Digest: Transit agencies unite for call for more federal aid

News Wire Digest for July 15: Justice Department says talks between railroads not protected from lawsuit; NJ Transit receives study on one-seat Raritan service to New York
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Wednesday morning rail news in brief:

Transportation agencies call for $36 billion in federal relief

A coalition of 27 transportation agencies across the U.S. have joined forces in a call for up to $36 billion in federal aid to offset losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the chief executives of agencies from New York to Los Angeles, and from Seattle to Florida, say the $25 billion in funding distributed from the earlier coronavirus relief package “will not sustain us through this protracted crisis, the breadth and depth of which is still unknown,” meaning some agencies will be faced to lay off workers while others will have to cut service, and that the U.S. “will not experience a full recovery if the transit systems that move our economy are not fully functional.” New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority led a "virtual rally" of major agencies on Tuesday to publicize the request. The full letter is available here. McConnell indicated this week that the Senate would act on another coronavirus relief bill later this month.

Justice Department says railroad talks not excluded from lawsuits
The U.S. Justice Department says discussions between railroads should not be excluded from a series of lawsuits claiming BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific coordinated the imposition of fuel surcharges, a conspiracy that led to billions of dollars in profit. The Associated Press reports that railroads have claimed an obscure law protected the conversations, but the Justice Department, in a brief filed Monday, says a broad application of the law “would exclude critical evidence of antitrust violations.” Dozens of major companies have filed lawsuits in the latest round of a legal battle that dates to 2007 [see “More shippers file suits over railroad fuel surcharges,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 3, 2019].

Study sees high cost, long prep time for one-seat New York service on NJ Transit Raritan line
A study of possible one-seat travel to New York’s Penn Station on NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line says the cheapest possible option to create such service on a full-time basis would require $125 million in construction costs and take six years to implement, while the most expensive scenarios are reliant on construction of the proposed Gateway tunnels. NorthJersey.com reports the study by consultant group Dewberry does not take into account ridership changes brought by COVID-19, or make recommendations among the five options it studied. One-seat service during off-peak hours began on the line in 2014 and was suspended in September 2018 as NJ Transit worked on positive train control implementation; all but one train was restored in November 2019.


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