U.S. light rail operations seldom expand beyond a single state; St. Louis Metro’s MetroLink light rail is a prime exception, while TriMet is willing to grow its LRT operations in Portland, Ore., across the Columbia River into Vancouver, Wash. But two sister cities, one on each side of the Rio Grande, are proposing reinstating light rail service across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Juarez, Mexico, Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz and most of the Juarez City Council have accepted a resolution from their El Paso, Tex., council counterparts pledging that the two cities will work to re-establish a rail link, most likely LRT, between the two cities. The cities also said they’ll support the creation of a high speed rail line from the state of Chihuahua, which includes the city of Juarez, to Denver.
Ferriz said concerns likely to be voiced by U.S. Customs over immigration enforcement would be the biggest obstacle faced by the two cities in any joint effort. But the economic benefit to both cities would be substantial, he said. "The amount of flow that will come to our communities will more than pay for any public investment that is made to get the rail lines out of there," he said.
El Paso and Juarez were linked by streetcar service until the early 1970s.
Straddled with budget woes that have put a severe strain onexisting light rail and bus services, St. Louis Metro nonetheless is solicitinginput to develop a long-term plan to expand service reach and boost ridership,and is actively seeking options based on other U.S. rail transit operations.
Among other ideas, Metro is pondering diesel multiple-unit(DMU) or diesel light rail transit (DLRT) for suburban rail service, comparableto the beleaguered, delayed startup in Austin, Tex. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)operations, modeled after Los Angeles, are also being suggested, as is theimplementation of smart cards.
Bob Baer, recently named Metro's chief executive, andJessica Mefford-Miller, chief of planning and system development, hosted aninvitation-only forum Tuesday with local leaders, mostly area mayors and othergovernment officials, to begin the process. Eight public forums are to follow,beginning next month, to craft a plan including five-year, 10-year, and 30-yeartimelines. "The vision will be bottom-up based on what the community wantsand expects," Mefford-Miller said.
A draft of the options to enhance service will be releasedthe week of Dec. 7, after which the public will be able to comment again,before a revised draft plan is released early next year.
Operation Lifesaver, Inc. Tuesday said federal statistics show that inattentive drivers contribute to approximately 3% of all vehicle-train crashes at highway-rail grade crossings. In addition, 20% of grade crossing collisions involve motor vehicles striking trains at a crossing. A total of 2,397 highway-rail grade crossing collisions occurred in 2008,resulting in 286 deaths and more than 900 injuries.
The national, nonprofit railroad safety education organization said it was making public the statistics prior to the two-day Distracted Driving Summit, beginning Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
“Distracted driving can lead to serious consequences at highway-rail grade crossings,” said OLI President Helen M.Sramek, who will attend the meeting. “In addition to the tragic deaths and injuries caused by car-train collisions, these events also are costly for communities. Emergency responders and roadways can be tied up for hours, keeping responders from other community emergencies and drivers from their jobs and homes.”
Former Federal Railroad Administrator Gil Carmichael, who also is the founding Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Intermodal Transportation Institute (ITI) at the University of Denver, will provide closing remarks at Railway Age’s 16th Annual Passenger Trains on Freight Railroads Conference, to be held October 19-20 at the Washington Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Carmichael will summarize the two-day conference dedicated to developing common ground among passenger and freight rail interests and address the need for anethical, holistic approach to solving the nation's 21st century transportation problems. His talk will focus on how freight and passenger rail systems can work together to develop an ethical, holistic, intermodal transportation system.
“I look forward to this significant transportation conference and taking partin the many freight and passenger issues it will address,” said Carmichael. “Its goal is to address a new vision of American transportation that helps solve the challenges of creating a new intermodal system that will build up on the strengths of each mode, will reduce congestion, will reduce injuries and deaths, will be environmentally benign, will not waste fuel, will not cost too much to use, and will provide ongoing economic stability.”
Other speakers addressing the Railway Age event include: Matt Rose, Chairman, President, and CEO of BNSF, who will be the keynote speaker, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo, and Amtrak President Joseph Boardman.
Registration is available online at www.railwayage.com/conferences/passenger-trains-on-freight-railroads.html, or by contacting Railway Age Conference Director Jane Poterala at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pittsburgh-based L.B. Foster Co. said Tuesday it has been awarded a $2.1 million contract to supply direct fixation fasteners and bonded insulated joints for the first phase of the new Dallas Area Rapid Transit Orange Line, running from Dallas’ city center to Irving, Tex.
L.B. Foster is coordinating product shipments to the Northwest Corridor Expansion project to meet the scheduling requirements of the general contractor joint venture, Kiewit/Stacy and Witbeck/Reyes/Parsons Corp. "The contractor recognized our hard earned reputation for quality rail products and project management," said Dennis Bachtel, L.B. Foster's Western Regional manager within the Rail Products Group.
L.B. Foster direct fixation fasteners provide noise and vibration dampening, electrical isolation, and ease of installation. The DF fasteners are manufactured by the Transit Products unit of L.B. Foster to meet the standards established for DART's systems.
The DF fastener design has been rigorously tested at L.B. Foster's rail specific development and testing laboratory in Atlanta. The bonded insulated joints are produced by L.B. Foster's Allegheny Rail Products at facilities in Niles, Ohio, and in Pueblo, Colo.
"The reliability and long life cycle of this insulated joint is respected by freight and passenger railroads worldwide," said L.B. Foster Rail Products Group Senior Vice President Sam Fisher.
Three construction phases of the Northwest Corridor Expansion Project will expand the DART Orange Line from Dallas to the terminals of DFW International Airport. Phase One construction began in May and is scheduled to be completed next April.
The National Gateway coalition, which includes CSX Corp., Monday announced that it has been honored as “Competitiveness Project of theYear” by the North American Strategic Infrastructure Leadership Forum, an infrastructure identification and development group. The forum's award recognizes the National Gateway as the “project which contributes most to the [North American] region's capacity for global competitiveness.”
The $842 million National Gateway public/private partnership also includes several Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states seeking to increase capacity efficiency on freight rail routes between Mid-Atlantic ports and Midwestern markets.
To date, CSX has provided $395 million in funding commitments; state sources are expected to fund $189 million, while $258 million has been requested from the federal government.
“Today there is an urgent need for strategic investment in transportationinfrastructure,” said Carl Warren, director of strategic infrastructure for CSX Intermodal. “This award is an acknowledgement of the National Gateway’s role in meeting those critical needs.” Warren thanked the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina for their leadership in this partnership to enhance the region’s competitiveness.
The Surface Transportation Board has determined that the railroad industry's pre-tax cost of capital for 2008 was 11.75%, slightly higher than the previous year's 11.53%.
This means there's still a wide gap between the cost of capital and the industry's return on investment (ROI). The STB recently announced that the average ROI in the 12 months ended June 30, 2009 was 8.94%, down from the 9.20% ROI posted in the prior 12-month period.
In the STB's most recent calculation, two railroads earned an ROI that exceeded the cost of capital—Norfolk Southern (10.33%) and Soo Line (CP), 12.09%. The ROI of other Class I railroads ranged from Kansas City Southern's 7.13% to BNSF's 9.69%.
In announcing its new cost of capital determination, the STB noted that it uses the figure "in evaluating the adequacy of individual railroads’ revenues each year" and in “determining the reasonableness of a challenged rail rate, considering a proposal to abandon rail line, or valuing a particular railroad operation.”