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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Monday, 21 November 2011 08:23

STB authorizes 35-mile Alaska Rail extension

The Surface Transportation Board issued a decision Monday authorizing the Alaska Railroad Corp. (ARRC) to build a 35-mile line connecting Port MacKenzie in south-central Alaska to a point on ARRC’s existing main line near Houston, Alaska. The line would provide a rail transport option between Port MacKenzie and the interior of Alaska, where trucking is now the only mode of surface freight transportation.

stb_logo.jpgThe authorization is subject to environmental mitigation conditions, said the STB:

“The Board’s Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA), working with the assistance of several federal agencies, has completed a thorough environmental analysis that carefully compared 12 potential routes and the No-Action (or No-Build) alternative, in order to take a hard look at potential environmental impacts as required by the National Environmental Policy Act , and identify the environmentally preferred alternative.

“Based on that analysis, OEA has recommended extensive environmental conditions to avoid, minimize, or mitigate the transaction’s potential environmental impacts, although it notes that adverse impacts could still occur to certain resource areas. The proceeding has included ample opportunity for public input during the environmental review process, and OEA incorporated the comments of agencies and other interested parties inpreparing its environmental analysis and developing its final recommended environmental conditions in this case.”

The board noted that the no-action alternative “would avoid the environmental effects of construction and operation, but would fail to provide freight rail services between Port MacKenzie and the interior of Alaska, leaving trucking as the only available mode of surface freight transportation.”

ARRC filed its petition to build the line on Dec. 5, 2008.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011 05:41

Railcomm aids BNSF yard expansion

RailComm said Tuesday it has been selected to expand its existing yard system at BNSF’s Alliance South Yard in Alliance, Neb.

railcomm_logo.jpgFairport, N.Y.-based RailComm said its state-of-the-art Domain Operations Controller (DOC®) System will be used to remotely control switches. The DOC® System will include workstations that will allow the user to monitor device status and review operation logs of all system activity. The workstations will display a graphical representation of the yard area, and the user will be able to view all the devices in the field.

RailComm’s 2.4 GHz RADiANT™ data radios will provide a wireless communication network to link the office with the field locations.
Tuesday, 22 November 2011 07:24

Employment up modestly on Class I railroads

Employment on Class I railroads of the U.S. rose to 160,251 in mid-October, up a modest 0.01%, or 11 employees, over mid-September but 3.87% higher than in October 2010.

stb_logo.jpgThe strongest gains were in maintenance. Maintenance of equipment and stores rose 4.53% in October measured against employment a year earlier, and was up 0.72% from September 2011. Maintenance of way and structures employees increased 4.49% from year-earlier levels, and also rose 0.2% from mid-September.

Year-over-year increases were recorded in every employment category,
 according to the Surface Transportation Board Office of Safety Analysis. Compared with September 2011, only one category, Transportation (train and engine), saw a decline in October, down 0.51%.

Compared with October 2010 levels, inn mid-October 2011 the employment of Executives, officials, and staff
 assistants reached 9,354, up 2.57%; Professional and administrative rose 0.76% to 13,904; Transportation
(other than train and engine), with 6,727 employees, was up 2.47%; and Transportation (train and engine) advanced 4.25%.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011 09:38

STB denies mediation in BNSF coal dust case

The Surface Transportation Board issued a decision Tuesday denying a petition of the Western Coal Traffic League (WCTL) asking the Board to institute mediation on a new coal dust tariff issued by BNSF Railway. Instead, the decision is instituting a new proceeding “to consider the reasonableness of the new tariff’s safe harbor provision.”

Tuesday, 22 November 2011 10:24

DOT grants $928.6 million for California HSR

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Tuesday formally awarded a $928.6 million grant to the California High-Speed Rail Authority for phase 1 ofconstruction of California high speed rail. The move comes even as Congress recently voted to terminate the Obama Administration’s overall funding emphasis on high speed rail.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011 04:27

Houston readies for FFGA ceremony

Federal, state, and local officials will hold a Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGA) special signing ceremony Monday, Nov. 28, for Houston’s light rail expansion projects.

houston_metro_logo.jpgHarris County (Tex.) Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) says the ceremony will be attended by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, three Texas U.S. House representatives, and Houston Mayor Annise Park. Metro Board Chair Gilbert Garcia and Metro President and CEO George Greanias also will be present.

Metro is billing the event as “Houston’s First Ever Full Funding Grant Agreements for Light Rail,” indirectly highlighting the fact that Texas’ largest city committed to its first light rail transit line (of roughly 7 miles) without significant federal backing.

Metro notes the expansion projects generating the ceremony Monday include the North (Red) Line, running from University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) to Northline Transit Center, Houston Community College, and Northline Commons Mall. The Southeast (Purple) Line connects downtown with Texas Southern University and the University of Houston central campus.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011 07:02

Arizona utility wins rate case against UP, BNSF

The Surface Transportation Board announced Wednesday that it had awarded an estimated $63 million in reparations and rate reductions to the Arizona Electric Power Cooperative in a decision that grants AEPCO an average rate reduction of 37% over the period 2009-2018.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011 07:43

BNSF asks customers to help avert strike

BNSF posted a letter on its website Wednesday warning its customers that a strike threat still faces the railroad industry and asking for their help in averting it.

Monday, 28 November 2011 04:59

AAR: Weekly traffic keeps gaining

U.S. carload freight traffic advanced 1.1% during the week ending Nov. 19, measured against the comparable week in 2010, the Association of American Railroads reported. U.S. intermodal volume did even better, rising 3% for the week compared with a year ago.

Monday, 28 November 2011 05:11

Bombardier marks work in India, Netherlands

Bombardier Transportation on Monday said it has won a contract for propulsion and control equipment in India from Mumbai Railway Vikas Corp. (MRVC) in India. MRVC is a joint venture between the Ministry of Railways and the Government of Maharashtra. On Thanksgiving Day, Bombardier announced its readiness to enable the first mixed European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) Level 2 and conventional signaling operation, on the line between Amsterdam and Utrecht in The Netherlands.

Monday, 28 November 2011 10:10

Metro-North Port Jervis Line is restored

MTA Metro-North Railroad said Monday it had restored “full train service” on its Port Jervis Line, severed by Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene last August. “We have returned to a full schedule of 26 daily trains and 14 trains each weekend day, as indicated in the new November 28 timetable,” Metro-North said on its website.

Monday, 28 November 2011 11:16

RMI touts new rail operations software

Atlanta-based RMI announced the addition of Transload Management andDemurrage Management to its ShipperConnect software platform at the 2011IANA-NITL Conference held recently in Atlanta.

rmi_logo_jpg_small.jpg“We were delighted with the response to our newest ShipperConnectofferings,” said Paul Pascutti, vice president of sales at RMI. “Ourexisting shipper customers and new prospects have confirmed the need forrail operations software to help manage inventory, transload operations, anddemurrage and detention charges.”

ShipperConnect Transload Management is designed for use by terminaloperators to manage, control, and process inventory at transload facilities.ShipperConnect Demurrage Management software manages and calculates rail cardemurrage, detention, and storage charges and monitors and captures railroadevents that trigger demurrage liability.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011 06:53

Ansaldo signs $1.3B Honolulu contract

Ansaldo on Tuesday announced that its Honolulu Joint Venture, a consortium comprising Finmeccanica companies Ansaldo STS and AnsaldoBreda, has signed a contract with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to supply the technology and vehicles for the driverless metro line being advanced in Honolulu.

ansaldo_sts_logo.jpgAnsaldo says the $1.334 billion contract includes the design, construction (or “build”), operation and maintenance (DBOM) of the 20-mile line, which includes 21 stations. Ansaldo STS’ share of the deal comes to about $1.136 billion; AnsaldoBreda’s share is $198 million.

Design and construction work is scheduled to take eight years, with the firststretch of track being operated and maintained beginning in 2015 and the wholeline from 2019 to 2029.

ansaldobreda_logo.jpg“Ansaldo STS is proud to have signed this important contract, whose value is thehighest in our history. Our company has a proven tradition of delivering highlysuccessful state-of-the-art rail systems around the world and we are fully ready toimmediately get to work to honor our commitment,” said Sergio De Luca, CEO ofAnsaldo STS.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011 07:03

Canadian Pacific sells $500 million in debt

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. announced Tuesday that that subsidiary Canadian Pacific Railway Co. is issuing: US$250 million of 4.50% Notes due 2022 and US$250 million of 5.75% Notes due 2042. The transaction is expected to close on Dec.1.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011 07:14

Metro-North set to open new station

MTA Metro-North Railroad will begin service to the new Fairfield Metro Station on Monday, Dec. 5. Located midway between the Fairfield and Bridgeport stations, Fairfield Metro has 1,400 parking spaces.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011 16:50

BLET, ATDA say no to cooling off period

The nation’s freight railroads have reached settlements with 10 of the 13 major rail unions covering more than 60% of 132,000 employees in the current round of bargaining, but a potential strike is still looming.

The National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents more than 30 railroads, among them the five U.S.-based Class I’s—BNSF, CSX Transportation, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific—in national bargaining with the 13 unions, reported late Tuesday that the railroads have not reached agreements with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the American Train Dispatchers Association to extend the current “cooling off” period, which ends Dec. 6. The railroads’ proposed extension, which a third union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes, accepted, was contingent upon the acceptance by all three unions. Absent an extension of the cooling off period or tentative settlement agreements, these unions and the railroads will be free under the Railway Labor Act to exercise “self-help” at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 6.

“The railroads have made and will continue to make every effort to reach agreements with the remaining three unions,” said NCCC Chairman A. Kenneth Gradia. “During the busiest shipping and travel period of the year, a nationwide disruption of rail service would deal a crushing blow to our nation’s economy, potentially costing our country $2 billion a day. The Presidential Emergency Board appointed by President Obama to help avert such an outcome made recommendations for the resolution of these disputes. The railroads, and eight other unions, have agreed to implement these settlement terms, which reflect the Board’s careful consideration of both sides’ arguments. We urge the remaining unions to reach agreements with the railroads before December 6.”

According to the Capitol Hill news service The Hill, Congress is considering intervening in a potential strike. 

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday “if a group of unions representing parts of the freight rail industry could not reach a labor agreement before a Dec. 6 deadline, they would step to prevent the unions from going on strike.

 ‘While our hope is that the parties involved will find common ground and resolve the situation without congressional involvement, the House is prepared to take legislative action in the days ahead to avert a job-destroying shutdown of our nation’s railroads, in the event such legislation proves necessary,’ they said. ‘A shutdown of our nation’s railways, which would harm our economy and endanger many American jobs, is unacceptable. We are confident President Obama and the leaders of the Senate agree.’”

In a letter to Congress, Matthew Shay, president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation, said, “For retailers, a strike during the busy holiday shopping season could be devastating. It is imperative that Congress recognize the severe economic harm threatened by the failure to reach agreement with the remaining rail unions and move quickly to prevent a rail strike that would prove devastating to both businesses and consumers.”

The nation’s largest rail union, the United Transportation Union, is not part of the current round of negotiations. It reached an agreement with the carriers independently several weeks ago.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011 03:02

TriMet starts work on MAX solar project

TriMet on Tuesday began installing solar panels at the South Terminus of the MAX Green and Yellow lines at SW Jackson Street, near Portland State University (Ore). The agency says that, when completed, the site will be the first solar energy project utilized along TriMet's 52-mile MAX light rail system.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011 03:07

Boggs joins Birmingham Rail & Locomotive

Birmingham Rail & Locomotive Co., Inc. (BR&L) on Tuesday said it had named Brent F. Boggs director of Relay Operations. Boggs will lead business development within the relay rail and OTM markets with an emphasis on expanding procurement and distribution throughout North America.

Boggs brings 13 years of experience in the relay rail, OTM, and track work department of Unitrac Railroad Materials, Inc.

Birmingham, Ala.-based BR&L manufactures 5/8” x 6” track spikes for Class I, regional, and short line Railroads as well as for contractors. The company says it plans to expand more prominently into the relay industry, with Boggs leading the effort.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011 07:35

Watco to control Wisconsin & Southern

Pittsburgh, Kan.-based Watco Transportation Services, LLC has announced it is acquiring what it calls “controlling ownership” of Milwaukee-based Wisconsin & Southern Railroad Co. (WSOR). Watco’s acquisition adds Wisconsin’s second-largest railroad to it stable of short line and regional properties.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011 09:18

Va. advocates push another Amtrak extension

Buoyed by recent state-supported extensions of Amtrak service that have proven popular, state rail advocates are clamoring for Amtrak service to be extended to Virginia’s southwestern reaches, including Roanoke, Va., last served by Amtrak’s Hilltopper in 1979.

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