Washington sources said Monday that railroads and shippers are expected reach agreement on so-called "re-reg" legislation within about two weeks following intense and highly confidential negotiations involving all the key players: carriers, "captive shippers," legislators (especially Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D.-W.Va.), and labor interests.
"There should be a shipper/railroad consensus bill by mid-April," said one source, who added that the Association of American Railroads board had agreed earlier this month to compromise on shipper issues.
The legislation has to do with the railroads' remaining antitrust immunity and perceived competitive abuses.
Goldman Sachs analyst David Feinberg advised clients in aresearch note that he expects railroads to experience a turnaroundbeginning in this year's secondhalf, though he now believes their loss of volume during the year will be as high as 13.3% vs. his earlier forecast of 10.8%. He also expects the industry to maintain prices 4% higher than lastyear.
Among specific carriers, Feinberg upgraded BNSF to "buy" and droppedUnion Pacific's rating from "buy" to"neutral." Taking note of BNSFs "superior" intermodal franchisee, he said BN has recently been takingvolume away from rival UP.
Alton & Southern Railway Co. has expanded its existing RailComm Domain Operations Controller (DOC®) System by adding 14 remotely controlled power switch machines at the Bowl and Crest sections of its yard. The 14 switches were added to the existing DOC® system and eliminated handthrow switches.
A point-to-multipoint wireless data communications network was established utilizing RailComm’s RADiANTTM Data Radio technology.
Alton & Southern, a switching operation based in East St. Louis, Ill., is a wholly owned subsidiary of Union Pacific.
Frederick N. Houser, Jr., a distinguished railway technical writer who worked for Railway Age (as an associate editor) and Railway Locomotives & Cars (as editor) from 1955 to 1974, died March 26, in Stoneboro, Pa. In addition to his work on the two Simmons-Boardman periodicals, he was a contributing editor to the Car Builder's Cyclopedia and author of the Railroad Electrification Section: Student Handbook for Electrical Engineers.
Born 84 years ago in Stoneboro, Houser earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. He worked as a special engineer for the Bessemer & Lake Erie before joining the Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corp.
After leaving Simmons-Boardman, Houser worked for the National Transportation Research Board in Washington as manager of mass transit research information services.
Los Angeles is seeking public input, beginning Monday, to consider a proposal to connect its Blue and Gold light rail lines through downtown. At present, each line terminates at a station on the city’s Red Line subway, requiring transfers for passengers between Metro Center and Union Station.
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority will hold four meetings to gather public comment as part of an environmental review analyzing different possibilities for building the proposed two-mile link to simplify the process.
“By providing continuous through service between these lines, the regional connector will improve regional mobility, minimize transfers, reduce station crowding, and improve access to both local and regional destinations," a Metro statement says.
LACMTA officials, and rail transit advocates, estimate the connector could reduce one-way trips across the county by 10 to 30 minutes.
Veteran New York City Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler (pictured), a longtime advocate of a freight tunnel under New York Harbor, will be joined by a newly minted Democratic Congressman from Connecticut, Jim Hines, in a push to include funding for the tunnel in a new five-year Surface Transportation Infrastructure Reauthorization Act. The current Act expires in September.
They argue that a freight tunnel connecting New Jersey and New York would shift millions of tons of freight from truck to rail and relieve congestion throughout the area. Trucks now handle about 95% of all freight moving between the two states.
"There is basically 50 years of catching up to investment in rail freight in the whole area that needs to be done over a period of time," says Nadler. "Clearly, in terms of congestion on I-95, it would be very important to Connecticut, but it won't help much if someone in Connecticut doesn't look at what the options for a rail freight terminal up there are."
"It is a very high priority for me," says Hines. "The people in Fairfield County pay too high a psychological and economic burden from congestion in the state."
According to the Stamford Advocate, a 2004 environmental study found the underwater route could eliminate up to 1 million vehicle trips from New York City's roads a year, and similar numbers in Connecticut and Long Island, N.Y.
Beginning in early April, Amtrak passengers traveling between Boston and points west of Albany, N.Y., on the Lake Shore Limited will have access to sleeping car service for the entire route. Amtrak is adding a sleeping car on its eastbound run April 2, and westbound run beginning April 4. Sleeping car services will remain as is on the leg between Albany and New York.
“Our Lake Shore Limited service continues to post ridership gains and these changes are timed to better serve our passengers needs by further improving their travel experience to and from Boston,” said Carol Gambrel, Amtrak's director, Product Management.
Schedule adjustments for the service include a change in departure time from Chicago, to occur a 9:00 p.m. Central Time effective April 4. Some minor adjustments on the westbound run will occur near Albany due to track workplanned by Metro-North Railroad north of New York.
Despite press predictions to the contrary, no stimulus funds were forthcoming Thursday for Phoenix’s “PHX Sky Train,” a $1.1 billion, 4.8-mile project now under construction that would link Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with Valley Metro’s new light rail line, which opened in late December.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, visiting Arizona’s state capital Thursday and Friday, did announce $28 million in stimulus funds for airport-related construction, and said he planned to meet with area light rail officials and business leaders.
Phoenix seeks $200 million in federal funding for Sky Train, which would employ automated guideway technology and replace current bus shuttle service to and from Valley Metro LRT at 44th and Washington streets.
Valley Metro’s initial 28-station, 20-mile light rail line, serving Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa, Ariz., cost $1.4 billion.
U.S. freight carload traffic remains mired by the nation’s economic woes, the Association of American Railroads says, down 14.7% for the week ended March 21 compared with the comparable week in 2008. Loadings were down 13.0% in the West and 17.0% in the East. Intermodal volume fell 12.9% from last year. Total volume of 29.3 billion ton-miles was down 13.6% from the year-ago period. Eighteen of AAR’s 19 carload freight commodity groups showed declines.
Canadian freight carloads fell 22.0% for the week, while intermodal declined 13.2%. Mexican railroads defied the overall weekly trend in carload freight, reporting an increase of 53.9% for the week, and a rise of 26.4% in intermodal traffic as well.
For the first 11 weeks of the year, U.S. railroads reported cumulative carload volume down 15.6%, and intermodal down a nearly identical 15.5%, compared with the comparable period in 2008. Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume was down 19.0% from last year, while intermodal fell 11.7%. Mexican railroads for the first 11 weeks saw carload traffic decline 6.6%, while intermodal also fell, by 17.6%.