August 4, 2017 – A pair of recent court rulings in the last eight days have opened the way for numerous lawsuits against the California high-speed rail project under the auspices of the famously lawsuit-friendly California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Eno Transportation Weekly
July 28, 2017 – The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on July 26 held a hearing on multiple pending nominations, including Ronald Batory to head the Federal Railroad Administration and Mark Buzby to head the Maritime Administration.
July 17, 2017 – As noted in last week’s ETW, Amtrak has released its own five-year business plan and financial forecast. The original version of the plan (preserved here for posterity) had inaccurate tables in the back of the report relating to route-by-route ridership and financial forecasts. Amtrak has now released a corrected version of the document.
July 13, 2017 – On July 7, the Federal Railroad Administration finalized a program to allow private bidders to take over some Amtrak long-distance routes.
July 13, 2017 – President Trump on July 11 nominated career railroad executive Ronald Batory to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.
July 7, 2017- The U.S. Department of Transportation withdrew from formal participation in the Gateway Development Program as a new cost estimate for centerpiece of the program raised the total program cost to near $30 billion.
June 30, 2017 – The Gateway Program is a $24 billion portfolio of rail projects in New York and New Jersey, centered around a new tunnel between Secaucus Junction and Penn Station.
June 9, 2017 – Amtrak submitted its own budget request for fiscal 2018 on May 31, asking for $840 million more than the White House requested on its behalf and also requesting a new kind of advance funding for 2019 and 2020.
June 1, 2017 – The U.S. Department of Transportation announced on May 31 that it has awarded $197 million in federal grants to 17 transportation departments and authorities.
May 25, 2017 – The FY 2018 budget request from the Trump Administration calls for steep cuts in federal grants to Amtrak, with the intent to eliminate federal support for Amtrak’s long-distance routes. The budget would also reduce support for new intercity rail grant programs created by the FAST Act of 2015 below levels appropriated earlier this month in the 2017 omnibus appropriations law.
March 29, 2017 – This morning, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bill (H.R. 1346) repealing the Obama Administration’s December 2016 rule requiring metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to consolidate across state lines. The panel also approved several other measures, including bills to recodify Coast Guard statutes and to require Congress be notified of ongoing railroad safety audits.
February 17, 2017 – Federal agencies are continuing to implement the regulatory “freeze order” from the White House, including a delay in implementation of the Federal Highway Administration’s recent performance measures rule.
August 31, 2016 – Vice President Biden announced last week that the Federal Railroad Administration will loan Amtrak $2.45 billion to purchase 28 new trainsets for Northeast Corridor Acela service and to make upgrades to Washington Union Station, Moynihan Station New York, and other NEC facilities.
August 31, 2016 – House Railroad Subcommittee chairman Jeff Denham (R-CA) decided to break up his long summer recess by holding a field hearing of his subcommittee this week in San Francisco to get a status check on the California high-speed rail project.
August 17, 2016 – The Federal Railroad Administration has selected the recipients of $25 million in grants for positive train control (PTC) implementation provided by Congress for fiscal 2016 and has updated its estimates of when railroads will meet PTC implementation deadlines.
May 20, 2016 – The Federal Railroad Administration formally admitted on May 18 that the first phase of the beleaguered California high speed rail project, between Merced and Bakersfield, won’t be completed until 2022, not 2018 as the FRA had previously been maintaining.
May 5, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued two new funding notices for surface transportation grant programs – $25 million for rail safety grants and $8 million for a new mobility-on-demand “sandbox” program at FTA.
The troubled California high-speed rail project last week released a new business plan that contained a new cost estimate and a new funding strategy that were in turn predicated on a new direction for the initial operating segment, which is now proposed to run from San Jose to just north of Bakersfield instead of from the Merced area to the San Fernando Valley. The draft 2016 plan assumes a total cost of $64.2 billion instead of the $67.6 billion in the 2014 business plan.
The budget request that Amtrak submits to Congress directly often differs substantially from the request submitted by the White House on Amtrak’s behalf, and FY 2017 is one of those years.
February 5, 2016 – Buried in the supporting information for the Congressional Budget Office’s new Budget and Economic Outlook report last week was a prediction that $2.5 billion of the $8.0 billion provided by the 2009 ARRA economic stimulus law for high-speed and intercity passenger rail development will evaporate, unspent, on October 1, 2017, due largely to the slow pace of the California high-speed rail project.