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March 1999 - Page 30


C ommuter/Tra nsit
New Commuter Li n e
Work on a n extension of the MBTA's com muter rail network to Fall River and New Bedford in southern Massachusetts got under way in November. The trains will use an exist ing freight line, which will need significant upgrading. Initial work will comprise replac ing four bridges, repairing the deck of a fifth, and modifying the abutments of several oth ers. In addition, design work costing about $ 1 2 million has been authorized on three more new bridges. Construction is also under way on a new commuter rai l station in the town of Grafton, located west of Boston on the route to Worcester.

C onstruction Bl itz

On a pleasant August 1 9 , 1997, pee e qui pment still reigns at Matta p a n Station of Boston's M BTA. Work on a n extension of the M BTA's comm uter rai l network to Fa l l River a n d Bedford in southern Massachusetts got u n d e r way i n November 1998.

A lternatives Ana lyzed
A two-year, $5 m i llion study is under way to determine what kind of mass transit, i f any, should be built in Al buquerque, New Mexico. The consultants will focus on light rail , which has already generated local enthusiasm, but they will also study dedicated busways and high occupancy vehicle l anes. Among the issues to be examined are proposed routes, ridership projections, and cost. TEA-2 1 , the new six-year federal highway and mass transit funding program, has earmarked up to $90 million for the project. But the city could receive another $2 1 0 m i llion in discretionary grants once a final decision has been made to build. About $60 million in local matching funds would be needed, and Mayor Jim Baca told the A LBUQUERQUE JOURNAL i t could take eight to 10 years to complete the project.

f or new highway projects tTiggered by the region's failure to meet clean air guidelines. Additional political support came from power ful House Speaker Tom Murphy, who said he was now leaning toward approval of an expen sive multi-modal terminal in Atlanta that would provide convenient transfers between commuter rail , the MARTA subway, and local buses. Murphy had formerly opposed the sta tion, which experts believe is critical to the suc cess of commuter rail .

M etra will be spending more than $227 million this year on 48 capital projects designed to enhance passenger service and convenience. Included will be new locomotives, bridge and other right-or-way repairs, new and renovated stations, longer platforms, and more parking. This will be Metra's largest annual capital spending program, up 5 0 percent from the amount al located in 1 998. New stations will be erected at Arlington Heights, Crystal Lake, Wheaton, and Libertyville.

Weekend Service Begins
Trinity Rai lway Express began Saturday ser vice on December 5, with trains running hourly between 8 a . m . and 1 2 : 3 5 a . m . Sunday mornings. Meanwhile, work o n the Esters Boulevard Station in west Irving is already under way and i s scheduled to open in May 2000 a long with a three-mile exten sion of the l ine. Officials are reluctant to expand weekday service until then because of a shortage of parking at the existing south Irving terminus. " Parking is our number one issue with existing service and our number one cause of customer complaints," said Lonnie B laydes, vice president of commuter rail for DART. " I t 's nice to be wanted, but we are continually looking for ways to solve the problem . " Average weekday ridership is now in excess of 2 , 1 00.

Lessons To Be Learned
The BALTIMORE S U N p ublished a scathing op ed piece by former city planner Alfred W. Barry I I I berating city leaders for supporting a $ 1 6 billion transportation plan that Barry insists would "increase sprawl, double traffic congestion, erode transit ridership, and wors en air and water pollution. " Instead, Barry said, the region needed a blueprint that would reduce sprawl and congestion, primarily through improving "existing transportation infrastructure, including providing sufficient funds for MARC [commuter] trains." In addi tion, he c a lled for an extension of the Baltimore subway to an area near the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and the cre ation of transit hubs to provide seamless inter modal transfers. Barry said that citizen involvement and demands for better public transportation alternatives will head off the road lobby's campaign for more pavement.

C ommuter Rail Su pported
M otorists in the Atlanta region may soon have the option of leaving their cars at home and taking the train to work. Newly e l ected Governor Roy Barnes said his administration is fonnulating a commuter rail plan that will be presented to the state legislature later this year. The first step will be establishing a state authority to determine routes and, ultimately, operate the system. Barnes' support was no doubt stimulated by a freeze on federal dollars
3 0 March 1999

A P enny Saved
The light rai l extension to Li ttleton is costing $ 1 4 . 3 million less than budgeted, and the political battle over what to do with the money is already raging. Staff at RTD want to spend the surplus on system enhancements

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