Among the railroads, Positive Train Control has been characterized as a $15 billion unfunded mandate that will ultimately divert capital dollars away from other programs, and that offers an unattractive cost:benefit ratio of 22:1. At the same time, the railroads all confirm that they will meet the federal statutory deadline of year-end 2015 for PTC implementation.
The railroads can now say that PTC is a “mostly-unfunded”mandate, following the Federal Railroad Administration’s announcement of its new $50 million Rail Safety Technology Program, a grant program designed to provide funds “for the deployment of PTC collision avoidance systems and complementary advanced technologies.”
FRA will begin accepting grant applications on April 9, 2010. Eligible applicants include passenger and freight rail carriers, railroad suppliers, and state and local governments. The program requires that the funded PTC projects or related systems be ready for deployment within 24 months of the grant award. FRA says it will give preference to “collaborative projects sponsored by multiple railroads and public authorities that satisfy one or more specific objectives, particularly interoperability. Those seeking funds for PTC under the program must have either received FRA approval of a Technology Implementation Plan and PTC Implementation Plans or successfully demonstrate to FRA that they are currently developing them.”
The new grant program was authorized under the Rail SafetyImprovement Act of 2008 and has an 80/20 cost-sharing requirement. FRA says applications will be reviewed immediately following the July 1, 2010 filing deadline. Selection announcements will be made on or around September 3, 2010.
In the latest demonstration of voters willing to tax themselves to secure rail passenger service stability, even amidst recession, St. Louis County citizens Tuesday approved Proposition A, a half-cent sales tax increase to support Metro light rail and bus service.
Unofficial returns showed 63% of those voting supported the tax. Turnout, however, was light.
The approved measure is designed to provide up to $90 million per year to pay for operations and capital expansion of the transit system, including growth in light rail routes serving the bistate St. Louis metropolitan area.
Metro officials had claimed failure to pass Proposition A would have triggered personnel layoffs and significant cuts to LRT and bus service. Opponents of Proposition A said defeating the measure would prompt much-needed reforms within Metro.
Metro President and CEO Bob Baer said that, with the passageof Proposition A, bus and light rail routes and service cut last year will berestored. “Instead of a loss of 600 jobs, we'll be adding 125,” he added.
Passage of Proposition A also triggers a previously passed 0.25% tax increase in the city of St. Louis.
Banyan Rail Services Inc. announced that its subsidiary, Wood Energy Group, Inc., has completed construction of a tie grinding facility in Shreveport, La. Wood Energy reclaims railroad ties and then disposes of them to the energy co-generation or landscape markets.
At its new Shreveport facility, Wood Energy is providing the reclaimed product to International Paper.
Kansas City Southern recently signed an agreement with Wood Energy to deliver ties to the plant in Shreveport.
Banyan Rail Services is headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla.
Though expressing some caution with the pace of the company’srecovery, KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc. analyst Steve Barger believes Greenbrieris on track. “The weaker than expected quarter does not derail our positiverailcar and GBX thesis,” Barger wrote, adding that Keybanc is “maintaining our ‘Buy’rating” for the company’s stock.
Barger added, “We are encouraged that GBX plans to restartrailcar production in its Concarril facility (Mexico) beginning in fiscal 4Q10.In our view, this suggests order inquiries have likely accelerated recently,providing GBX with ample visibility to restart production.”
Greenbrier also announced Wednesday that it had filed a $300 million universal shelf registration statement on Form S-3 with the Securities and Exchange Commission to offer $300 million in stock. But “we currently have no plans to offer or sell securities under this registration statement,” stated Mark Rittenbaum, executive vice president and chief financial officer. If approved by the SEC, the shelf registration statement would remaineffective for three years.
Under a three-year contract valued at approximately $7.2 million, Unitrac Railroad Materials Inc. will supply special trackwork to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA). Unitrac is a wholly owned subsidiary of Healey Railroad Corp., and a specialty trackwork manufacturer and distributor of new and relay rail.
“Unitrac has supplied crossing frogs under a different contract to WMATA that was also over a three-year period,” said Ray Lambert, president of Unitrac. “This recent award demonstrates a vote of confidence by WMATA in our ability and commitment to provide high-quality specialty trackwork products in a timely manner.”
Scheduled to begin daily service this week between Quincy, Wash., and Chicago is a four-day, door-to-door refrigerated intermodal “Cold Train” container rail and distribution service. The service is a product of Rail Logistics, Columbia Colstor, LaGROU Distribution (Chicago Cold Storage), and the Port of Quincy.
“We already have our new 53-foot refrigerated containers arriving in Quincy and are currently booking loads,” said Steve Lawson, vice president of Rail Logistics, in a statement Tuesday.
“The PNW-Chicagoland Express Intermodal Cold Train Service will provide Washington State produce and perishable shippers with a cost-effective and speedy new shipping option to the Midwest,” said Don McGraw, CEO and owner of Columbia Colstor.
"With fuel prices continuing to be relatively high and with the increasing pressure on shippers to reduce carbon emissions, this new intermodal service will give agricultural and other shippers a fantastic new alternative that is both economical and more environmentally sustainable,” stated Pat Connelly, commissioner, Port of Quincy.
Pat Lombard, the general manager of Chicago Cold Storage (a business unit of LaGROU Distribution), commented that “the Cold Train program will not only enhance efficiencies in refrigerated commerce in the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest, but eventually throughout the entire U.S., which will benefit perishable shippers all over the country.”
The Harsco Rail unit of Harsco Corp. has received a new ballast
tamper order from the Brazilian railway market. Brazilian contractor EGESA
Engenharia S.A. will employ the tamper in track construction throughout Brazil,
working on behalf of VALEC, Brazil’s federal railway construction agency. The
new tamper will be constructed at Harsco Rail’s U.S. production facility. Terms
of the order were not disclosed.
Harsco says the laser-guided tamper will be equipped with the
company’s Tie Sensor technology, a computer-aided tie indexing system that
increases productivity by programming the frequency and placement of the unit’s
tamping tools. “When completed and delivered later this year, the new
tamper will join a growing Harsco Rail equipment and support presence in
Brazil,” the company said.” “Harsco Rail is the largest provider of railway
track maintenance of way services and equipment in the U.S. and the second
largest in the world, serving customers in virtually every geographic sector. This
order marks another step forward in the our strategy for expanding our service
and product support within emerging market economies.”
John E. Fenton has been named chief executive officer of Metrolink, succeeding David R. Solow, who stepped down in December. Fenton will assume his role April 16.
Southern California Regional Rail Authority's board Chairman Keith Millhouse said, "With a unique combination of experience operating rail services and serving at the highest level of executive management, Mr. Fenton is well- prepared to ensure passenger safety and service in our complex railroad operating environment.”
Fenton was an operating partner of Miami Beach-based CIH Capital Partners, overseeing plans for acquiring short lines and negotiating with investors and railroad owners. He also served as president and CEO of OmniTRAX and was a vice president for both Canadian National and Kansas City Southern.
Fenton assumes the top spot as Amtrak prepares to operate Metrolink regional rail service in Southern California beginning in late June, as Metrolink puts enhance safety measures into place.
On a visit Friday to Amtrak’s Beech Grove, Ind., shops, where $32 million in stimulus funding has created 108 jobs repairing passenger railcars, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s dedication to creating a new era of fast intercity passenger trains.
LaHood told the assembled workers:
“We don’t know where all the lines are going to go. We don’t know where all the money's going to come from. But the president and his vision and the vice president and his vision for the high speed rail in America is really the opportunity for you to continue to have good work here to make sure we have the equipment so we can implement this program for America.”
Carload traffic on U.S. railroads continued to show “solid signs of recovery” during the week ended March 27, reaching its highest level since November 2008, according to the Association of American Railroads.
U.S. railroads originated 293,114 carloads during the week, up 16.5% from the corresponding week in 2009, though down 11.6% from 2008. Intermodal traffic, at 210,914 trailers and containers, was up 12% from last year but down 5.3% from 2008.
Total volume for the latest week up to 31.7 billion ton-miles, up 17.4% from last year but down 9.2% from 2008.
Eighteen of 19 carload commodity groups posted gains from last year, led by metals, up 63%; waste and scrap, up 37.4%; and metallic ores, up 36.1%. Motor vehicles and equipment traffic was up 28.5%; grain, up 22.3%; coal, up 15.2%; and chemicals, up 14.1%. The only commodity showing a drop was pulp, paper, and allied products, down 11%.
Canadian railroads reported 75,378 carloads for the week, up 24.3% from last year, and 45,647 trailers or containers, up 10.3%. Mexican railroads originated 14,617 carloads, up 26.7% from last year, and 6,608 trailers or containers, up 34.3%.