Bay Area's SMART may buy out Northwestern Pacific to gain control of route, freight service

News Wire Digest for May 20: LIRR may limit car capacity, introduce reservation system; study of California's proposed Valley Link sees creation of 22,000 jobs
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Wednesday morning rail news in brief:

— Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit is preparing to buy out Northwestern Pacific Railroad, the freight hauler that shares its tracks, giving it full control of its right-of-way and facing a decision whether to operate freight service itself or find a contract operator. The Santa Rosa Press Democrats reports the Northwestern Pacific would sell its rights and equipment for $4 million, while the state of California would provide almost $4 million to pay off debts owed by the state agency that oversees the freight operation. The SMART board is scheduled to consider the proposal today; if the board approves, it would then have to be approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom prior to a June 1 deadline.

— New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority may limit capacity on Long Island Rail Road trains, create a reservation system, and introduce thermal imaging to take the temperature of every passenger before boarding in its effort to win back riders after the COVID-19 outbreak. MTA and LIRR officials discussed these prospects and others Tuesday in a webinar sponsored by the Long Island newspaper Newsday. Also under consideration a prohibition of using the middle seat on the three-seat side of LIRR equipment, which has five-across seating.

— A study for California’s Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority indicates the proposed Valley Link rail service could generate 22,000 jobs with a collective income of $1.35 billion during construction, and when operational would support 400 jobs with over $19 million in income and generate $69 million in business sales annual in Alameda County. The Livermore, Calif., Independent reports the study by PGH Wong Engineering Inc. looked both the immediate impact of construction and the long-range impact of operations and maintenance. The Valley Link project would bridge the 42 miles between the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station and the proposed North Lathrop station on an extended Altamont Corridor Express commuter rail network.


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