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Little Rock - September 2000
   

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Little Rock — Expert Advice

Rail Transit Online, September 2000

A two-day peer review of the proposed 1.9-mile River Rail streetcar system connecting downtown Little Rock with North Little Rock has determined that the trolleys will require an emergency braking system for added safety on the Main Street Bridge.  Examining the plan were Frank Tobey, Resident Manager of the Memphis Area Transit Authority; Frank Menair, Manager of Commuter Rail Construction and Maintenance for Trinity Railway Express; the legendary Elmer von Dullen, trolley maven and Superintendent of Maintenance for the Regional Transit Authority in New Orleans; and Cheryle Tyson, an engineer from the Federal Transit Administration.  Both Tobey and von Dullen have extensive expertise with historic streetcars, and it was Tobey who mentioned the brakes after expressing concern over the steep eight percent curving grade at the north end of the bridge where it enters North Little Rock.  The group also suggested that CATA make certain the three cars recently ordered from Gomaco, which will have four 25-hp. motors, will be sufficiently powerful to carry a loaded car up and around the curve.  Planners said they are already working on the brake issue and Gomaco has assured transit officials that the trolleys will perform to specification.  “It's been an extremely useful two days,” Keith Jones, Executive Director of the Central Arkansas Transit Authority, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper.  “We didn't hear too much the design team hadn’t thought about at some level.  Safety was sort of the overwhelming concern and message we got from the team.”  The cars (there’s an option for a fourth) will be similar to those ordered by Tampa for the Ybor City Line.  However, according to John Kallin and Travis Ellis at Gomaco, the Little Rock units, with a length of 45.5 ft., will be two windows shorter than those being built for Tampa.  Also, they will not have bulkheads between the car platform and body and will have two wheelchair lifts (at each end in the forward door) instead of one, the latter a primary reason that the Little Rock cars will cost $750,000 each compared with $609,000 per car for Tampa.  Either price is a bargain, probably owing to the use of trucks and controls from scrapped Peter Witts purchased from the Milan, Italy, transit system.  Plans call for completing eight cars for Tampa, then three for Little Rock, then the remaining four for Tampa.  The first vehicle should arrive in Little Rock in the fall of 2001.  The project is now estimated to cost between $12.3 million and $13.5 million.  Construction bids probably won’t be advertised until at least December, and completion is expected in late 2001 or early 2002.  CATA officials expect Congress to act later this month on a $5.7 million appropriation for the project.  

 

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