Portland, Ore.’s TriMet says the Portland Streetcar will be suspended for two weeks, beginning Sept. 13, to allow construction to connect the new eastside streetcar line to the existing westside line in the Pearl District. TriMet will provide shuttle bus service along the westside line from Sept. 13 to 26.
The agency had weighed continued service, but found construction work would prevent the individual streetcars from being returned to their maintenance yard in Northwest Portland for storage every night. That would require the hiring of security guards to protect them overnight, a TriMet spokesperson said. And shuttle buses would still be required to move passengers along the closed portion of the route.
When completed, the eastside line will carry passengers over the Broadway Bridge through the inner eastside to Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI). A new (non-auto) bridge over the Willamette River connecting OMSI to South waterfront is planned aspart of the Portland to Milwaukie MAX light rail line. It will also carry streetcars to the southern end of the westside line, creating a compete loop through west and east Portland.
Russian Railways Vice President and Federal Passenger Company General Director Mikhail Akulov said Wednesday plans are set to launch high speed rail service between St. Petersburg and Helsinki, Finland’s capital, in December.
Allegro trains will cover the 443-kilometer (275-mile) route in 3 hours, 30 minutes, down from the current travel time of 6 hours, 18 minutes; travel time within Russia itself will be reduced from 3 hours 11 minutes to 90 minutes. Allegro trains will stop at Vyborg and Vainikkala—the latter on the Russian-Finnish border—as well as Kouvola, Lahti, Tikkurila, and Pasila in Finland.
The shorter journey time is due to the more technically advanced trains, quicker border checkpoint formalities, and greater traveling speeds, Akulov said. The Allegro trains will be able to reach 200 km/h (about 125 mph) on Russian territory, and 220 km/h (135 mph) within Finland.
Initially, two return trips will be made daily. The Allegro service from Helsinki to St. Petersburg will depart at around 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., with service from St. Petersburg to Helsinki departing at or near 6:40 a.m. and 3:25 p.m., Akulov said.
Once Allegro service begins, Finland’s Sibelius train and Russia’s Repin service will cease to run between St. Petersburg and Helsinki. The Russian overnight train Lev Tolstoy will continue to operate between Moscow and Helsinki.
A study released Wednesday by the public/private partnership of the City of North Charleston, S.C., CSX Transportation, and Shipyard Creek Associates concludes that a proposed intermodal rail and warehousing complex would create $73.4 million in additional output and 869 permanent jobs annually. The report also estimates that during construction and development, the plan would create $111.9 in additional output and 1,410 jobs.
The economic impact report was prepared by the research firms of Perryman Group in Waco, Texas.
“We knew our commercial rail plan would have a hugely positive economic impact on the region and the state,” said North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey. “At a time when our economy desperately needs the best of what the public and private sectors can offer by working in harmony, this study gives hope to those of us who are worried about South Carolina’s economic future.”
The intermodal rail hub would primarily serve s container terminal being built on the former Navy base in North Charleston. It would remove 3.2 miles of CSX rail lines running through the city, build about half a mile of new track, and renovate another half-mile of mostly unused track.
Colmar USA, Inc. says it has sold its first Hi-Rail machine T7000 to a North American customer, to the Toronto Transit Commission, making TTC the company’s first North American customer.
The introduction of Hi-Rail machinery in North America complements the scrap metal equipment line that has been Colmar USA’s primary product since it was established in 2002, the company says.
“We are confident that North America will trust us to supplytheir Hi-Rail machinery in the years to come, as the Toronto Traffic Commission has done it,” said Gianluca Manzo, Colmar USA general manager, in a statement.
Colmar USA, Inc. is the subsidiary of Colmar S.p.A., based in Arqua' Polesine, Italy, outside of Venice.
Maglio also notes that “it is an ideal time to make the change. Right now there are a lot of potential clients that are just getting to know us through our core product, SPOT (Spatial Positioning On Transit).”
SPOT is a scaleable computer platform that gathers GPS data about vehicle locations and displays it in real-time, allowing operators to know precisely where vehicles are at all times. Originally developed for passenger rail systems, ETA Transit Systems has just recently launched a version dedicated to bus operations.
“We expect that by changing our name now, we will be able to gain even greater brand recognition in both rail and bus markets,” says Maglio. “We already offer the most full-featured and attractively priced system available.”
Support continues to be voiced for a proposal by President Obama, announced Monday, to invest $50 billion in U.S. infrastructure needs, including rail. Late Tuesday American Public Transportation Association President William Millar issued a statement saying, “On behalf of the more than 1,500 members of the American Public Transportation Association, I applaud President Obama for putting transportation infrastructure investment, including public transportation and high speed rail, on the national agenda [Monday] in his speech in Milwaukee.
“I commend the president’s vision of a world class infrastructure system and his call to enact a new, six-year transit and highway authorization bill which expands public transit systems, dedicates significant new funds to the New Starts program, and commits to building on the previously announced investments in high speed and intercity passenger rail,” Millar said. “The proposed upfront investment of $50 billion will jumpstart job creation and is a good first step toward addressing our country’s high unemployment. For every $1 billion invested in U.S. public transportation, 36,000 jobs are supported and created. Also, the introduction of high speed rail is creating a new industry of jobs for America’s workers. “This authorization legislation can’t happen fast enough. It will put Americans back to work to build and maintain our country’s woefully underfunded transportation infrastructure,” said Millar.
As well, David A. Raymond, president and CEO of the American Council of Engineering Companies, voiced support for the proposal, calling it “critically needed.” But, Raymond said, the proposal “should be coupled with a renewed effort to pass surface transportation, aviation, and water infrastructure bills currently stalled in Congress.” ACEC is the business association of the nation’s engineering industry, claiming to represent more than 5,500 member firms nationwide.
The support offered by APTA and ACEC followed similar sentiments issued by others earlier Tuesday, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the American Society of Civil Engineers, Amtrak, Building America's Future, and the Transportation Equity Network.
Virginia Beach, Va., city officials said Tuesday they were close to agreement with Norfolk Southern to acquire 10.6 miles of railright-of-way for $40 million, and could complete the deal by month’s end.
If completed, the acquisition could allow for extension of The Tide light rail service (depicted at left), with 7.4 miles now under construction in neighboring Norfolk, Va., west of Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach voters in 1999 rejected any commitment to LRT, leaving Norfolk to pursue the mode on its own; the $388 million line is slated to begin revenue service next May.
Virginia Beach officials had feared that the state might require the city to commit specifically to LRT to qualify for a $20 million state grant for the rail line purchase. Many City Council members have been reluctant to do so, preferring to wait for results of a transportation study evaluating LRT. Many also seek another voter referendum.
Under the agreement with the state, the city gets some leeway, committed to using its “best efforts” to pursue light rail in order to qualify for the funding. Alternatives, such as a Bus Rapid Transit, would be temporarily allowed as long as light rail remains the long-term goal, city attorney Becky Kubin told the City Council.
“We are extraordinarily close,” Councilwoman Rosemary Wilson said. “We don't want to lose the ground we’ve covered.”
Under the 2009 agreement to buy the route, the state willput in $20 million, the city will pay $10 million, Hampton Roads Transit (operator of The Tide) will contribute $5 million, and the remaining $5 million will come from a utility easement on the property.
The Raleigh, N.C., City Council Tuesday failed to endorse either of two alternatives envisioned to serve the North Carolina capital with higher speed rail (HrSR), asking the state Department of Transportation for additional information on two proposed route options.
One route would run west of Capital Boulevard along Norfolk Southern tracks, while the other would run east of Capital Boulevard along CSX tracks. Council members seek more information about two hybrid routes that some claim would be “less harmful” to homes and businesses.
State DOT Rail Division Director Pat Simmons said after the public comment period ends Friday, DOT will look at all comments, including any alternate routes that are proposed.
The segment in question is part of an ongoing joint effort by North Carolina and Virginia to establish HrSR linking Charlotte, N.C., Raleigh, Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C. The route is part of a longer plan identified as the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor, which eyes a reach as far south as Jacksonville, Fla., and also Atlanta.
Chicago-based FreightCar America, Inc. said Wednesday it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the business assets of DTE Rail Services, a non-regulated subsidiary of DTE Energy, for approximately $23.2 million. The transaction is expected to close early in the fourth quarter.
Once the transaction is completed, the acquired business will bolster FreightCar America’s existing parts and repair service capabilities, the company said in a statement. “The collective offering will provide repair and maintenance, inspection, and fleet management services for all types of freight-carrying railcars. Upon closing, the acquired business will be known as FreightCar Rail Services, LLC," the company said.
“We are pleased to announce our definitive agreement with DTE Rail Services,” said Ed Whalen, president and CEO of FreightCar America. “The expansion of our railcar services activities will diversify our revenue sources and will serve to lessen the cyclicality of our earnings.”
He added, “Going forward, we expect that this addition will expand our customer base and strengthen existing relationships by significantly enhancing the company’s involvement in the entire railcar life cycle. The company will be well positioned to service coal-carrying railcars moving through the Powder River Basin in the Western United States. A majority of these coal cars were manufactured by FreightCar America. We look forward to working with the Rail Services team to grow our service offerings.”
DTE Rail Services has operations in Colorado, Indiana, and Nebraska and services freight cars and unit coal trains utilizing key rail corridors in the U.S. Midwest and West. The new business will add approximately 130 skilled employees to the company.
The proposed acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions. DTE Rail Services produces current annualized revenues of approximately $25.0 million and FreightCar America said it expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to its earnings.
The Railway Tie Association, which in January estimated wood crosstie demand for 2010 at 19.4 million ties, has taken a new look at the market and its economic model now forecasts the sale of 19 million ties. And that may be high.
“Unfortunately, the data through June 2010 shows the 12-month rolling total of annual purchases at only 18 million ties,” says RTA Executive Director James C. Gauntt. “While a rebound may be under way, there are reasons that this recovery will likely be slower and weaker than desired.”
One reason, says Gauntt, is the unfunded federal mandate for installation of Positive Train Control. He quotes industry sources as saying the tab for PTC was $70 million in 2009 and will exceed $1 billion in 2010, and “the railroads have to re-align their budgets” to pay for it.
Another reason for pessimism, said Gauntt, is the lack of certainty that the short line tax credit will be extended. (Short lines accounted for 3,821,000 of the 20 million wood ties installed in 2009.)