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Cotton Belt Station rendering web

USA: Dallas Area Rapid Transit has approved a $783 million contract for Archer Western and joint venture partner Herzog Contracting Group to design and build the Cotton Belt commuter rail line with assistance from lead designer Jacobs Engineering. The 26-mile line will stretch across North Texas from Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) to Plano, and it will connect northern areas of Tarrant, Dallas, and Collin counties. 

Cotton Belt includes 10 total stations as well as interchanges with the DART light rail Orange, Green and Red lines, the TEXRail commuter line to Fort Worth and local bus services. Stations will be located in Dallas, Carrollton, Addison, Richardson and Plano. 

"North Texas is booming, and this reliable, local transit option will be a welcomed addition for many residents," said David Casey, president of Archer Western's heavy civil division. "We are thrilled to partner with DART and connect the communities of North Texas via Cotton Belt's high-quality transit service." 

Cotton Belt Map web

In addition to numerous past DART projects, Archer Western and Herzog are delivering transportation infrastructure in tandem across the Dallas/Fort Worth region. The companies are in the final stages of constructing TEXRail, a new 27-mile commuter rail project for Trinity Metro extending from downtown Fort Worth into Terminal B at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Archer Western is also completing a separate contract for the new DFW Terminal B station, the terminus for TEXRail. 

Construction on the Cotton Belt line will begin in 2019 with project completion anticipated in 2022.

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USA: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has announced that it has awarded a total of $16.6 million to 20 organizations around the country to support comprehensive planning projects that improve access to public transportation. The funds are made available through FTA’s Pilot Program for Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning, which assists communities that are developing new or expanded mass transit systems.  

The Pilot Program for TOD Planning provides funding to project sponsors who will integrate land use and transportation planning efforts with eligible transit projects. The grants will fund comprehensive planning to support transit ridership, multimodal connectivity, and mixed-use development near transit stations.

FTA’s TOD Pilot Program was established under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) in 2012 and continued by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in 2015. The program is authorized through fiscal year 2020.

Two airport access improvement projects were awarded the grant:

FTA Blue Line Map web

Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation (IndyGo) in Indiana will receive $320,000 to support planning along the Blue Line Rapid Transit project, a planned bus rapid transit line that will link downtown Indianapolis, the airport and the Town of Cumberland. The operation of the line is planned for late 2022.

2030.LYNX.System.Map web

The City of Charlotte in North Carolina will receive $920,000 to plan for development along the proposed LYNX Silver Line, a light rail extension from Gaston County to the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, Uptown Charlotte, Mathews and Union County.

In November 2016, the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) approved staff's recommendation of light rail as the locally preferred alternative for the Southeast Corridor by adopting the LYNX Silver Line light rail alignment into the 2030 Transit System Plan

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AUSTRALIA: City of Greater Geelong Council has appointed a new committee aimed at moving the fast rail connection between Geelong and Melbourne project ahead.

The New Spirit of Progress Committee is an informal partnership between the key regional centres and it will work in collaboration with the state government on urgently needed regional rail upgrades, including the Melbourne to Geelong Fast Rail Project.

Council has also released a report commissioned by the City, which shows fast rail could deliver:

  • An express service from Melbourne to Geelong in 32 minutes;
  • A three-stop service via Sunshine, North Geelong and Corio in 36 minutes;
  • Geelong to Sunshine (Melbourne Metro’s future main transfer station) in 25 minutes.

The report proposes a new 7km regional rail tunnel at Footscray, which could pave the way for expansion of fast rail all the way to Warrnambool, and would also open major new capacity for Metro trains in Melbourne’s west.

A new dedicated station at Avalon, which would allow for 27-minute express services from Melbourne to Avalon International Airport is also included in the project report.

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AUSTRALIA: Premier Daniel Andrews has announced that more than 100 local and global organisations have expressed interest to deliver the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

The Andrews Labor Government has committed up to $5 billion to build this project, which will run from the CBD to Melbourne Airport via Sunshine and form the north-western section of the Suburban Rail Loop.

“We are not wasting a minute in getting this project planned, designed and delivered. The Melbourne Airport Rail Link is the next step in our transformation of Victoria’s public transport network and a key part of the Suburban Rail Loop,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Over the past four months, Rail Projects Victoria tested market interest from across the professional disciplines needed to deliver the Melbourne Airport Rail Link – including design, engineering, construction and finance.

The Labor Government will now assess which organisations have the capability to make the Melbourne Airport Rail Link a reality and begin gauging the interest of potential private sector investors and operators.

The full business case is now underway, with the project set to begin construction by 2022.

Aurecon Jacobs Mott MacDonald Joint Venture (AJM JV) has been appointed as a technical advisor and KPMG has been appointed as a commercial advisor for the Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

AJM JV have already started site investigations in the Airport Rail Link corridor as part of early planning work.

Ecologists are looking for protected flora and fauna to map the sites. The results from the surveys will be used to support detailed planning and assessments for the Airport Rail Link project.

The Joint Venture is also working on the Western Rail Plan, carrying out detailed investigations of infrastructure upgrades, costs and train requirements to deliver fast rail to the regions as part of the Airport Rail Link.

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UK: Network Rail has announced that the proposals for a new rail link from the Great Western Main Line to Heathrow Airport have been given a boost with a large majority of people backing it during the statutory public consultation carried out earlier this year.

Views were sought from rail users, communities, businesses and other interested parties. 1,333 responses were received via post, email and on Network Rail’s official consultation website, building on the previous 1,000 responses received during two previous rounds of public engagement and consultation in 2015 and 2016.

A total of 72% of respondents agreed with the proposals to build the new rail link with 11% of total respondents asking for the industry to speed up delivery of the scheme. 23% disagreed with the proposals with a required road closure in the Iver area being cited as the most common reason for the negative response.

The link would allow passengers throughout the West, and beyond, to travel directly to Heathrow Airport from Reading, Twyford, Maidenhead and Slough, without having to change at London Paddington. This would make journey times to Heathrow as short as 26 minutes from Reading and just 7 minutes from Slough. It would therefore help ease congestion on the roads, and bring economic growth and new jobs into the Thames Valley and surrounding areas.

The plans have been drawn up on behalf of the Department for Transport.         

Mark Langman, route managing director for Network Rail’s Western route explained: “We are delighted that the proposals have been given the overwhelming support of the public, businesses and stakeholders. We have also heard the concerns of some local residents so will continue to work hard to make sure our final plans, which will be submitted for consent in 2019, work with other developments in the area.”

All of the detailed proposals for the scheme are available online at www.networkrail.co.uk/heathrow.

heathrow west access