Portal Bridge funds get final FTA approval
The Federal Transit Administration has given final approval to funding for replacement of New Jersey’s Portal Bridge. It is the final step to complete an agreement approved by NJ Transit last month [see “Digest: Transit officials hold ‘virtual rally’ …,” Trains News Wire, Dec. 10, 2020]. NJ.com notes the FTA will provide $766.5 million for the $1.8 billion project; another $57.1 will come from the Federal Highway Administration, with New Jersey paying $811 million and Amtrak $261.5 million. The start of construction could still be a year away.
Fish and Wildlife Service, BNSF release plan to address Montana grizzly bear deaths
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and BNSF Railway have released a plan to prevent grizzly bears from being killed by trains. The plan, published today in the Federal Register, would grant the railroad an “incidental take permit” to cover deaths of bears because of rail operations over the next seven years on a 206-mile stretch of track in Montana. The Missoulan newspaper reports it would allow the death of about 18 bears — in exchange for a habitat conservation plan intended reduce rail-related bear deaths. That would include a rapid-response team to clear the right-of-way of spilled grain, animal carcasses, or other items that might attract bears; adjusted train schedules to avoid twilight; and warning devices on rail bridges.
Illinois legislature votes to repeal 1911 law banning drinking on trains
Both houses of the Illinois legislature have passed a bill which would repeal a 1911 law banning alcohol consumption on trains. KHQA-TV reports the House and Senate have passed HB3878, which would repeal the Railroad Intoxicating Liquor Act, which bans drinking on trains or in stations. The current law requires railroad conductors to enforce the act and arrest violators, who are charged with a Class C misdemeanor. The bill now goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker. A 2020 Chicago Tribune article notes the law is widely ignored, with Amtrak and Metra both allowing drinking on board, although Metra bans alcohol consumption on certain occasions.