The effort by some shippers to re-regulate freight railroads relies on citing selective rail rates that “don’t tell the entire story,” according to a letter by Association of American Railroads CEO Edward R. Hamberger, which appeared in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal.
“Average rail rates in 2009 were 55% lower than in 1981. That means the average rail shipper can move twice the freight today for the same price it paid nearly 30 years ago. America’s competitive rail rates also stack up pretty well against the rest of the world,” said Hamberger (pictured at left).
“While rail rates in recent years increased in line with railroad costs and the need to reinvest in the nation’s rail infrastructure, these increases pale in comparison with price increases farmers have seen in other areas, such fertilizer costs, which are up 304%, fuel costs, up 244%, and seed costs, up 154%,” the CEO said.
“Without railroads bringing America’s high-quality, competitively priced grain to the global market, we’ll never achieve the president’s goal of doubling exports on the road to economic recovery,” Hamberger concluded.
Bombardier Inc. is laying off 180 blue-and white-collar workers temporarily at its La Pocatiere, Quebec, railcar plant by the end of the year, attributing the move to a decline in orders from U.S. customers and delays in a contract anticipated to come from Montreal.
The layoffs, which began last month, will total about 40 by the end of July, said Bombardier spokesman Marc-Andre Lefebvre. “These are temporary layoffs of unionized workers, and they will be recalled as soon as orders comein and the workload rebounds,” he said. “They keep their seniority, but if there's no order pickup, it will mean the plant’s payroll will have dropped from about 500 early this year to 240 by year-end.”Lefebvre said the La Pocatiere slowdown won't directly affect Bombardier's St. Bruno, Quebec, operation, producing monorail and light rail equipment, or the company’s Thunder Bay, Ontario, plant, working on orders from Toronto for subway cars and light rail equipment.
Morgan Stanley Research analysts Wednesday issued an upbeat report “adjusting estimates higher” for freight railroad earnings, based on predictions of better-than-expected volume for the second quarter of the year, full-year 2010, and full-year 2011.
“Despite consensus revisions throughout the quarter, we believe rails remain positioned to beat consensus 2Q10 estimates,” Morgan Stanley Research analysts William Greene, John Godyn, and Adam Longson said in a note. Because of that, the trio said, “we are revising estimates across our rail coverage to account for recent traffic trends, management commentary, and updated guidance.”
The note said Class I railroads “are likely to see upside revisions driven by the following trends: (1) Volumes tracking better than expectations, (2) Operating leverage to recovering volumes, and (3) Sustained momentum on core price.”
The analysts said they “continue to favor rails” and, in particular, highlighted CSX, Kansas City Southern, and Union Pacific “as our picks.”
Officials from Dallas Area Rapid Transit Tuesday announced the projected long-term shortfall in sales tax revenue will result in the indefinite delay in the third section of the Orange Line, from Irving to Terminal A at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, a second Downtown Dallas alignment (either LRT or streetcar), and the Blue Line extension from Ledbetter Station to the UNT Dallas campus.
The connection to Terminal A had been scheduled for completion in December 2013, the second downtown alignment for 2014, and the UNT Dallas extension for 2018.
DART spokesman Morgan Lyons stressed that more near-term expansion projects are not affected by the decision. These include completion of the Green Line from Pleasant Grove to Carrollton and the new Lake Highlands Station in December; the Blue Line extension from Garland to Rowlett; and the first two sections of the Orange Line from Bachman Station in Northwest Dallas to Irving in 2012.
The proposed 20-year financial plan includes $4.7 billion in capital project funds for the rail expansion and other projects, such as the planned purchase of new buses and other items required to maintain the agency’s state of good repair.
“We are pleased we will be able to maintain almost all of our current expansion. Every transit agency around the country is not so fortunate,” DART President Gary Thomas said. “At the same time, we are very disappointed that it does not appear we willcomplete all of our projects as planned. We will continue working to find ways to advance these projects as best we can based on the current and anticipated economic and financial conditions.”
More than 75% of DART’s income is from the collection of a 1% sales tax in each of the 13 cities served by DART. Anticipated sales tax receipts for fiscal year 2010 are expected to be between $13 million and $15 million below the original estimate of $387.8 million.
Geneva, Ill.-based Miner Enterprises, Inc. says its SaniLOK™ gates recently were selected for application to food grade covered hopper cars by American Railcar Leasing, Chicago Freight Car Leasing, and TrinityRail for new and rebuilt cars leased or sold to Cargill, Domino Sugar, Imperial Sugar, and Union Pacific.
“Sugar and other food grade commodities must be unloaded under sanitary conditions and we have engineered the SaniLOK gate to meet that requirement and simplify the gate operation,” said Miner Vice President of Sales Ric Biehl. “Recently, in response to our client’s needs, we modified our plenums to reduce the chance of sugar clogging in the chamber, thus allowing for faster and more complete cleanout of cars.”
For the new car applications, Miner’s SaniLOK gate was specified as well as its TCC-III constant contact side bearings, TF-880 TecsPak® friction draft gears, and Series 2008 brake beams.Said Biehl, “We understand that it is the only sanitary stainless steel gravity-pneumatic gate built with all USDA and FDA approved materials in the flow path of the commodity and has a unique movable vacuum chamber that is easy to clean.”
A Sacramento judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against both Caltrain and the California High-Speed Rail Authority, which claimed Union Pacific consent was needed for any rail right-of-way improvements. Superior Court Judge Kevin Culhane said the suit has no merit to proceed to trial.
Two property owners near rail right-of-way in Menlo Park, Calif., filed suit last August; both claim they have proven the case that UP has veto power over any project in northern California.
In legal filings, both Caltrain and high speed rail attorneys acknowledged the assertion. “(Caltrain) acknowledges that high speed rail, generally speaking, cannot be constructed without Union Pacific's consent and will not enter into a contract to do so without first obtaining Union Pacific's consent,” Caltrain attorneys said in legal filings seeking to dismiss the case.
UP has said it would not seek to block construction of the project and, while it is opposed to the project south of San Jose where it owns all right-of-way, it was willing to work with the rail authority on sharing the rail line from San Francisco to San Jose.
Retired San Mateo County Judge Quentin Kopp, a board member of the authority and a longtime rail advocate, saw the decision as a victory for Caltrain and the authority. “It was the most frivolous lawsuit I could remember in 50 years as a trial lawyer and trial judge,” he said.
Caltrain attorney David Miller said the agency has yet to ask Union Pacific for its consent but fully expects the freight company to give it. “If UP felt its rights were being violated, they would have been the ones that brought the suit or intervened in the suit,” Miller said. “This is our corridor. We have a good relationship with UP.”
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved the first major construction contracts, exceeding $100 million, for the Santiago Calatrava-designed Transit Hall and Oculus portions of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub.
The board approved an $86.6 million contract with Sorbara Construction Corp. and a $19.2 million contract with EIC Associates Inc.
“With today’s Board actions, we’ve awarded more than $1 billion in contracts for the Transportation Hub,” said Port Authority Chairman Anthony R. Coscia. "Once completed, this landmark facility will serve more than 200,000 daily commuters, anchoring the World Trade Center site and a revitalized Lower Manhattan.”
To date, workers have installed 54 Calatrava-designed arches to form the Hub Connector, which links the Hub and the World Financial Center via an underground passageway. The Hub work also has included the installation of four massive Calatrava columns weighing about 55 tons that will provide structural support for the PATH Hall roof.
A U.S. high speed rail program relying in part on state funding contributions is a problematic proposal at best, according to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office. In fact, state budget difficulties could cause delays in advancing those projects already bankrolled with startup stimulus funds from the federal government under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
GAO, stating what some in the rail industry consider obvious, observes that building a U.S. HSR network will require funding “far beyond the funds provided by the ARRA in a time of continuing federal and state deficits. The Obama Administration has acknowledged that the $8 billion funding package was only a “down payment” toward such a network.
GAO said, “Rail industry stakeholders are optimistic that they can meet increased public investment in intercity passenger rail; however,they are looking for (1) federal leadership in setting safety standards for high speed rail and in promoting interstate cooperation for service across state lines, among other things, and (2) stable funding to create a structure for developing a passenger rail marketplace.”
“Additionally, stakeholders said that a stable federal funding stream would encourage [private] firms to enter and invest in the intercity passenger rail marketplace,” GAO said, noting federal funding’s potential influence on the railroad supply industry.
“However, even with strong federal leadership and funding, it could take several years to provide the necessary infrastructure, such as for building new passenger railcars, potentially making it difficult to spend some Recovery Act high speed rail funds by 2017, as required by law,” GAO said.
T.Y. Lin International announced Tuesday that it has named Joseph Pizzurro, P.E., to the post of Director of Transit/RailEngineering in its New York City office. Pizzurro will be responsible for leading teams on projects for Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Metro-North Railroad, MTA Long Island Rail Road, MTA New York City Transit, New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey.
Pizzurro joins TYLI from AECOM, where he was associate vice president, senior project manager, handling projects for several rail agencies in the New York Metropolitan area.
“I am extremely pleased that Joe has joined our team here in New York. He has an outstanding reputation for hands-on management and uncompromising client service,” said Jim Steere, TYLI vice president, New York Metro Operations. “Joe also has an extraordinary depth of knowledge, not only technically, but also in the understanding of how the railand transit industry connects with the broader infrastructure on a local and regional level. He will be a powerful asset to our firm and the clients that we serve.”