The Surface Transportation Board Friday ruled Entergy Arkansas, Inc. and Entergy Services, Inc., could amend acomplaint challenging an interchange commitment contained in a lease between Union Pacific and the Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad Co., Inc. (MNA). TB said Entergy may pursue its interests using the section of the Interstate Commerce Act that deals with the rights and obligations of rail carriers to interchange with one another.
STB said it would defer ruling on Entergy's request that the Board revoke the prior approval of the lease agreement, noting that if Entergy does not obtain relief under section 10705, or Entergy declines to pursue that course, STB will then decide whether approval of the lease between UP and MNA should be revoked, modified, or left in place.
On Feb. 19, 2008, Entergy asked STB to revoke its approval of a 1992 lease between UP and MNA, in which UP leases 300 miles of track to MNA for free if it feeds 95% or more of its freight traffic to UP. The utility's Newark, Ark., power plant is served only by MNA. Entergy says MNA's lease with UP effectively rules out using another carrier to transport coal from Wyoming's Powder River Basin to an interchange with MNA's tracks and that enforcement of the interchange commitment is an unreasonable practice.
Entergy can request STB to use its authority under section 10705 to order MNA to interchange with a long-haul carrier other than UP. The Board stated that it can require a carrier to establish a new through-route with another carrier under Section 10705 whensuch a route is needed "to provide adequate, and more efficient or economic transportation" and invited Entergy to submit argument and evidence on these issues.
STB indicated that resolution ofthe case under section 10705 could "directly address and remedy theprecise problem about which Entergy complains." But STB also explained that the revocation of lease approval that Entergy seeks in its complaint "would be far broader in scope and effect" and could affect other entities. The Board also determined that relief was not available under the unreasonable practices and pooling provisions cited by Entergy in itscomplaint.
STB’s decision is available for viewing and downloading via the STB website, at www.stb.dot.gov, under "E-LIBRARY," thenunder "Decisions & Notices," beneath the date "06/26/09."
A shift in Toronto’s transport funding priorities could generate C$417 million for the Toronto Transit Commission, and would enable TTC to affirm its planned purchase of 204 streetcars from Bombardier Transportation before the deal expires. Toronto's City Council, in a 36-6 vote Friday, approved the measure.
The funds, one-third of the anticipated overall cost of roughly C$1.2 billion (US$1.0 billion), initially were expected from the Canadian federal government, but Ottawa said the purchase does not qualify for stimulus funding. Toronto had committed to one-third of the amount, with Ontario provincial funding supplying another one-third; the move would double the city’s investment in the purchase.
Streetcar funding would come at the expense of other capital projects, such as a bus midlife rebuilding program and a transit station modernization program, which would be deferred until after 2018.
Toronto’s city manager, deputy city manager, and chief financial officer have recommended that "City debt financing replace the one third federal funding budgeted for a total City debt funding amount of C$834 million for the TTC Capital Project No. CTT122 “Purchase of 204 Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs)."
The officers noted, “In summary, the City has budgeted its 1/3 share, the Province has committed its 1/3 share, and the TTC has deferred debt-financial projects sufficient to replace the expected Federal 1/3 Economic Stimulus funding share. The Bombardier bid expires on June 27, 2009 unless an unconditional award is made on or before that date."
SNC-Lavalin Group, Inc. has signed an agreement to manage the construction and maintenance of roads and railways for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day said.
SNC signed the deal for an undisclosed amount with Russian Railways to provide 28 miles of roads and rails, including tunnels totaling 27 kilometers (about 17 miles) in length.
Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin, Canada's largest engineering company, has opened an office in Sochi, a port city on the Black Sea.
Last month Russian Railways said it planned to order up to US$765 million worth of high speed trains from Bombardier Transportation in anticipation of the 2014 Olympics.
Asserting that "there is simply not enough money to do what we need to do," U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told a Congressional hearing Thursday that around $20 billion will be required through early 2011 to cover a shortfall in funding for highway and transit construction projects.
"The Obama Administration has a difficult problem--a system that can no longer pay for itself," LaHood (photo at left) told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He pointed out that a primary source of funding has shrunk with the decline of fuel tax revenue. LaHood said the highway/transit trust find could be running near empty sometime in August.
LaHood believes an 18-month extension of the current funding law, which expires this fall, would give Congress time to draft a long-term measure with more reliable finding sources.
The Administration's proposal is opposed by Democratic members of the House Transportation Committee, who are supporting a six-year reauthorization of the expiring law that would increase funding by 40% over that period to $500 billion. They fear the proposed 28-month extension at current funding levels would delay a much-needed increase.
Freight traffic on U.S. railroads for the week ended June 20 still lagged 17.7% behind comparable levels from the same period a year ago, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday. Intermodal volume was down a nearly identical 17.8% from the year-ago period. Total volume of an estimated 27.76 billion tons miles was down 16.6% compared with the same week in 2008.
Once again, 18 of 19 carload freight commodity groups charted by AAR were down from last year, with declines ranging from 1.8% for farm products other than grain to 65.4% for metallic ores. As in some previous weeks, the "all other carloads" category defied the overall trend, up 11.9%.
For the first 24 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume down 19.4% from the comparable 2008 period, while intermodal declined 16.9%.
Canadian freightcar traffic declined 23.7% for the week ended June 20 compared with the year-ago period, while intermodal fell 18.2%. For the first 24 weeks of 2009, Canadian volume slumped 24.1%, while intermodal fell 15.3%.
Mexico’s two major railroads reported freight car traffic down 8.1% for the week, and intermodal down 19.6%, compared with a year ago. For the first 24 weeks of 2009, Mexican freight car traffic slipped 14.2%, while intermodal slumped 20.9%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 24 weeks of 2009 on 14 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads was down 20.1% from the comparable 2008 period, while intermodal fell 16.8%.
The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association said Wednesday that bipartisan Congressional support was growing to extend and improve the short line railroad tax credit. House Resolution H.R. 1132, introduced by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D,) and Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), has notched 101 co-sponsors, while counterpart Senate bill S. 461, introduced by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), currently has 22 co-sponsors.
ASLRRA notes that more than 1,000 businesses relying on short line and regional railroads also are on record supporting the legislation, which would extend and improve the Short Line Rehabilitation Tax Credit, allowing short line and regional railroads to undertake critical projects, assuring continued investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
The Section 45G Railroad Track Maintenance Credit is set to expire on December 31, 2009. The legislation proposes the credit be extended for three years, changed to allow eligibility for new short line railroads and an increase in the credit limitation.
The tax credit helps small railroads maximize infrastructure spending, which is important for railroads that serve small businesses that do not ship volumes high enough to fund all the rehabilitation needs of the railroad. The credit allows the railroad to take on and complete track upgrades quickly and efficiently. ASLRRA asserts this is particularly important at a time when the federal government is trying to spur immediate economic activity.
“America’s short line and regional railroads play a critical role in our nation’s transportation infrastructure by connecting rural communities, strengtheninglocal economies and protecting our environment,” said ASLRRA President Richard F. Timmons (photo at left). “As our economy is on the cusp of recovery, the tax credit is timely and vital to the small freight railroads and the local businesses and communities that rely on them to ship local products, create local jobs, and even divert trucks off of local roads.”
Rep. Pomeroy, author of H.R. 1132, said in a statement, "Small freight railroads are critical to the continued growth of the agriculture and oil and gas industries in North Dakota, and across the country. I believe the strong level of bipartisan support for this legislation demonstrates the impact short line railroads have on our economy, and I am confident that support for this legislation will continue to grow.”
The giant Brazilian company Vale announced in Sao Paulo Wednesday that it will invest $395 million to produce biodiesel from palm oil to fuel its Carajas mine and railway operations.
Vale, which claims to be the world's largest iron oreproducer, says it plans eventually to use a 20% biodiesel blend in the fuel consumed by its railway locomotives and large equipment servicing the company's main iron ore mine.
In a joint venture with biodiesel producer Biopalma da Amazonia, Vale plans an initial investment of $40 million in 2009. The switch to the new fuel blend will begin 2014. Vale expects savings of $150 million a year from the use of palm oil biodiesel.
Harold H. “Hal” Carstens, president of Carstens Publications, died Tuesday at his home in Newton, N.J., at age 83.
Carstens, formerly also the publisher of Railfan & Railroad and Railroad Model Craftsman magazines, was “a true giant” in the rail hobby industry as well as a respected voice in the rail industry, according to Railfan & Railroad Managing Editor E. Steven Barry. “Hal joined the staff of Railroad Model Craftsman in 1952, became editor in 1954, and president of the company in 1962," Barry said in an email statement.
Barry noted Carstens served as president of numerous rail-related organizations, including but not limited to Hobbies Industries of America, the Model Railroad Industry Association, and Friends of the New Jersey Railroad & Transportation Museum. He also lent his aid to the Photographic Society of America, Hobby Industry Association, and the Wagner College (Staten Island, N.Y.) Board of Trustees.
Said Barry, “It was his leadership of Carstens Publications where he will be missed the most. The business has always been more of a family, and Hal was our patriarch.”
Lancaster, Pa.’s City Council has agreed to seek a $20,000 from its namesake county to fund a study of a proposed $14.1 million, 2-6 mile streetcar line.
The proposal, which first gained traction in 2007 (RA, Oct. 2007, p. 19), is supported by the non-profit Lancaster Alliance, which includes 15 of the city’s businesses, and by Mayor Richard Grey, who believes the city’s population density can support such a system. Both the Alliance and the Mayor's office are also representatives of the non-profit Lancaster Streetcar Co., which seeks to advance the project.
Hedging its position, however, the City Council stressed that the request for study funds was not in itself an endorsement of the streetcar project. Similarly, Randy Patterson, city Economic Development & Neighborhood Revitalization director, said the city is seeking the funds from the county's Urban Enhancement Grant program to look at the economic and engineering feasibility of the proposal. "Neither of them has been adequately addressed," Patterson said.
The county grant program requires a dollar-for-dollar match, Patterson said. The streetcar study application is one of three city officials will submit.
A survey released last month by the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau, conducted for the Lancaster Streetcar Co., found that nearly 80% of respondents chose an electric streetcar on rail, traveling a set loop, as their attendees’ preferred mode of downtown transportation versus walking, city bus, taxi, orrental car.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Board of Directors Tuesday said it will route the final section of the DART Rail Orange Line (light rail transit) to connect to Terminal A at DFW International Airport in December 2013. The board made its decision following staff recommendation for such direct terminal access with the Orange Line from the future Belt Line Station on airport property.
Construction on the first two sections of the Orange Line, from the future Bachman Station in northwest Dallas to Las Colinas and then to Belt Line Station, began earlier this year. The sections are scheduled to open in December 2011 and 2012, respectively. A contract for the final section to the airport is scheduled to be awarded next year.
DART’s website touts the Orange Line as “a key component ofa regional rail expansion that will lead to the doubling of DART's rail network to more than 90 miles by 2013.”
The Board vote also adds a future light rail connection fromthe Orange Line to the Cotton Belt, a DART-owned rail line that crosses through airport property north of SH 114. This would provide additional rail access to the airport.
DART owns 52 miles of the Cotton Belt, presently in use as a freight rail line, between the Collin County city of Wylie and Fort Worth. DART’s long-range plan is to connect the Red Line in the Plano/Richardson area to DFW Airport in 2027.
A DART spokesman adds, "We're getting a lot of interest in a public-private partnership for developing that corridor. Our plan is to develop a new type of rail vehicle for it, as well, that will work in varied circumstances."