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Department of Transportation News Digest For Friday, October 7, 2005

As directed last month by Congress, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has extended until Sept. 30, 2006 the deadline for all states to meet federal requirements for testing school bus drivers to ensure they are qualified to safely load and unload children, evacuate passengers in an emergency, and cross railroad tracks. FMCSA's interim final rule extends the original deadline by one year, giving states additional time to complete their testing programs on school bus drivers' knowledge and skills. In addition, 11 States that FMCSA determined already met the testing standards before Sept. 20, 2002 - the date the school-bus testing requirements first took effect - will not have to retest school bus drivers. The new rule is open to public comments, which can be submitted on-line until Oct. 28, 2005, by visiting and entering Docket Number FMCSA-2005-21603. Contact Gladys Cole: (202) 366-8810.

FRA Grant Reimburses Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad in Oregon for Tunnel Rehabilitation. The Port of Tillamook Bay, an Oregon municipal corporation, was awarded a $330,667 grant by the Federal Railroad Administration to cover the costs of rehabilitation work on a 94-year old tunnel on the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad (POTBRR). The tunnel needed extensive repairs to prevent a potentially dangerous collapse. Built in 1912, the 1,400-foot long tunnel near Timber, Ore., is the only wood-lined tunnel along the railroad's 83.8-miles of track. The railroad is renowned for its massive bridges, numerous tunnels and steep inclines. The POTBRR primarily transports forest products, but also operates a seasonal excursion train. Contact Steve Kulm: (202) 493-6024.

Georgia DOT Receives Grant to Study High Speed Rail Corridor. The states of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina are studying the viability of using a public-private partnership to develop high-speed passenger rail service along a rail line corridor between Macon, Ga., Atlanta, Ga., Greenville, S.C., and Charlotte, N.C. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has received a $329,500 grant under the Federal Railroad Administration's Next-Generation High-Speed Rail Program with an equal amount provided by the state to perform the research. The study will be conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Volpe National Transportation Systems Center under contract to GDOT and will evaluate the use of existing or new rail lines, examine passenger rail operations at various speeds, estimate the demand for service between specific cities, and evaluate the costs of operations and maintenance as well as the financial and community impacts of various proposed services. Contact Steve Kulm: (202) 493-6024.

FRA Grant Funds Locomotive Fuel Efficiency Study. The Norfolk Southern Railway (NS) will continue testing an innovative braking technology that may improve fuel efficiency and the safety of train operations as well as reduce locomotive emissions. NS received a $400,000 grant under the Federal Railroad Administration's Locomotive Research and Development Program. The grant is being used to test and integrate additional software and technology features on 15 locomotives, and for data collection and analysis to assess the system's performance in achieving energy savings and lower emissions. Contact Steve Kulm: (202) 493-6024.

Effort to Relocate Canadian National Track in Madison, Miss., Receives Federal Funding for Environmental Impact Assessment Study. The city of Madison, MS will receive a $99,350 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to conduct a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment Study on a proposal to relocate a portion of Canadian National Railway track to the outskirts of the city. The FRA also will provide technical assistance and guidance in performing the study as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. A draft study will include two proposed options for undertaking the project, as well as a "no-build" alternative and will be available to the public for review and comment once it has been completed. Contact Steve Kulm: (202) 493-6024.