Rail contractors give surface transportation bill mixed reviews

News Wire Digest second section for June 22: San Francisco Muni revamps light rail service for restart; few rail projects among latest DOT grants
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More Monday rail news in brief:

NRC expresses mixed emotions on House transportation bill
The National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association has issued a statement indicating mixed emotions over H.R. 2, the “INVEST in America Act,” the transportation bill passed Friday by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. In the statement, the NRC says it supports efforts to have a surface transportation bill enacted before the Sept. 30, 2020, expiration of the current FAST Act, because the lack of a bill “will undoubtedly create difficulties for all transportation stakeholders and hinder efficiencies.” It is also encouraged by the bill’s proposed funding levels, including $60 billion for rail projects [see “House committee releases new five-year transportation legislation,” Trains News Wire, June 3, 2020.] However, the organization says it has major concerns over labor provisions it says would require railroads to keep some work in-house or could be contracted out under collective bargaining agreements. “These provisions would increase costs and reduce flexibility for states, commuter and passenger rail authorities, and would make it harder to initiate or expand rail service, especially in an era of limited resources,” the statement says. It also says it shares freight railroads’ concerns over certain regulatory requirements, which led the Association of American Railroads to voice a negative opinion of the bill [see “AAR pans House transportation proposal,” News Wire Digest, June 4, 2020].

Muni light rail to see significant revamp when service returns
San Francisco’s Muni is redrawing its light rail map in anticipation of the resumption of service in August. SFGate.com reports the K and L lines will be combined and will no longer use the subway portion of the system, while J line will also avoid the subway by terminating at Market Street. The M and T lines will also be combined. Full details, including a map of the new system, are available at the Muni website.

Few rail projects among latest DOT grant announcements
A handful of rail-related projects were among the 20 in 20 states announced Friday as recipients of $906 million in grants under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program. While the vast majority of projects involve highways, projects with a rail component or potential rail benefits include

— Texas: $79.4 million to the Port of Houston Authority to strengthen 2,700 linear feet of wharf and upgrade 84 acres of yard space at the Barbous Cut Container Terminal.

— Wisconsin: $6.75 to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to complete rehabilitation of the Wisconsin & Southern’s Merrimac Bridge over Lake Wisconsin, about 15 miles southwest of Portage, Wis., to accommodate 286,000-pound railcars.

— Oklahoma: $6.1 million to the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority to upgrade an industrial park in Inola, Okla., with new structures and a 3-mile rail spur connecting the park to a freight main line.

Congress will have 60 days to review the proposed awards, after which DOT is free to begin obligating funds. The full list of projects is available here.

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