ProRail Nebraska -- Nebraska's Association of Railroad Passengers and Supporters
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Next Meeting: Saturday, December 9, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
Tentative December 9 Meeting Agenda
November 2017 ProRail Newsletter Posted Online
Click here to view a PDF copy of the newsletter.
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:
We hope to have a spokesperson from the Railroad Transportation Safety District at our December 9 meeting.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Click Here to read the rest of Richard's editorial in the Lincoln Journal Star.
KC Streetcar starts planning for extension to university
HDR-led team will perform the planning and engineering services for the extension.
The Kansas City Streetcar Authority
(KCSA) on Monday issued a notice to proceed on planning work for a southern extension to the University of
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
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.
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.
Click here to read the full and related articles in the Lincoln Journal Star.
How should Nebraska spend its $11.5 million share
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.
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.
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.
Midwest Regional Rail Planning Study
By Laura Kliewer, Director, Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org)
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
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 real welfare Cadillacs have 18 wheels
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.
Omaha streetcar financial assessment completed
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
in Support of LB 339
and Telecommunications Committee
on Behalf of ProRail Nebraska
Members of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee
LB 339 - Merge the Department of Aeronautics into the Department of Roads
and rename as the Department of Transportation
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.
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.
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
vote to advance LB339 from your committee.
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.
the NARP Advocacy Symposium and Meeting in Denver
By Jim Hanna, ProRail Nebraska Director,
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.
view of Denver Union Station - 2016
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.
of Denver Union Station's modern train shed - 2016
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)
We think trains need more prominence in the U.S. because:
(above courtesy National Association of Railroad Passengers)
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