Despite press predictions to the contrary, no stimulus funds were forthcoming Thursday for Phoenix’s “PHX Sky Train,” a $1.1 billion, 4.8-mile project now under construction that would link Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with Valley Metro’s new light rail line, which opened in late December.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, visiting Arizona’s state capital Thursday and Friday, did announce $28 million in stimulus funds for airport-related construction, and said he planned to meet with area light rail officials and business leaders.
Phoenix seeks $200 million in federal funding for Sky Train, which would employ automated guideway technology and replace current bus shuttle service to and from Valley Metro LRT at 44th and Washington streets.
Valley Metro’s initial 28-station, 20-mile light rail line, serving Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa, Ariz., cost $1.4 billion.
U.S. freight carload traffic remains mired by the nation’s economic woes, the Association of American Railroads says, down 14.7% for the week ended March 21 compared with the comparable week in 2008. Loadings were down 13.0% in the West and 17.0% in the East. Intermodal volume fell 12.9% from last year. Total volume of 29.3 billion ton-miles was down 13.6% from the year-ago period. Eighteen of AAR’s 19 carload freight commodity groups showed declines.
Canadian freight carloads fell 22.0% for the week, while intermodal declined 13.2%. Mexican railroads defied the overall weekly trend in carload freight, reporting an increase of 53.9% for the week, and a rise of 26.4% in intermodal traffic as well.
For the first 11 weeks of the year, U.S. railroads reported cumulative carload volume down 15.6%, and intermodal down a nearly identical 15.5%, compared with the comparable period in 2008. Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume was down 19.0% from last year, while intermodal fell 11.7%. Mexican railroads for the first 11 weeks saw carload traffic decline 6.6%, while intermodal also fell, by 17.6%.
After more than one month of operation, and nearly a month of daily moves, New York & Atlantic Railway says rail shipments of municipal solid waste (MSW) from Brooklyn’s Varick Avenue transfer station in East Williamsburg have gone smoothly. NY&A moves approximately 1.7 million pounds of MSW six days a week from the facility, owned and operated by Waste Management Inc., to Virginia.
NY&A handled its first regular shipment in Brooklyn on Feb. 16, after making test moves in late January. NY&A ships the MSW bycontainer to its yard at Fresh Pond (Queens), handing them to CSX Transportation for the trip to Waste Management’s Virginia facility.
Brooklyn is the third of five New York City boroughs to significantly increase rail use for handling MSW, in accordance with plans advanced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to reduce MSW truck traffic. Staten Island began shipping MSW by rail in 2006, and MSW also moves by rail from the Bronx. NY&A says it hopes to begin moving MSW from all New York City boroughs by 2011.
"Instead of forcing a few specific communities to deal with the majority of the city's waste and recyclables, which is the way it's worked for decades," Bloomberg said at a news conference earlier this month, "we're making sure that this burden is distributed fairly and equally among all five boroughs."
About one-third of the city's MSW is now moved by rail, with sanitation officials seeking a target of 90% or better to be moved by rail, or barge, in the near future. The city’s Solid Waste Management Plan seeks to eliminate nearly six million miles of truck trips per year in New York, while giving each borough the ability to handle its own waste and recyclables.
“The diversion from truck to rail reduces greenhouse gases and other pollutants in the region,” said Paul Victor, NY&A president, in a statement. “This will save more than a half-million gallons of fuel over the next ten years.” Prior to using the NY&A, waste was trucked to a land fillin Pennsylvania. Victor notes, “Trains are three times more fuel efficient than trucks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds or more.”
NY&A is an affiliate of Chicago-based Anacostia & Pacific Co., Inc., and operates primarily over Long Island Rail Road rights-of-way.
Photo: NY&A President Paul Victor addresses a press conference at Waste Management’s Varick Ave. facility with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (right) and other government, Waste Management, and community representatives.
Sen. Patty Murray (D.-Wash.) announced Wednesday that $35 million in stimulus funding will be used to construct two new buildings at Amtrak's Seattle King Street Maintenance Yard.
One building will be a 75,000 square-foot service and inspection facility. It will include a wheel truing machine, 200 feet of inspection track, and areas for storage and employee welfare. A second, 6,9000-square-foot building will contain material control and employee welfare facilities.
As chairman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Murray played a key role in passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2008.
The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association has announced the three winners of its Fourteenth Marketing Awards competition:
1. The Bay Line Railroad L.C., "for their work with Green Circle Bio Energy to construct the world's largest wood pellet bio fuel production facility in Cottondale, Fla."
2. R. J. Corman Railroad Co./Memphis Line, for working with the Logan Aluminum and Precision Strip Companies"to shift substantial truck business to rail."
3. St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad "for its work developing and implementing a strategy for shifting ethanol and bio-diesel truck traffic to rail in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont."
The awards will be presented onApril 27 at ASLRRA's convention at a resort outside Las Vegas, Nev. The winners will make presentations during a marketing breakout session on April 28.
Watco Cos. Inc. founder Charles R. "Dick" Webb died March 23 in Kansas City, Kan., after a bout with cancer. He was 70.
"Starting from his kitchen table with eight employees, Dick worked with members of the Watco team to grow the business while keeping its focus on meeting the needs of the folks who paid the bills, the customers," said Watco Chief Commercial Officer Ed McKechnie. "At the time of his death he had led the company to operate 3,000 miles of track, 20 short line railroads, 22 switching locations, 14 mechanical shops, 18 mobile mechanical repair locations, and numerous transload and intermodal locations."
A privately held company, Watco Cos. operates in 26 states. Under its founder's guidance, it won numerous honors, including the Governors Award for Excellence. Webb won the Meritorious Achievement Award from Pittsburg State University, Kan., in 2006. Watco subsidiary South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad was named Railway Age’s 2008 Regional Railroad of the Year.
ARINC Inc. said Thursday it is deploying video cameras and advanced surveillance software at 14 Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) passenger rail stations under the second phase of a video surveillance contract, partially funded by the Department of Homeland Security.
The company already has completed work last October on a first phase of the contract, including 11 station sites and a monitoring facility. The surveillance project is meant to enhance security and public safety on the Baltimore Metro Subway, Baltimore Light Rail system, and MARC train service.
ARINC is responsible for the overall design, integration, and installation of the new surveillance system, which includes remotely controlled cameras that can focus on rail station platforms, surrounding areas and valuable equipment. The video streams from platform cameras are sent to a central monitoring facility where “video analytics” technology processes incoming images to detect unusual movements or suspicious activity. The video analytics capability can recognize unusual events, such as intrusions or a suspicious package left behind. The system saves captured images for a period of time to allow future analysis as needed.
“We have been pleased with ARINC’s performance on the first phase of this project, and we now look forward to the completion of work on Phase 2 later this year,” said Tammi Bolden, MTA manager, Systems & Equipment Engineering, in a statement.
“ARINC is extremely pleased to undertake this work on Phase 2 of the Maryland Transit Administration’s rail security contract,” said Tim Ciocco ARINC director, Security Systems. “We greatly value our continued relationship with the MTA, not only because MTA is a good customer, but because this work represents the leading edge of public safety and security technology today.”
Because the case raises thorny issues for federal agencies, the Surface Transportation Board announced Wednesday that it has extended the period for public comment in a proceeding in which Union Pacific seeks "to have the board determine he extent of its common carrier obligation to quote rates for new, lengthy movements of chlorine, a toxic inhalation hazard, through High-Threat Urban Areas."
The board granted a petition by the Transportation Security Administration to extend the deadline for filing to April 10 from the prior deadline of March 31.
"TSA states that it needs the additional time to review how the complex issues raised by UP's petition relate to TSA regulations and policies and to coordinate its comments with other components within the Department of Homeland Security. The request is reasonable," found STB.
UP's rebuttal and reply to comments are now due April 30.
Almost 10 months after officials from New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority vowed to strongly resist service cutbacks despite rising costs, the MTA Board of Directors Wednesday approved cuts, along with fare increases, to address a $1.2 billion budget gap. MTA Board members, in a 12-1 vote, cited inaction from state legislators in Albany for the decision, voting to approve a “doomsday” budget to keep the agency running.
The basic one-way subway fare will go up 25% May 31, to $2.50 from $2.00, while a 30-day MetroCard will cost $103, up 27% from $81. Fares on the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North would rise an average of 23% on June 1. Tolls also will be raised on MTA's bridges and tunnels beginning July 11.
MTA also plans to lay off 1,100 “blue collar” jobs and about 1,000 “white collar” jobs, but stressed such action won’t resolve MTA’s budget woes. Among managerial staff, 211 bus and subway managers are being let go, 32 LIRR managers and 18 Metro-North counterparts will lose positions, and 21 employees at MTA headquarters in Manhattan will face dismissal. About 750 other administrative positions will also be eliminated, MTA said.
"It's a true crisis that cannot be solved by us without causing great pain to the riding public," said board Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger.
"The fare increases and service cuts that the board must approve today are the only major tools Albany has given the board to operate the transit system and keep those operations in the black. There are no other moves in the board's playbook," said Elliot Sander, MTA’s executive director and CEO.
Pleading a corporate mea culpa and delivering a dark warning during the meeting, Sander said, "The precarious position that the MTA finds itself in today did not materialize overnight or merely in the last year. The gap in our operating budget and the absence of stable, recurring resources to support the 2010-2014 capital program reflect a confluence of adverse forces--decisions made early in the decade to put the 2000-2004 capital program on a credit card and the ravages of this deep recession."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Tuesday said transit users should voice their disapproval to their state representatives. “When you see what's going to happen to your commuting costs, you should call your state legislators and say, 'I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore,"' the mayor said.
MTA officials in San Francisco last May at the American Public Transportation Association’s annual Rail Conference, discussing the squeeze on public transportation budgets in the U.S. and Canada, stressed the agency’s reluctance to enact service cuts even if fares or other revenue sources needed to be hiked.
The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD) will add frequency and capacity to its weekend South Shore service between South Bend, Ind., and Chicago, citing overcrowding and delays to current service.
NICTD says it wants to add an evening departure from Chicago at 9:15 p.m.; it also will add cars to trains departing from Chicago on weekend mornings. NICTD also seeks to add a morning express inbound to Chicago from South Bend.
NICTD spokesman John Parsons said weekend on-time performance is only 53%, due in part to the increase in weekend ridership totaling 600,000 in 2008, up from roughly 400,000 in 2004. NICTD’s Board of Directors will consider approving the proposed changes on Friday.