William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

With Railway Age since 1992, Bill Vantuono has broadened and deepened the magazine's coverage of the technological revolution that is so swiftly changing the industry. He has also strengthened Railway Age's leadership position in industry affairs with the conferences he conducts on operating passenger trains on freight railroads and communications-based train control.

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North Carolina’s state capital may choose to rehabilitate a manufacturing plant as a new passenger rail station, in a move to save money and acquire a convenient downtown location.

Local press have followed the effort to retrofit the Dillon Supply Building, once used to supply heating and venting equipment, was purchased by Triangle Transit in 2005 for just such a possible use. Raleigh still seeks funding sources for a new station, to be used by local transit needs as well as Amtrak and future high speed rail service.

The renovation, estimated by state transportation officials to cost $20 million, would cost less than an alternate plan for a new building, one block away, estimated to cost $150 million. 

“For $2 million, the city would essentially own a $20 million facility,” said Will Allen III, chairman of the city's rail task force. Federal, state, and other sources would supplement Raleigh's fiscal commitment under current plans.

Friday, 01 July 2011 07:07

SunRail gets nod from Florida governor

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Friday gave approval to the proposed 61-mile, $1.2 billion SunRail commuter rail project in central Florida, surprising many who expected him to reject the plan following his spurning of federal high speed rail funds for the state earlier this year.

sunrail.jpgMany industry observers credit Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and a longtime vocal champion of SunRail, for influencing the governor’s decision.

Scott's office made the announcement in Tallahassee Friday morning to proceed with the project, to run from north of Sanford, Fla., through downtown Orlando to Poinciana near Kissimmee. Florida is expected to cover one-half of the cost, with the federal government also picking up about 50% of the capital costs.

SunRail is expected to carry 4,300 weekday passengers on an initial 31-mile segment when it opens in 2013 and 7,400 by 2030, 15 years after the full route is completed.

Florida’s Department of Transportation will pay for operations and maintenance of SunRail for the first seven years of operation. After that point, costs will be assumed by the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission.

U.S. railroads reported 225 fatalities to the Federal Railroad Administration in this year’s first four months, an 8.7% increase compared with the corresponding period last year.

Trespasser fatalities increased 14% to 130. Highway-rail grade crossing accidents declined 1.2% to 85. There were seven employee fatalities compared with six in the prior-year period. 

The FRA data show that 737 reporting railroads recorded a total of 3,421 incidents/accidents in January-April 2011, down 8.3% from last year.

The number of collisions increased 17.5% to 47, and derailments increased 5.7% to 479. Yard accidents declined 2.8% to 343.

[Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the safety figures to the Surface Transportation Board.] 

Tuesday, 05 July 2011 06:14

DOT funds Amtrak Vermonter reroute

The Department of Transportation has awarded $72.8 million to Massachusetts to rehabilitate 50 miles of track in the Bay State, allowing Amtrak service to Vermont to return to an earlier and potentially speedier route.

amtrak_vermonter_logo.jpgAmtrak’s Vermonter, which runs during the day from Washington, D.C. to St. Albans, Vt., on the U.S-Canadian border, at present straddles the eastern border of Vermont and New Hampshire, serving Amherst, Mass., Brattleboro and Bellows Falls, Vt., and Claremont, N.H., among other municipalities. The Vermonter was launched in 1995 following the termination of Amtrak’s Montrealer, an overnight train which provided service to and from its namesake city and Washington.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the improvements to the Vermont would trim up to 30 minutes of travel time by upgrading 50 miles of track between Springfield, Mass., and East Northfield, Mass. New Massachusetts station stops are planned for Greenfield, Northampton, and possibly Holyoke.

“Thanks to President [Barack] Obama’s commitment to create jobs and strengthen our manufacturing sector, these dollars are delivering more than 200 new jobs along with the purchase of 50 miles of American-made steel rails,” said LaHood in a statement.

Last year Vermont’s agency of Transportation was awarded a $50 million grant to upgrade 190 miles of track between St. Albans and Vernon, Vt. Ridership on the route reportedly increased 16% in 2010.

Christopher Parker, executive director of the Vermont Rail Action Network, said, “Anyone who has ridden the train knows about the Palmer [Massachusetts] backup move and that adds time to the trip and it is very noticeable.”
Tuesday, 05 July 2011 06:26

Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs has issued a certificate to the Department of Transportation (MassDOT) that sets out a scope of work for a final environmental impact report for South Coast Rail, extending passenger rail service from Boston to New Bedford in southeastern Massachusetts.

massdot_logo.jpgThe approval directs MassDOT to focus on an electric rail service and not diesel-powered service, emphasizing air quality as an issue for the estimated $1.4 billion project.

State Secretary of Transportation Jeffrey Mullan said the issuance of the certificate was a decision that will lead to an improvement in the state's infrastructure at a low environmental impact. “MassDOT is pleased with the decision from the state’s environmental agency that the Stoughton route will best serve the people of the South Coast and will provide the best climate and air quality benefits,” Mullan said.

Some municipalities along the route are seeking mitigation measures for noise and “public safety,” as well as potential grade separation at various crossings.
Tuesday, 05 July 2011 07:20

Study to test HSR components performance

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been awarded $3.3 million to study the performance of certain track components to improve safety and efficiency on rail routes served by freight rail and high speed (passenger) rail.

Many of the proposed and planned HSR or higher-speed rail (HrSR) lines in the U.S. would require passenger trains to share the same tracks as heavy-axle-load freight trains, the university says. The research to improve concrete crossties and fastening systems will be undertaken by the university’s Rail Transportation and Engineering Center (RailTEC), part of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering (CEE) at Illinois. It is sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration which contributed approximately $2.4 million for the research. Industry partners will contribute the remaining $900,000.

“The magnitude of this project reflects the importance of improved concrete crosstie design for both freight and passenger railroads in the U.S,” said Christopher Barkan, RailTEC director and CEE professor.

“High speed passenger rail operations require the use of concrete crossties or slab track because these track systems allow railways to maintain the tight geometric tolerances, such as track gauge, necessary to accommodate their operation,” said CEE faculty member J. Riley Edwards, who is leading the study. “Many of the proposed and planned HSR lines in the U.S. will require high-speed passenger trains to share the same tracks with heavy-axle-load (HAL) freight trains.”

Edwards said the goal in part is to improve “concrete tie and fastener design in order to increase safety and reliability and lower their life cycle cost.”

During the two-and-a-half-year study, researchers will conduct laboratory and field testing to compile empirically gathered performance data. Improved understanding of the tie and fastening system is expected to facilitate the development of performance requirements and design recommendations for concrete ties and fastening systems in the U.S., specifically those used in joint passenger-freight railway infrastructure. They will also develop a centralized knowledge and document depository, to be housed at the University of Illinois, about concrete ties and fastening systems.

In addition to Edwards, the research team includes experts in materials and structures: CEE professors Bassem O. Andrawes, Daniel A. Kuchma, and David A. Lange, and Research Engineer Marcus S. Dersch, a CEE alumnus.

Industry partners involved in the project include: Amtrak; BNSF Railway; GIC Ingenieria y Construccion S.A. de C.V.; Hanson Professional Services Inc.; LB Foster Company, CXT Concrete Ties; Union Pacific Railway; and Unit Rail Inc./Amsted Rail Inc.
Wednesday, 06 July 2011 06:55

Phoenix solar-cooled LRT stop debuts

Phoenix Valley Metro on Wednesday began operating a solar-cooled light rail transit stop, located at Third and Washington streets in the state capital. The station structure (pictured below) combines solar power with air to cool the stop for passengers using the station.

valley_metro_logo.jpgNRG Thermal LLC, a subsidiary of Phoenix-based NRG Energy Inc., contributed to the installation of the system, which will allow LRT riders to push a button at the station for a dose of air conditioning. NRG is covering all costs of the project and maintenance. 

The air comes from NRG’s downtown district cooling system, which uses chilled water underground to help cool buildings. Fans at the light rail stop will use solar power to blow the cold air onto riders, operating from May to September each year.

The project was timed in part to precede Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, set for July 12 at nearby Chase Field.

phoenix_solar-cool_stop.jpg 

Wednesday, 06 July 2011 07:21

Siemens eyes Ottawa LRT rebid effort

Siemens Mobility reportedly is asking Ottawa officials to adjust or alter the city’s domestic content rules so it can rebid on the proposed C$2.1 billion light rail transit project in the Canadian capital.

A Siemens consortium was selected by the city to build a project, but the deal fell through when a new municipal government took over in 2006. A lawsuit followed, with the Siemens consortium awarded C$37 million for breach of contract.

Siemens says it still seeks the city’s business, but is being thwarted by a 2008 law forcing all Ontario province-funded transit vehicles to contain at least 25% Canadian content, which the company claims gives an unfair edge to competitor Bombardier Transportation. Siemens produces its North American equipment primarily from its Sacramento, Calif.-based plant.

A spokeswoman for the provincial transportation ministry said the province had “no plans to change the policy,” but said Siemens and others were welcome to bid on the Ottawa project.

Ottawa on July 4 released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for its LRT project, to run from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair Station, as outlined and approved by City Council on May 25. Submissions are expected by September 13, and the city is expected to publish a short list of pre-qualified participants sometime in October.

Pre-qualified respondents then will be invited to respond to a Request for Proposal (RFP), with the RFP process lasting roughly nine months. The city hopes to sign a final contract by December 2012.

Wednesday, 06 July 2011 07:36

KCS realigns its sales/marketing

Kansas City Southern on Wednesday announced three executive reappointments that KCS President and CEO David L. Starling said will “help further align the sales and marketing organization to achieve KCS’s growth objectives.” All three report to Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing Patrick M. Ottensmeyer.

kcs__logo.jpgNatalie W. Putnam has joined KCS as vice president sales and marketing with a focus on running the U.S. chemical and petroleum and industrial and consumer business units. She joins KCS from YRC Worldwide, where she served as senior vice president transportation and logistics since April 2010.

Owen M. Zidar will continue as vice president sales and marketing with a change of focus to national account development.

Darin P. Selby has been named assistant vice president energy markets. In addition to handling the railroad’s coal business and short line relations, his responsibilities now include developing business with the emerging energy markets, including crude oil, biofuels, biomass, frac sand, and wind.
Wednesday, 06 July 2011 07:43

AAR, UIC offer PTC conference details

The Association of American Railroads Wednesday announced preliminary details for the third International Conference on Communications-Based Train Control and Train Efficiency conference, hosted in partnership with the International Union of Railways (UIC), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and the Transportation Technology Center, Inc. (TTCI). The event will take place April 30-May 1, 2012 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver.

The event will address communications-based train control systems, particularly I-ETMS and ERTMS, as well as communication standards, interoperability and related train efficiency management systems. Conference participants will be able to participate in an optional field trip to TTCI’s internationally recognized research and testing facilities in Pueblo, Colorado, May 2, 2012.

“AAR is pleased to co-host this premier event which will bring together some of the world's leading experts on communications-based train control issues,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “PTC is an important issue to our industry, and will continue to be so in the years ahead.”

“UIC is excited that the International Train Control conference is being held in the U.S. next year,” said Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, director general of the UIC. “This will follow on the very successful conferences held in Istanbul in 2008 and in Tokyo in 2010 and will present a unique opportunity for professionals from around the world to share knowledge and experiences with their counterparts.”
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