California’s Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District,north of San Francisco, says its request for proposals to build diesel multiple-unit (DMU) cars has prompted six offers from manufacturers. SMART did not identify the companies, but did say they were based in North America, Europe, and Asia.
"It's an excellent response," said John Lackey, SMART's capital projects director. "We're very pleased with the number of proposals." SMART spokesman Chris Coursey said the agency was hoping for four written responses.
Voters in Sonoma and Marin counties approved Measure Q in 2008, authorizing a quarter-cent sales tax to finance a projected $1.1 billion passenger rail service, with 14 stops between Cloverdale and Larkspur, Calif. At Larkspur, riders could transfer to ferry service to access San Francisco. Construction is anticipated to begin next year, with rail service commencing in 2014.
Intermodal traffic volume continues to show robust strength, according to a report released Thursday by the Intermodal Association of North America.
IANA notes volume rose 17.2% in the second quarter of 2010 compared with the comparable 2009 period. Domestic container traffic notched a 16.4% gain during the quarter, “setting a new record high,” while international container volume rose an even healthier 20.9%. “This was the first time in nearly four years that domestic container growth was surpassed by an increase in international container volume,” IANA said. Although domestic container volume grew at a somewhat slower pace than international for the first time in recent years, it was the 20th consecutive quarter of growth for domestic containers, IANA said.
Trailers also recorded a 5% gain during the quarter, but are expected to continue their long-term downward trend later this year.
Overall domestic intermodal volume rose 13.2%, a gain strong enough to erase 2008/2009 volume losses and set a new record for the highest domestic intermodal loadings in a quarter, IANA reported.
“Inventory restocking likely played a major role in driving the large increase in intermodal volume recorded this quarter. During last year’s downturn, retailers aggressively cut inventories to the point where they were so low at the beginning of 2010 that they could not support even a modestrise in consumer spending. As a result, inventory replenishment has resumed and has become a key driver of intermodal growth. Although total intermodal shipments are still below pre-recession levels, they have significantly recovered,” IANA said.
Though the high speed rail proposal linking Tampa and Orlando (and eventually Miami) has been the high-profile rail development in the Sunshine State, Florida also is moving to reinstate passenger rail along its eastern coast. To that end, the state has requested $250 million from the Federal Railroad Administration to advance more direct Amtrak service between Jacksonville and Miami as part of its Florida East Coast Corridor project.
The project would use right-of-way owned by Jacksonville-based Florida East Coast Railway, owned since 2007 by Fortress Investment Group LLC. FEC for decades had expressed disinterest in hosting Amtrak service along its 351-mile route, but has modified that stance in recent years.
Amtrak currently links Jacksonville and Miami in more circuitous fashion through its Silver Meteor and Silver Star long-distance trains, which also link Florida with New York.
Patriot Rail Corp. announced Thursday that it has executed a letter agreement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to provide freight service on the Piedmont & Northern rail corridor in Gaston County.
The P&N corridor, which is around 20 miles west of Charlotte, is a 13-mile line from Mount Holly to Gastonia, with a spur toward Belmont. It interchanges with Norfolk Southern at Gastonia and CSX Transportation at Mount Holly.
The P&N was built in 1911 as an electrified interurban freight and commuter railroad by James B. Duke, founder of Duke Energy Co.
Under the agreement, Patriot will be responsible for operating, maintaining, and marketing freight rail service on the P&N. In 2009, NCDOT completed an upgrade of the westernmost four miles of the rail line and anticipates upgrading the remainder of the line by the spring of 2011.
Pennsylvania's Transportation Commission has approved a 24% cut in planned improvements to highways, rail freight, bridges, and aviation over the next 12 years.
This means that starting Oct. 1, the state plans to spend $51.6 billion to improve transportation infrastructure, down from $67.9 billion anticipated in 2009. The cut amounts to $16.3 billion.
Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Allen Biehler issued a statement attributing the cut to the questionable levels of federal funding and dwindling state resources.
Governor Ed Rendell has asked the state legislature to meet Aug. 23 to reexamine transportation needs.
U.S. freight carload traffic for the week ending August 7 notched “only moderate gains” of 3.5% compared with the same week in 2009, the Association of American Railroads said Thursday. Traffic was down 13% compared with the same week in 2008, AAR said.
Sixteen of the 19 carload commodity groups increased from the comparable week in 2009, with metallic ores, up 61.2%, and metals and metal products, up 37.8%, posting strong increases. All 19 commodity groups continued to trail 2008 levels.
U.S. intermodal traffic continued to fare better, up 18.6% from the same week in 2009, and down a modest 1.25% compared with 2008. Container volume continued to be a pacesetter, up 19.8% for the week compared with 2009 and up 6.8% from 2008 levels. Canadian freight carload traffic for the week gained 27.3% from the comparable year-ago period, while intermodal rose 29.7%. Mexico’s two major railroads reported freight carload traffic up 19.8% for the week compared with last year, and intermodal up a similar 18.6%. Combined North American rail volume for the first 31 weeks of 2010 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads up 10.1% from last year, while intermodal rose 14.3%.
Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD) Thursday said it has issued the official Notice to Proceed to Denver Transit Partners (DTP) with the FasTracks Eagle P3 Project’s first phase, a 22.8-mile East Corridor Commuter Rail Line to Denver International Airport.
RTD gave the notice in conjunction “with financial close in New York on $397.8 million in private activity bonds for the innovative Eagle P3 public-private partnership.” Groundbreaking is scheduled for Aug. 26 on the south lawn of DIA’s Jeppesen Terminal.
The Notice to Proceed is for Phase 1, which includes the East Corridor, a new maintenance facility, provision of the trains that will provide service on the project, and final design work on the FasTracks Gold Line and Northwest Rail Electrified Segment.
Fluor Enterprises Inc. will lead the design-build team during the six-year design-build phase of the Eagle P3 Project. Fluorwill also form part of the team that will operate and maintain the project’s regional rail lines for the 28-year operating period.
“The RTD staff has worked diligently for more than two yearsto bring this innovative public-private partnership to a reality,” said RTD Board Chairman Lee Kemp. “We said in 2007 that we would explore all avenues to keep FasTracks moving ahead, and this is a prime example. We are keeping that pledge today with closing on the private financing for the Eagle P3 Project,” He added, “We continue to forge ahead on securing funding for the rest of the program.”
DTP will now work on the final design for the project. It expects to begin early construction work such as site-clearing and utility relocation along the East Corridor in the coming months. The East Corridor is scheduled for completion in January 2016.
“It is gratifying that the success of our public-private partnership has been watched with great interest by transportation and finance entities all over the world,” said Phil Washington, RTD general manager.
Fairport, N.Y.-based RailComm said Thursday it has been contracted by HNTB and Kiewit-Western to provide the design and materials for an expansive Yard Automation System for Amtrak’s Chicago Union Station.
RailComm will design its system to meet the challenging requirements present within the existing rail infrastructure, which includes tight clearances. The automation system will be commanded by RailComm’s DOC® (Domain Operations Controller) server-based central control platform. The system operator will be in control of more than 100 GETS Hydra-Switches, plus dozens of power derail devices, blue flag indicators, switch heater locations, and two diesel generators.
Additionally, the system will utilize RailComm’s RADiANT™ data radios to communicate between the office system and the network ofcontrolled devices. Amtrak personnel will operate the automation system from two tower locations, and the system is planned to be operational before year-end.
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority Wednesday officially unveiled an online dashboard that tracks the fiscal and physical progress of the agency’s numerous capital projects. The information will include every item in the 2010-2014 capital plan, and also includes some projects, recently completed or still in progress, listed in the 2005-2009 plan.
Individuals using the dashboard can review project proposals, related budgets or budget estimates, and project schedules. MTA Chairman and CEO Jay Walder, citing the dashboard as another technological means to make the agency more transparent and accountable—and less vulnerable to sniping by state elected officials leveraging MTA’s operational woes to score political points—said, “The Dashboard provides an unprecedented level of detail and information on our capital projects.”
“From station improvements to the purchase of equipment, signal improvements to updates on the Second Avenue Subway, the Dashboard will allow anyone to monitor the MTA’s new approach to capital projects designed to keep the 2010-2014 Capital Program on schedule and on budget—all with a few clicks of the mouse,” Walder said.
“I believe the MTA has taken a significant step in providing MTA managers, public officials, and the public itself a more user friendly tool to track the progress, in dollars and time, of capital projects,” said MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger. “I am particularly gratified that MTA has accepted the recommendation made in our Dashboard Report to make it a more transparent and useful reporting tool to the public.”
Association of American Railroads Assistant Vice President of Government Affairs Jennifer Macdonald has been appointed by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to a Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding, specifically as a representative of the freight rail industry.
Established by bills in the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate, the state commission will examine alternative funding mechanisms for the state’s transportation trust fund. Macdonald will serve with 22 other business, transportation, labor, and environmental leaders. “This is an honor, for not only AAR but also for the railroad industry. Jennifer has deep knowledge and expertise in transportation legislation and funding, and will well represent the railroad industry perspective on the commission,” said Edward R. Hamberger, AAR president and CEO. Macdonald, a nine-year veteran with AAR, previously was chief policy and legislative advisor for Arizona’s Department of Transportation under then-Secretary Mary Peters.