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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The preliminary death count remained at six Monday as investigators continued to examine the wreckage left when a highway tractor-trailer rig crashed into a double-deck car of Amtrak’s westbound California Zephyr at a grade crossing near Fallon, Nev., 70 miles east of Reno, on Friday.

An Amtrak conductor and the truck driver were among the fatalities. Anassistant conductor was injured. The United Transportation Union said the conductor was one of its members, 68-year-old Laurertte Lee of South LakeTahoe, Calif. The four other dead were believed to have been trapped in two burning Zephyr cars.

The trucking publication FleetOwner commented: “Make no mistake, along with the lives lost and the injuries caused by the wreck, the crash is a sharp stick in the eye of all those in trucking and government alike who have been very publicly working across numerous fronts this year to increase commercial-vehicle (CV) safety performance.”
Tuesday, 28 June 2011 04:53

Rail projects get DOT New Starts boost

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Monday announced $1.58 billion for 28 public transit items, to be funded by Fiscal Year 2011 Section 5309 “New Starts” allocations. Rail transit projects made out exceptionally well, with 16 items garnering more then $1.33 billion, or more than 84%, of the total funding.

ray_lahood.jpg

LaHood (pictured at left) said the projects will improve public transportation access for millions of Americans while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and curbing air pollution.

“Investing in a modern transportation network is a key part of President Obama’s strategy to win the future by out-building and out-competing the rest of the world,” LaHood said. “America's long-term economic success requires investing now in transportation infrastructure capable of moving people and goods more safely, efficiently and quickly than ever before.”

Added Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, “Our investments in expanding America's transit networks will not only improve reliable transportation access for communities across the country, they will support construction jobs and economic development, and, a more efficient and reliable transit network means new opportunities for Americans to keep more of their paychecks in their wallets and spend less at the gas pump.”

Colorado and Texas were two big winners for rail projects. Denver, in particular, will benefit from $40 million for its East Corridor rail project, $40 million for its Gold Line, and $40 million for its West Corridor light rail transit project.

Dallas gets $86.2 million to continue expanding light rail service through DART’s Northwest/Southeast LRT Minimum Operable Segment (MOS), while intrastate rival Houston will receive $75 million for its North Corridor LRT and another $75 million for Houston’s Southeast Corridor LRT.

New York and Utah also did well. Two New York City rail projects were awarded large sums--$215 million for the Long Island Rail Road’s East Side Access project, and $197 million for Second Avenue Subway Phase 1 construction. For Utah, Salt Lake City’s Mid Jordan LRT received $100 million, while the state capital’s Weber County to Salt Lake City Commuter Rail project notched $80 million.

Other rail projects include: $23 million for the Perris Valley Metrolink extension southeast from Riverside, Calif.; San Francisco’s Central Subway LRT project, netting $20 million; Orlando’s still uncertain Central Florida Commuter Rail Transit [SunRail]—Initial Operating Segment, $40 million; Honolulu’s High Capacity Transit Corridor Project, $55 million; St. Paul, Minn.’s Central Corridor LRT, now beginning construction, $45 million; northern Virginia’s Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project Extension was awarded $96 million; and Seattle’s University Link LRT extension landed $110 million.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011 07:52

CN to merge three U.S. subsidiary roads

Canadian National plans to merge three railroads into one, under the Wisconsin Central Railway moniker, by year’s end, the railroad says, in a consolidation that among other advantages could streamline CN rail traffic flows between Winnipeg and Chicago.  

cn_logo.jpgProctor, Minn.-based Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway, operating in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and Duluth-based Duluth, Winnipeg and Pacific Railway, operating in the same two states plus the province of Ontario, will become part of the much larger Wisconsin Central following approval last month by the Surface Transportation Board.

“The DM&IR and DWP will cease to exist as separate corporations, and all operations would be as the Wisconsin Central,” said CN spokesman Patrick Waldron.“Most people won’t notice a thing. For employees, it’s going to mean the company on their paycheck is Wisconsin Central,” he said. The three railroad properties already are physically linked.

CN says the merger will enhance train movement and efficiency among the three railroads. The three railroads currently are considered separate entities by law, and CN must change crews as cargo moves through the region. CN has 1,400 employees working at Wisconsin Central, 110 in the DWP, and 361 in the DM&IR.

“We think this will actually expand opportunities for some of the DM&IR employees who face seasonal issues with taconite; give them opportunities to work on the Wisconsin Central line,” Waldron said.

Groundbreaking ceremonies are scheduled for this Thursday for Portland’s 7.3-mile light rail extension to the suburban city of Milwaukie, beginning at the Willamette River, where a multimodal transit bridge will be built.

The extension, expected to cost $1.49 billion, will extend TriMet MAX service from Portland State University to downtown Milwaukie. The bridge, costing $134 million, will handle numerous modes, including LRT and buses, and eventually carry streetcars between inner west and east Portland as part of the Portland Streetcar loop. Auto access is not anticipated.

Funding sources include the Federal Transit Administration, Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon State Lottery, Metro, TriMet, Clackamas County, the city of Portland, and the city of Milwaukie.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011 10:06

FTA taps PB for management framework

Parsons Brinckerhoff said Wednesday it has been awarded a contract by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to develop and document a transit asset management framework and implementation guide that will support the FTA’s State of Good Repair and Asset Management Programs.

The FTA estimates there is a nationwide backlog of $50 billion to $80 billion in deferred maintenance and replacement needs, the vast majority of which are rail-related.

The project will result in the creation of a conceptual framework for asset management and provide guidance and tools that transit agency managers can use to enhance asset management and positively impact reliability, safety, cost management and customer relations, PB said.

pb_logo.jpgParsons Brinckerhoff will be responsible for researching best practices within transit and other industries, creating a framework and implementation guide, and developing training materials that can be used to disseminate this information.

The team includes three partner transit agencies: New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority: and the Utah Transit Authority. All have agreed to collaborate in the development and validation of the research and participate in facilitated work sessions to document their practices, implementation issues, and other considerations.

The project is scheduled for completion next spring.

A United Transportation conductor died and another wasinjured in a fiery grade crossing collision at Fallon, Nev., last Friday thatalso took the lives of five other people. The story behind that story is toldin a tribute posted Wednesday on the union's website, www.utu.org. Someexcerpts:

Wednesday, 29 June 2011 07:32

Truck tonnage drops for second month

American Trucking Associations (ATA) Chief Economist Bob Costello says tuck tonnage has encountered a "slow patch."

He said ATA's seasonally adjusted For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index decreased 2.3% in May after declining 0.6% in April. He said he remained optimistic that tonnage will improve in the second half.

The Bedford Report, which provides Market Research, noted that fuel costs have led many truckers to move loads to rail intermodal.

Thursday, 30 June 2011 05:25

D.C. streetcar debut date slips

Streetcars in the nation’s capital won’t return until late 2013, one year later than the most recent target date, according to the District Department of Transportation. Washington, D.C. is proceeding with two initial streetcar segments, on H Street Northeast and in Anacostia, as the germination points for a citywide system of 37 miles.

“2013 is what we are telling people now," says DDOT spokesman John Lisle. "We're probably looking at the fall of 2013.”

Among other delays, the city still must resolve the construction of a storage facility under a bridge on H Street behind Union Station, which has generated concern at Amtrak.

Scott Kubly, director of DDOT’s Progressive Transportation Services Administration, earlier this month expressed confidence that Washington would continue to lead the way in area streetcar development, noting “other parts of the region are catching on” to streetcar development. Kubly made the comments addressing the American Public Transportation Association Rail Conference in Boston.

Thursday, 30 June 2011 05:59

DOT aids Amtrak NEC engine purchase

Amtrak’s planned purchase of 70 Cities Sprinter ACS-64 locomotives from Siemens Mobility, initiated last October, got a boost Wednesday from the Department of Transportation, in the form of a $562.9 million loan.

The loan, made under the Federal Railroad Administration’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program, falls under DOT’s goal to create manufacturing jobs across several states. DOT sait the loan is the largest issued through the RRIF program to date.

ray_lahood.jpg“The Obama Administration is committed to making strategic, long-term investments that create jobs and boost the economy now, and this financing plan is already putting Americans back to work at assembly plants and supply companies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, California, and Georgia,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (pictured at left).

Siemens has said it is adding 250 manufacturing jobs in three locations in order to design and build the Amtrak equipment. Traction motors and gear units will be produced in Norwood, Ohio; traction converters and braking choppers are being built in Alpharetta, Ga.; and final assembly of the locomotives will occur at Siemens’ Sacramento, Calif., facility.

The RRIF loan will also upgrade maintenance facilities and allow for the purchase of spare parts needed to support the new locomotives, DOT said.

DOT stressed that other suppliers will benefit, too, citing East Pittsburgh, Pa.-based PHW, Inc., which already been contracted to manufacture safety-related parts for the locomotives.

“The RRIF program is a model of how we can leverage federal dollars to spur private investment and build up the economy,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “It provides steady, affordable financing for major rail construction and expansion projects, and best of all, it comes at zero cost to the taxpayer.”

The Amtrak Cities Sprinter ACS-64 locomotives are in the final design phase, and will supplement and replace aging engines on the Northeast Corridor and Keystone Corridor in Pennsylvania, including the current mainstay AEM-7 engines.
Wabtec Corp. says it has acquired a transit aftermarket parts business from Erie, Pa.-based GE Transportation, which provides parts for propulsion and control systems for the passenger transit car aftermarket in North America.

Wabtec expects the business, with annual sales of about $15 million, to be accretive in the first year.

wabtec_logo.jpgThe product lines include AC and DC traction motors and related components; and electronic control systems, including contactors and relays. These capabilities will become part of Wabtec Global Services, which operates a network of eight service centers in North America, Wabtec said.

“This acquisition expands our transit aftermarket and service capabilities, with critical components related to propulsion and electronic controls,” said Wabtec President and CEO Albert J. Neupaver. “Nearly 5,000 transit cars in North America contain these GE components, giving Wabtec the opportunity to expand our content on a substantial installed base of rolling stock as transit agencies overhaul and maintain their equipment.”
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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