The Supreme Court Monday agreed to hear arguments over whether a 4% tax that Alabama collects from the railroad industry for its use of diesel fuel can be challenged as discriminatory.
Railroad companies have challenged Alabama's tax policy, including Norfolk Southern, whose challenge was rejected by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December 2008, allowing Alabama to continue collecting the tax. But CSX, which paid $7.1 million under the tax in 2006 and 2007 combined, has asked the Supreme Court to review the matter, and the court has now agreed.
“The railroads’ principal competitors in Alabama, motor carriers and water carriers, are expressly exempt from sales and use taxes on purchase and consumption of diesel fuel, and therefore paid no such tax,” CSX lawyers wrote in the brief to the Supreme Court. CSX also argues that the lower courts are conflicted on the legal issue, and that only the Supreme Court can settle the matter.
The tax helps fund the state’s education budget.
NS and CSX argue that the sales and use taxes on diesel fuel is unfair because trucks are exempt from comparable fees. Alabama state officials defend the measure, noting the trucking industry pays a 19 cent-per-gallon motor fuels tax that the railroads do not. “The only thing different is the label,” said Margaret Johnson McNeill, assistant counsel in the Alabama Department of Revenue.
The court agreed only to decide the narrow question of whether the tax can be challenged, not whether it is discriminatory.
AECOM Technology Corp. has announced its acquisition of Madrid, Spain-based INOCSA Ingenieria, S.L., a professional technical services firm.
The acquisition bolster Los Angeles-based AECOM’s global presence; INOCSA has offices in Bosnia, Georgia, Honduras, Mali, Mexico, Romania, and Peru, as well as Spain, offering services in transportation, environmental, water, and architectural sectors. INOCSA has been involved with Spain’s expanding high speed rail program from its inception, AECOM says.
Bombardier Transportation announced Monday it has signed a US$715 million agreement to exercise an option with Metrolinx for 182 Flexity low-floor light rail transit cars, included in a June 2009 contract. Delivery will begin in 2013, with completion targeted for 2020. And, under the agreement, up to an additional 118 vehicles could be ordered at a later date.
The cars announced Monday are for Toronto’s Transit City LRT lines, and they will be larger than the 204 cars previously ordered for Toronto’s Legacy System. “These are light rail vehicles, not streetcars,” a Toronto source emphasizes. Regardless of the terminology, the new cars also will slowly replace Toronto Transit Commission’s current fleet of 248 cars purchased in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Bombardier is proud to be part of this very important expansion of public transit in Toronto and greatly appreciates the confidence Metrolinx has placed in us,” said Raymond Bachant, president, Bombardier Transportation, North America. “This order further solidifies our presence in Ontario and highlights Bombardier’s proven state of the art light rail technology, which is available to all cities in North America.”
The Flexity cars will provide a step-less interior allowing easy access at street level; car capacity for more than 280 passengers;efficient heating and air conditioning; comfortable interior; enhanced accessibility and safety features; locations for wheelchairs and strollers; active leveling system to ease boarding and exiting; enhanced communications features; and a regenerative braking system that feeds power back into the Metrolinx network.
Final assembly of these additional vehicles for Toronto will take place at Bombardier’s production facility in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Bombardier Transportation announced Monday it has signed aUS$715 million agreement to exercise an option with Metrolinx for 182 Flexitylow-floor light rail transit cars, included in a June 2009 contract. Deliverywill begin in 2013, with completion targeted for 2020. And, under theagreement, up to an additional 118 vehicles could be ordered at a later date.
Though termed “streetcars” by Bombardier, the cars announcedMonday are for Toronto’s Transit City LRT lines, and they will be larger thanthe 204 cars previously ordered for Toronto’s Legacy System. “These are lightrail vehicles, not streetcars,” a Toronto source clarifies. Regardless of theterminology, the new cars also will slowly replace Toronto Transit Commission’scurrent fleet of 248 cars purchased in the 1970s and 1980s.
“Bombardier is proud to be part of this very importantexpansion of public transit in Toronto and greatly appreciates the confidenceMetrolinx has placed in us,” said Raymond Bachant, president, BombardierTransportation, North America. “This order further solidifies our presence inOntario and highlights Bombardier’s proven state of the art light railtechnology, which is available to all cities in North America.”
The Flexity cars will provide a step-less interior allowingeasy access at street level; car capacity for more than 280 passengers;efficient heating and air conditioning; comfortable interior; enhanced accessibilityand safety features; locations for wheelchairs and strollers; active leveling systemto ease boarding and exiting; enhanced communications features; and a regenerativebraking system that feeds power back into the Metrolinx network.
Final assembly of these additional vehicles for Toronto willtake place at Bombardier’s production facility in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
The New York City Transit Authority is celebrating a subway breakthrough—literally. NYCT announced that the first of two 1,000 ton tunnel boring machines has completed its 4,661 foot run to a chamber adjacent to the current terminus for the No. 7 train underneath 42nd Street in Manhattan.
An initiative strongly backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and funded by the city, the $2.1 billion project will extend the No. 7 line to 34th Street and will support the growth of a new community emerging on the West Side in Midtown.
The tunnel boring machine broke through into the 200 ft. x 50 ft. x 40 ft. deep receiving chamber just below the Port Authority Bus Terminal close to the bus terminal foundation and utilities, as well as the 8th Avenue Subway Line. This is where the new tunnels will connect with the existing No. 7 Line terminus at Times Square.
The second TBM will break through and reach the chamber by the end of July.
Together, the TBMs have traveled approximately 8,600 feet out of a total 9,388 feet, over 90% of their journey. The TBMs will be partially disassembled and backed up to where they started tunneling at 26th Street and 11th Avenue, where they will be lifted out of the shaft.
R & W Machine says it recently was awarded a three-year contract to maintain all wheel and axle assemblies for the Metra passenger rail cars and locomotives serving Chicago and suburbs.
Bedford Park, Ill.-based R & W notes it has been maintaining the locomotive fleet since 2007 and has now been awarded the passenger car fleet as well, which includes both single-level and gallery car coach fleet.
RMI announced Monday it has entered into a new five-year agreement with Canadian National for use of its OASIS software for operational control of CN’s intermodal terminals.
Atlanta-based RMI noted that CN has been using OASIS since 1996 to provide “intelligent automation of intermodal terminal operations using sophisticated algorithms for solving logistical problems that arise in intermodal rail yards.” In addition to the operating system, CN uses RMI’s OASIS Vantage Business Intelligence interface for greater real-time visibility of intermodal operations.
“OASIS has worked extremely well for us for over a decade, and CN is pleased that RMI is committed to investing in the software to ensure it meets our needs in the future,” said CN’s Pierre Arsenault, general manager Systems Operations-Intermodal. “The integration of the latest version of OASIS Vantage for our new Gate Operations process has gone extremely well and clearly demonstrates for us that OASIS is the most innovative software for intermodal terminal management. We look forward to continuing to work with RMI as we continue to grow our intermodal business.”
The option of a strike against VIA Rail Canada has been approved by more than 94% of Canadian Auto Workers members working for the railroad, CAW says. CAW represents more than 2,000 workers at VIA in on-train and clerical services, including ticket vendors and maintenance.
Members in Local 100 and National Council 4000 have voted to support the VIA Master Bargaining Committee as the committee ponders a strikedeadline of 11:59 p.m. (Eastern Time) Sunday, June 27. CAW says negotiations with VIA Rail management continue, with the next meeting scheduled for June 21 in Montreal, and running until the near-midnight deadline June 27, unless an agreement is reached.
“The bargaining committee remains determined to reach a settlement without a dispute but the corporation's concession demands must be stopped,” said CAW President Ken Lewenza. “Our bargaining committee, supported by the strong membership strike vote, are fighting to protect hard fought gains from past negotiations and are determined to enhance the working lives of the membership through this round of collective bargaining.”
CAW says it is the largest private-sector union in Canada, with more than 225,000 members.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors Monday released a new report stressing the positive impact of high speed rail on various U.S. corridors, citing four specific cities as examples. The four cities—Los Angeles, Chicago, Orlando, Fla., and Albany, N.Y. —could significantly benefit from high speed rail (HSR) with as many as 150,000 new jobs and some $19 billion in new business revenues created in total, the report said.
Prepared by the Economic Development Research Group and sponsored by Siemens Mobility, the report, conducted from January through May of 2010, assessed high speed intercity passenger rail’s economic impact on the city,metropolitan, and regional economies. It examined job creation, the effects of improved market access, greater connectivity, work-related travel time savings, and increased income and business sales.
The full report can be accessed at usmayors.org/highspeedrail.
Specific findings show that HSR in the U.S. could significantly increase jobs and business sales if fully implemented as planned by 2035. Higher potential impacts were noted when travel times between cities were reduced to under three hours.
The study also demonstrated that HSR service could help drive higher-density, mixed-use development projects surrounding the stations, ranging from current station additions in Chicago, to new hotel development in Orlando and Albany, as well as additional large-scale developments adjacent to Union Station in Los Angeles. Such local development, the report says, could help create approximately 30,000 new jobs across these four cities alone.
“Transportation is the backbone of America’s economy,” said Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of The United States Conference of Mayors. “Our country cannot successfully compete in the global economy if we fail to invest adequately in our domestic transportation infrastructure, particularly in cities and their metropolitan areas —which underpin so much of our country's economic input. And that investment should include dedicated federal funding for high speed intercity passenger rail service in the pending authorization of the federal surface transportation law.”
Total new business and job growth projections, as provided by the report, include:
In Los Angeles, up to $7.6 billion per year innew business, including $4.3 billion per year in Gross Regional Product (GRP) growth and up to 55,000 jobs.
In Chicago, up to $6.1 billion per year in new business, including up to $3.6 billion per year in GRP growth and up to 42,000 jobs.
In Orlando, up to $2.9 billion per year in new business, including up to $1.7 billion per year in GRP growth and up to 27,500 jobs.
In Albany, up to $2.5 billion per year in new business, including up to $1.4 billion per year in GRP growth and up to 21,000 jobs.
Additionally, HSR’s projected larger flow of passengers will lead to increased tourism and business travel, generating additional spending at local hotels, restaurants, and retail stores. Projections show that by 2035, HSR can annually add roughly $255 million in the Orlando area; $147 million in the Los Angeles area; more than $100 million in the Albany-Saratoga area; and $42 million in the Chicago area.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,204 suchcities in the country today. Each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. More information about the Conference is available at usmayors.org.