Thursday morning rail news:
Groups ask U.S. to level sanctions against China’s CRRC
A U.S. rail lobbying group is among those asking the Trump administration to level strong sanctions against Chinese rail equipment manufacturer CRRC, in light of a U.S. Defense Department statement linking the firm to the Chinese military. Reuters reports that the Rail Security Alliance and United Steelworkers are among those asking U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which would bar the company from using the U.S. banking system, freeze its U.S. assets, and bar American companies and individuals from conducting business with the Chinese firm. The request comes after the Defense Department included CRRC — the world’s largest rail equipment manufacturer — on a list last month of 20 companies it says are owned or control by China’s People’s Liberation Army. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act, which bans contracts to companies based in China or others that do not protect intellectual property rights. Supporters of the bill cited cybersecurity concerns as well as competitive concerns over CRRC’s support by the Chinese government. CRRC subsidiaries have plants in Chicago and Springfield, Mass., and the company has built or is building equipment for the Chicago Transit Authority, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, LA Metro, and the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, among others.
Pandemic prompts Austin to consider cuts to ‘Project Connect’ plan
Austin, Texas, transit agency Capital Metro is proposing a reduction to its Project Connect rail and bus plan that would cut the total cost of the package by $3 billion, little more than a month after officials approved the ambitious $10 billion. The Austin American-Statesman reports the changes would include a shorter version of the planned light rail Orange Line, while bus service would replace the planned light rail Gold Line. The new $7 billion plan, reflecting the financial impact of the coronavirus, is currently only being offered as an option to the full plan approved by city officials in June [see “Austin approves transit expansion plan,” News Wire Digest, June 11]. Voters still have to vote to fund the project, which could be on the ballot this November.
Portal Bridge failure stalls rail traffic
New Jersey’s infamous Portal Bridge struck — or rather, stuck — again on Wednesday. WINS radio reports the century-old bridge over the Hackensack River between Kearny and Secaucus, N.J., stuck in the open position for about an hour on Wednesday morning, delaying Amtrak and NJ Transit service. The bridge problem was reported about 10 a.m.; by 11 a.m., it was back in position, with trains delayed up to 45 minutes because of the resulting disruption. The effort to replace the often-troublesome bridge received a boost last month with a Federal Transit Administration commitment to help fund the project, allowing it to move forward [see “Portal Bridge project advances to engineering phase …,” News Wire Digest, June 22, 2020].