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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Thursday, 30 June 2011 06:52

DOT funds clean-fuel transit technologies

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Wednesday announced that transit providers will be able to compete for a share of $101.4 million in federal funding by proposing innovative projects that create “green” jobs, promote the use of clean fuels, and cut U.S. dependence on oil.

The winning proposals, which can be found here, were chosen from among 274 applications from across the U.S. Bus and Bus Rapid Transit operations are the predominant winners, but some rail-related projects were identified. Among them: A $341,694 grant to the Illinois Department of Transportation to install anti-idling systems to Metra locomotives to reduce emissions and fuel consumption.; $1.2 million to install a geothermal system for the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit Operations and Maintenance and Support Facility in Minneapolis to provide heat, cooling, and hot water for the facility; roughly $2.5 million for New Jersey Transit to install electric rail switch heaters to improve safety and operational efficiency in colder weather; and $4.2 million for Portland, Ore.’s
TriMet to retrofit light rail transit vehicles for on-board energy storage to capture and reutilize braking energy.

The money is being provided competitively through the Federal Transit Administration’s Fiscal Year 2011 Sustainability Initiative, which includes funding from two programs: $51.5 million from FTA’s Clean Fuels Grant Program and $49.9 million from FTA’s Transit Investment in Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) III Program. 

In addition to announcing competitive funds available through the Sustainability Initiative, the FTA Wednesday also issued similar notices for two additional competitive programs: the $750 million State of Good Repair Initiative, which targets U.S. transit agencies' maintenance and repair backlogs, and the $175 million Livability Expansion Initiative, which will fund investments that support the DOT-HUD-EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities.

U.S. freight carload traffic fell 0.2% in the week ending June 25, 2011, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday. Counterbalancing that, U.S. intermodal volume rose 3.3% measured against the comparable week in 2010.

aar_logo.jpgAAR said the freight carload results were “mixed,” noting 12 of the 20 carload commodity groups it measured posted increases from the comparable week in 2010. Increases were led by grain, up 14.4%, and coke, up 10.6%. Declining commodity groups included farm products excluding grain, down 19.5%, and waste and nonferrous scrap, down 14.7%.

Canadian freight carload volume, by contrast, rose 1.9% from last year, while Canadian intermodal volume also advanced, up 2.8%. Mexican freight carload volume declined 1.5%, while intermodal soared 41.6%.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 25 weeks of 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 2.7% compared with the same point last year, while intermodal was up 7.2%.

Representatives from CSX and New York State Thursday unveiled the state’s second ultra-low emission GenSet locomotive at an event at CSX’s Selkirk Yard. Jointly funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CSX, the locomotive will be used at the yard, near Albany, N.Y., significantly reducing nitrous oxide, particulate matter, and carbon dioxide emissions in the area.

csx_logo.jpg.jpgThe GenSet locomotive, manufactured by National Railway Equipment Co., was purchased with a $1 million EPA award under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to the New York State Department of Transportation, made possible through the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program. CSX funded the remaining $400,000 as part of its commitment to reducing emissions and using less fuel.

CSX says the introduction of GenSet locomotives throughout its network is part of the company’s commitment to reduce its carbon dioxide intensity 8% by 2011, which was achieved nearly one year ahead of schedule. During the last decade, CSX has invested more than $1.5 billion to upgrade its locomotive fleet with technology that reduces fuel consumption and air pollutant emissions. Through these efforts, the company says, it has improved its fuel efficiency by more than 90% since 1980.nrec_logo.jpg 

“The GenSet locomotive you see behind me represents the next generation of sustainable technology,” said Skip Elliott, vice president, public safety and environment, CSX Transportation. “We are proud of our partnership with EPA and the State of New York, which helps us serve our customers and communities with the most efficient and environmentally friendly service every day.”

“Projects like this will literally help repower the Empire State,” said Stanley Gee, executive deputy commissioner of NYSDOT. “This new locomotive — with three smaller engines that cycle on and off according to need — will reduce emissions and save diesel fuel as goods are moved efficiently across the state. This innovative technology is an example of Governor Cuomo’s goal of creating a new green economy with livable communities, new jobs and sustainable growth.”
Jacksonville, Fla.-based RailAmerica has been using RailComm’s Domain Operations Controller (DOC®) train control system to dispatch multiple subdivisions of its short line railroads since 2002. Now the DOC® System at RailAmerica’s American Rail Dispatch Center will soon be able to be accessed through a web-enabled software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery, RailComm says.

railcomm_logo.jpgSaaS provides a “pay-as-you-go” model, thus eliminating capital equipment procurement constraints. Through this delivery, railroads can be remotely dispatched by RailAmerica wherever an Internet connection is available. It is now possible to relocate dispatchers to alternative locations, if the need arises.railamerica.jpg 

RailAmerica management members can log in from their offices, homes, or even from hotels to directly view dispatching activities and obtain management reports. Since the DOC® control application resides on servers within the RailComm-managed data center in Rochester, N.Y., the requirement for local IT support at each railroad is greatly reduced, Fairport, N.Y.-based RailComm notes.
Friday, 01 July 2011 04:36

UTA readies debut of Siemens S70 LRVs

Some TRAX passengers in Salt Lake City and vicinity will begin riding Siemens S70 light rail transit cars Thursday, July 7, as the cars begin entering revenue service. The S70s will enter limited service on direct trains that operate from Fashion Place Station (6400 South) in Murray to the University of Utah Medical Center Station on weekdays. The new trains will be featured on 10 northbound and 10 southbound trips each day.

uta_logo.jpgUtah Transit Authority purchased 77 of the new vehicles as part of UTA’s FrontLines 2015 rail expansion program. The vehicles have been commissioned and tested on the new Mid-Jordan and West Valley TRAX lines during the past few months. This is the first time they will carry passengers in revenue service.

The Mid-Jordan and West Valley TRAX lines are scheduled to open Aug. 7 and will operate exclusively with the new vehicles.

UTA notes the S70 vehicles are low-floor cars that allow riders to board straight from the platform without climbing stairs. Level boarding makes the vehicles more accessible to passengers with mobility aids, bicycles and strollers.

“We are excited to put some of our new S70 vehicles into service,” UTA General Manager Michael Allegra said. “We believe our customers are really going to love the new features the cars offer.”
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.
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