak train gets lower priority in movement compared to hot freight trains.

James indicated that court litigation to enforce penalties for delayed Amtrak trains and having the freight railroads give priority to Amtrak is still in progress. An adverse ruling in lower court is being appealed. 

Regarding a question about Amtrak fares compared to flying, James stated that a comparison on any given train at any given time is difficult. Amtrak structures fares much like the airlines in that if a train is filled, the fare will be higher; but if a train is not fully booked days before departure, a lower fare will be quoted to try to fill the train. The California Zephyr trains fill early and sometimes passengers will have to pick a different departure date to secure a reservation.

Mention was made of the ease of carrying bicycles on trains compared to past years. Also, dogs and cats can accompany passengers if in kennels and then only in coaches, not sleeping cars.

In response to a question about WiFi being available on eastern trains but not on the California Zephyr and other trains further west, James said Amtrak is working to add WiFi capability to these trains.

While on his trip James has met with local officials in Omaha and Lincoln and the mayors of Hastings, Holdrege and McCook to build support for Amtrak. Lincoln City Councilman Bennie Shobe attended the December 10th meeting at Gere Library.

James stated that the plan to extend the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Kansas City is very much a possibility. In response to a question from me about the possibility of a second pair of Chicago to Denver trains through Nebraska during daylight hours, James stated that any expansion of Amtrak service would depend upon the support of a state or states. He cited Missouri and Illinois as states where trains partially supported by state funds are being operated.

Lincoln's StarTran Moving Ahead with Technology

By Clyde Anderson, December 1, 2018

One of our guest speakers at the ProRail Nebraska meeting this morning in Lincoln was Michael Davis, Transit Manager for the City of Lincoln's StarTran. Although StarTran doesn't have wifi installed on its buses yet, it already has several innovations we can only dream of in Omaha. Click here for details.

The new StarTran Get On Board System allows you to track the location of your bus on a map, get an estimated arrival time, and set up alerts using StarTran's AVL website. Also, you can download bus passes on your smart phone and pay your fare onboard using the Token Transit ap.

StarTran has increased its order for electric buses from 2 to 4 thanks to a grant from the VW Mitigation Settlement Fund. The buses, which were ordered from New Flyer, are scheduled to be delivered next Fall. Click here to view an informative StarTran Fact Sheet.

StarTran's criteria for placing a bench at a bus stop is a minimum of 15 passengers per day. A bus shelter must have at least 25 passengers/day, and several additional shelters will be installed next Spring. Many bus stops have trash cans, and StarTrans has a contractor that empties them and cleans up litter around the stops. Omaha has to rely on volunteers to clean up litter around bus stops.

Richard Schmeling with CFIT (Citizens for Improved Transit) also made a brief presentation. They are about to launch a program of giving free bus passes to needy Lincoln Public Schools students. 

Brightline succeeds by being bold
Midwest High Speed Rail Assn. Newsletter - Oct. 30, 2018
By Richard Harnish, Executive Director, MHSRA
Click here to read full article and view photos

Brightline has turned passenger rail in the United States upside down by doing one seemingly obvious thing: defining what it wanted to do - its ideal scenario - then finding a way to make that happen. 
Too often, efforts to begin or expand passenger rail in the U.S. get off on the wrong foot by first outlining what isn't possible. Once all the constraints and barriers are in place, you're not left many options, and certainly not great ones. 

Brightline, instead, started with its advantages, like an existing rail corridor, and real estate development possibilities. It then set out goals, like frequent service on modern trains, and did what was necessary to make it happen. In some cases, they weren't sure how they were going to achieve their goals, but they proceeded with confidence nonetheless. 

The end result is outstanding. The trains themselves are comfortable, quiet, and smooth. The hyper-modern stations and trains are part of the "wow" factor, luring people out of their cars. (The new coaches we're getting in the Midwest will be the same basic design, so we've got good things to look forward to.) 

Brightline began service with many trains every day, which is crucial. Often, new services plan to start with only one or two trips a day, hoping to scale up in the future. Instead, they see underwhelming ridership as a result of the limited schedule. Brightline understands that the convenience of a frequent schedule is a major part of the "will I take the train?" equation. Proving that point, I noticed that even mid-day, off-peak trains were busy. 

Click here to read full article and view photos.

Join or donate to the Midwest High Speed Rail Association today!

Tampa transit agency drops streetcar fares, boosts service

Progressive Railroading, October 9, 2018

Editor's Note: More cities are following Kansas City's example and converting their streetcar operations to fare-free. It not only encourages ridership but also speeds up the operation by not having to collect fares. Hopefully the proposed Omaha Streetcar will be fare-free. However, even with Tampa's increased hours of operation, only operating from 7 am to 7 pm is not very good coverage. 5 am to Midnight would serve the public much better.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) in Tampa, Florida, has eliminated fares and expanded service for its TECO Line heritage streetcar.

The streetcar will remain fare free for three years as a result of a $2.67 million grant from the Florida Department of Transportation. Previously, it cost $2.50 to ride the system. 

The grant also enabled HART to boost service hours and increase frequency along the 2.7-mile line, which runs from the Ybor City neighborhood to downtown Tampa. On weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., service frequency will increase from every 20 minutes to every 15 minutes.

The primary objective of the service change is to add another mobility and connectivity option for residents, employees and visitors in the Tampa area, HART officials said in a news release.

"Our customers wanted a service that fits the changing regional patterns of development and population trends, and a foundation to grow ridership," said HART Interim Chief Executive Officer Jeff Seward. "This 'New Era of Transit' will move us into a new direction and will also more fully integrate our bus and rail networks into a seamless system to better serve residents, customers, and visitors, not only today, but into the future."

The agency also has plans to extend the streetcar system between downtown and other surrounding neighborhoods, HART officials noted.

Iowa approves funding loans and grants for five rail projects

Railway Track & Structures, October 09, 2018
Written by Kyra Senese, managing editor

The Iowa Transportation Commission last week approved more than $3.1 million in funding for five rail infrastructure and related rail development projects under Iowa's Railroad Revolving Loan and Grant Program (RRLG).

The Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) said the projects are intended to support the creation of 136 jobs within three years of project completion. The proposed developments are expected to leverage millions in new capital investments throughout the state.

RRLG rail network improvement projects approved by the commission include the following:

  • Farmers Feed and Grain Rail Improvement with a loan of $660,750
  • KJRY Yard Enhancements with a loan of $151,925

Additional targeted job creation projects were awarded grant and loan funding as part of the announcement, Iowa DOT said.

The projects include:

  • Heartland Goodwill Enterprises with a loan of $462,456 and a grant award of $48,000
  • UP Rail Improvements at Quaker Oats with a grant award of $1.03 million
  • Pattison Sand Company with a loan of $271,732 and a grant award of $564,000

The recommended funding awarded included a total of $1.5 million in loans and $1.6 million in awarded grants, according to Iowa DOT.

KC Streetcar Seeks Funding for Extension - September 12, 2018  

The KC Streetcar recently applied for $151 million in federal funding for its planned Main Street Extension to University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The project team, consisting of the KC Streetcar Authority (KCSA), the KC Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), and the City of Kansas City, submitted the formal application to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the New Starts Capital Investment Grants Program, seeking $151 million dollars in federal funding and inclusion in the federal 2020-year budget to support the estimated $316 million-dollar project.

The Main Street Extension to UMKC consists of an outside running track alignment from Union Station to 51 Street, an additional six streetcar vehicles, and 16 new stops.

The KCSA said that both federal and local funding are needed to move the project into design and construction. Local funding was earlier this year approved by the voters in the establishment of the Main Street Rail Transportation Development District (TDD). The District includes a retail sales tax of up to 1%; assessments on real estate, and a supplemental special assessment on surface pay parking lots. The TDD revenue does not kick in until the project is fully funded, and replaces and expands the existing downtown TDD used to support initial construction and operations.

Throughout the summer, the KC Streetcar project team continued to work on overall project development activities, station stop location and track alignments, environmental documentation and development of a detailed financial plan in order to apply for federal funding.

Updated project cost estimates due to what the KCSA termed "recent market escalations" inflation forecasts, and other factors now put the total cost for the 3.6-mile route from Union Station to 51st Street at $279 million in 2018 dollars, and $316 million when inflating costs to 2023 dollars, the planned year of opening, and accounting for project contingency.

"Overall project contingency currently stands at 33% ($104 million) of total project costs in an effort to pro-actively plan for this uncertainty and respond to recent FTA guidance in reaction to market escalations," KCSA said. "Importantly, this increased project cost does not reflect any change in project scope nor does it affect the local funding already in place for the extension, with no additional local funding required to support the proposed program."

The federal money would be combined with $164 million in local funding from the voter-approved TDD, reflecting a 48% federal funding and 52% local funding match.

"We feel strongly that our New Starts federal grant submission will compete well with projects across the country based on our merits and the proven success of the downtown starter line," said Tom Gerend, executive director of the KC Streetcar Authority. "Approved TDD funds will cover the local funding needed to move this project forward, in addition to creating a sustainable source of revenue for ongoing operations and maintenance."

The city will serve as the project sponsor and grantee for the New Starts program and will oversee design and construction for the streetcar expansion project. The KCSA and KCATA will serve as partners through this process as well as design, construction and operations.

RPA Board Resolves to Save Long Distance Trains

Friday, September 7, 2018

In response to the recent controversial service changes from Amtrak--including proposed changes to the National Network service levels--the Rail Passengers Association Board unanimously adopted a new policy resolution to place conditions on its support for Amtrak's 2019 budget recommendations and appropriations request to Congress, insisting that Amtrak maintain the integrity of the current interstate rail transportation network of trains and routes. Additionally, our leadership is encouraging Amtrak's board and management to be timely and transparent in its strategic plans for expansion of train service, improved passenger amenities and re-fleeting of the entire passenger rail network.  

In addition, the House voted on a motion to go to conference with the Senate on the second minibus spending package (H.R. 6147), bringing the Rail Passengers' Southwest Chief campaign to a critical juncture. This bill will shape not only the next twelve months of transportation spending, but the future of the national passenger rail network.

Richard Schmeling on his book The Trains of Lincoln Station  

ProRail Nebraska Director, Richard Schmeling, was the guest speaker at the Preservation Association of Lincoln's (PAL) June 12th Brown Bag lunch talk. Dick's presentation was based on his new book "The Trains of Lincoln Station" which he co-authored with Michael Bartels.

Click here to view the 47" video of Richard's presentation.

Hearings Scheduled for LR 399

Updated August 4, 2018 By Clyde Anderson

Here is the latest from Trevor Fitzgerald, Legal Counsel - Urban Affairs Committee on the hearings for LR 399 (Wayne) - Interim study to examine issues related to metropolitan transit authorities:

Tuesday, August 28th (North Omaha)

QLI Lied Life Center

6320 N. 70th Plaza

Omaha, Nebraska

7:00 p.m. Hearing  



Trevor Fitzgerald speaking at the ProRail Annual Meeting on June 9th about LR399 (Dick Schmeling photo)


Tuesday, September 4th (Bellevue)

Bellevue University Hitchcock Humanities Center

Criss Auditorium

1040 Bruin Boulevard

Bellevue, Nebraska

6:00 p.m. Hearing

Citizens living in the Omaha Metropolitan Area are encouraged to attend these hearings and encourage Nebraska legislators to pass legislation expanding the role of the Metropolitan Omaha Transit Authority (O-Metro). For example, O-Metro's charter should be expanded to include Sarpy County, and O-Metro should be allowed to provide regular bus service between Omaha and Lincoln serving intermediate communities like Gretna, Ashland, and Waverly.

At the present time, O-Metro is responsible for the operation of fixed route, express / commuter bus downtown weekday rush hour and Americans with Disabilities Act Complementary Paratransit Service within the city limits of Omaha, Douglas County, NE.

Perhaps the LR399 study might recommend legislation enabling an expanded transit authority that would encompass both Omaha and Lincoln that would then enable the agency to offer regular transit service between Nebraska's two largest cities. Initially service would be provided by buses, and if patronage grows enough to justify it, rail service. If ProRail ever wants to accomplish its Omaha - Lincoln commuter rail service goal, it better support an agency to build and operate it. It won't be Amtrak or BNSF!

ProRail Presents Dan Lutz Passenger Rail Advocacy Award to Senator Burke Harr

Senator Harr (left) receives award from Matt Roque, PRN President

At the June 9th Annual Meeting of ProRail Nebraska, Senator Burke Harr was given the Dan Lutz Rail Advocacy Award for his many years of service in the Nebraska Legislature supporting rail and other transportation legislation furthering ProRail's goals. Because of term limits, Sen. Harr will be retiring from the Legislature after eight years in office. ProRail looks forward to working with Sen. Harr on future transportation endeavors.

The Annual Meeting was attended by 26 members and supporters and featured presentations on passenger rail and transit topics including the presentation by Jay Lund described in the article below.

Jay Lund - Modern Omaha Streetcar Advocate

Keynote Speaker at PRN's June 9th Annual Meeting

By Clyde Anderson, PRN Director - District 2  

As the leading advocate for a modern streetcar line in Omaha, Jay Lund believes streetcars would be the catalyst for Omaha to become a world-class city.  Jay will be our keynote speaker at ProRail's June 9th meeting.

Jay knows development and techniques for spurring urban growth. The Lund family as played a major role in commercial real estate development in Omaha. For example, Jay and others transformed a series of unused and underused buildings into the hip mid-town Blackstone District.

Lund is the lead spokesman for Modern Streetcar Advocates,,  an organization that promotes streetcar transportation in Omaha and believes that "Omaha's future is riding on the streetcar."

Modern streetcars utilize clean, energy-efficient all-electric vehicles utilizing overhead trolley wire or battery-electric hybrid vehicles that only have overhead wires transit stops for charging the batteries eliminating most of the cost of erecting the network of overhead trolley wires.

Detroit's new QLine Streetcar Line utilizes articulated streetcars with a unique hybrid design using power from overhead wire and on-board batteries. In the photo note the short overhead wire at the trolley stop. The vehicles are also unique in that they are American made by Brookville Equipment Corp. in Pennsylvania.

Streetcars provide a much smoother, quieter ride than buses, and there are no exhaust emissions. Streetcars are also more reliable than buses and have much longer service lives.

You don't have to go far to visit a streetcar success story.  Kansas City's Downtown Streetcar has provided more than 4 million trips since its opening day two years ago. Since the streetcar began operations, at least 20 new businesses have popped up along or near the Main Street route. More than $2.1 billion has been invested in the greater downtown Kansas City area since the streetcar opened. "In two short years, downtown residents, employees, and visitors have embraced the KC Streetcar and have ridden at record numbers," said Kansas City Streetcar Authority Executive Director Tom Gerend. "The transformation of downtown and the excitement it generated is nothing but remarkable." To accommodate ridership growth, the KCSA has ordered two more streetcar vehicles to expand its existing four-vehicle fleet. The new units are slated to arrive next year. The authority also plans to extend the streetcar route to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Berkeley Riverfront area.

Key to Kansas City's success is operating expenses are paid for by a tax paid by businesses and property owners along the streetcar route which allows the streetcar to be fare-free. This not only encourages ridership but also speeds operation by not having to collect fares and inspect for fare payment.

It's interesting that streetcar opponents often promote buses as a more cost-effective alternatives, but these opponent are rarely existing transit users who ride Omaha buses regularly and have to deal with the discomforts of bus travel.

Click here to read other articles in our May 2018 newsletter.

Richard Schmeling on his book The Trains of Lincoln Station

Tuesday, June 12, Noon to 1:00 p.m.

State Historical Museum Auditorium at P and 15th Street - Lincoln, Nebraska

ProRail Nebraska Director, Richard Schmeling, will be the guest speaker at the Preservation Association of Lincoln's (PAL) June 12th Brown Bag lunch talk. Dick will present on his new book "The Trains of Lincoln Station" which he co-authored with Michael Bartels.

It will be held at noon in the auditorium of the State Historical Museum at P and Centennial Mall North - free and open to the public.  All the PAL brown bag lunches are videotaped and shown often on public access channel 5.  ProRail is providing a grant to co-sponsor the event and help fund the video coverage.

"The Trains of Lincoln Station" is available in softcover from South Platte Press for $24.95.

In the past several decades, the railroad presence in the downtown area of Lincoln, Nebraska, has been significantly diminished. This pictorial looks at the many changes that have taken place around the city's former Burlington and Amtrak station between the early 1960s and 2012. The authors, noted Lincoln area rail historians, recount the history of Lincoln's "Burlington box," various steam and football excursions that operated, and changes to local passenger train service during the Amtrak era. Photos by a number of local rail photographers show the equipment, area facilities and special events that supported depot operations. This is a visual document of how the trains of Lincoln Station were gradually replaced by what is now a vibrant retail and event district for Nebraska's capital city.   

Kansas City Streetcar marks two years of service

Progressive Railroading - May 9, 2018

The 2.2-mile Kansas City Streetcar in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, has provided more than 4 million trips since its opening day two years ago. Since the streetcar began operations, at least 20 new businesses have popped up along or near the Main Street route, Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) officials said in a press release. 

More than $2.1 billion has been invested in the greater downtown Kansas City area since the streetcar opened. "In two short years, downtown residents, employees, and visitors have embraced the KC Streetcar and have ridden at record numbers," said KCSA Executive Director Tom Gerend. "The transformation of downtown and the excitement its generated is nothing but remarkable."

To accommodate ridership growth, the KCSA has ordered two more streetcar vehicles to expand its existing four-vehicle fleet. The new units are slated to arrive next year. The authority also plans to extend the streetcar route to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Berkeley Riverfront area.

ProRail Opposed to New Amtrak Policy

Posted April 11, 2018

Photo by Tom Jurgens of the Sept. 2014 Omaha-Lincoln Husker Football Special at Melia Siding.

Amtrak recently announced a new policy for private passenger cars and special trips. This change will likely eliminate special trains in Nebraska like Husker Football Specials between Omaha and Lincoln. ProRail Nebraska opposes this new policy and encourages our members and allies to contact their Representatives and Senators expressing their opposition.

Click here to read more about the new Amtrak policy.

UP's Fritz to STB: "Stabilize service, reverse downward trend"

Written by William C. Vantuono,  April 4, 2018

Union Pacific has responded to the Surface Transportation Board's March 16 blanket letter requesting information on Class I railroad 2018 service outlook.

In a March 28 letter to STB Chairman Ann Begeman and Vice Chairman Deb Miller, UP Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz stated that the railroad "is currently experiencing some service challenges across our network. Railcar inventory levels began to rise last summer, which contributed to increased cycle times. Customers responded to sluggish service, in turn, by adding more cars to the network. We are working aggressively to break this cycle, including flooding the network with additional resources and taking a series of other steps designed to improve system fluidity and velocity."

In addition to deploying more resources, UP is "developing and implementing operating strategies to improve rail service," said Fritz. "We are particularly focused on reducing railcar inventory on our network. Elevated railcar inventory creates additional congestion at yards, terminals and sidings, which reduces velocity and increases human and locomotive resource consumption. We are placing increased focus on executing existing service plans and modifying them as necessary to reduce inventory and improve fluidity. We are also intensifying communications and evaluating opportunities to bypass congested interchange locations with our Class I interchange partners to improve interchange fluidity. At the local level, we are increasing local train frequency to ensure we are spotting and pulling cars in a timely manner. We are also adding jobs to support yard and terminal fluidity.

"At the network level, we are focused on train-plan discipline. Running trains as scheduled helps ensure locomotive and crew balance, which allows us to more-efficiently use available resources. We are engaging and communicating proactively with our customers to ensure they know we take their concerns very seriously and are committed to improving service. Our number one priority is to stabilize service and reverse the downward trend.

"We cannot predict how soon our ongoing efforts will take hold and may face unexpected challenges in the coming months. However, we are fully committed to deploying the resources necessary to restore network fluidity and velocity, and to safely and efficiently serve our customers."

Click Here to read the details in the rest of the article..

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.

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.


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 02/11/2019