Happening Now

Hotline #1,083

September 7, 2018

Rail Passengers Adopts Amtrak Resolution; Amtrak Trains Return to Penn Station; California Approves $2B for Transit and Infrastructure Projects; Moulton Supports NSRL; New York To Ease Penn Station Congestion

We Need Your ‘Nose For News’! When you see rail-related news stories, op-eds, editorials, or letters to the editor in your communities, send them along to us! We include them in our social media efforts, along with the weekly Hotline. Send your news items to Bob Brady, [email protected], and we will share it with members. Are you holding a rally, a community meeting, or another kind of rail-advocacy event? We can help spread the word if you send them to us. We can put them on the website, here. Please follow Rail Passengers Association on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on all things passenger rail.

Rail Passengers Association Adopts Resolution Regarding Amtrak

After lengthy discussion, deliberation and debate, on August 30, 2018 the Board of Directors of the Rail Passengers Association unanimously adopted the following policy resolution:

The Rail Passengers Association Board will conditionally support the board and management of the National Passenger Rail Corporation (Amtrak) in its 2019 budget recommendations and appropriations request to Congress providing that it maintains the current interstate rail transportation network of trains and routes.

The Rail Passengers Association Board strongly encourages 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.

On behalf of our members and the 40+ million Americans that use trains as a travel mode, the Rail Passengers Association will continue to work with Amtrak and all other carriers that serve the public and are intent on operating and expanding a truly interstate passenger rail network.

"Amtrak was formed decades ago to be the glue that holds our national network of trains together,” said Rail Passengers Chairman Peter LeCody. “Amtrak management would be doing a disservice to the many smaller towns and cities along the route of the Southwest Chief by dissecting the train at its mid-section and running a bus service instead. Interstate travelers would be subject to a half day bus ride to rejoin a train that could safely operate on existing tracks. Towns in Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico rely on the daily Southwest Chief to be a travel stimulator for their local economies and many of these towns have limited or no other public transportation options. The right decision would be to run the train, all the way, every day."

Make no mistake; we will hold Amtrak accountable when it falls short of its national mission.

Earlier this week 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.

We have received word from our allies on the Hill that our work--both in D.C., and at the local level--is having a positive effect with undecided Members of Congress. But with only weeks left until final passage, we can’t afford to ease up!

House leadership has named conference negotiators to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate spending bills, which will help us target key decision makers. On the Republican side, Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ) named the following negotiators: Representatives Robert Aderholt - AL, Mike Simpson - ID, Ken Calvert - CA, Tom Cole - OK, Mario Diaz-Balart - FL, Tom Graves GA, David Young - IA, John Rutherford - FL.

On the Democratic side, Appropriations Ranking Member Nita Lowey (NY) named the following negotiators: Representatives David Price - NC, Sanford Bishop - GA, Betty McCollum - MN, Mike Quigley - IL and Chellie Pingree - ME.

If any of these members are your representatives, call them TODAY and deliver the following message:

  1. Please support HR 6147, which included language requiring Amtrak to retain existing service levels on its national network, including the entirety of the Southwest Chief Route (the Moran/Udall Amendment). Please oppose any effort to water down the Moran/Udall language in conference.

  2. Please support the improved levels of funding for passenger rail and transit passed in both the House and the Senate versions. We need to maintain the levels of funding for passenger rail approved by the Senate and House transportation committees.

  3. Please require Amtrak to honor all Federal Railroad Administration Positive Train Control exemptions. Amtrak management’s decision to ignore these exemptions unnecessarily threatens the Southwest Chief, but also sets a precedent that threatens eight other routes in question including: the Cardinal, California Zephyr, Texas Eagle, Downeaster, Vermonter, Ethan Allen, and City of New Orleans.

Even if you have already called your representatives about the Southwest Chief amendments, it’s time to do it again with a stronger focus on funding levels. You can take action here, or call the House of Representatives switchboard directly at (202) 224-3121.

In addition to the SW Chief provision, the bill includes robust funding for various Rail Passengers’ priorities: $1.3 billion for Amtrak’s National Network; $650 million for the Northeast Corridor; $255 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety grants; $300 million for Federal State Partnerships for State of Good Repair grants; $10 million for Restoration grants; $9.9 billion for transit formula grants; $2.5 billion for rail transit grants; and $1 billion for BUILD grants.

More locally, there are also 65 communities that have signed on to Rail Passengers Association’s efforts through mayors voicing support for the Southwest Chief. For those of you living in the states along the route and would like to help, please contact Betsy Nelson at [email protected] or call 202-408-8362 extension 3209.

Through the advocacy work of our members and ColoRail, we’re already seeing high-profile campaign allies. Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado wrote a letter in support of the Southwest Chief to the Colorado Congressional delegation.

“For the past several months, we have been following the growing concern over the future of the Amtrak national interstate passenger rail system, and its restructuring and elimination of stops on the Amtrak Southwest Chief and California Zephyr routes because of safety and cost considerations,” wrote Gov. Hickenlooper. “As you know, both passenger trains provide needed daily passenger rail service across portions of Colorado… We encourage you to support Colorado’s rural communities by supporting the amendment to H.R. 6147 and ensuring that the $50 million appropriation makes its way onto the final version of this bill.”

Amtrak trains that operate in upstate New York have returned to New York Penn Station after three months of repair work that detoured the trains to New York’s Grand Central Terminal. Train that have made their way back to Penn Station include the Empire Service, Ethan Allen Express, Adirondack, and Maple Leaf. The Lake Shore Limited has also returned to Penn Station, and will continue to provide direct service between Chicago and New York City.

“We are proud to announce that we’ve completed this renewal project on schedule and within budget,” Scot Naparstek, Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer said in a press release. “As always, we want to thank our customers for their patience, our commuter partners for their continued cooperation and for the confidence both groups have in Amtrak to improve train reliability for customers traveling in, out and through New York City.”

Work began on May 26 and trains returned to regular service on September 4. Renewal work included repairs to the Empire Connection, Spuyten Duyvil Bridge and Track 19 at New York Penn Station.

“Although the timing of the repair work occurred during a busy time of year for people traveling to and from New York, the renewal effort was critical for Amtrak to keep the Northeast Corridor infrastructure up and running safely,” said Rail Passengers President Jim Mathews.

The work this summer was part of Amtrak’s larger Infrastructure Renewal Program at New York Penn Station, which began last summer. The Renewal Program is also part of Amtrak’s current efforts to upgrade its stations and equipment throughout the NEC.

Passengers on the Empire Corridor will also continue to see additional improvements to help provide a better experience on Amtrak and Long Island Rail Road. The improvements are part of a larger effort by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to make Penn Station and the the surrounding area into a major transportation hub that provides services beyond arrival and departures through New York City.

Improvements include:

  • A new entrance at 33rd Street and 7th Avenue for Penn Station that will ease crowding and provide direct access to the Long Island Rail Road Main Concourse and the New York City Subway;

  • Expansion of the LIRR corridor at Penn Station to improve safety, security and passenger flow;

  • The LIRR Main Concourse between 7th and 8th Avenues will be roughly doubled in size and the ceiling will be raised by up to 11 feet; and

  • Continued work that is on time and on budget for the Moynihan Train Hall, with is set to be substantially completed in 2020.

"For years there has been talk about transforming Penn Station, but no action, forcing New York's commuters and visitors to endure congested and potentially unsafe conditions for far too long," Governor Cuomo said in announcing the additional work. "The projects currently underway, including a new, state-of-the-art entrance, will not only turn Penn Station into a world-class transit hub, but they will ease the flow for riders and improve the overall passenger experience for all who pass through."

Overall, the state is putting $100 billion towards infrastructure projects throughout New York to promote economic development, create jobs, and expand opportunity. Projects include those listed above, as well as other efforts to rebuild and modernize the state’s roads, bridges, broadband networks, public buildings, and other infrastructure.

Rail Passengers Launching Station Volunteer Program

Ever since Amtrak de-staffed more train stations this year, there has been an enormous outcry and opposition to the decision and Rail Passengers Association is stepping up to fill the void. Rail Passengers is launching its Station Volunteer Program in five states. Through the pilot program, that will begin rolling out this Fall, Rail Passengers Association will help concerned members like you and the communities you live in to organize and continue providing that special connection for Amtrak passengers. A knowledgeable and informed volunteer can answer travelers’ questions about Amtrak trains and services, promote rail advocacy, highlight local attractions, foster a spirit of hospitality and promote an inviting atmosphere at the station.

We are piloting in Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Texas. Subsequent rollouts are being planned for Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota and North Carolina. A station volunteer program may be coordinated at the city level, or have a broader state- or route -wide scope that addresses the needs of multiple communities along an Amtrak route.

If you would like to be trained and serve as a station volunteer, please send an email with your interest to [email protected]. Please stay tuned for additional information.

Massachusetts U.S. Representative Seth Moulton wrote in an Op-Ed that “regional rail truly works” and that the North South Rail Link (NSRL) could help connect Boston. In the Op-Ed, which was published in The Boston Globe, Moulton wrote that there are significant benefits to establishing regional rail service in the Boston area and that regional service “means getting to the city in half the time, or across the city in a quarter of the time, in modern, comfortable, fast, all-electric trains like they have in Europe, China, and Japan.”

Moulton said other benefits include:

  • Doubling the number of jobs people can access,

  • Living in an affordable home, and

  • Commuting with a zero-carbon footprint.

The NSRL would also have major benefits; The Link would complete Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor from Virginia to Maine, which Moulton said would be an appealing aspect to Amazon should the company place a headquarters in Boston.

Moulton also pushed that the state doesn’t have to build new rail service, “but if Massachusetts wants to continue to lead, this is the wise, proven investment.”

MassDOT is seeking public comment on the Draft North South Rail Link Feasibility Reassessment Report. The public comment period on the Draft report will be open through October 19, 2018. Comments can be sent to [email protected] and should include “NSRL Draft Report Public Comment” in the subject line.

A request for proposal (RFP) was issued by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) in D.C. for new 8000-series rail cars. WMATA officials are interested in purchasing at least 256 new rail cars, which would allow the transit agency to retire its current fleet of 2000- and 3000-series cars, which are approaching the end of their 40-year service life.

WMATA ordered new 7000-series rail cars in 2015, but based on the current RFP, the 8000-series car will be similar to its predecessor. Instead of focusing on the need for open gangways between cars, heated floors and Wi-Fi, the agency is interested in including improved lighting, more handles for riders, additional screens for digital advertising and charging ports for electronics.

Proposals are due in January 2019, with a contract expected to be awarded late next year. The new units would be delivered as soon as 2024.

September Newsletter Now Available

The Rail Passengers Association’s September Newsletter is now available online for download from our website.

This month’s newsletter includes stories on:

  • The success of all our advocacy efforts, but the need to continue to push forward for approval of transportation funding;

  • And update on Amtrak and the Southwest Chief;

  • A new white paper from the Rail Passengers Association on Amtrak’s accounting practices;

  • Our forthcoming volunteer program;

  • And much more!

Although officials with the California High-Speed Rail Authority said they would not revisit a four-track plan, Governor Jerry Brown signed new legislation that will assure plans on the Peninsula will remain a two-track plan. The bill will help ease concerns raised by local community members in San Mateo, Menlo Park and San Francisco, who said they didn’t want the Authority to build additional tracks in the area.

Should the rail agency ever change its mind and move towards a four-track plan, the bill gives Caltrain officials veto-authority, and it requires that the Authority gain the approval of the nine signatories on the memorandum of understanding. The bill also closes a potential loophole by ensuring that funds cannot be transferred from the Peninsula segment to other segments of the high-speed project and clarifies that $600 million in bond money will be matched by local funds to electrify Caltrain in 2019.

Make plans to attend Rail Passengers Association’s RailNation Miami 2018 Advocacy Summit & Meeting in Miami, FL, Friday, October 19 through Sunday, October 21. The host hotel is the Hyatt Regency in Downtown Miami.

RailNation Miami Registration Is Open! Space is limited, so register today!

Detailed agenda, programming and speaker information is now available; it will be updated regularly in the weeks leading up to the gathering.

Friday will feature a series of local tours & activities, including an exclusive opportunity to ride a chartered trip on Brightline. Complete information & registration for these fantastic tours and trips is now available on the RailNation Trip & Tour Page.

Saturday will include a full day of advocacy presentations, speakers and panels, followed by an evening reception at the MiamiCentral Station complex benefiting The Jim Hamre Scholarship Fund. In addition, a variety of local tours are being offered for spouses while the Saturday sessions are in progress.

Sunday will cap off the weekend with additional presentations in the morning and a closing lunch with a keynote speaker. A trip to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum is being offered in the afternoon (based on sufficient interest).

Discounted group-rate room reservations are now available via this link. The last date to make room reservations is September 22! Additional event information is posted on the RailNation Miami 2018 Event Page.

Hundreds of transportation infrastructure projects, including passenger rail programs, throughout California will receive a portion of $2 billion in funding. The money was approved by the California Transportation Commission (CTC), and more than $690 million will be funded entirely or in part by Senate Bill 1. The bill requires that California spend $54 billion to repair the state’s roads, freeways and bridges, while putting more money towards supporting transit and safety efforts.

"These projects are just a small portion of the key improvements we need to maintain California's critical transportation infrastructure," California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Director Laurie Berman in a press release.

State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) rail projects that will receive funding include:

  • $27 million for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s procurement of eight new zero-emission light-rail vehicles;

  • $21 million toward construction of rail extensions to Larkspur and Windsor;

  • $3 million toward electrification along the Peninsula Corridor;

  • $3 million for 1.8 miles of new siding track and relocation of existing spur track on the Pacific Surfliner Corridor;

  • $2 million toward the effort to increase rail service to Roseville; and

  • $1.2 million for Phase 2 of the San Onofre to Pulgas project which includes the addition of 1.6 miles of second main track capacity.

Share Your Photos, Win Amtrak Guest Reward Points© and Rail Passengers Association Giveaways

We are asking members, friends and family, and the general train-riding public to share their #ViewsFromATrain on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Prizes include Amtrak Guest Rewards Points© and Rail Passengers Association giveaways.

Just use the hashtag #RailPassengers or #ViewsFromATrain and tag @RailPassengers to show us what you see outside your window.

The pictures should be your own, and should depict what you see outside your train window, whether it’s a photo of countryside, oceans, forests or cities. People who submit photos will have an opportunity to win a variety of great prizes, including 10,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards® Points.

So, if have taken a train this summer and captured some great photos, or maybe you plan to this Labor Day weekend, we would love to see them, share and give you an amazing prize.

Brightline officials are interested in building a new station and other facilities in Fort Pierce, Sebastian, Stuart or Vero Beach. On August 27, Brightline asked city officials to submit proposals within 60 days for the possible locations and local support for a potential development that includes a rail station hotel, residential and retail locations, and parking.

Fort Pierce City Manager Nick Mimms has said that the city would be interested in Brightline coming to the city. Mimms specifically said that H.D. King site, a former location of a plant facility, is "a desirable location” and that a Fort Pierce station could be located across from the main H.D. King site.

Vero Beach officials have said they're not interested in a Brightline station, Sebastian is undecided and Stuart continues its opposition to Brightline service altogether.

Canada is setting a great example for modern passenger rail service by moving forward with two major passenger-rail projects in Vancouver. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Columbia Premier John Horgan said that Canada will provide $3 billion (CA) in federal and provincial funding for the construction of the Surrey-Newton-Guildford light-rail project and the Broadway Subway extension of TransLink's Millennium SkyTrain line.

"Rapid transit is key to helping people get where they need to go quickly so we can meet the needs of a growing region," Horgan said in press release issued by Trudeau's office. "Cutting traffic and getting people and goods moving faster will unlock economic growth while making our communities more affordable, accessible and clean."

The Broadway Subway project calls for building 3.5 miles of rail and six stations. It will partially replace the current B-Line bus rapid transit route and have the capability to move more than 5,100 passengers per hour in each direction. The Surrey-Newton-Guildford project will be the development of a 6.5-mile light-rail line.

The Canadian government is contributing $1.37 billion to the projects, and British Columbia will provide $1.82 billion. TransLink and the cities of Vancouver and Surrey will also provide $1.23 billion toward the projects. Both of the projects are part of TransLink's 10-year plan to boost transit options in the Vancouver area.

Rail Passengers Association Members’ Online Forum Now Open!

Rail Passengers Association has opened a new forum for members on Google Groups. Members can share their gripes and their applause, and trade information on the latest passenger rail-related issues.

Click THIS LINK to sign up. It's free and open to the public, but users must join the group before they are able to post messages.

Member Benefit: Newsletter Archives Complete

A new feature for Members: every monthly Newsletter this organization has produced since the beginning of publication in 1969, can be accessed by logging in here. If you have trouble logging in, or cannot reset your password, please contact membership services.

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) broke ground on a $2.6 billion third-track expansion project that will help modernize the system between Floral Park and Hicksville, New York. Once completed, the 9.8 mile route will allow LIRR to increase service, as well as offer smoother and more reliable commutes, safer and quieter crossings, and cleaner air.

"Since the 1940s, people talked about adding a third track and modernizing the Main Line corridor - and now we're actually doing it," Governor Cuomo said. "These projects taken together will create smoother and more reliable service for LIRR passengers while at the same time improving public safety by eliminating dangerous grade crossings. The LIRR is the backbone of the region's economy and this expansion effort will boost growth for generations."

The work will include 50 different projects that range from adding a third track, eliminating all seven street-level grade crossings in the corridor, adding new power substations and parking, and modernizing track and signal infrastructure. The work is slated to be completed by the end of 2022.

Upcoming Regional Rail Passenger & State Association Member Meetings and Other Events:

Please contact Bruce Becker to have a state or regional event or meeting added to the Rail Passengers Association calendar of upcoming events!

Amtrak and the MLB’s San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Angels are partnering together for Rail Safety Month and U.S. Rail Safety Week. Throughout the month of September, the three organizations, along with California Operation Lifesaver (CAOL), will host a series of events to highlight rail safety and raise awareness for the general public.

Amtrak said in a press release that the Pacific Surfliner will host educational events featuring rail safety experts from CAOL on September 16 at Angel Stadium, prior to the Angels game against the Seattle Mariners and on September 17 at Petco Park, prior to the Padres game against the San Francisco Giants. The events will offer ballpark attendees tips for being safe around train tracks and how to avoid accidents. California is the leading state in annual rail fatalities for the most highway-rail grade and trespassing casualties, according to CAOL and the Federal Railroad Administration.

“It’s critical that we work together to educate the public on ways to keep themselves and their loved ones safe around train tracks,” said Bryan MacDonald, chairman of the Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo Rail Corridor Agency, which oversees the Pacific Surfliner service. “Walking, jogging, and taking pictures on or near railroad tracks are all illegal activities that are extremely dangerous and should always be avoided.”

Passenger Rail Service Notices

Current and upcoming service notifications that could affect your train travel include:

CTrail Hartford Line and Amtrak Passenger Service Construction

  • The Hartford Line and Amtrak trains between Hartford and Springfield will be on buses this weekend to accommodate construction crews adding a second set of rails between Hartford and Windsor, Connecticut.

  • The rail line is also switching to a new schedule starting Monday, September 10 and running through Sept. 30. One change with the new schedule is that all CTrail trains will stop at New Haven's State Street station. The full schedule is available here.

Amtrak Pennsylvanian Schedule Change for Trains 42 and 43

  • Effective September 9 and 10, 2018 Trains 42 and 43 will change between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

  • Train 42: Which normally operates between Pittsburgh and New York will be cancelled. Alternate transportation will be provided as an express, non-stop Bus 4042 between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg. Bus 4042 will depart Pittsburgh at 7:00 am, 30 minutes earlier than the train schedule.

    • Sunday, Sept. 9, passengers will connect at Harrisburg to Train 666

    • Monday, Sept. 10, passengers will connect at Harrisburg to Train 650

    • Alternate transportation to intermediate stations of Greensburg, Latrobe, Johnstown, Altoona, Tyrone and Lewistown will be available on Thruway Buses 8690 and 8692. No alternate transportation will be provided to Huntingdon.

  • Train 43: Which normally operates between New York and Pittsburgh will be cancelled. Alternate transportation will be provided as an express, non-stop Bus 4043 between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. Passengers traveling from points east of Harrisburg will connect on Bus 4043 as outlined below:

    • Sunday, Sept. 9 arrive on Train 615, bus departs at 4:05 pm.

    • Monday, Sept. 10 arrive on Train 645, bus departs at 3:50 pm.

    • Alternate transportation to intermediate stations of Lewistown, Tyrone, Altoona, Johnstown, Latrobe and Greensburg will be available on Thruway Buses 8691 and 8693. No alternate transportation will be provided to Huntingdon.

Track Work To Effect Carolinian, Silver Star and Piedmont Service

  • Track work being performed by Norfolk Southern and North Carolina Department of Transportation will affect Carolinian, Silver Star and Piedmont service on select dates between September 10 and September 23. These include:

    • Monday, Sept. 10 through Thursday, Sept. 13: Carolinian Service Trains 79 and 80 will run between Raleigh and Charlotte, only. Trains are cancelled between New York and Raleigh with no alternate transportation provided.

    • Sunday, Sept. 16: Train 92 will operate as Train 1092 and will depart Miami at 9:05 am, 2 hours and 45 minutes earlier than currently scheduled. Train 1092 will operate earlier through to New York.

    • Monday, Sept. 17: Carolinian Service Trains 79 and 80 are cancelled with no alternate transportation provided between New York and Charlotte. Piedmont Service Trains 73, 74, 75, 76, 77 and 78 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided between Raleigh and Charlotte. Train 91 will operate normally.

    • Tuesday, Sept. 18: Carolinian Service Trains 79 and 80 will operate between Raleigh and Charlotte, only. No alternate transportation provided between New York and Raleigh.

    • Wednesday, Sept. 19: Piedmont Service Trains 74 and 75 will be cancelled with no alternate transportation provided between Raleigh and Charlotte.

Saluki Train 393 To Depart Later Monday through Friday

  • Tuesday, Sept. 4 through Friday, Sept. 21: Train 393 will depart all stations one hour and 15 minutes later on weekdays only, due to track improvements being performed by the Canadian National Railway. Train 393 will run on this later schedule from Chicago to Carbondale.

    • Please note: The schedule for Train 393 will not change on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Cincinnati Bell Connector is celebrating its second anniversary of service on Sunday, September 9. As part of the anniversary, streetcar officials will host a number of special events along the route between noon and 5pm, including:

  • Second Sunday on Main | 12th & Main Station #6

  • Cincinnati Reds v. San Diego Padres | Cincinnati Cyclones Station #1

  • Cincinnati Bell tent at The Banks | Cincinnati Cyclones Station #1

  • Streetcar items for sale | Streetcar cookies for sale at Taste of Belgium locations in downtown and OTR and streetcar coasters on sale for $25 at Rookwood Pottery’s Jackson Street store, 12th & Vine Station #7

  • International Literacy Day Book Drive | Donate gently used books to benefit local nonprofit Crayons to Computers, Public Library Station #16

  • Streetcar specials and discounts | Special offers available at restaurants and retailers along route, including MiCA 12/v, 12th & Vine Station #7

  • Frisch’s Big Boy streetcar coloring contest | Coloring sheet entries by kids 12 and under will be displayed in the Children’s Library at the Main Library in Downtown Cincinnati, Public Library Station #16

  • Mascots along route | Mascots from Frisch’s, the Cincinnati Cyclones and Cincinnati Bell will be on the streetcar and at various stops along the route, ready to greet riders.

City officials in Gonzales, LA revealed designs for a new train station, or transit hub, if Amtrak service is to be restored between between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. The new station would include a 300-foot platform, an enclosed waiting area, passenger parking, sidewalks and bike paths. In addition officials hope that the station would be a boost for the local economy and encourage local businesses and restaurants to open nearby.

"If all this comes to be, it'll bring civic pride to Gonzales," said Ryan Burns, a senior rail systems engineer at the international firm Arup, which drafted the design with New Orleans-based firm WDG-Architects Engineers and Fort Worth-based Freese and Nichols. "This is a place you're going to see — wow — this community really has it together."

Southern Rail Commission Chairman John Spain says the $260 million commuter rail — and the Gonzales station — could hit the ground within a few years, with roughly $300 million in federal funds available.

Openings Available For Rail Passengers Association State Council Representatives

The following vacancies now exist for state representatives on the Rail Passengers Association Council of Representatives: Alabama (1 opening); California (7 openings); Idaho (1 opening); Illinois (1 opening); Louisiana (1 opening); Massachusetts (1 opening); Minnesota (1 opening); North Dakota (1 opening); Ohio (2 openings); Pennsylvania (1 opening); Washington State (1 opening); Wyoming (1 opening)

If you are interested in becoming more involved in passenger rail advocacy and serving in a Rail Passengers Association leadership role, this is your opportunity to be considered for an appointment by the Board of Directors to an open state representative seat. There is no deadline to apply and submissions will be considered on a rolling basis as they are received.

Please review the position responsibilities & required qualifications and complete & submit a Candidate Information Statement if you would like to seek a position.

Gina Doyle, program manager of education and conferencing for Trade Press Media Group, parent company of Progressive Railroading, took a 50+ hour train ride on the California Zephyr from Milwaukee to San Francisco. Neither Gina nor her husband had much experience riding trains, and taking a trip on Amtrak over a long period of time was an entirely new experience. Gina shared her experience on the train with Progressive Railroading, and wrote that the food was tastier than she expected, that the views of the U.S. landscape were spectacular, that she enjoyed sitting with other passengers, and that she would highly recommend the trip to others.

Siemens has delivered the first of 45 new light-rail cars to the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (SDMTS). With the new rail cars, SDMTS will increase its frequency of service on current lines for UC San Diego Blue, Sycuan Green and Orange lines. Once the 11-mile extension of the UC San Diego Blue Line opens in 2021, new rail cars will be used on that line as well.

The new S70 rail cars feature the same low-floor design as SDMTS' current fleet, along with a redesigned middle section aimed at improving passenger flow and providing better accessibility for riders in wheelchairs.

"These vehicles represent the true partnership that exists between [SDMTS] and Siemens," SDMTS Chief Executive Officer Paul Jablonski said in a press release. "We worked closely over the last two years to ensure that these vehicles meet the needs of our system — and our riders — once Mid-Coast becomes operational."

The 44 remaining S70 rail cars will be delivered to SDMTS over the next two years.