High speed rail project between Duluth and Twin Cities closer to construction


St. Paul, MN ( – The proposed high speed rail between the Twin Ports and the Twin Cities is inching closer to construction.

The Northern Lights Express is in a preliminary engineering phase that looks at different operations of the project, different construction, and different ways to build the rail.

Consultants are preparing preliminary designs for roadways and bridges that need to be modified along the rail route.

The project is also in the middle of a financial planning and ridership study that started in the fall of 2013.

“We try to figure out kind of the sweet spot of cost, what would generate the most ridership, most revenue, and what will work best for the people on the corridor and the state,” said Bob Manzoline, NLX Alliance Manager.

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High-speed rail leader cries foul over Rep. Ryan’s proposal to end Amtrak funding


U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled a federal budget plan earlier this week that would eliminate subsidies to Amtrak and trim transportation costs in other areas as part of his proposal to slash more than $5 trillion in federal government spending over the next decade.

In his last year as chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan seeks to end funding for Amtrak’s operating subsidies; reduce funding to the Transportation Security Administration; and shore up the Highway Trust Fund by aligning spending with incoming revenue.

Ryan’s call to end Amtrak subsidies drew sharp criticism from Midwest High Speed Rail Association Director Richard Harnish, who said the congressman’s plan would spell the end of the national passenger-rail system.

“When it comes to Amtrak, he aims not merely to reduce the expenditure, but to eradicate it completely,” Harnish said in a prepared statement issued yesterday.

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Millennials may provide an opening for high-speed rail


Two questions: Why doesn’t our nation have more passenger trains? And does the younger generation’s declining interest in driving imply an opening for the expansion of public high-speed rail?

Last May The New York Times reported that all of us, and especially the so-called millennials, are driving less. The Times cites a report from U.S. Pirg, a nonprofit advocacy organization, that documents a six-decade increase in miles driven per capita, and then a surprising eight-year decline in total miles driven and a corresponding per-capita decline since 1996.

The report suggests several reasons for this decline, including higher gas prices, the recession, and retiring baby boomers who are no longer driving to work. U.S. Pirg reports also that the use of public transportation grew by 10 percent between 2005 and 2011 and commutes by bike and on foot increased, as well.

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Caterpillar appeals contract loss for Illinois high-speed train


Caterpillar Inc said on Monday it had filed formal complaints challenging a decision by its home state of Illinois to award an important locomotive contract for a high-speed rail project to its rivals.

In late 2013, the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) awarded a $226 million contract to build up to 35 high-performance diesel-electric locomotives to a partnership formed by Siemens AG and Cummins Inc.

IDOT’s decision was bigger than the dollar figure might suggest because the agency is leading a multistate locomotive procurement task force and its decisions are likely to influence the choices that other key states – including California, Michigan, Washington, and Missouri – ultimately make.

In February, Caterpillar filed a formal protest with IDOT, but it was denied.

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High-speed rail board OKs stipend as carrot for construction bids


The losing bidders in the contest to design and build the second piece of high-speed rail line in the San Joaquin Valley could receive up to $2 million apiece.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board approved the stipend for losing bidders at its meeting Tuesday in Sacramento. The stipend is intended to help companies offset the immense cost of putting together a proposal for the 60-mile stretch from the south end of Fresno to the Tulare-Kern county line.

Rail authority leaders said Tuesday that the stipends ultimately help it save hundreds of millions of dollars by spurring competition among bidders.

The authority also provided stipends of up to $2 million to losing bidders last year when it awarded a $985 million contract for its first construction stage, a 29-mile line from the northeast edge of Madera to American Avenue south of Fresno.

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Amtrak outlines 2014 infrastructure schedule


Amtrak plans to move forward on key improvement projects in 2014, including continued installation of positive train control (PTC), the start of major construction to upgrade Northeast Corridor high-speed rail and expansion of station accessibility for passengers with disabilities.

 ”With limited federal capital funding we are doing the work that needs to be done to keep the railroad operating and taking action where we can to achieve safety, operational and passenger travel improvements,” said President and CEO Joe Boardman.

Amtrak is continuing its program to install PTC on an additional 1,200 track-miles beyond the approximately 530 track-miles where it is already in operation on some Amtrak-owned sections of the Northeast Corridor and all of its Michigan Line. Amtrak is also taking action to obtain needed radio spectrum to transmit data critical to make PTC operational in the new areas and is on target to meet a 2015 federal deadline.

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Amtrak sets key 2014 capital projects


During 2014, Amtrak plans to move forward on key capital improvement projects, including continued installation of PTC (Positive Train Control) safety technology, the start of major construction to upgrade Northeast Corridor high speed rail, and expansion of station accessibility for passengers with disabilities.


In 2014, Amtrak is continuing its aggressive program to install ACSES (Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System) and ITCS (Incremental Train Control System), its versions of PTC on an additional 1,200 track-miles beyond the approximately 530 track-miles where it is already in operation on some Amtrak-owned sections of the Northeast Corridor (ACSES) and all of its Michigan Line (ITCS). Amtrak is also taking action to obtain needed radio spectrum to transmit data critical to make PTC operational in the new areas. PTC is an overlay on the existing signaling and train control system that can prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed, and certain human-caused incidents such as misaligned turnouts. Amtrak says it is on target to meet the Dec. 31, 2015 federal deadline for PTC.

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Use of Public Transit in U.S. Reaches Highest Level Since 1956, Advocates Report


PHILADELPHIA — More Americans used buses, trains and subways in 2013 than in any year since 1956 as service improved, local economies grew and travelers increasingly sought alternatives to the automobile for trips within metropolitan areas, the American Public Transportation Association said in a report released on Monday.

The trade group said in its annual report that 10.65 billion passenger trips were taken on transit systems during the year, surpassing the post-1950s peak of 10.59 billion in 2008, when gas prices rose to $4 to $5 a gallon.

The ridership in 2013, when gas prices were lower than in 2008, undermines the conventional wisdom that transit use rises when those prices exceed a certain threshold, and suggests that other forces are bolstering enthusiasm for public transportation, said Michael Melaniphy, the president of the association.

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Illinois DOT kicks off high-speed rail Tier 2 environmental studies


The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) will host a series of public meetings today through Thursday to provide details on high-speed rail projects involved in Tier 2 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) analyses.

The Tier 2 EIS projects represent the next stage in an environmental analysis process related to the Chicago-to-St. Louis High-Speed Rail Corridor program, IDOT officials said in a press release.

The Tier 2 program will study in greater detail the Chicago-to-Joliet route alternative that follows the existing 40-mile-long Metra Rock Island District Corridor between the cities. Current Amtrak passenger-rail service between Chicago and Joliet is provided along the Metra Heritage Corridor. Meetings on this segment are scheduled for Chicago, Joliet and Orland Park.

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Improving portion of high-speed rail corridor could cost $1.5 billion


Improving passenger service on the slowest portion of Illinois’ emerging 110-mph rail corridor, between Chicago and Joliet, will cost an estimated $1.5 billion, officials said Monday.

It’s roughly the same amount the state is spending so far to develop the rest of the high-speed corridor south of Joliet to St. Louis, according to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

No funding has been secured yet to modernize the Chicago-to-Joliet segment, where trains often creep along due to heavy congestion and rail slow zones.

And officials said it’s too soon to know whether 110 mph trains are feasible on any portion in the Chicago area.

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