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Hard and persistent work by short line and regional railroad advocates throughout 2009 have solidified congressional support for extending and improving the short line railroad tax credit, according to officials of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association meeting Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

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Ed McKechnie, chief commercial officer for Watco Cos., Inc., and chair of ASLRRA’s Legislative Policy Committee, detailed widespread support for the tax credit bills. House bill H.R. 1132 has acquired 241 sponsors, while S. 461 in the Senate has 52. Both bills would provide a tax credit of 50 cents for every dollar a railroad spends on track improvements. ASLRRA noted the credit is capped based on a mileage formula.

“This is the first time in the history of [this] tax credit that we have a majority of both houses supporting the bill” as sponsors and co-sponsors, McKechnie asserted.

Both versions of the bill would extend Section 45G for three fiscal years (2010, 2011, and 2012, ending Dec. 31, 2012); Section 45G currently expires December 31. Both would “allow eligibility for new short line railroads created after Jan. 1, 2005 and before Jan. 1, 2009,” ASLRRA said, adjusting for previous language seeking to limit incentives for short-line abandonment by Class I railroads.

Both also would increase the per-mile credit limitation from $3,500 to $4,500, “to account for increased construction costs since 2004, and to bring the credit closer to its original goal of $10,000/mile supported bynearly 290 representatives and senators in 2004,” ASLRRA said.

Bipartisan support is indicated in the House bill by sponsors Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) and Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and in the Senate version by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho). Asked by Railway Age if such bipartisan support extended to the numerous subsequent co-sponsors, McKechnie said it indeed did.

ASLRRA representatives said Congress supported the measure in part because it was in some ways a “precursor” to or model of the larger stimulus packages passed this year, and because the short line tax credit has “no special interests; it’s in the public interest,” according to George Betke, CEO of Farmrail System, who also sits on ASLRRA’s Legislative Policy Committee. “Any short line railroad has an equal shot; there are no favorites.”

Added McKechnie, “This is an instant job creation [process] not just for the railroads, but throughout the supply chain. He observed, too, that “there are 500-plus short lines, and 500-plus ways to do this” to best benefit short lines, their suppliers, and their customers.

McKechnie also observed, “The tax credit is not about short line railroads; the tax credit is about rural economic development,” while allowing that short lines in urban areas also could benefit. But the list of co-sponsors for both bills, at present, carries an unmistakable rural tilt, with support especially strong in the nation’s heartland states. Urban New Jersey, by contrast, has three of its 13 House representatives supporting the bill, all from relatively rural districts within the Garden State.

--> Hard and persistent work by short line and regional railroad advocates throughout 2009 have solidified congressional support for extending and improving the short line railroad tax credit, according to officials of the American Short Line and Regional Railroa ...
A strike by CN locomotive engineers belonging to the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) that began on Nov. 28 has ended following an agreement to resolve contractual disagreements through further negotiations and, if necessary, binding arbitration. CN and the TCRC have agreed to c ...
The Federal Railroad Administration has released new numbers from 734 large and small railroads showing continued across-the-board improvement in rail safety in the United States. In the nine months ended Sept. 30, total accidents/incidents were down 18.1% to 7,938 compared with the sam ...

Canada’s federal government Monday introduced legislation to terminate the strike against Canadian National, which commenced Saturday, calling the strike a threat to the weak economic recovery. Passage of the bill is expected shortly, perhaps as early as this week. The bill orders contentious issues between CN management and labor to be addressed by binding arbitration.

Federal Labour Ministor Rona Ambrose  said she would have preferred to see a negotiated end to the walkout, but added that action was required after talks faltered. 

“This is more than a private dispute between CN Rail and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference,” she stated. “It has serious repercussions for the national economy at a time when Canada's recovery from the global recession is still fragile.”

About 1,700 locomotive engineers represented by the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference have walked out; CN has attempted to keep trains running by tapping qualified engineers from within management ranks.

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CN  is offering a 1.5% wage increase and seeking to raise the maximum distance engineers cantravel in one month from 3,800 miles to 4,300 miles. Labor counters that the hike in the distance cap would require some staff to work seven days a week, and cause layoffs.

CN denies those claims, saying engineers would work between 16 and 18 days per month, up slightly from the current level of between 15 and 17 days. It also says it seeks simply to require engineers to work the same number of miles as conductors, noting they will be paid for their work at adjusted rates.

--> Canada’s federal government Monday introduced legislation to terminate the strike against Canadian National, which commenced Saturday, calling the strike a threat to the weak economic recovery. Passage of the bill is expected shortly, perhaps as early a ...

Iowa Northern Railway has extended its contract with RailComm for its computerized Track Warrant Control system.RailComm’s Domain Operations Controller (DOC®) dark territory train control system is accessed through a web-enabled Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery model. RailComm’s SaaS offering provides a “pay-as-you-go” model, thus eliminating capital equipment procurement constraints.

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The DOC® (Domain Operations Controller) software-based control system is an advanced command, control, communications, and information (C3i) server-based platform that supports a wide variety of uses for indication, control, access, and distribution of critical operational data across the corporate enterprise.

RailComm says that through SaaS, local IT support is minimized, traditional capital constraints are eliminated, and DOC® customers receive regular updates as RailComm continues to add functionality to its product.

The DOC® system is designed with built-in expansion capabilities for adding workstations and/or field control nodes without interrupting operation of the current system. Since the DOC® control application resides on servers within RailComm’s managed data center in Rochester, N.Y., the requirement for local IT support at each railroad is greatly reduced, the company says. 

--> Iowa Northern Railway has extended its contract with RailComm for its computerized Track Warrant Control system.RailComm’s Domain Operations Controller (DOC®) dark territory train control system is accessed through a web-enabled Software-a ...

Las Condes, Chile, a suburb of the nation’s capital, Santiago, has awarded Alstom-Comsa a development contract worth $1 million to develop a light rail system plan, with results to be presented next April.

Should ridership demand and other factors justify the project, as expected, technical evaluations, construction, operations, and maintenance will be overseen by the international consortium, comprised of Paris-based Alstom SA and Barcelona, Spain-based Grupo Comsa. 

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Las Condes is the first city to take advantage of Chile's new Law of Urban Shared Finance (FUC), designed to encourage private-sector investors to enter public-private partnerships, including design-build-operate-maintain (DBOM) projects, to advance public infrastructure needs.

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The Las Condes project is envisioned to serve between 10 and 14 stations. Bids for the project are projected to begin next September, with construction tentatively scheduled for 2011.

In April 2008, Alstom and Comsa, along with two other Spanish companies, Acciona and Necso, were chosen by Barcelona’s Autoritat del Transport Metropolita Spa (ATM), the regional transportation authority, to advance that city’s 10.4-mile LRT project. 

--> Las Condes, Chile, a suburb of the nation’s capital, Santiago, has awarded Alstom-Comsa a development contract worth $1 million to develop a light rail system plan, with results to be presented next April. Should ridership deman ...

Florida State Sen. Paula Dockery, who is running for governor next year, continues to oppose the proposed 61.5-mile SunRail project envisioned for Orange County, with Orlando as its hub. But she emphasizes her objections as fiscal ones protecting the state’s taxpayers and not an anti-rail stance in itself.

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"I am not anti-commuter rail," Dockery said at a recent meeting of the Winter Park City Commission. "In fact, I probably like mass transit more than many others."

Dockery, a Republican, said the state is simply paying the too much money, about $10 million per mile, for the 61.5 miles of right-of-way that SunRail requires. She compared that to a recent agreement CSX reached with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts advancing MBTA passenger rail service to Worcester, Mass. "Whyis Florida paying $10.5 million a mile and Massachusetts is paying $1.5 million a mile?" she asked.

"I was told this is a done deal, sit down, and shut up," she said, defending her leadership role in opposing the SunRail plan. But she added, "We never intended to try to stop a commuter rail project ... I was trying to cut a good deal for the people of Florida."

--> Florida State Sen. Paula Dockery, who is running for governor next year, continues to oppose the proposed 61.5-mile SunRail project envisioned for Orange County, with Orlando as its hub. But she emphasizes her objections as fiscal on ...
01 December 2009

Pierson named PB CEO

Parsons Brinckerhoff has appointed President and Chief Operating Officer-PB Americas George J. Pierson as Chief Executive Officer effective Jan. 1, 2010. Pierson, who will retain his PB Americas post, succeeds Keith J. Hawksworth, who becomes Chairman. He will report to Balfour Beatty Chief Executiv ...

CSX Transportation has named David A. Brown to become executive vice president and chief operating officer effective with the retirement of Tony Ingram on Dec. 31.

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"I am excited about the leadership and experience David will provide. He is well qualified to continue the outstanding work of Tony Ingram and our team in safety, reliability, and customer service," said Michael J. Ward, CSX chairman, president, and CEO.

"Tony plans a well-deserved retirement after nearly 40 years in railroading. In the last few years, he has delivered to CSXT, its customers, employees, and communities one of the most successful operating tenures in U.S. railroading. Among many other accomplishments, Tony has built an exceptional team that will continue, and build upon, his remarkable legacy," Ward said.

Brown, 50, has a nearly 30-year railroad career, most recently serving as vice president and chief transportation officer.

Succeeding Brown as vice president and chief transportation officer will be Cindy M. Sanborn, 44, who has been serving as vice president-Northern Region.

"Cindy is a veteran railroader with vast knowledge of operations after more than 22 years of service. She has demonstrated strong leadership and delivered exceptional results in a variety of field and headquarters posts," Ward said.

 

--> CSX Transportation has named David A. Brown to become executive vice president and chief operating officer effective with the retirement of Tony Ingram on Dec. 31. ...

The Association of American Railroads reports that in the week ended Nov. 21, freight traffic on U.S. railroads rose to its highes tlevel so far this year.

The Class I carriers originated 287,087 carloads of freight, down 6.8% from the same week in 2008 and down 0.7% from the same week in 2007. Volume increased 2.1% from the previous week this year. The comparison weeks from both 2007 and 2008 included the Thanksgiving holiday.

Intermodal traffic totaled 213,382 trailers and containers, down 3.1% from a year ago but up 11.5% from 2007. It was up 2.6% from the previous week this year.

While 13 of the 19 carload commodity groups were down from last year, there were increases in nonmetallic minerals (26.5%), grain (8.1%), chemicals (8.1%), waste and scrap metal (6.5 %), grain mill products (6.4%), and food and kindred products (0.4%). Declines in commodity groups ranged from 0.3% for petroleum products to 22.1% for crushed stone, sand, and gravel.

Total U.S. volume for the week ending Nov. 21 was estimated at 32.1 billion ton-miles, down 6.1% from the corresponding week last year but up 4.9% from 2007.

Canadian railroads reported volume of 72,120 cars for the week, down 4.5% from last year, and 43,085 trailers or containers, down 7.3%. Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 11,992 cars, up 1.3% from last year, and 6,410 trailers or containers, up 9.7%.

--> The Association of American Railroads reports that in the week ended Nov. 21, freight traffic on U.S. railroads rose to its highes tlevel so far this year.The Class I carriers originated 2 ...
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