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Welcome to ProRail Nebraska

Dedicated to supporting and advocating for railroad service 
in the State of Nebraska.

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ProRail Nebraska Board Meeting  

Saturday, August 25, 2018 - 9:00 am to Noon - Lincoln, NE

at St. Mark's on the Campus, 1309 R Street, Lincoln

All ProRail Nebraska meetings are open to the general public!

If you can't attend in person, a conference phone line may be available.

If interested, please contact Bob Kuzelka 402-417-9424 rkuzelka1@unl.edu

May 2018 ProRail Newsletter Posted Online

Click here to view a PDF copy of the newsletter.

Jay Lund - Modern Omaha Streetcar Advocate

Keynote Speaker at PRN's June 9th Annual Meeting

By Clyde Anderson, PRN Director - District 2  

As the leading advocate for a modern streetcar line in Omaha, Jay Lund believes streetcars would be the catalyst for Omaha to become a world-class city.  Jay will be our keynote speaker at ProRail's June 9th meeting.

Jay knows development and techniques for spurring urban growth. The Lund family as played a major role in commercial real estate development in Omaha. For example, Jay and others transformed a series of unused and underused buildings into the hip mid-town Blackstone District.

Lund is the lead spokesman for Modern Streetcar Advocates, https://modernstreetcaradvocates.org/,  an organization that promotes streetcar transportation in Omaha and believes that "Omaha's future is riding on the streetcar."

Modern streetcars utilize clean, energy-efficient all-electric vehicles utilizing overhead trolley wire or battery-electric hybrid vehicles that only have overhead wires transit stops for charging the batteries eliminating most of the cost of erecting the network of overhead trolley wires.

Detroit's new QLine Streetcar Line utilizes articulated streetcars with a unique hybrid design using power from overhead wire and on-board batteries. In the photo note the short overhead wire at the trolley stop. The vehicles are also unique in that they are American made by Brookville Equipment Corp. in Pennsylvania.

Streetcars provide a much smoother, quieter ride than buses, and there are no exhaust emissions. Streetcars are also more reliable than buses and have much longer service lives.

You don't have to go far to visit a streetcar success story.  Kansas City's Downtown Streetcar has provided more than 4 million trips since its opening day two years ago. Since the streetcar began operations, at least 20 new businesses have popped up along or near the Main Street route. More than $2.1 billion has been invested in the greater downtown Kansas City area since the streetcar opened. "In two short years, downtown residents, employees, and visitors have embraced the KC Streetcar and have ridden at record numbers," said Kansas City Streetcar Authority Executive Director Tom Gerend. "The transformation of downtown and the excitement it generated is nothing but remarkable." To accommodate ridership growth, the KCSA has ordered two more streetcar vehicles to expand its existing four-vehicle fleet. The new units are slated to arrive next year. The authority also plans to extend the streetcar route to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Berkeley Riverfront area.

Key to Kansas City's success is operating expenses are paid for by a tax paid by businesses and property owners along the streetcar route which allows the streetcar to be fare-free. This not only encourages ridership but also speeds operation by not having to collect fares and inspect for fare payment.

It's interesting that streetcar opponents often promote buses as a more cost-effective alternatives, but these opponent are rarely existing transit users who ride Omaha buses regularly and have to deal with the discomforts of bus travel.

Click here to read other articles in our May 2018 newsletter.

Richard Schmeling on his book The Trains of Lincoln Station

Tuesday, June 12, Noon to 1:00 p.m.

State Historical Museum Auditorium at P and 15th Street - Lincoln, Nebraska

ProRail Nebraska Director, Richard Schmeling, will be the guest speaker at the Preservation Association of Lincoln's (PAL) June 12th Brown Bag lunch talk. Dick will present on his new book "The Trains of Lincoln Station" which he co-authored with Michael Bartels.

It will be held at noon in the auditorium of the State Historical Museum at P and Centennial Mall North - free and open to the public.  All the PAL brown bag lunches are videotaped and shown often on public access channel 5.  ProRail is providing a grant to co-sponsor the event and help fund the video coverage.

"The Trains of Lincoln Station" is available in softcover from South Platte Press for $24.95.

In the past several decades, the railroad presence in the downtown area of Lincoln, Nebraska, has been significantly diminished. This pictorial looks at the many changes that have taken place around the city's former Burlington and Amtrak station between the early 1960s and 2012. The authors, noted Lincoln area rail historians, recount the history of Lincoln's "Burlington box," various steam and football excursions that operated, and changes to local passenger train service during the Amtrak era. Photos by a number of local rail photographers show the equipment, area facilities and special events that supported depot operations. This is a visual document of how the trains of Lincoln Station were gradually replaced by what is now a vibrant retail and event district for Nebraska's capital city.   

Kansas City Streetcar marks two years of service

Progressive Railroading - May 9, 2018

The 2.2-mile Kansas City Streetcar in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, has provided more than 4 million trips since its opening day two years ago. Since the streetcar began operations, at least 20 new businesses have popped up along or near the Main Street route, Kansas City Streetcar Authority (KCSA) officials said in a press release. 

More than $2.1 billion has been invested in the greater downtown Kansas City area since the streetcar opened. "In two short years, downtown residents, employees, and visitors have embraced the KC Streetcar and have ridden at record numbers," said KCSA Executive Director Tom Gerend. "The transformation of downtown and the excitement its generated is nothing but remarkable."

To accommodate ridership growth, the KCSA has ordered two more streetcar vehicles to expand its existing four-vehicle fleet. The new units are slated to arrive next year. The authority also plans to extend the streetcar route to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Berkeley Riverfront area.

ProRail Opposed to New Amtrak Policy

Posted April 11, 2018

Photo by Tom Jurgens of the Sept. 2014 Omaha-Lincoln Husker Football Special at Melia Siding.

Amtrak recently announced a new policy for private passenger cars and special trips. This change will likely eliminate special trains in Nebraska like Husker Football Specials between Omaha and Lincoln. ProRail Nebraska opposes this new policy and encourages our members and allies to contact their Representatives and Senators expressing their opposition.

Click here to read more about the new Amtrak policy.

UP's Fritz to STB: "Stabilize service, reverse downward trend"

Written by William C. Vantuono, RailwayAge.com  April 4, 2018

Union Pacific has responded to the Surface Transportation Board's March 16 blanket letter requesting information on Class I railroad 2018 service outlook.

In a March 28 letter to STB Chairman Ann Begeman and Vice Chairman Deb Miller, UP Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz stated that the railroad "is currently experiencing some service challenges across our network. Railcar inventory levels began to rise last summer, which contributed to increased cycle times. Customers responded to sluggish service, in turn, by adding more cars to the network. We are working aggressively to break this cycle, including flooding the network with additional resources and taking a series of other steps designed to improve system fluidity and velocity."

In addition to deploying more resources, UP is "developing and implementing operating strategies to improve rail service," said Fritz. "We are particularly focused on reducing railcar inventory on our network. Elevated railcar inventory creates additional congestion at yards, terminals and sidings, which reduces velocity and increases human and locomotive resource consumption. We are placing increased focus on executing existing service plans and modifying them as necessary to reduce inventory and improve fluidity. We are also intensifying communications and evaluating opportunities to bypass congested interchange locations with our Class I interchange partners to improve interchange fluidity. At the local level, we are increasing local train frequency to ensure we are spotting and pulling cars in a timely manner. We are also adding jobs to support yard and terminal fluidity.

"At the network level, we are focused on train-plan discipline. Running trains as scheduled helps ensure locomotive and crew balance, which allows us to more-efficiently use available resources. We are engaging and communicating proactively with our customers to ensure they know we take their concerns very seriously and are committed to improving service. Our number one priority is to stabilize service and reverse the downward trend.

"We cannot predict how soon our ongoing efforts will take hold and may face unexpected challenges in the coming months. However, we are fully committed to deploying the resources necessary to restore network fluidity and velocity, and to safely and efficiently serve our customers."

Click Here to read the details in the rest of the article..

ProRail Supports Legislative Bill 769

Retain Nebraska's Membership in the MIPRC

On January 23rd ProRail President Matt Roque testified before the Nebraska Legislature's Transportation and Telecommunications Committee in support of LB 769. This bill would retain Nebraska's membership in the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact (MIPRC).

You may recall that during the 2015 Session Sen. Kintner introduced LB 317 that would have withdrawn Nebraska from the MIPRC. ProRail opposed LB 317, but a compromise was reached where Nebraska would remain a member only until July 1, 2018.

At the beginning of the 2018 Session Sen. Quick from Grand Island introduced LB 769 that would eliminate the July 1, 2018 deadline and keep Nebraska in the Compact indefinitely. LB 769 is co-sponsored by Senators Walz, Harr, and Kolowski.

The Compact created the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission which brings together leaders from nine Midwest states (Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin) to promote, coordinate and support improvements to passenger rail and connecting bus services. Nebraska's withdrawal from MIPRC would put our state outside this planning process. Senators Quick and Walz represent Nebraska on the Commission. The Governor hasn't appointed the other two NE representatives to the MIPRC.

In addition to retaining our state's membership in the MIPRC, LB 769 would also allow non-government parties to help pay the annual MIPRC dues which are $15,000 annually.

Click here to read Mr. Roque's testimony (PDF).

Kawasaki gets $1.4 Billion MTA subway car order

Much of the work to be done at Lincoln, NE plant

Railway Age - January 24, 2018

New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority plans to spend more than $1.4 billion to purchase 535 new subway cars to replace the oldest cars operating on its lettered lines.

The initial order with Kawasaki Rail Car Inc. was approved by the agency Board's Transit Committee Jan. 22, and the Japan-based company could eventually design and build a total of 1,600 cars for more than $3.6 billion over the coming decade. They will be built at Kawasaki's facilities in Yonkers, N.Y., and Lincoln, Neb.

The first new R211 test cars are scheduled to be delivered by mid-2020, part of an order that includes 440 standard closed-end cars and 20 open-gangway test cars with through vestibules for NYC Transit, and 75 new cars for the Staten Island Railway. The design for the new cars features wider doors, closed-circuit surveillance cameras, new lighting and color schemes, and improved digital displays.

Reports said that under the terms of the contract to be voted on by the full board Jan. 24, the MTA has an option to have Kawasaki build about 1,100 more cars for $2.2 billion by the end of 2027.
The new cars will replace R42 cars dating to 1969-70, and some R32 cars, which are more than 50 years old.  The new deal comes after MTA in 2012 placed a $599-million order with Bombardier of Canada for new R179 cars. The test cars arrived two years behind schedule and experienced a number of failures soon after delivery. The contract with Kawasaki includes penalties for late delivery, and the builder has agreed to beef up its warranties on certain parts and systems.

Click here to view more details in Progressive Railroading article Jan. 25, 2018.

Minnesota ends Twin Cities-to-Milwaukee high-speed rail study

Progressive Railroading - January 11, 2018

An environmental study exploring the viability of a high-speed passenger-rail service between Minnesota and Wisconsin has been halted after two Minnesota state lawmakers objected to its funding.

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) Passenger Rail Director Dan Krom yesterday confirmed in an email a news report that the state has stopped its high-speed rail study, which was examining an environmental process that would be used to move the project forward. 

The proposed rail corridor would have featured high-speed passenger-rail service from Minnesota's Twin Cities to Milwaukee and then on to Chicago.

Last month, Minnesota Republican State Rep. Paul Torkelson and Republican State Sen. Scott Newman objected to MnDOT's accepting of federal grant money to complete the study largely because of Wisconsin state officials' opposition to high-speed rail, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported earlier this week. "Minnesota should not be squandering precious tax dollars - whether local, state or federal - on a wasteful project actively opposed by other states whose support is necessary to proceed," the legislators wrote in a letter to the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget, the newspaper reported. Torkelson and Newman chair the transportation committees in the Minnesota House and Senate, respectively.

About $1 million in state and federal funding has been invested to date toward the study over the past several years, said Krom. Wisconsin pulled out of the study years ago, due to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's objection to high-speed rail projects. But Minnesota continued to study the prospect of a high-speed passenger-rail corridor. The Tier 1 environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed rail line was funded under a federal High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program stimulus grant issued during President Obama's administration. The grant called for $600,000 from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) with a $600,000 match - $300,000 from each state. 

After Wisconsin pulled out of the study, Minnesota committed the full $600,000 state share to match the FRA's portion. About $181,000 in federal grant funds remain, which Krom said he assumed would remain in the grant program until it is closed in the future.

In 2010, while campaigning for his first term as governor, Walker said if elected he would send back $810 million in federal stimulus funds the state received for a proposed high-speed rail connection between Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. After Walker won the election, the U.S. Department of Transportation took back the federal stimulus money and distributed it to other states.

KC Streetcar Get's FTA Permission to Begin 

Proposed Extension Project's Development

Progressive Railroading - January 8, 2018

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority will develop 

refined capital and operating costs, as well as ridership estimates.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has authorized the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) to move its Main Street streetcar extension into the project development phase.

The agency now will develop refined capital and operating costs, estimate ridership, assess environmental impacts and create a detailed funding plan, KCATA officials said in a press release. The work will include an HDR Inc.-led study now underway.

The FTA's authorization is a key step toward securing federal funding for the extension, agency officials said.

"KC Streetcar's downtown starter line has proven its worth and this Main Street extension will further strengthen our investment while connecting our most dense neighborhoods and business centers in a new and exciting way," said Tom Gerend, executive director of the Kansas City Streetcar Authority. 

The project's primary area extends from downtown Kansas City and Union Station toward the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Presentation By Roger Figard, Executive Director
Lincoln Railroad Transportation Safety District
December 9, 2017 ProRail Meeting in Lincoln
Click here to view PowerPoint slides
Click here to view map of conceptual plan to abandon Amtrak Route in Lincoln, NE
Click here to view map showing proposed Hobson Yard Bypass

ProRail Board Votes to Oppose Abandonment of Lincoln's Amtrak Line

Clyde Anderson - November 3, 2017

The ProRail Board met in Lincoln Saturday, October 28. After discussing the proposal by Lincoln's Railroad Transportation Safety District to abandon a segment of the Amtrak Line that extends from a point just west of the Amtrak Station 7.3 miles southwest to Cobb, the Board voted unanimously to oppose the abandonment. See the news article below for details. The Board opposes closure of the line to through traffic for several reasons:

  • Closure would require Amtrak's California Zephyr and other through trains that use the Amtrak Line to reroute past BNSF's Hobson Yard which is longer and would likely result in delays by freight trains waiting to enter this often congested yard facility.

  • Eliminating the alternate Amtrak Line would eliminate redundancy often needed when the Hobson Route is blocked by congestion, track maintenance, or derailments.

  • The option of rerouting all traffic via the Hobson Route is more expensive because a new signaled main line would have to be constructed past the south side of Hobson Yard, and the Freight Bypass between Hobson and Cobb would have to be upgraded.

  • ProRail supports the less expensive option of upgrading the grade crossings on the Amtrak Line to create a Quiet Zone.

  • BNSF doesn't support the proposed rerouting of traffic off the Amtrak Line.

We hope to have a spokesperson from the Railroad Transportation Safety District at our December 9 meeting.

Lincoln will buy two all-electric buses with a federal grant

NANCY HICKS Lincoln Journal Star Oct 27, 2017

StarTran has received a $1.45 million federal grant to purchase two electric buses to replace heavy-duty diesel buses. StarTran's project was one of 51 projects in 39 states selected for $55 million in grants from the Federal Transit Administration's low- or no-emission vehicle program.

The grant, which also funds electric-charging stations for the buses, will be matched by $500,000 in local funds. The electric buses, which cost about $300,000 more than a compressed-natural gas bus, will be able to travel 200 miles before recharging. 

Since most city buses run about 300 miles a day, the two buses will be used during peak hours and charged in between, according to Transit Manager Mike Davis. 

Click here to read the rest of the article and view images.

Will Lincoln's Amtrak Line Be Abandoned?

By Clyde Anderson - October 3, 2017

 According to an article in the September 10 Lincoln Journal Star, Lincoln's Railroad Transportation Safety District is concerned about grade crossing safety on BNSF's Hastings Subdivision between Lincoln's Amtrak Station and Cobb, a junction about 7.3 miles southwest of the City. This single-track line is used by the daily pair of Amtrak California Zephyr trains daily plus several BNSF freight trains. 

The Safety District is concerned about accidents at seven grade crossings on this line within Lincoln. This concern was heightened when two 17-year olds were killed August 18 when they drove around the lowered crossing gates at the West South St. crossing and were struck by a westbound Amtrak train.

Although the Safety District has considered creating a quiet zone that would include the seven crossings on the Amtrak Line within Lincoln City Limits, it is also considering a second option: abandonment of part of the line and rerouting through trains on an alternate route.

Creating a quiet zone would cost about $5 million according to a recent study. This involves changes at each crossing including additional warning signals at and raised medians that prevent vehicles from driving around lowered crossing gates. This eliminates the need for engineers to blow train horns approaching the crossings -- thus the name quiet zone.

At Cobb there is a junction with BNSF's Freight Cutoff used by most freight trains to reach Hobson Yard. It's the green line in the map above. If part of the Amtrak Line is abandoned, the Safety District proposes to reroute the through trains off that line to BNSF's Ravenna Subdivision from Downtown west to Cushman, junction with the Freight Cutoff to Cobb. This proposal involves building a new signalized main track along the south side of Hobson Yard and upgrading the Freight Cutoff to Cobb to passenger train standards. Estimated cost: $25 to $35 million. Since BNSF sees no benefit to rerouting the traffic, the cost would have to be borne by the City, State, and Federal governments.

Abandoning the Amtrak Line as a through route is a bad idea. In addition to providing a more direct and faster route for the Amtrak and BNSF intermodal trains that use it, the route provides an alternate path when the route via Hobson Yard is blocked by a derailment, natural disaster, or maintenance. Our railroad network is already plagued by past abandonment decisions that eliminated route redundancy, something railroad managers often regret!

Click here to view the excellent illustrated Lincoln Journal Star article.

ProRail Receives Results for Nebraska Railroad Survey  

ProRail requested UNL's Bureau of Business Research to add four passenger rail-related questions to its Nebraska Annual Social Indicator Survey (NASIS) which was conducted last Fall. Responses to the four questions were favorable indicating a strong support for rail passenger service by Nebraska residents.  Click here to view the summary.

Results will be available for use in our legislative work in the 2017 Unicameral Session.

Posted 2/2/2017.

Transportation for America is a coalition seeking to align our national, state, and local transportation policies with an array of issues like economic opportunity, climate change, energy security, health, housing and community development. N.A.R.P. is a member of this coalition.


ProRail Nebraska advocates safe, environmentally-friendly, fuel efficient, affordable, comfortable, and all-weather mobility that rail transportation can provide.

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We think trains need more prominence in the U.S. because:

  • Trains provide more mobility and travel choices, especially in the post-2001 travel environment.
  • A wisely developed train network has great potential to accommodate future travel demand.
  • Trains are energy-efficient -- Intercity (Amtrak) trains are far more efficient than airlines (2441 Btu's per passenger-mile vs. 3999 for airlines in 1998, according to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory).
  • Increased use of trains reduces America's dependence on foreign oil.
  • Trains are safe, especially in bad weather.
  • Trains contribute to development which is more compact and less wasteful than auto-oriented development.
  • Trains pollute less than other modes of transportation.

(above courtesy National Association of Railroad Passengers)

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Updated 06/14/2018