The American Trucking Associations has thrown its support to a bill, the Freight FOCUS Act of 2010, which it says would protect “the depleted Highway Trust Fund” by requiring that funding for “critical freight transportation needs come from additional user fees paid by modes that benefit from projects.” Furthermore, the bill makes sure that revenue is distributed according to each mode’s financial contribution to the program, said the truck lobbying group.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.).
“This legislation will go a long way toward addressing critical bottlenecks on our nation's most important highway corridors,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “These chokepoints cost the trucking industry tens of billions of dollars each year, and force trucks to waste a tremendous amount of fuel. With Congresswoman Richardson’s help, we can begin to fix these problem areas, which will reduce shipping costs and lower emissions from all vehicles.”
ATA said it is “aware of other freight proposals under consideration by Congress and we look forward to continuing to work with members and the Administration to come up with the best available solutions to address the nation’s freight transportation challenges.”
The Surface Transportation Board’s newly determined cost of railroad capital for 2009, 10.43%, is one percentage point less than the 2008 figure but exceeds the latest reported industry-wide return on investment (ROI).
ROI for Class I railroads as a group was 9.60% for the 12 months ended June 20, 2010, according to an STB report released a few weeks ago.
Determination of a railroad's cost of capital was ordered by the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which essentially deregulated the industry, as a measure of a railroad's “revenue adequacy.” It is a critical statistic in challenges of railroad freight rates by their customers, in railroad abandonment cases, and in setting compensation for use of another railroad’s trackage.
In the most recent 12-month determination of return on investment, only one railroad met the revenue adequacy test of exceeding the 10.43% cost of capital. That was Soo Line, with an ROI of 16.30%.
Other ROIs were BNSF, 10.25%; Union Pacific, 10.02%; Norfolk Southern, 9.44%; CSX Transportation, 8.54% Kansas City Southern, 6.43%; and CN/Grand Trunk Corp., 7.84%.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Monday announced Amtrak’s Union Station in Chicago will undergo $40 million in renovations, funded from Amtrak’s capital budget. Improvements will include air-conditioning for public areas, set to be in place by next summer, and more restrooms at track level. Seating in Amtrak’s boarding lounges at the station will be expanded to 950 seats, almost doubling the existing capacity.
Amtrak ridership at the station has grown more than 40% in the past 12 years, according to Amtrak. Metra also uses Union Station for many of its trains.
“This project is going to be part of the revival of passenger rail,” said Tom Carper, chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors.
Once the current round of renovation is completed in late 2012, redevelopment of Union Station’s headhouse building will be set in motion, with an eye toward adding retail businesses, similar to development at other major Amtrak stations such as 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.
“This is a very important investment to make sure [Chicago] Union Station is 21st century-ready,” Gov. Quinn said during a news conference at the station.
The Midwest High Speed Rail Association hailed the announcement. “MHSRA has been advocating for a similar set of improvements for several years,” association Executive Director Rick Harnish told Railway Age. “We applaud Amtrak for taking these steps to improve this critical component of the nation’s transportation network.”
Standard Strength rail produced by Steel Dynamics, Inc. at its Columbia City, Ind., plant has been “tested and approved” by BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and Amtrak, the company announced Monday.
“Following extensive internal research and testing, samples of our rail underwent rigorous testing and evaluation by independent laboratories to certify adherence to specifications prescribed by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association, the industry organization that sets standards for design, construction, and maintenance of America’s railroad infrastructure,” said Steel Dynamics. “The railroads then completed their own testing and evaluation protocols, clearing the way for Steel Dynamics to become an approved rail supplier.”
The rail production facility has an on-site continuous welded rail plant. The company said CWR shipments have been made to a Class I railroad and, in conjunction with the L.B. Foster Co., 5,600 tons of CWR rail have been supplied for the Northeast New England Passenger Rail Authority. Other CWR customers include regional and short line freight and passenger railroads.
Jacksonville, Fla.-based RailAmerica Inc. said Monday its RaiLink Canada Ltd. subsidiary has entered into a long-term deal with Canadian Pacific to operate a portion of the Ottawa Valley Railway line.
Rail America ended its lease with Canadian Pacific over the Ottawa Valley line in December 2009. As part of that termination deal, the company has continued to operate 157 miles of the line between Sudbury and Mattawa, Ontario, and between Mattawa and Temiscaming, Quebec.
RailAmerica now has agreed to continue to operate that stretch for five years, with the option for a further extension. Terms were not disclosed.
The Ottawa Valley Railway line primarily transports pulp and paper products.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has authorized a $320,000 technical assistance grant to pay for planning efforts in 15 cities and towns southeast of Boston to create mixed-used economic development projects, and to preserve open space, in conjunction with expanding regional rail service.
The South Coast Rail Corridor Project would extend Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority regional rail service to Taunton, Fall River, and New Bedford, Mass., and nearby municipalities, and the grant’s purpose also is to help revive local economic development. Massachusetts’ Department of Transportation, overseeing the project, notes, “The cities of Taunton, Fall River, and New Bedford are the only cities within 50miles of Boston that are not served by commuter rail.”
Rail-highway grade crossing fatalities in this year’s first six months increased 13.6% to 125 compared with the same period last year. Trespasser fatalities were up 20.1% to 227.
These relatively steep increases—in two areas beyond the direct control of railroads—pushed the Federal Railroad Administration’s official tally of railroad fatalities in this year's first half up 18.5% to 371% compared with last year’s first half.
First-half train accidents caused six fatalities vs. one last year, and employee fatalities totaled 11 compared with 10 last year.
With 747 railroads reporting, the latest safety numbers compiled by the FRA’s Office of Safety Analysis, released Sept. 30, showed a total of 5,488 accidents/incidents in this year’s first six months, up less than 1% from last year.
Collisions were down 6.1% to 62, derailments dropped 1.8% to 642, and yard accidents dropped 0.6% to 492.
U.S. railroad intermodal volume reached a weekly record in 2010 for the week ending Sept. 25, up 17% from the comparable week in 2009, theAssociation of American Railroads said Thursday. Within the intermodal category, container traffic set its highest count on record for the second straight week, up 19.2%.
The week’s intermodal volume still trailed the comparable 2008 week by 2.1%, but container volume beat the 2008 level by 6%.
U.S. freight carload traffic for the week rose 10.7% compared with the same week in 2009, but was still down 8.2% from the same week in 2008. Seventeen of the 19 carload commodity groups increased from the comparable week in 2009, with only primary forest products, down 2.1%, and non-metallic minerals, down 1.5%, posting declines. Farm products excluding grain, up 63.9%, led those commodity groups with increases from 2009.
Canadian freight carload traffic for the week advanced 10.3% over 2009, while intermodal rose 14.2%. Mexico’s two major railroads reported freight carload traffic rose 24.7%, while intermodal grew 24.%.
Combined North American freight carload traffic for the first 38 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was up 9.9% over the comparable 2009 period, while intermodal rose 15.2%.