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Critical Infrastructure News

Japan authorizes $2M to study high-speed train in Maryland

Japan’s ambassador to the U.S. says his country has authorized $2 million to support a feasibility study on building a high-speed train between Baltimore and Washington.  Ambassador Kenichiro Sasae made the announcement Wednesday after signing a memorandum of cooperation between Japan and Maryland with Gov. Larry Hogan. The agreement formalizes trade relations between the state and Japan.

In November, the federal government awarded nearly $28 million in seed money to a private venture seeking to build a high-speed magnetic levitation train between Washington and Baltimore. A 20 percent outside match is required, and the $2 million from Japan will go toward that 20 percent.  The money is for planning and an engineering analysis for the train, which could carry passengers from Washington to Baltimore in 15 minutes.

Source: WTOP

Tractor trailer wreck, chemical spill closes I-95 North into Baltimore for hours

A tractor trailer hauling 12 shipping tons of a petroleum-based liquid overturned Monday morning on Interstate 95, closing the northbound lanes for hours just south of downtown Baltimore while crews cleaned the product spilled over the road.  The tractor trailer overturned shortly before 11:30 a.m. on northbound I-95 past Exit 52 for Russell Street, firefighters said. Northbound lanes were closed until about 4 p.m., but reopened in time for crowds coming into Baltimore for the Orioles and Nationals baseball game. Orioles officials were monitoring the cleanup.

Most days, 174,200 vehicles travel northbound and southbound past the crash site, according to state highway officials. The wreck halted northbound traffic for about four hours.  The tractor trailer was hauling Polyether modified trisiloxane, a product sometimes used in agriculture and mixed with pesticides. The product helps pesticides stick to plants.  Initially, firefighters said two state employees were injured from exposure to the spilled product. But 1st Sgt. Jonathan Green, spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, said those employees had some of the liquid on their boots and were monitored, but not injured.  The driver of the tractor trailer was not injured. No other vehicles were involved.  Green said Monday afternoon that investigators were still working to determine what caused the wreck. It was not immediately known Monday afternoon how much of the product spilled.

Source: Baltimore Sun

WMATA offers Antiterrorism Awareness Month message

The threat of terrorism is real and vigilance is necessary. This month, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is reminding service members and Department of Defense employees that measures are in place—not only during Antiterrorism Awareness Month, but all year long—to keep passengers boarding its six Metrorail lines and 1,500-bus fleet safe.  George Nader, deputy WMATA police chief, said the agency’s jurisdiction extends through Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. “We have such a high population of federal employees—the reality is if Metro shuts down, the federal government shuts down,” he said. “[We’re also] committed to protecting our military force; they protect this country and they risk their lives for us. I don’t think there’s anything more important to us than that.”

According to Richard Jordan, a WMATA spokesperson, 430 men and women comprise the Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD), the only tri-state jurisdiction law enforcement agency in the nation, visibly patrolling 1,500 square miles of transit zone (Metro facilities and tunnels).  What the public may not be aware of is Metro’s anti-terror unit, courtesy of a $9.56 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The unit is specifically designed to detect, deter and prevent terrorism that operates both overt and covert missions, according to Nader.

Read more at Pentagram

Uber’s First Self-Driving Fleet Arrives in Pittsburgh This Month

Starting later this month, Uber will allow customers in downtown Pittsburgh to summon self-driving cars from their phones, crossing an important milestone that no automotive or technology company has yet achieved. Google, widely regarded as the leader in the field, has been testing its fleet for several years, and Tesla Motors offers Autopilot, essentially a souped-up cruise control that drives the car on the highway. Earlier this week, Ford announced plans for an autonomous ride-sharing service. But none of these companies has yet brought a self-driving car-sharing service to market.  Uber’s Pittsburgh fleet, which will be supervised by humans in the driver’s seat for the time being, consists of specially modified Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles outfitted with dozens of sensors that use cameras, lasers, radar, and GPS receivers. Volvo Cars has so far delivered a handful of vehicles out of a total of 100 due by the end of the year. The two companies signed a pact earlier this year to spend $300 million to develop a fully autonomous car that will be ready for the road by 2021.

Read More at Bloomberg

Delta still digging out on Day 3

Delta Airlines, which has been scrambling ever since a six-hour global shutdown on Monday, said it is starting Wednesday with about 150 canceled flights across its system. The day before, 250 were canceled in the early hours.  "The bulk of delays and cancellations are coming as a result of flight crews displaced or running up against their maximum allowed duty period following the outage," said Delta.  Delta is the world's second largest airline and has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the past three years building up its infrastructure.  The airline's statement said it hopes to resume more normal operations by mid-to-late afternoon Wednesday, though it warned that forecasts of thunderstorms in the eastern United States could delay its return to normal.  Delta's woes started in the early hours Monday when a power outage at its Atlanta operations center took its computer system offline, grounding flights around the world.  Since Monday the problems have built up throughout the day, as canceled flights reached about 800 by the end of the day Tuesday, on top of about 1,000 cancellations on Monday.

But in the midst of the busy summer travel season, finding seats to accommodate all the affected passengers has been a nightmare for the airline. And it has ended up with aircraft and crews out of position to cover all the scheduled flights, which is why there are continued cancellations more than 48 hours after the initial problem.  Experts agree the tight schedule airlines run is why it's so difficult to recover from a major problem like the one Delta experienced.  Southwest Airlines (LUV) experienced the same kind of three-day problem from a computer glitch late last month.