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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Tuesday, 12 July 2011 11:01

Tax credit boosts crosstie market

The short line tax credit will drive small railroad crosstie purchases to an estimated 4,063,0009 in 2011 compared to 2,878,000 in 2010, according to an updated forecast by the Railway Tie Association.

rta_logo.jpgThe tax credit is scheduled to expire Dec. 31, and unless it is renewed short line/regional tie purchases will drop back to around 3,555,000 in 2012, says RTA.

Class I railroad crosstie purchases are now estimated at 16,184,000 for 2011, compared to 16,379,000 last year. Total purchases this year are estimated at 20,247,000, up from 19,256,000 in 2010. RXTA expects total purchases to rise slightly to 20,924,000 in 2012.
Wednesday, 13 July 2011 06:26

Miami port rail link construction set

Construction will begin this Friday to restore Port of Miami on-dock rail capability courtesy of the Florida East Coast Railway. The $50 million project will rehabilitate a bridge damaged and by Hurricane Wilma in 2005, while construction of the Intermodal Rail Yard on Dodge Island will enable Miami to accommodate super cargo ships scheduled to arrive in 2014 with the expansion of the Panama Canal.

fec_logo.jpgThe ceremonial groundbreaking Friday is expected to include Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, and other elected officials.

Funding includes a $22.8 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from DOT, along with funding from Florida’s Department of Transportation, Florida East Coast Railway, and Miami-Dade County.
Private equity firm Fortress Investment Group, based in New York, is the parent of Jacksonville, Fla.-based FEC, which recently joined the Association of American Railroads.
Wednesday, 13 July 2011 06:39

KCS settles hurricane insurance claim

When Hurricane Alex made landfall in central Mexico on June 30, 2010, Kansas City Southern de Mexico experienced severe flooding and loss of revenue. Parent Kansas City Southern announced Wednesday that it has settled its insurance claim for lost profits, property damages, and related expenses for $66 million, before the related self-insured retention of $10 million.

kcs__logo.jpg“Still to settle is KCS’s general liability claim related to third-party damages,” said the railroad company. “Settlement on this claim is expected to occur during the third quarter of 2011. As a result of the settled claim, KCS will record in the third quarter of 2011 a $19.8 million pre-tax gain.

“It is expected that the final cumulative earnings per share impact of Hurricane Alex will be a loss of approximately ($0.05), which is consistent with guidance the company has provided since its third quarter of 2010 earnings conference call,” KCS said.
Wednesday, 13 July 2011 06:45

Amtrak safety video wins awards

Amtrak said Wednesday a video depicting the importance of railroad safety has been recognized by two independent awards programs for creative excellence.

amtrak_logo.jpgThe Amtrak film, “Cheating Death,” received two Silver Communicator Awards from The International Academy of Visual Arts and two Bronze Telly Awards in the categories of Public Safety and Video Editing.

The film aims to warn teenaged drivers of the dangers and consequences of failing to obey highway-rail grade crossing signals. It was developed in response to several grade-crossing deaths of teenagers in Lakeland, Fla.

Included in the 12-minute piece are interviews with police, medical professionals, and family members of teenagers who died as a result of not obeying crossing signals. A condensed six- minute version of the video can be viewed on the Amtrak Youtube channel.

Amtrak says it will use the film as a training tool both internally for Amtrak personnel and externally for state driver’s education associations, school groups, civic organizations, and transit agencies.

More than 1,100 copies of the film have been distributed to Operation Lifesaver, a national organization dedicated to preventing railroad-related deaths and injuries.

“Cheating Death” was produced by the Amtrak Police Department, Donnabrant Productions, and DogHouse Media.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011 07:07

MPL Technology introduces SpillX

MPL Technology, Inc. Wednesday introduced SpillX®, a new locomotive fueling system, to North American railroads that meets many of the 2000 AAR fueling committee’s goals for improved locomotive fueling processes.

The company says the SpillX system connects to the existing fueling infrastructure in a similar manner as the current equipment, yet it enables significantly higher fueling rates up to 600 gallons per minute, greater operator safety, and reduced environmental risk from spilled or leaked fuel. SpillX benefits from the proven technology currently used to fuel large commercial aircraft with its high flow rate with nearly zero spillage.

During the last five years, in developing SpillX, MPL worked with the Advanced Manufacturing Institute at Kansas State University and with Meggitt Control Systems, an industry-leading aircraft fueling products manufacturer. While under development, SpillX was tested in cooperation with three Class I railroads and a short line, demonstrating its potential as a safer, faster and environmentally sound fueling system.

MPL Technology President Michael Mitrovich said, “Our idea was to apply the technology used with large commercial aircraft, which use large volumes of fuel in a clean, safe, spill-free environment on the tarmac at airports around the world. Our development process was based around designing a system that meets the quality requirements of this rigorous operational environment, is simple to install, and provides the railroad industry with a number of cost saving benefits.”

New Jersey Transit’s Board of Directors Wednesday approved a “second and final phase” of construction for its Pennsauken Transit Center, establishing a transfer point between the company’s Atlantic City Line passenger rail service and its RiverLINE diesel light rail transit (DLRT) operation.

njt_logo.jpgThe Board authorized a $13.8 million contract with Terminal Construction Corporation of Wood-Ridge, N.J., for construction of platforms, a parking lot, drainage improvements, and customer amenities. The transit center is being built in where the ACRL crosses above River Line tracks in Pennsauken, N.J., east of Philadelphia.

NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein said the “new facility will enhance the interconnectivity of the overall NJ Transit system, as customers may connect from the RiverLINE in Trenton to Northeast Corridor rail service to New York and points in between.”

Phase I, under construction, currently ongoing, included construction of a 200-foot platform with 60-foot canopy to protect customers boarding RiverLINE DLRT trains. In Phase II, two 300-foot-long, high-level platforms will be built on either side of the elevated ACRL tracks, with a 100-foot canopy on each platform. Two sets of stairs will be constructed, as well as two elevators to provide access to customers with disabilities. The second phase also includes construction of a 280-space parking lot, a dedicated bus drop-off/pick-up area, drainage improvements, installation of a passenger communication system, and a restroom facility.

Construction of the overall project is expected to be completed in late 2012 and open for service in early 2013.

This summer’s proposal by Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) to privatize Amtrak would violate the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service says.

Though Mica’s proposal has seemed unlikely to gain traction in Congress this year, particularly within the Democrat-controlled Senate, the issue of privatization has put added political pressure on the National Railroad Passenger Corp. this year, despite record ridership.

CRS finds “little doubt” that the bill meets three prerequisites for protection under the takings clause.

Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., said the report validates the position of those who object to the Mica plan. “The ideals enshrined in the Constitution by our founding fathers have guided our nation for centuries, and Republicans should not railroad these principles in their flawed rush to privatize Amtrak,” he said.

CRS, created in 1914, has about 900 employees.

Thursday, 14 July 2011 06:05

LaHood to attend SunRail groundbreaking

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is scheduled to attend a groundbreaking ceremony next Monday, July 18, in Orlando to initiate construction of central Florida’s SunRail commuter train project.

sunrailbutton.jpgmotivepower_2010.jpgLaHood also is expected to finalize $178.6 million in federal FFGA (Full Funding Grant Agreement) funds for the project, estimated to cost $357.2 million. The funding commitment follows state approval of the project recently given by Fla. Gov. Rick Scott.

Already, Florida’s Department of Transportation has cleared Boise, Idaho-based MotivePower, Inc. for a $17.5 million contract to produce seven locomotives, with an option for six additional units. Agreement reached earlier with Amtrak and other parties was finalized this week as well. Still to be completed is final agreement with CSX on the sale and future use of the 61-mile route.
As Railroad Day on Capitol Hill unfolded Thursday, business and labor leaders, government officials, and rail industry employees representing more than 350,000 American workers from around the country canvassed Capitol Hill in support of policies that enable the freight rail industry to create jobs, continue record infrastructure investments, keep U.S. businesses globally competitive, and aid America’s economy recovery.

Participants in the annual event include the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), Association of American Railroads (AAR), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Inc. (NRC), Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association REMSA), Railway Supply Institute (RSI), Railway Systems Suppliers Inc. (RSSI), Railway Tie Association (RTA), Transportation Communications International Union (TCU), Sheet Metal Workers' International Association (SMWIA), United Transportation Union (UTU), and other rail industry representatives (including from Railway Age magazine).

hamberger_aar.jpg“Americans whose livelihoods depend on a healthy rail industry want Congress to know that freight rail is working for our country and carrying the load so taxpayers don’t have to,” said Association of American Railroads’ President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger (pictured at left). “At a time when many industries are cutting back and businesses aren’t hiring, freight rail is investing billions of its own capital and hiring American workers.”

“All across this country, businesses large and small depend on freight rail to deliver the goods and support their jobs. Our ability to continue investing so America’s rail network remains the envy of the world is critical to our country’s economic recovery,” Hamberger said.

America’s freight railroads generate $265 billion in total annual U.S. economic activity and move one third of American exports, all while offering the lowest rates in the world. In addition to helping keep America economically competitive, the industry employs more than 175,000 workers in well-paying jobs—each of which supports another 4.5 jobs across the country and 1.2 million jobs across the broader economy in fields such as manufacturing and retail, Hamberger noted. In 2011, the country’s freight railroads plan to spend $12 billion to grow and modernize the nation’s rail network.tom_simpson_rsi.jpg 

“In addition to 175,000 rail industry jobs, our nation’s freight railroads directly support over 150,000 manufacturing jobs in the railway supply industry,” said Tom Simpson, president of the Railway Supply Institute (pictured at right). “We need a robust and vibrant freight and passenger rail network because it directly impacts the livelihood of our industry and the livelihood of our workers.”

Rail industry advocates want lawmakers to maintain the reasonable regulatory structure that has spurred a railroad renaissance and made America’s freight railroads the safest, most efficient, reliable and affordable in the world.

“America’s short line and regional railroads are investing to preserve connections to thousands of local communities and small businesses across America,” said American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association President Richard F. Timmons. “These same small railroads account for tens of thousands of jobs, both with the railroads themselves and the railroad customers which they serve.”

rich_timmonsaslrra.jpg“Now more than ever, it’s imperative that sound transportation and tax policies be in place to encourage job creation and private-sector investment in our transportation future,” said Timmons (pictured at left).

Rail advocates also support investment incentives such as the Section 45G tax credit which aids small, local short line railroads and the Section 130 program which provides dedicated funds to states for grade crossing safety projects. Participants oppose proposals to increase the size and weight of trucks on our nation’s highways which would cause significant damage to our nation’s highway infrastructure and divert traffic away from environmentally friendly freight railroads.

“At a time when people are out of work, freight rail is hiring,” said AAR’s Hamberger. “At a time when businesses are struggling, freight rail is delivering. Through good times and bad, we plan to keep moving for the people and customers who depend on us—and that’s exactly what we need Congress to let us keep doing.”
Thursday, 14 July 2011 07:18

U.S. freight carload traffic slips

U.S. freight carload traffic fell 3.2% in the week ending July 9, measured against the comparable week in 2010, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday. U.S. intermodal volume also fell, though a more modest 0.2%, for the week.

aar_logo.jpgAAR said 13 of the 20 carload commodity groups it tracks posted increases during the week compared with a year ago. Iron and steel scrap traffic rose 32.5%, metallic ores was up 22.9%, and the all other carloads category rose 14.6%. Declining commodities included waste and nonferrous scrap, down 16.1 %, coal, down 11.3%, and grain, down 10.5%.

Canadian freight carload volume for the week of July 9 rose 3.0% compared with a year ago, while Canadian intermodal retreated 5.4%. Mexican freight carload volume rose 14.6% for the week compared with last year, while Mexican intermodal volume soared 84.1%.

Combined North American freight carload volume for the first 27 weeks of 2011 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 2.5% compared with the same point last year, while intermodal was up 6.9%.
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