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Fw: [A_A] Austin: FRA OKs Capital MetroRail DMUs

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  • Peter Warner
      f ... From: Nawdry Subject: [A_A] Austin: FRA OKs Capital MetroRail DMUs To: Trolleys-RemovalandRebirth@yahoogroups.com,
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 1, 2008

      --- On Wed, 10/1/08, Nawdry <nawdry@...> wrote:
      From: Nawdry <nawdry@...>
      Subject: [A_A] Austin: FRA OKs Capital MetroRail DMUs
      To: Trolleys-RemovalandRebirth@yahoogroups.com, LightRail_Now@yahoogroups.com, All_Aboard@yahoogroups.com, lrta@yahoogroups.com
      Date: Wednesday, October 1, 2008, 5:50 AM


      http://www.statesma n.com/news/ content/news/ stories/local/ 09/30/0930capmet ro.html

      Austin American-Statesman
      Tuesday, September 30, 2008

      Feds OK Cap Metro's passenger rail cars

      Service likely to start in March.

      By Ben Wear

      Federal regulators are no longer standing in the way of Capital Metro
      opening its passenger rail line.

      March is the likely opening date now for the Leander-to-downtown Austin
      rail project, about a year later than original estimates. One of the feared
      reasons for delay — a lack of federal permission — was cleared up

      That means that Capital Metro board members, when they meet
      Wednesday to set a tentative opening date, will be looking only at
      construction timelines to determine when to cut the blue ribbon.

      The federal approval was an issue because of concerns that the Swiss-
      made, light-rail-style cars might not be sturdy enough to run on tracks
      shared with freight trains.

      But Federal Railroad Administration and Capital Metro officials said
      Monday they have agreed that as soon as possible the transit agency will
      design and install a steel cage to surround fuel tanks on its six trains,
      tanks that the railroad administration said in February were insufficiently

      Cap Metro will also prepare a number of other documents requested by
      the regulators, principally outlines for testing, inspection, safety and other
      operational issues. The 32-mile passenger line can open without those
      cages in place, Capital Metro Executive Vice President Andrea Lofye said,
      and will be installed on the train cars later.

      "The constraints on our schedule, at this point, are caused by the
      construction issues," Lofye said.

      The agency has begun building the last two stations only in the past few
      days, as well as two siding tracks that will be needed for northbound and
      southbound trains to pass each other.

      To open the line in December, which had been the target date for the past
      couple of years, the agency would have had to do so with just seven of
      the planned nine stations open; the Kramer Lane and Howard
      Lane/MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) stations would still be under

      "The gist is that we have reached consensus with the FRA on how we will
      address each of the issues" raised by the federal agency in February,
      Lofye said.

      Capital Metro in 2006 first asked the railroad administration for a general
      waiver for the cars, believing that its project was similar in character to
      passenger lines in New Jersey and San Diego that ultimately fell under
      the auspices of the Federal Transit Administration instead.

      That federal agency's physical requirements, since it normally deals with
      light rail systems running on tracks where there is no freight traffic, are not
      as demanding as those of the railroad administration. The San Diego
      Sprinter vehicles, for instance, according to Lofye, have fuel tanks
      identical to those on the Swiss-made Capital Metro vehicles.

      And in all three cases — Austin, San Diego and the New Jersey River
      Line — the vehicles are self-propelled, diesel-powered train cars similar in
      character to light rail vehicles. Freight cars use the same track on all three
      systems, albeit at different times of day.

      But the railroad administration in this case, perhaps influenced by Capital
      Metro's decision to refer to its Leander line as "commuter rail" rather than
      light rail, decided that it should retain authority over the project. There
      were questions in transit circles about how long the federal agency might
      take to grant Capital Metro authority to open the line, or if it might reject
      the vehicles outright. That will not be the case, provided Capital Metro
      follows through on the promises it is making now.

      "My understanding from the team who went down there and sat down with
      them for a week is that all of these issues are being hashed out
      satisfactorily, " said Warren Flatau, a spokesman for the railroad

      His agency, Flatau said, will give its official sanction later, "assuming they
      do everything they promised to do. And that's a big if."

      bwear@statesman. com; 445-3698

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