News Wire Digest Second Section for Thursday, March 26

San Jose-area light rail shuts down after positive test for operator; short lines seek waiver on drug-testing rule; and more
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More Thursday morning rail news:

— The San Jose, Calif., area’s Valley Transportation Authority has suspended light rail service indefinitely after a VTA employee tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, the East Bay Times reports. In a letter to employees posted by their union on its Facebook page, VTA general manager and CEO Nuria I. Fernandez said the agency received the test results late Wednesday and immediately shut down the operation. The agency is asking all operators to “shelter in place until they receive further instructions to quarantine or be tested.”

— Several short lines have asked the Federal Railroad Administration to exempt them from conducting random drug and alcohol tests because of a lack of staffing and concerns about following social distancing guidelines. Benzinga reports Amtrak, commuter lines and other rail companies are also seeking waivers from various FRA regulations in the wake of the agency’s declaration of an emergency situation on March 14.

— The New York Daily News reports that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is losing $125 million in fares each week because of the coronavirus-related drop in ridership, and that the loss could reach $4.9 billion if ridership remains at current levels for six months, followed by six months of gradual return to normal levels. The agency is expected to receive $3.8 billion in federal aid from the bill passed by the Senate on Wednesday.


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