U.S. carload freight traffic for the week ended September 12 was down 19.8% compared with the same week in 2008, the Association of American Railroads reported. AAR noted part of the decline could be attributed to the 2009 Labor Day (September 7); last year’s corresponding week 36 did not include the holiday.
All 19 carload freight commodity groups measured by AAR were down from last year. Farm products not including grain fell a modest 1.5%; metallic ores plunged 52.3%.
U.S. intermodal traffic also fell 25.8% from the same week last year. Container volume fell 20.9% and trailer volume dropped 43.9%.
Canadian railroads reported volume fell 22.1% for the weekcompared with last year; intermodal volume declined 27.5%. Mexico’s two major railroads reported originated volume down a modest 1% from the same week last year, while intermodal registered a gain, up 8.4%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 36 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was down 19.2% from last year. Combined intermodal volume fell 16.9% during the period measured against the comparable 2008 span.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Transportation Policy Board, a regional transportation board, Wednesday approved plans to help fund CSX efforts to expand and improve freight capacity in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. The Board approved a letter supporting federal grant applications to help cover the estimated $160 million cost.
Concern remains within the board that CSX has not supported improvements to passenger rail needs within the board’s territory, prompting the board to add language in its letter seeking commitments from the Class I carrier. CSX track is used by Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express, and Maryland MARC trains.
CSX has stated that the 13 planned improvement projects in the area would benefit freight and passenger operations. Many of the projects raise clearances for double-stack trains, potentially relieving current bottlenecks and resultant congestion for both freight and passenger moves, CSX has said.
Train crew employment on U.S. railroads in mid-August stood at 57,167, an increase of 353, or 0.62%, over July, although the transportation (train and engine) group trailed August 2008 numbers by 15.86%.
Also registering improvement in August was the transportation (other than train and engine) category, which at 6,685 was up 2.12% over July and 1.27% higher than in August 2008.
Total Class I employment in August at 150,064 was off 0.22%, or 336, from July and down 8.65% from August 2008.
The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments'Transportation Policy Board, a regional transportation board, Wednesdayapproved plans to help fund CSX efforts to expand and improve freight capacityin the district, Maryland, and Virginia. The Board approved a letter supportingfederal grant applications to help cover the estimated $160 million cost.
Concern remains within the board that CSX has not supportedimprovements to passenger rail needs within the board’s territory, promptingthe board to add language in its letter seeking commitments from the Class Icarrier. CSX track is used by Amtrak, Virginia Rail Express, and Maryland MARCtrains.
CSX has stated that the 13 planned improvement projects inthe area would benefit freight and passenger operations. Many of the projectsraise clearances for double-stack trains, potentially relieving currentbottlenecks and resultant congestion for both freight and passenger moves, CSXhas said.
Pittsburg, Kan.-based Watco Transportation Services, Inc. has announced an agreement with Rio Grande Pacific Corp. to acquire 36 miles of track from the Idaho Northern & Pacific Railroad. Watco plans to file with the Surface Transportation Board to operate the line through the Boise Valley Railroad (BVRR), to be headquartered in Boise, Idaho.
BVRR will operate two branches. One is the 11-mile Wilder Branch linking Wilder and Caldwell, Idaho. The second branch, 25 miles long, rungs from Nampa to just southeast of Boise, the state capital. The agreement also includes trackage rights from Nampa to Caldwell, Idaho.
Watco said BVRR has entered into a lease-purchase agreement with the Idaho Northern & Pacific Railroad (INPR), a Rio Grande Pacific Corp. subsidiary, which currently leases the segments from the Union Pacific.
BVRR currently serves 84 customers, some of which are also customers of Watco subsidiaries Eastern Idaho Railroad, Great Northwest Railroad, and Yellowstone Valley Railroad. “This fits in well with our existing infrastructure in Idaho,” said Ed McKechnie, Watco’s chief commercial officer. “We look forward to serving the customersand expanding opportunities to help to grow their businesses.” He added, “We love doing business in Idaho and believe this railroad can grow and continue to be a strong part of the Boise economy.”
“On behalf of the Watco team, we want to welcome the Boise Valley into our growing company,” said Watco CEO Rick Webb. “We have a great deal of respect for the Rio Grande team and look forward to building on their good work in Boise.”
Overland Park, Kan.-based Transportation Certification Services (TCS) said Wednesday it has been selected to train equipment operators for Minnesota’s North Star Commuter Rail service, set to commence November 16. TCS trained the first class of equipment operators earlier this year, and began training additional equipment operators in classes which started Monday.
TCS and its subsidiary, Rail Temps Inc. (RTI), also based in Overland Park, have been providing training and staffing solutions to North American railroads and rail-related industries since 1991, a company spokesman says.
North Star service, Minnesota’s first new commuter rail service, will offer five inbound trips daily to Minneapolis from Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids, and Fridley, with five outbound trips in the evening hours. The service will connect to Minneapolis' Hiawatha Line light rail service.
Presaging its annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., October 4, the American Public Transportation Association says it has unveiled a “newly redesigned and redeveloped website,” still accessible at www.apta.com.
"The new site offers APTA and industry information in a user-friendly and reorganized manner. All the information you need is just a click away,” APTA says.
The site upgrade includes enhanced search capabilities, improved functionality, and one sign-in to access all APTA products and services, APTA says. APTA expects to add committee collaborative sites to the mix shortly.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) concurred with Black’sassessment after the vote. “In order to receive any federal funding under this amendment, Amtrak would have six months to build a process for checking and tracking firearms,” said Murray, who voted against the amendment. “It would have to find the manpower necessary to screen and guard firearms, and it would have to purchase the equipment necessary. Now, there is nothing in the underlying appropriations to pay for any of that. So this amendment is going to put a severe burden on them, and if they do not comply, Amtrak will shut down.”
A second amendment by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) would have recommended elimination of any unspent Amtrak funds from the current fiscal year appropriations law and the Recovery Act, according to the National Association of Railroad Passengers. But by late Wednesday, Ensign had not offered the amendment for consideration, NARP said.
Norfolk Southern Corp. has commended its Crescent Corridor state partners, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, for supporting the Crescent Corridor program designed to increase NS’ freight transportation capacity and mobility in the eastern U.S.
"On behalf of Norfolk Southern, I thank our partners for their farsighted support of the Crescent Corridor," said NS CEO Wick Moorman (pictured at left) in a statement. "The Crescent Corridor is a tremendous economic advantage for the states and the nation. It will stimulate jobs, tax revenue, and business growth, while delivering substantial public benefits forcommunities and customers. Governors Ed Rendell, Tim Kaine, Bob Riley, Haley Barbour, and Phil Bredesen are leading the way in showing how public-private partnerships can create safe, affordable, green solutions to America's transportation infrastructure challenges."
NS says lead state Pennsylvania on Monday submitted "The Crescent Corridor Intermodal Freight Application" to apply for federal stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Program.
The application seeks $300 million in support of new independent intermodal facilities at Memphis, Birmingham, and Franklin County, Pa.; and the expansion of intermodal terminals in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Track improvements in the five partner states will include 10 passing tracks, 557 individual speed improvements, and 393 miles of track improved with upgraded rail, NS says.
The Crescent Corridor stretches 2,500 miles, linking New Orleans and Memphis with northern New Jersey. In their TIGER application, the five partner states described the Crescent Corridor as "one of the single largest additions of new freight transportation capacity in America since the Interstate Highway System. Building the last long haul intermodal freight distribution supply chain is one of the best transportation investments of our time."
NS says the improvements planned will generate $326 million in tax revenues to states and communities, divert 1.3 million long-haul trucks from Interstate highways, generate $146 million in accident avoidance savings, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.9 million tons, generate $575 million in congestion savings, generate $92 million in highway maintenance savings, and offer fuel savings of 169 million.