DOT Secretary Ray LaHood submitted a progress report on the National Rail Plan to Congress this week with the comment that it “reaffirms the commitment of the Congress and President Obama to build a high speed and intercity passenger rail system while preserving the nation's premier freight rail network.”
Noting the success of two historic transportatio ninitiatives—President Lincoln’s action enabling "the first transcontinental railroad” and President Eisenhower’s backing of the Interstate HighwaySystem—LaHood (pictured at left) said:
“The next American transformation will require an interconnected and balanced transportation network, that maximizes the efficiencies of every mode. A key to integrating these systems is high-performing rail, including the spectrum of high speed and intercity passenger rail, commuter rail, and freight rail ... This investment will set the stage for the creation of environmental sustainability and economic competitiveness.”
“High performance freight rail” is the subject of much of the National Rail Plan.
“Key investments will be needed to meet future growth in freight demand,” says the progress report, though there is no mention of the federal participation envisioned by many railroaders in the construction of high-capacity intermodal rail corridors that would relieve the public highways of some of their truck burden. The report does note that compared with other industries, “the freight railroads invest one of the highest percentages of revenues to maintain and add capacity to their systems.”
Canadian National says its new supply chain approach to managing the flow of coal from mines to west coast terminals helped increase coal shipments to Vancouver and Prince Rupert by 91% through August. Other factors were rebounding Asian steel markets and business from new mines.
CN said the strategy is centered on “metrics that make the supply chain more transparent to CN managers—a weekly report shows how much coal is on hand at export terminals and mines, the arrival date of vessels at the ports, the amount of coal being shipped from mines, and the number of trains en route to and from the mines.”
“This end-to-end view of our coal supply chain, along with a focus on closer customer collaboration, improves coal logistics, which in turn allows coal producers to maximize sale opportunities," said Andy Gonta, CN vice-president of bulk commodities. “This approach also positions the railway and its customers to anticipate and solve any bottleneck issues well before they reach the boiling point.”
Neil Winkelmann, chief operating officer of Western Coal Corp., believes that “Western Coal will significantly expand its operations in northeastern British Columbia over the next three years, and can only do so with the support of key suppliers such as CN.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Wednesday that American Recovery and Reinvestment Act transit projects have created approximately 10,000 jobs across the county.
LaHood made that statement in announcing the final transit grant under the act —$2.2 million to Indiana’s Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corp., or “CityBus.” It will use the grant to install three wind turbine units that will cut energy costs for three transit buildings.
Recovery Act money has been used to pay for more than 12,000rail vehicles, buses, and vans; more than $4.5 billion in transit infrastructure construction or renovation; and more than $730 million in preventive maintenance. “These improvements have helped to save transit service and jobs, while enhancing safety and service reliability,” said LaHood (pictured at left).
“All across America, workers are on the job, assembling buses and vans, rehabilitating rail systems, and expanding transit opportunities that will improve our quality of life, lower our dependence on oil, and save taxpayers money in the long run,” said Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff.
Washington, D.C.’s District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has picked a team of companies to design a proposed 37-mile streetcar network, including Portland, Ore.-based Shiels Obletz Johnsen, which will lead the private-sector management team driving the design, construction, and operation of the system. Shiels Obletz Johnsen has worked on streetcar projects in Portland and Seattle, according to DDOT.
Other companies include HDR Engineering Inc., LTK Engineering Services Inc., and Ball Janik LLP.
DDOT’s Request for Proposals, released last March, stated in part, “DDOT recognizes that it does not currently have the capacity or capability internally to deliver this program … It is seeking the advice and support of the private sector to deliverthis program. DDOT anticipates needing support in: Program Management, Planning, Operations, Financial Planning, Legal Counsel, Strategic & Project Communications, Governance & Management, and Procurement.”
The first two streetcar lines within the district, one located in Anacostia (southeast Washington) and the other along H Street Northeast, are currently expected to begin revenue service in 2012, though many doubt the deadline will be met. Those two two lines will cost about $100 million, while the larger system is expected to cost upward of $1.5 billion.
Bombardier Transportation has received an order from Victoria, Australia, for 50 Bombardier FLEXITY Swift low floor trams, with anoption for a further 100. The $293 million contract covers the supply of a mock-up, maintenance equipment, and tram maintenance.
Known locally as FLEXITY Melbourne, the trams carry up to 210 passengers. They will be manufactured by Bombardier at its Dandenong site, with sites in Mannheim and Siegen, Germany, supplying propulsion systems and bogies, respectively. The first vehicles are to be delivered in 2012.
Melbourne’s Tram network is one of the world’s largest, with the FLEXITY Swift tram providing extra capacity to address rapidly growing ridership.
Bombardier is currently delivering 51 two- and three-car VLocity regional trains to the Victorian Government.
More than 1,500 FLEXITY vehicles are already in service. Bombardier now has more than 2,800 trams and light rail vehicles operating or on order in cities across Europe, Australia, and North America.
Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit (HART) officials advancing light rail transit for Tampa, Fla., want LRT to do more than just connect with Tampa International Airport. HART planners Monday suggested an initial LRT could run 1.1 miles north beyond the airport, terminating at Hillsborough Avenue and linking LRT with bus services from northern and western portions of the Tampa Bay area.
HART’s Board of Directors have yet to make a final determination of any initial route, which would occur only if Hillsborough County voters approve a sales tax increase of one cent on Election Day Nov. 2to fund light rail and other transportation projects.
HART’s planning staff is expected to provide ridership projections and other data on two route choices at the board’s next meeting Oct. 18, including modal options such as LRT or buses. The Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization has backed LRT over Bus Rapid Transit due to LRT’s ability to foster economic development, according to a letter from the MPO to HART.
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio has been an ardent supporter of LRT, as has Tampa Bay Partnership, a non-profit business advocacy group. But opponents to LRT development have grown more strident in recent weeks, targeting the existing 2.3-mile, 12-station TECO streetcar line in downtown Tampa, serving the city’s waterfront, as an example of rail's “misuse” of transportation dollars. Anti-rail partisans also have received counsel from anti-rail “troubadors” who this month visited the city to argue against the mode.
According to information in BNSF’s 10Q quarterly filing at the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company paid a dividend of $250 million to Warren Buffett, its only stockholder.
If the past few months are any indication, the answer is yes. Just ask BNSF.
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