U.S. freight traffic for the week ended March 14 fell 15% from the comparable week a year ago, the Association of American Railroads reported, though traffic was up 1.5% from the previous week. Loadings fell 14.2% in the West and 16.1% in the East. U.S. intermodal volume dropped an even steeper 18.3%. Eighteen of AAR’s 19 carload freight commodity groups declined from 2008 levels.
Total volume was estimated at 29.6 billion ton-miles, down 14.0% from the comparable week in 2008.
Canadian freight traffic fell 21.4% for the week compared with year-ago levels, while intermodal declined 11.3%. Mexico’s two major railroads, however, reported freight traffic rose 15.2% for the week compared with a year ago, while intermodal declined a relatively modest 4.3%.
For the first 10 weeks of 2009, U.S. freight traffic fell15.7% from the comparable 2008 period; Canadian freight fell 18.7%, and Mexican freight declined 10.0%. U.S. intermodal declined 15.8%, Canadian intermodal fell 11.6%, and Mexican intermodal dropped 19.9%, for the 10-week period compared with 2008.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 10 weeks of 2009 on 14 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 3,464,158 carloads, down 16.1% from 2008, while intermodal fell 15.2%.
The Indiana Rail Road Co. says it has signed an agreement with Peabody Energy to construct a 5.2-mile rail spur to Peabody’s new Bear Run Mine in Sullivan County, Ind., which it says is the largest surface coal mine in the eastern U.S.
Construction will proceed once approval is granted by the Surface Transportation Board. Rail officials expect to have the new line completed by early 2010. Peabody already has announced its plan to invest up to $500 million to develop the coal site, and expects to produce 8 million tons of coal annually after 2010.
Indiana Rail Road initially will invest $17 million, with at least $5 million in additional improvements planned thereafter to accommodate increased traffic volume generated by the facility.
The regional railroad, based in Indianapolis, operates a 500-mile route system based primarily in Indiana and Illinois, with terminals in Chicago, Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Ind., and Louisville, Ky.
The St. Paul, Minn., City Council Wednesday approved the proposed $914 million, 11-mile Central Corridor light rail line linking downtown St. Paul with Minneapolis and the existing Hiawatha Line LRT. The approval makes it more likely that the project will remain on schedule and also receive federal funding.
President Obama late Wednesday, March 18, nominated Joe Szabo to head the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). Szabo is the Illinois state legislative director of the United Transportation Union (UTU).
Szabo is a fifth-generation railroader. He hired out with the Illinois Central (now part of CN) in 1976, where he worked as a yard switchman, road trainman, and commuter passenger conductor. In 1987, he went to Chicago Metra when IC sold its rail commuter division. In 1984, Szabo was elected secretary/treasurer of UTU Local 1290, progressing to delegate and legislative representative. In 1992, he was elected vice chairperson of the Illinois State Legislative Board, and in 1996 elected state legislative director. He also has been serving as a vice president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.
If confirmed, Szabo, age 51, will go to the FRA from a labor union that has unresolved bargaining issues with the railroads. UTU International President Mike Futhey said on Feb. 9: "Our lobbying power before a labor-friendly, Democrat-controlled Congress and White House may be our most effective tool to assure employees are treated equitably at the bargaining table."
Futhey said the railroads "have renewed their push to eliminate the craft of conductor and operate trains with one-person crews" and have also balked at union requests on on entry-pay levels.
Ontario is providing a C$12.8 million (US$10 million) grant to support a five-year investment by Thales Rail Signalling Solutions worth C$85 million (US$67 million) to improve the province’s rail transit signaling technology. Thales will use the provincial grant to invest in “green” researchand development programs to create signals allowing for tighter equipment headways and reduced energy consumption, thereby increasing passenger capacity.
The provincial grant comes from Ontario’s C$1.15 billion Next Generation of Jobs Fund, a partnership with businesses designed to advance the provincial economy. Thales is working on the Urban Rail Signalling and Control market, estimated to be worth US$6 billion.
“The grant by the Ontario government means almost C$100million more being invested in our economy in one fell swoop,” said Ontario Minister of Economic Development Michael Bryant in a statement. “The world is looking for the next generation of green technology and products. We want to ensure Ontario is a leader in greenhouse gas reductions, energy efficiency, and the green economy.”
Paris-based Thales Rail Signalling Solutions Inc. is a subsidiary of Thales Group, with a divisional center located in Toronto.
U.S. Class I railroads employed 159,511 workers in mid-January 2009, 2.11% fewer than in mid-January 2008, the Surface Transportation Board reported in new statistics posted Wednesday.
The biggest decline was in the transportation (train and engine) category, where employment was down 6.95% to 63,187. The number of professional and administrative workers declined 0.35% to 13,753.
But the numbers improved in the four other categories, led by an 8.44% increase in transportation (other than train and engine) employment to 7,312. The number of maintenance of way and structures employees increased 1.47% to 34,449; maintenance of equipment and stores employment rose 0.86% to 30,689; and the number of executives, officials, and staff assistants was up 0.03% to 10,121.
Atlanta-based United Parcel Service, Inc. has recognized Kansas City Southern Railway Co. with an award for providing consistent, reliable service and achieving a perfect peak season for 2008. In the fourth quarter, KCSR ran trains for UPS without a service failure."Service performance of this caliber is only possible with the cooperation and commitment of the entire KCSR team," said Scott Arvidson, KCSR executive vice president and chief operating officer, in a statement. "This peak-season performance demonstrates KCSR's ability to provide consistent and reliable service across its network. On behalf of the entire KCSR team, I'd like to thank UPS for their business and this recognition."
Utah Transit Authority says its will begin installing a state-of-the-art bridge foundation made of 40-foot Geofoam blocks March 19, as part of its West Valley Light Rail line construction project. An inaugural ceremony will mark use of the Geofoam blocks on the first of four bridges that are included in the project.
UTA says the Geofoam blocks fit together “like Lincoln logs”; the material, a lightweight fill and ground stabilizer, will be placed under the concrete portion of the bridge(s) and light rail track.
The authority says the use of Geofoam, a product of Denver-based ACH Foam Technologies, instead of other fill material “could save up to three years of construction time waiting for the material to settle. This saves the costs involved in extending the project timeline.”
The West Valley line, one of UTA’s several LRT extension projects will extend light rail service from the existing Sandy/Salt Lake TRAX line, adding five miles and four new station stops at an estimated cost of about $290 million. The extension is expected to draw 9,000 additional riders by 2025.
On St. Patrick’s Day, when many people are sporting the color green, CSX touted “green” by unveiling its first low-emission, fuel-efficient switcher locomotives deployed in Illinois.