Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 20, 2014

Posts in "Rail"

October 17, 2014

A Look Back: Autonomous Vehicle Scenarios, 2014 Campaign and Pets on Trains

489579995 1 445x283 A Look Back: Autonomous Vehicle Scenarios, 2014 Campaign and Pets on Trains

Boarding an Amtrak train in Jacksonville, Fla. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Amtrak)

This week we looked at futuristic scenarios for autonomous vehicles on our roads as envisioned by the Cato Institute’s Randal O’Toole and others.

If self-driving vehicles become the norm, will that lead to the withering away of mass transit in most metro areas, and traffic lights and speed limits becoming obsolete? We may know in about 30 years. Full story

October 16, 2014

‘Pets on Trains’ Plan Set in Motion

Rail passengers traveling along Amtrak’s busy Northeast corridor could someday bring along a furry, four-legged companion, if a group of Capitol Hill lawmakers get their way.

Tucked away in a passenger rail measure that sailed through a House panel last month is language that would create a pilot program for riders to carry pets aboard some trains, including those running between Boston and Washington. On Sept. 17, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee easily advanced the bill in a voice vote less than a week after it was introduced.

The pet proposal calls on Amtrak to let its customers ditch the pet-sitter and instead travel with their cat or dog in tow. Traveling animal-lovers would have to abide by a few rules of the rails, though, including paying a fee and keeping their pets stowed in carriers as either cargo or carry-on luggage.

The measure closely mirrors the “Pets on Trains Act” introduced last year by Rail subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham, a California Republican. That bill has the backing of The Humane Society, boasts nearly 40 cosponsors and inspired a Senate companion from Rhode Island Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.

But Amtrak passengers shouldn’t prep their pets for travel just yet. Lawmakers’ quick work on the rail measure in September was designed to tee up a broader bicameral debate in the next Congress. In the meantime, riders will have to make do with Amtrak’s own test program that allows pets to ride certain rail routes in Illinois.

October 14, 2014

In Smart Vehicle World, Less Need For Mass Transit?

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A Google self-driving car (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Picture a brave new world in which commuting to work will be faster and safer and in which traditional mass transit systems will wither away in many cities.

That was the future as sketched by one free-market-oriented transportation expert Tuesday at a panel on autonomous vehicles at the libertarian Cato Institute.

“I think autonomous vehicles will just about completely replace the need for mass transit” in all but the six biggest U.S. cities, said Randal O’Toole, a senior fellow at Cato.

Full story

The Container’s Friday Q & A: Railway Supply Institute’s Tom Simpson, Part Two

174775715 445x296 The Containers Friday Q & A: Railway Supply Institutes Tom Simpson, Part Two

Workers at an oil rig in Watford City, N.D., part of the Bakken oil boom (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Here is part two of our conversation with Tom Simpson, the president of the Railway Supply Institute, about demand for tank cars and the new safety rules proposed by federal regulators.

Full story

October 10, 2014

A Look Back: Ebola Economics, Jihadists With European Passports & Biden On LaGuardia

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Travelers at Kennedy Airport in New York (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

The risk of Ebola infection and the economic damage Ebola fears could wreak on aviation and tourism were big themes of our week.

As the Obama administration revised its plans to screen air passengers for signs of the deadly infection and as one Ebola-infected patient died in Dallas, some wondered about the efficacy of airport screening. Full story

The Container’s Friday Q & A: Railway Supply Institute’s Tom Simpson, Part One

 

81931675 1 445x289 The Containers Friday Q & A: Railway Supply Institutes Tom Simpson, Part One

Domestic crude has been increasingly shipped by railroad tank cars (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Abundant domestic oil and big harvests mean boom times for U.S. railroads and lots of work for the companies that make rail cars.

Accidents such as last year’s derailment and fire in Lac Megantic, Quebec which killed 47 people have dramatized the tank car safety issue.

We spoke with Tom Simpson, the president of the Railway Supply Institute, which represents rail car manufacturers, about his industry.

Full story

October 9, 2014

Minnesota Governor Wants New Tax For Infrastructure

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Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, is running for a second term (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

In a debate Wednesday night, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, proposed a wholesale state sales tax on gasoline to raise revenue to pay for transportation infrastructure. He said the tax would raise close to the $6.5 billion the state needs for infrastructure projects over the next 10 years.

The state already has a 28.6 cents per gallon tax on gasoline.

Full story

October 3, 2014

A Look Back: Ebola, Aftermath of An ATC Fire, Industry Reacts to Oil Tanker Car Rules

453306488 1 445x310 A Look Back: Ebola, Aftermath of An ATC Fire, Industry Reacts to Oil Tanker Car Rules

Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tried to reassure travelers this week about the Ebola virus (Photo: Jewel SamadAFP/Getty Images)

This week the Ebola virus dominated the news — including transportation news — as one case of a person infected with Ebola was reported in Dallas.

Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tried to assure travelers that the man who flew to Dallas from Liberia had not been infectious while on board the airplanes he took.   Full story

Report Urges Life Cycle Infrastructure Cost Analysis

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Transportation Secretary Foxx and President Obama tour a light rail facility in St. Paul, Minn. last February. (Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

If you build in 2015, budget for maintenance in 2025, 2035 and beyond.

That’s one message of a report this week from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Eno Center for Transportation, a Washington think tank.

Full story

October 2, 2014

Panama Canal Expansion A Big Deal for U.S. Engineers

The project to expand the Panama Canal — officially launched in 2007 and set to be finished early in 2016 — is having ripple effects on the U.S. economy from railroads to ports.

The canal’s expanded capacity will likely reduce shipping rates between East Asian ports such as Shenzhen and ports on the Gulf Coast and East Coast of the United States.

With port expansion projects such as the one in Miami, the new Panama Canal means more work for the people who design big infrastructure — civil engineers.

Full story

October 1, 2014

With New DOT Ruling, Millions Hang In The Balance

81931675 445x289 With New DOT Ruling, Millions Hang In The Balance

Railroad oil tanker cars (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

One-eighth of an inch could determine how many millions of dollars crude oil shippers will have to pay in order to comply with a potential new rule change.

Shippers of Bakken crude oil have long argued that rail is the future of shipping and that rails “offer flexibility, optionality, rapid transit, market penetration, all the while requiring low levels of capital.” But due to several high-profile disasters related to rail shipping of Bakken crude, the Department of Transportation has published a proposed rule change (the Enhanced Car Standards and Operational Controls for High-Hazard Flammable Trains) that it hopes will reduce much of the risk associated with rail shipping.

Full story

The Container Interviews Foxx on Paying for Transportation, Part One

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Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has been traveling across the country to announce grants for state and local projects and to make the case for the Obama administration’s transportation bill, the Grow America Act.

We had an exclusive interview with Foxx on Tuesday. He spoke with us from Los Angeles where he was taking part in the groundbreaking of the Los Angeles Regional Connector, a light rail transit project connecting three existing lines.

Full story

September 26, 2014

A Look Back: Toll Lanes, A Big Bankruptcy, Hedging Gone Bad & LNG-Powered Ships

470901883 445x279 A Look Back: Toll Lanes, A Big Bankruptcy, Hedging Gone Bad & LNG Powered Ships

A Las Vegas highway interchange (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

This week on The Container, we reported on the role of toll lanes in the North Carolina Senate race where donors to the campaign of Republican Thom Tillis could benefit from a new exit being built as part of a project near Charlotte.

Tillis is challenging first-term Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan, as the GOP aims for at least 51 seats.

Full story

September 25, 2014

Top Oil Train Regulator Is Stepping Down

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PHMSA Administrator Cynthia Quarterman, left, during House testimony (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly)

The top regulator for oil by rail shipments is stepping down.

Cynthia Quarterman, the administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), has been on the job since November of 2009.

Her agency has come under intense scrutiny with the boom in shipments of Bakken crude oil by rail from North Dakota and a series of accidents, which raised fears about safety of the cities and towns through that the oil shipments are passing.

Full story

September 24, 2014

After Surge in Fatal Accidents, NTSB Urges Better Railroad Worker Briefings

155941314 414x335 After Surge in Fatal Accidents, NTSB Urges Better Railroad Worker Briefings

Long Island Railroad workers repairing tracks after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The National Transportation Safety Board Wednesday recommended more thorough safety briefings after an increase in the number of railroad and mass transit maintenance workers killed in accidents in the last four years. There were 15 such fatalities last year.

In one case last year, a worker was electrocuted in Harpursville, N.Y., when a non-insulated aerial lift came in contact with electrical lines. Other maintenance workers were killed by passing trains, one was killed by a mudslide and another died of heat stroke on a hot summer day.

Full story

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