La Crosse Area Planning Committee looks to improve rail services.

Posted by Anthony Dimond on August 25, 2016

La Crosse Area Planning Committee looks to improve rail services.

 The La Crosse Area Planning Committee is working to improve rail services along the Mississippi Corridor, particularly here in La Crosse.   The group joined the Minnesota High-Speed Rail Commission as a voting member and financial contributor. The commission supports rail transportation services across the state of Minnesota. The La Crosse Area Planning Committee said now is a critical time to join the commission, especially as work begins on adding a second passenger train to travel that corridor from Minneapolis to Chicago.  http://www.wxow.com/story/32764059/2016/08/15/la-crosse-area-planning-committee-looks-to-improve-rail-services

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Passenger rail news

Posted by Anthony Dimond on August 25, 2016

 

New_Amtrak_logo

Ticket revenue increases for train from Chicago to Indianapolis.  Ticket sale revenues have increased by 14 percent in the year since the Hoosier State passenger train from Indianapolis to Chicago changed ownership and management a year ago.  The Indianapolis Star reports that Wednesday is the first anniversary of the line’s three-year partnership among Amtrak, Iowa Pacific Holdings, the Indiana Department of Transportation and cities along the route.  http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/ticket-sales-increase-for-train-from-indianapolis-to-chicago/

 

Amtrak: Delays Cut By Nearly 25 Percent Due To New Locomotives.  As Amtrak prepares to roll out the last of 70 new locomotives, the passenger rail corporation says the engines have helped reduce delays by more than 20 percent.  The new engines were introduced three years ago and are used on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor line between Washington, D.C., and Boston, and its Keystone service between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.  http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2016/08/04/amtrak-delays-cut/

 

Amtrak wants to pick developer by summer 2017 to renovate Baltimore’s Penn Station.  Amtrak officials said Wednesday they plan to pick a developer by this time next year to renovate Baltimore’s century-old Penn Station, a project that’s been stalled for years.  The quasi-public railway took a step toward tackling the station’s countless overdue infrastructure improvements by soliciting qualifications from developers, consultants, engineers and other potential bidders. Rina Cutler, Amtrak’s senior director of major stations planning and development, said officials want a vision for the station to come from those who would take on the project.  http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/commuting/bs-md-amtrak-penn-station-redevelopment-20160810-story.html

 

Freight Railroads Fight New Rule for Amtrak Trains.  Freight railroads are challenging in federal court a new stricter way of measuring on-time performance for Amtrak trains, the latest wrinkle in a battle over how far freight trains must go to enable passenger trains to arrive on time….Amtrak and freight railroads have faced off in recent months as the Surface Transportation Board and other regulators try to fine-tune a system that will improve Amtrak’s on-time performance. Under the law, if any passenger train route averages less than 80% on-time for any two consecutive quarters, the law gave the board the right to determine the cause. If it’s due to a freight railroad’s failure to give Amtrak preference, the regulator can award damages or other appropriate relief.  Amtrak won a recent skirmish over the definition of “preference”—who gets to go first—when the Surface Transportation Board decided to keep the status quo. Much is at stake. Freight railroads are currently struggling with profitability after boom years driven by a surge in crude-by-rail and commodities went bust, sending volumes plunging. Amtrak has been trying to boost service and reliability of its intercity and long-haul routes around the country. http://www.wsj.com/articles/freight-railroads-fight-new-rule-for-amtrak-trains-1471426202

 

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ATTENTION DRIVERS! You must stop for school buses with flashing red lights.

Posted by Anthony Dimond on August 25, 2016

buswstopsign 

School is starting in the next several weeks and the Department of Transportation (DOT) is sharing information about new 8-Light Warning Systems on School Buses.  According to the DOT, A vehicle approaching a school bus with an 8-light warning system must do the following:
AMBER WARNING LIGHTS – This is a cautionary message that the bus is coming to a stop and will soon be activating its RED warning lights. Traffic is allowed to bypass the school bus with care.
RED WARNING LIGHTS – Stop at least 20 feet from the bus and remain stopped until the bus resumes motion or the driver extinguishes the flashing red warning lights. Failure to do so will result in a minimum fine of $326.50 and four points.
This law does not apply to vehicles driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway but does apply if no barrier is present on multi-lane street or highway.
A vehicle that approaches a stopped school bus that is displaying flashing red warning lights must stop, regardless if the stop arm is out or not (Ss.346.48(1)). 

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AMTRAK NAMES INDUSTRY VETERAN WICK MOORMAN PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Posted by Anthony Dimond on August 20, 2016

New_Amtrak_logo

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Amtrak announced that it has named Charles W. “Wick” Moorman as its next president and chief executive officer. Moorman, retired chairman, CEO, and president of Norfolk Southern Corp. (NS), will lead the company, effective September 1, 2016, in the next fiscal year.

 

Anthony Coscia, chairman of the Board of Directors of Amtrak said, “We are very pleased that someone with Wick’s experience and vision will lead Amtrak during this critical period as the company charts a course for future growth and improvement.  Under CEO Joe Boardman, and with the support of the Administration and Congress, Amtrak has achieved record levels of performance and investment.  The Board believes Wick can build upon this success in the coming year by launching initiatives to further enhance safety and customer service, modernize our operations, and guide our implementation of the FAST Act.”

 

“It is an honor and privilege to take on the role of CEO at Amtrak and I look forward to working with its dedicated employees to find ways to provide even better service to our passengers and the nation,” said Moorman. “At Norfolk Southern, our team fostered change by placing a solid emphasis on performance across all aspects of our business which helped develop a stronger safety and service culture throughout the company. I look forward to advancing those same goals at Amtrak and helping to build a plan for future growth.”

 

Moorman, a native of Hattiesburg, Miss., comes to Amtrak after more than 40 years at NS where he rose from management trainee to CEO and chairman of the Board of Directors. Having worked with NS from the ground up, Moorman gained an appreciation for the many facets of railroad operations and used this knowledge to modernize the way NS conducted business, served customers and worked with communities. A graduate of Georgia Tech and Harvard Business School, Moorman serves on the boards of Duke Energy Corporation, Chevron Corporation, the Virginia chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and the Georgia Tech Foundation.

 

“Wick’s deep operational background and track record of building teams and driving innovation is exactly what we need to provide unparalleled service to the more than 500 communities we serve,” said Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors Jeffrey Moreland. “We are confident that, working together with the Board, Wick can formulate a strong plan to take Amtrak to the next level and assemble the management team and expertise to carry it forward.”

 

Moorman succeeds current CEO Joe Boardman, who announced his intention to retire last fall.   “I have been humbled to lead this extraordinary organization over the past eight years,” said Boardman. “I look forward to spending time with my family and wish Wick all the best as he brings his excellent experience to Amtrak.”

 

“The Board and I thank Joe for his dedicated service to Amtrak and its customers and for his long career in public service.  Under his leadership, Amtrak delivered record ridership, introduced a series of safety initiatives and modernized its fleet.  For this, he should be proud,” Coscia said.

 

Moorman currently holds securities of a rail carrier. Amtrak will ensure that any conflict will be avoided as is required by federal law.

 

About Amtrak®

Amtrak – America’s Railroad® – is dedicated to safe and reliable mobility as the nation’s intercity passenger rail service provider and its high-speed rail operator. With our state and commuter partners, we move people, the economy and the nation forward, carrying more than 30 million Amtrak passengers for each of the past five years. Formally known as the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, Amtrak is governed by a nine member board of directors appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Anthony R. Coscia is board chairman and Jeffrey R. Moreland is vice chairman. Amtrak operates more than 300 trains daily – at speeds up to 150 mph (241 kph) – connecting more than 500 destinations in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian Provinces. Learn more at Amtrak.com or call 800-USA-RAIL for schedules, fares and other information. Check us out at blog.Amtrak.com, Like us on Facebook.com and Follow us on Twitter @Amtrak.

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Federal judge: Voters without ID may vote in November by signing affidavit

Posted by Anthony Dimond on July 22, 2016

U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman issued a preliminary injunction order Tuesday in a case challenging the state’s law requiring voters to have photo identification, granting a request from the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU’s request called for an affidavit option for voters who face a “reasonable impediment” to obtain a valid photo ID.
Adelman’s order will allow the affidavit option for voters in the general election on Nov. 8. The ACLU’s original request was to have the option in place for people seeking to vote in the Aug. 9 primary election.
While most voters either have an ID or can get one easily, “a safety net is needed for those voters who cannot obtain qualifying ID with reasonable effort,” Adelman wrote in the order. “The plaintiffs’ proposed affidavit option is a sensible approach that will both prevent the disenfranchisement of some voters during the pendency of this litigation and preserve Wisconsin’s interests in protecting the integrity of its elections.”
Attorney General Brad Schimel, who is defending the law, said he was disappointed with the court’s decision.
“We will decide the next course of action after (the Department of Justice) attorneys have had time to fully review and analyze the court’s decision,” Schimel said in a statement.
Sean Young, an attorney with the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, said the ruling was a “strong rebuke of the state’s efforts to limit access to the ballot box.”
“Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been a mistake from day one,” Young said in a statement. “It means that a fail safe will be in place in November for voters who have had difficulty obtaining ID.”
Voters must show a Wisconsin driver’s license or state ID card, a U.S. passport, military ID card, a college ID meeting certain requirements, a naturalization certificate or ID issued by a state-based American Indian tribe in order to vote.
Reid Magney, spokesman for the state Elections Commission, said the board will talk to DOJ attorneys about the decision to prepare for the November election.
“It is too early to discuss the details of how the affidavit procedure will be implemented, however, it will affect a relatively small number of voters,” he said
The ACLU filed the motion in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee after a federal appeals court in April ruled that the ACLU and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty could seek such an order as they challenge the state’s law.
Voter ID was made law in Wisconsin in 2011 but, due to a string of legal challenges, didn’t take effect in a statewide election until this year.
In Wisconsin and other states that have implemented voter ID, it has been politically explosive. The law’s supporters argue it’s a reasonable step to prevent voter impersonation, though such cases are rare. Critics decry it as an attempt to suppress voting by groups that tend to vote for Democrats, such as the very poor, college students and minorities.
The ACLU and the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty filed the federal lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s voter ID law in 2011. The 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the law in 2014.
But the groups pressed the suit, saying that some people face special obstacles to obtain the ID needed to vote under the law.
The state DOJ previously asked Adelman to put the lawsuit on hold because a similar lawsuit brought by the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Institute made its way through the courts, challenging elements of the Voter ID law and other election-related measures implemented since 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker took office and Republicans gained control of the Legislature.

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Feds weigh minimum train crew sizes

Posted by Anthony Dimond on July 16, 2016

The Federal Railroad Administration is considering a rule that would require most trains to have a minimum number of crew members.
During a Friday public hearing on the proposal, union groups, policymakers and stakeholders weighed in on whether most rail operations
should be staffed with at least two qualified workers.The regulation, proposed in March, would establish crew-size standards for most
main line freight and passenger rail operations. Currently, only a two-member crew is required for trains carrying crude oil.
The FRA reopened the public comment period in order to get feedback from Friday’s hearing.
Union groups argued that the step is essential for protecting against the human error and fatigue that can lead to deadly accidents, pointing
to an Amtrak derailment near Philadelphia last year and a deadly oil train explosion in Quebec in 2013.
“Safely operating a train is no easy task. In fact, operating a train has long been the job of a team of workers,” said Edward Wytkind, president
of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. ‘This team also works together during emergencies, such as dangerous rail accidents, when
timely action and quick thinking can save lives and prevent destruction.”
The trade group supports the proposal but called on the FRA to make the final rule stronger by requiring that two-person crews consist of a
certified engineer and certified conductor. Industry leaders say that there is no evidence that having an additional crew member on board would
improve safety. Instead, they maintain that the rule would stifle innovation and harm productivity.
“The proposed rule is a textbook example of unnecessary regulation,” said Edward R. Hamberger, president and chief executive officer of the
Association of American Railroads. “The Department of Transportation… is backing a rule that would freeze rail productivity and chill innovation.”
But Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) testified that her state witnessed the benefits of a multiperson train crew first hand during a derailment in
Casselton in 2013, when several crew members on board were able to help pull crude oil cars away from the fire.
“Having two crew members on board won’t necessarily prevent derailments, but it will help mitigate accidents when they occur,” she said.

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RRB announces change in service hours for field offices

Posted by Anthony Dimond on May 2, 2016

http://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/newsflash.asp?id=5831

(Source: U.S. Railroad Retirement Board press release)

CHICAGO, April 26 — Effective at noon on June 1, 2016, U.S. Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) field offices around the country will be closed to the public on Wednesday afternoons. Field office representatives will not be available to assist walk-in customers or to answer the phones during Wednesday afternoons only. All RRB offices will remain open from 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays, and during their usual hours of 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the remaining weekdays, except for Federal holidays.
The change is necessary due to reduced staffing levels, coupled with increased workloads in several key areas, and will allow the staff in the RRB”s nationwide network of 53 field offices to focus on processing applications for benefits, conducting necessary verifications for pending applications or claims, resolving complex cases and reducing backlogged workloads.
RRB customers will continue to have the opportunity to conduct most business through the agency website (http://www.rrb.gov) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or by calling the RRB”s nationwide toll-free telephone number, (877) 772-5772, and speaking with a field office representative during regular business hours.
Current railroad employees can use the www.rrb.gov website to apply for and claim unemployment benefits, file a claim for sickness benefits, check the status of their unemployment or sickness claim, view their statement of account under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act, view their service and compensation history, or get an annuity estimate. Annuitants currently receiving benefits can request a letter verifying the amount of their annuity, a duplicate tax statement, a replacement Medicare card or a copy of their service and compensation history. All services are accessible through the “Benefit Online Services” section of www.rrb.gov or by calling the RRB”s toll-free number at (877) 772-5772.

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The Hill — FRA rule gives us chance to bar most one-person crew trains

Posted by Anthony Dimond on March 30, 2016

Mar 23, 2016 MoveAmerica Blog

The Hill — FRA rule gives us chance to bar most one-person crew trains

As published by John Previsich and Ed Wytkind in The Hill

The freight railroads would have the public believe that operating massive freight trains with a single crew member is perfectly safe. We know those claims are not true and fortunately so does our government which just issued proposed regulations establishing a two-person crew minimum on most trains. We applaud those rules and will push to make them as tough and rigid as possible.

If former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was alive today, he would probably tell the railroads, “you’re entitled to your opinion, but not your own facts.” Despite erroneous claims by the industry lobby that there is a lack of “conclusive statistical data” to support a two-person crew standard, we know from data gleaned from reports on accidents, crashes and fatalities as well as the real-life experiences of frontline employees, that the arguments in favor of a two-person crew standard are compelling.

The railroads rely on skewed statistical analysis to argue that a lack of accidents from the use of one-person crews means that this two-person train crew rule isn’t needed. The reality is that almost all trains in America operate with two crew members and thankfully, one-person crew operations are still the rare exception. Of course there is not a great deal of data available. More to the point, the safety statistics in today’s industry are a product of the skill and professionalism of the two-person and three-person crews that operate trains across America today.

Read more in The Hill.

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Rail Workers: Deadly Tired….but Still Working

Posted by Anthony Dimond on March 30, 2016

Rail Workers: Deadly Tired…but Still Working

by ntsbgov

By Georgetta Gregory The rail business is an industry full of tired, stressed workers. It is an epidemic. I know this first-hand because, before coming to the NTSB several years ago, I spent more than 30 years working in the freight railroad industry. While freight railroad managers and crews count on reliable schedules to make … Continue reading Rail Workers: Deadly Tired…but Still Working

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WISLB Urgent Notice

Posted by Anthony Dimond on February 18, 2016

wis blet

*URGENT NOTICE*

 

Call all of the following State Senators on SB734 Relating to: pedestrians crossing railroad right of way. This committee needs to allow the concerned citizens and railroads work out their issues using the process put in place by The Office of the Commissioner of Railroads, pedestrian crossings. For additional information please visit the WISLB.org website.

2015 Senate Committee on judiciary and Public Safety

Senator Wanggaard (Chair) (608)266-1832 or 866-615-7510

Senator Vukmir (Vice-Chair) (608)266-2512

Senator Lasee (608)266-3512

Senator Risser (608)266-1627

Senator L. Taylor (608)266-5810

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