A report posted Tuesday by the Surface Transportation Board shows that BNSF led the “Big Four” Class I railroads in rate of return for the 12 months ended March 1.
BNSF posted an ROI of 9.49% for the period, down from 10.01% for the prior 12 months. UP had an ROI of 8.65%, down from 9.77%. Norfolk Southern’s return was 8.58%, compared with 12.27% at the same time last year; and CSX Transportation reported an ROI of 7.79%, down from 8.82%.
The CP/Soo Line reported the largest ROI for the 12 months ended March 31 and the only increase: 12.86% vs. 12.31%.
Kansas City Southern came in with a 6.778% return, down from 7.49%. CN/Grand Trunk Western’s latest ROI was 6.66%, down from8.37%.
The rate of return for all Class I railroads for the latest 12 months was 8.57%, down from 9.9%. That was a 14% decline, right in line with the 14% drop in operating revenue for the period.
The 12 months covered by the STB’s latest report ended with this year's first quarter, and revenue and earnings for that period reflected the recent upturn in the economy. While the STB did not give ROIs for the quarter, it did show revenue ton-miles up 5.4%, operating revenue up 13.1%, net railway operating income up 28.5%, and net income up 39%.
Gunderson LLC, a unit of The Greenbrier Cos., said Monday it will appeal a plan adopted by Portland, Ore., to protect the Willamette River, claiming the plan inflicts economic hardship on businesses and residents.
“Gunderson remains aligned with the overall objectives of the Plan to promote a clean river and a healthy waterfront economy; however, the Company believes the Plan fails to strike appropriate balance and is punitive to jobs-producing businesses on the waterfront and in the Northwest Industrial Sanctuary,” the company said in a statement.
“Specifically, the Company contends that in passing the Plan, Portland acted inconsistently with Oregon’s Land Use Planning goals, failed to meet the Plan’s objectives, and created an incomplete Plan. The City sent out notice on April 21, 2010 that the ordinance had been adopted, triggering a 21-day deadline for any appeals to be filed.”
Greenbrier Cos. President and CEO William A. Furman, in a statement, said, “A clean river and healthy economy are not mutually exclusive goals. Everybody has spent considerable time and resources to make the River Plan work. However, there are 40,000 family wage jobs at stake in the 11 miles of the already highly regulated North Reach of the Willamette River. Unfortunately, little progress has been made on resolving the details that are the focus of our concerns.
“The ordinance puts jobs at risk and has other serious flaws,” Furman continued. “We are especially concerned about the additional and redundant layer of regulation imposed by the City of Portland on industry and jobs already hit hard by the economic downturn and struggling to compete globally. We have no choice but to seek remedy at the Oregon State Land Use Board of Appeals.”
Gunderson, located on a deepwater facility on the Willamette River, currently employs 670 personnel, down from peak employment of about 1,200, the company said.
Cincinnati's City Council Finance Committee Monday voted to borrow $64 million to begin building a streetcar line, paving the way for a vote by the full City Council, expected to occur Wednesday.
The proposed first stage, projected to cost $128 million, would run from the Great American Ball Park north through the city to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, including a stop at the University of Cincinnati.
The route has generated predicatable controversy between rail advocates, including businessleaders and environmentalists, who argue for the streetcar as an economic development tool, and anti-rail partisans, including minority groups suspicious of the proposed route’s location and budget hawks insisting the city can’t afford to increase its debt.
Supporters anticipate fiscal funding support from both the state and federal levels. “This project can help us grow our tax base without growing our tax rate,” said Brad Thomas, founder of the advocacy group CincyStreetcar.com. “The approval of these bonds will send a clear message to Washington, D.C. that Cincinnati is serious about this project, and will strongly position Cincinnati for the next two rounds of federal funds.”
A Streetcar Feasibility Study issued in July 2007 by HDR Inc.and Parsons Brinckerhoff identified vehicles comparable to those used by Portland, Ore., as the likely choice for a Cincinnati system.
In a move encouraged by the White House to boost the thinning ranks of organized labor, the National Mediation Board announced Monday that it had adopted a rule that would approve a union organizing initiative if a simple majority of workers casting ballots voted in favor of organizing.
The new rule, if it survives expected challenges, will replace one that required the approval of a majority of the entire workforce, meaning that each non-voting worker was counted as casting a “no” vote.
The Associated Press called NMB’s action “the most significant so far in a string of White House moves designed to boost organized labor.”
Railroads and airlines are subject to NMB regulations; other industries adhere to rules of the National Labor Relations Board, where the outcome of an organizing election is determined by the workers actually voting.
The new rule could have an early import at Delta Air Lines, where a move is under way to organize flight attendants. Organizing efforts at several smaller, newer airlines could also be affected. A challenge to the new rule is expected to be filed by the Air Transport Association.
The NMB proposed the rule not long after President Obama named the former head of a flight attendant union, Linda Puchala, to the board.
The dissenting vote was cast by Chairwomen Elizabeth Dougherty, an appointee of President George W. Bush.
Amtrak has launched a biofuel pilot program on its Heartland Flyer, linking Fort Worth, Tex., and Oklahoma City, adding beef-based components to diesel fuel. Amtrak is conducting a 12-month test, supported by a $274,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration, in its efforts to evaluate alternative fuel mixes.
The Heartland Flyer, financially supported by the states of Texas and Oklahoma, will use Genesis P42 locomotives from GE Transportation, modified to handle a 20% biodiesel fuel mix. The Genesis locomotives will be monitored and evaluated for wear and tear on movable engine parts, emissions, and horsepower ratings.
Amtrak says the Heartland Flyer offers good testing conditions. “It’s a self-contained route that doesn’t require exchanging engines,” said Amtrak’s spokesman Marc Magliari. “We chose beef simply because it is available in the market where we’re running the test.”
Magliari acknowledged that biodiesel fuel is more costly than traditional diesel fuel, but noted the price differential is less than before, narrowing in the past two years to within 5 cents a gallon.
At a special meeting, the Houston Metropolitan Transporation Authority Board of Directors accepted the resignation of President and CEO Frank J. Wilson (top), and authorized Chairman Gilbert Garcia to sign a Mutual Termination and General Release agreement with Wilson.
The board also authorized Garcia to negotiate a contract with former Houston City Controller George Greanias (bottom) to serve as interim president and CEO, while a search is initiated for a permanent replacement. Greanias assumed the helm at the agency Monday, and indicated he was open to assuming the position on a permanent basis.
Though departing, Wilson reportedly signed a deal to terminate his tenure in exchange for payments totaling $456,000, plus extensive pension and insurance benefits. Wilson was present during the announcement of his resignation.
“It is a new day for openness and transparency at Metro,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement Friday, immediately following the board vote. “Now that a new board and chief executive officer are in place, I am committed to working hand-in-hand with the new leadership and the [Federal Transit Administration] to achieve the next phase of light rail in Houston."
Wilson was hired just a few months after voters narrowly approved the construction of five new light rail lines to connect to the Main Street line that opened Jan. 1, 2004. In recent weeks, however, questions have emerged about the anticipated federal grant for the North and Southeast lines as the FTA announced an investigation of Metro's compliance with “Buy America” rules.
Beyond that, Wilson’s departure was anticipated following the election of Parker as mayor late last year.
Canadian National and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference/Rail Canada Traffic Controllers (TCRC/RCTC) jointly announced Monday that TCRC/RCTC members have ratified a new three-year labor agreement.
The contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009, provides for wage increases of 1.8% for 2009, 2.4% for 2010, and 2.6% for 2011, as well as dental plan benefit improvements that come into effect on June 1, 2010.
The union represents approximately 200 rail traffic controllers at CN across Canada.
Cattron Group International, a global manufacturer of remote control products and professional services for the industrial, mining, commercial mobile, and railroad markets, said Friday it had launched a new website, www.cattrongroup.com.
The company, based in Sharpsville, Pa, says the website’s features include improved navigation through easy to use drop-down menus and product page tabs, enhanced graphics, and the ability to download product information for all of Cattron’s brands from one page.
Cattron Group International has subsidiary operations in Canada, the U.K., South Africa, Brazil, Europe, and in Asia, as well as in the U.S.