Wednesday Winners (& Losers)

A weekly roundup of good deeds, missteps, heroic feats and epic failures in the tri-state region and beyond.

NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez join other City electeds in breaking ground on the Plaza de Las Americas. | Photo: NYC DOT Flickr

The groundbreaking of the Plaza de Las Americas. | Photo: NYC DOT Flickr

WINNERS

Washington Heights residents After seven years of planning, the City has finally broken ground on the Plaza de Las Americas, a big win for local vendors and businesses as well as for pedestrians, who will enjoy increased traffic safety once the project is complete.

Queens residents —  In addition to the great news of permanent Q103 weekend service, the City DOT unveiled its design for a ‘super’ bus route along Woodhaven Boulevard, where buses would run in their own lane separated from local traffic with a concrete median.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — As chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Cities of Opportunities Task Force, de Blasio called on fellow mayors across the country to raise the call for greater federal investment in mass transit and infrastructure, saying “the failure to invest in transportation, the failure to invest in infrastructure is holding us back.” Does this mean there will be an increase in city funding to the MTA’s capital plan to match the call for increased federal funding?

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal & acting Federal Railway Administrator Sarah Feinberg — The Northeast Corridor high speed rail study that has been irking Connecticut officials for weeks has been declared “dead on arrival,” with the Connecticut Senator vowing to fight the bill until the study includes a stop in Connecticut.

Connecticut commuters and residents — In an effort to woo residents of the Land of Steady Habits, there are several promotional offers for passengers who try CTfastrak, launching this Saturday, March 28, including local business discounts and nine full days of free rides for all passengers statewide.

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Amtrak Policy Reform Could Bring True High-Speed Rail to the Northeast Corridor

Amtrak got a bipartisan nod of approval in Washington last week in the form of the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (H.R. 749), which authorizes $7.2 billion in federal subsidies for Amtrak and other rail programs through 2019, including $1.7 billion a year over four years.

While it’s not the boost in funding needed to match ridership gains, it could be considered a win in this congress. The vote was 316 to 101—with all Democrats who voted being in favor, and the conservative contingent casting against. A last minute action alert from conservative groups—Heritage Action and Club for Growth—called, unsuccessfully, for a no vote, identifying this as a “key vote” against which legislators’ performance would be judged. Given that Democratic votes were needed for passage, even the usual attempts to privatize and defund the system were unsuccessful.

There were several bits of policy reform of note:

  • Local officials in the 19 states that contribute financially to Amtrak service would have “a seat at the table” on decisions relating to changes and budgets for service.
  • Amtrak would need to be more transparent with the financial information it provides to state and local governments.
  • There will be some “streamlining” of environmental and other regulations on construction projects.
  • Amtrak will need to address the operating losses for food service on trains.
  • A pilot program will be launched allowing pets on board, for a fee.
  • A requirement that Amtrak take “a hard look” at the access needs of wheelchair users, bicyclists and other non-motorized transportation.
  • Profit from the Northeast Corridor (NEC), which usually subsidizes unprofitable routes across the country, would be reinvested in the corridor.

This final bullet can’t be overlooked, as it could ultimately lead to faster service. A feasibility study must be completed in six months that will analyze the possibility of a new and better Northeast Corridor.

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Federal Budget Could Impact Hudson Rail Tunnel, MTA

A federal government shutdown is officially off the table — at least for a few more weeks. The House voted on Tuesday to pass a “continuing resolution” that funds government operations through November 18, which means legislators can focus some attention on the fiscal year 2012 budget. The Depts. of Transportation and Housing & […]

$745 Million For Northeast Corridor Rail is Saved

A $450 million grant for the Northeast Corridor should lead to more reliable service on NJ Transit and Amtrak.

USDOT announced today that it has released $745 million for two high-speed rail projects to improve service on the Northeast Corridor in New Jersey and New York. The move ensures that Amtrak will receive the […]

Albany’s Livingston Avenue Bridge: Who Decides?

livingston_avenue_bridge_down_the_tracks

The Livingston Avenue Bridge is one of only a few connections between Albany and Rensselaer, making it critically important that pedestrians and cyclists get access to the bridge.

When Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected $2 billion in federal funding for high-speed rail earlier this year, NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald was quick to the […]

“Back on Track”: A New Source for NE Corridor News

Last month, the Business Alliance for Northeast Mobility launched a new blog, “Back on Track: Northeast,” to follow the region’s progress towards establishing high-quality passenger rail service in the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The blog is meant to serve as a common platform for information and research regarding the importance and need for investment in the […]

House of Horrors: Bill That Could Strip $833M For Rail in Tri-State Region Passes

On Friday, the House passed the Energy and Water Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 that would redirect $1 billion in unobligated high-speed rail funds for flood relief efforts in the Midwest. $833 million was awarded to the tri-state region in May, and much of it is still at risk because it has not yet been […]

Another GOP Attempt to Defund Northeast Corridor Rail

An amendment from Rep. Rod Frelinghuysen could defund rail projects in his home state of New Jersey and throughout the tri-state region.

Much of the recent commentary on Northeast Corridor high-speed rail has revolved around House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica’s proposal to privatize the system. But Dan Schned of America […]

Nearly $900M in High-Speed Rail Funds for Region

The Harold Interlocking in Queens (the work shown here is part of the LIRR's East Side Access project).

The region will receive almost $900 million for high-speed rail projects from the funds rejected by Florida’s governor earlier this year, with the majority of funds going to the Northeast Corridor. USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood […]

Amtrak Tries Picking Up the ARC Pieces With “Gateway Project”

Amtrak's proposed "Gateway Tunnel" would increase capacity for both NJ Transit and Amtrak.

This morning, NJ’s Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez joined Amtrak President Joseph Boardman to make the exciting announcement that Amtrak will try to take the lead on a new trans-Hudson rail project, the “Gateway Project.” The agency has proposed […]