Efforts to spotlight California's proposed $44 billion, 800-mile high speed rail project have encountered their own public relations problem. The California High-Speed Rail Authority Thursday delayed approval of a $9 million, five-year public communications contract after board members said they lacked sufficient information on the finalists, including a staff-recommended firm that has close ties to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Before the authority’s meeting, a three-member staff panel chose Mercury Public Affairs out of nine applicants for the contract. Two of the staff panelists work or have worked for Schwarzenegger: Jeffrey Barker was the governor's deputy communications director until Sept. 1; Mike Bowman is Schwarzenegger's current deputy secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. Mercury itself also has closel inks with the governor. In all, five of 18 staffers Mercury plans to use for the rail project have worked for the governor.
Authority board members said the two-page staff memo they received was insufficient to make a $9 million decision; some members said they wanted to see the contract finalists make presentations in a future board meeting.
“The staff report and recommendation here wouldn't be adequate in kindergarten,” said Richard Katz, a Schwarzenegger appointee to the board and a longtime advocate of passenger rail transit in the state. “There is no discussion of deliverables. There is no discussion of what our expectation is of them. I am assuming (staff) went through a rigorous process to get there. But I don't have anything to support that.”
Mercury Public Affairs is part of the Omnicon Group, a New York-based advertising, marketing, and corporate communications company. Mercury has California offices in Los Angeles and in Sacramento, the state capital.
BNSF said Thursday Paul Bischler has been named vice president and chief sourcing officer, responsible for BNSF Railway Co.’s sourcing efforts, effective Oct. 1. He will report to Carl Ice, executive vice president and chief operations officer. Bischler succeeds Dennis Johnson, who will leave the company on Sept. 30.
Julie Piggott, previously vice president finance and treasurer, will succeed Bischler and assume the role of vice president planning & studies and controller. She will report to Tom Hund, executive vice president and chief financial officer. Piggott will also have this position for BNSF. Before being named to his present position, Bischler served as vice president and controller since June 2006. He joined BNSF in 1997 and has held a number of positions in Finance, supporting both the Operations and Marketing departments. Prior to joining BNSF, he was with the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse.
Piggott has served as vice president finance since June 2006 and was named vice president finance and treasurer in 2009. She joined BNSF in 1991 and has held various positions at BNSF, including: assistant vice president, Strategic and Financial Analysis; assistant vice president, Expedited Services, Consumer Products Marketing; and assistant vice president and assistant controller. Prior to joining BNSF, she was with the accounting firm of Ernst & Youngand Corporate BancServices.
The Association of American Railroads reported Thursday that U.S. rail carloadings for the week ended Aug. 29 were at their highest level since the week ended Dec. 13, 2008. Railroads originated 285,580 carloads in the latest week, down 16.2% from the same week in 2008.
U.S. railroad intermodal traffic of 202,553 trailers or containers was down 15.66% from last year. Container volume fell 9.4% and trailer volume dropped 38.7%.
All 19 carload commodity groups were down, with declines ranging from 8.7% for farm products not including grain to 42.1% for metals and metal products.
Canadian railroads reported volume of 65,256 cars for the latest week, down 17.9% from last year, and 43,274 trailers or containers, down 17.2%. Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 12,286 cars, down 18.22%, and 6,446 trailers or containers, off 11%.
Total North American rail volume for the first 34 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting railroads added up to 11,426,889 carloads, down 19.4% from last year, and 7,894,694 trailers and containers, down 17%.
Union Pacific Thursday ceremonially commenced construction of its $370 million, 785-acre Joliet Intermodal Terminal in Illinois, saying the facility “will support customer growth by increasing the railroad’s international and domestic container capacity and improving rail traffic efficiencies inChicago, the nation’s largest rail center.” UP cited the facility’s anticipated annual capacity of 500,000 international intermodal containers.
The intermodal terminal is part of the CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet, a 3,900-acre logistics center, backed by $2 billion in private investment, expected to generate as many as 15,000 new jobs in the coming decade. CenterPoint’s overall layout includes 975 acres zoned for railand intermodal terminal development, 1,900 acres available for up to 20 million square feet of industrial facilities (warehouse, distribution, manufacturing, cross-dock, and transloading), and 400 acres for container/trailer and equipment management facilities. The remaining 625 acres have been reserved for stormwater and conservation purposes.
“Our new intermodal terminal demonstrates Union Pacific’s unwavering commitment to provide outstanding customer service and make additional investments in our communities. Ultimately, the impact means good paying jobs for the community, growth in the markets we serve, and an expansion of the role of rail–one of the ‘greenest’ and safest modes of freight transportation,” said UP Chairman and CEO Jim Young (pictured at left).
UP hopes to complete the initial phase of construction next June, and stresses that the site has “additional space for future expansion based on customer demand.”
Joliet Intermodal Terminal features include: four 8,000-foot tracks with capacity to handle the loading or unloading of 107 intermodal double-stack rail cars; six 8,000-foot tracks to give train crews the ability to sort rail cars by destination; an additional six tracks to stage rail cars prior to unloading or loading; four cranes,equipped with Global Positioning System technology, that straddle the rail cars and two rubber-tired mobile “packers” that lift trailers and containers on and off rail cars; more than 3,400 “staging” or parking places for trailers and containers; an advanced Yard System that coordinates all movement of rail cars, trucks, trailers and containers at the facility; AGS Gate technology that decreases truck processing time from five minutes to between 30 to 90 seconds; and a state-of-the-art security system.
Civic group Central Maryland Transportation Alliance is lobbying Baltimore-area public officials and private-sector leaders to reorder priorities for expanding light rail transit.
The alliance, in a report released Wednesday, promoted mixed-use, transit-oriented development along Baltimore’s proposed east-west Red Line LRT, which enjoys substantial support and is furthest along in terms of development. But it also took time to urge making the proposed north-south “Yellow Line” the next project to be implemented, even though the route to some degree parallels (or shares right-of-way with) Baltimore’s current LRT route.
The alliance wants the Yellow Line to precede the proposed “Green Line” east from Johns Hopkins Hospital toward Morgan State University and White Marsh. Says Alliance president Otis Rolley III, "We think the Yellow Line really connects residential centers with job centers," he said.
Jamie Kendrick, deputy director of Baltimore’s Department of Transportation, said that for now city remains committed to the Green Line as the next large transit priority after the Red Line. But he noted officials haven’t reviewed the group's report and that he's willing to consider its recommendations.
Jack Cahalan, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said a feasibility study of the Green Line extension is included in the state's six-year comprehensive spending program. The Yellow Line has received no comparable treatment, he said.
Though the rail industry shows signs of being part of – or even leading – an economic recovery, rail suppliers are still adjusting to difficult fiscal realities. That’s the apparent basis for Pacific Rail Services LLC’s decision to close its Memphis, Tenn., office at year’s end, eliminating 118 positions in the process.
A company spokesperson noted, “We don’t like to deal with press on this; there’s unions involved and dicey things, and we’re not going to make a statement.” Pacific Rail Services employees are represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which so far also has declined to comment.
Pacific Rail Services, described on its own website as “a California company,” provides railroad flatcar bridges, rail car bridges, and engineering and installation services, as well as maintenance-of-way services. The company employs about 800.
Bombardier Inc. announced Wednesday that it ended the second quarter of fiscal 2010 on July 31 with a "strong backlog of $47.5 billion," though net income dropped to $202 million from $259 million in the corresponding period of the company's prior fiscal year.
Bombardier Transportation revenue reached $2.5 billion for the quarter, an increase of $131 million over the same period in the last fiscal year, despite a negative currency impact of $306 million.
The Transportation Group order backlog was $27.9 billion on July 31, 2009, compared to $24.7 billion as of Jan. 31, 2009.
Bombardier Transportation reported new orders for the quarter worth $3 billion, compared to $2.1 billion in the year-earlier period. These include a $735 million agreement with the Toronto Transit Commission, the largest single order ever awarded for light rail vehicles worldwide.
Bombardier Aerospace's second-quarter revenue totaled $2.4 billion compared to $2.5 billion in the prior fiscal year. The Aerospace backlog was $19.6 billion on July 31, 2009, compared to $23.5 billion on Jan. 31, 2009.
On Sept. 1, Bombardier's board approved a $500-million two-year unsecured revolving credit facility with a syndicate of commercial banks and other institutions, which will be available for general working capital needs.
Belleville, Ontario, will receive a new VIA Rail station to help make it "one of the core stops" on VIA Rail’s Montreal-Toronto route, the passenger carrier’s busiest line, according to Member of Parliament Daryl Kramp, who represents the city in Ottawa.
Kramp early this week announced an investment of approximately C$7 million (US$6.3 million) in the new train station as well as other improvements at a press conference. Plans include a new station built adjacent to the existing structure and improvements to the tracks such as two new mainline tracks and a second platform.
The new station is still in the design process and improvements to the rail line mean both visitors to the city and residents who use VIA will have a new access point to train services, Kramp said."Investing in the VIA station here not only creates jobs but it'll also allow VIA to better invest in their customers," Kramp said. "Today we're mixing both the long-term vision for VIA along with the necessary stimulus input for going forward."Pierre Santoni, VIA Rail senior director for national sales, said the city's existing station -- opened in 1856 -- will be preserved once the new station opens in late 2010 or early 2011. He said VIA recognizes the historic significance of the structure, though it can longer meet the needs of passengers and VIA employees.
Belleville, roughly 125 miles east of Toronto on the CN main line (Kingston Subdivision) to Montreal, already is a significant source of ridership for VIA, reports Railway Age Contributing Editor Greg Gormick.
Pittsburgh-based L.B. Foster Co. has been awarded a $3.9 million contract for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) Fern Rock Yard Track Renewal Project. SEPTA is proceeding with the project through the use of federal stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
The company says New York-based contractor Railworks Track Systems, Inc. is replacing track and contact rail installations dating from 1928 in Fern Rock Yard, using a “wide range of transit products sourced from L.B. Foster.” L.B. Foster has begun delivery of new rail, trackwork turnouts, contact rail, coverboards, insulator assemblies, and bonded insulated joints to SEPTA yards in Philadelphia.
"L.B. Foster relied on the industry-leading technical support and quality products of our Transit and Allegheny Rail Products team to meet the product requirements of this important project," says Rick Kilpatrick, L.B. Foster's Northeast District manager within the Rail Products Group.
Adds Hakan Eksi, general manager at L.B. Foster's Suwanee, Ga., transit manufacturing and research facilities, "Our transit product line has the depth to fulfill this wide ranging contract with a single source package."
Trade using surface transportation between the U.S. and its NAFTA partners Canada and Mexico was down 31.5% in June 2009 from June 2008, the sixth straight month with a year-to-year decline greater than 27%, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The value of U. S. rail imports dropped 47.2% to $4.3 billion. Exports declined 40.1% to $2.7 billion.
Motor carrier imports dropped 26.8% to $17.9 billion, with exports down 23.9% to $18.9 billion.
Pipeline imports declined 50.5% to $3.7 billion, while exports dropped 50.6% to $219 million.
U.S.–Canada surface transportation trade totaled $31.0 billion in June, down 36.6% compared to June 2008.
U.S.–Mexico surface transportation trade totaled $19.7 billion, down 21.8%.