The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments'Transportation Policy Board, a regional transportation board, Wednesdayapproved plans to help fund CSX efforts to expand and improve freight capacityin the district, Maryland, and Virginia. The Board approved a letter supportingfederal grant applications to help cover the estimated $160 million cost.
Concern remains within the board that CSX has not supportedimprovements to passenger rail needs within the board’s territory, promptingthe board to add language in its letter seeking commitments from the Class Icarrier. CSX track is used by Amtrak, Virginia Rail Express, and Maryland MARCtrains.
CSX has stated that the 13 planned improvement projects inthe area would benefit freight and passenger operations. Many of the projectsraise clearances for double-stack trains, potentially relieving currentbottlenecks and resultant congestion for both freight and passenger moves, CSXhas said.
Pittsburg, Kan.-based Watco Transportation Services, Inc. has announced an agreement with Rio Grande Pacific Corp. to acquire 36 miles of track from the Idaho Northern & Pacific Railroad. Watco plans to file with the Surface Transportation Board to operate the line through the Boise Valley Railroad (BVRR), to be headquartered in Boise, Idaho.
BVRR will operate two branches. One is the 11-mile Wilder Branch linking Wilder and Caldwell, Idaho. The second branch, 25 miles long, rungs from Nampa to just southeast of Boise, the state capital. The agreement also includes trackage rights from Nampa to Caldwell, Idaho.
Watco said BVRR has entered into a lease-purchase agreement with the Idaho Northern & Pacific Railroad (INPR), a Rio Grande Pacific Corp. subsidiary, which currently leases the segments from the Union Pacific.
BVRR currently serves 84 customers, some of which are also customers of Watco subsidiaries Eastern Idaho Railroad, Great Northwest Railroad, and Yellowstone Valley Railroad. “This fits in well with our existing infrastructure in Idaho,” said Ed McKechnie, Watco’s chief commercial officer. “We look forward to serving the customersand expanding opportunities to help to grow their businesses.” He added, “We love doing business in Idaho and believe this railroad can grow and continue to be a strong part of the Boise economy.”
“On behalf of the Watco team, we want to welcome the Boise Valley into our growing company,” said Watco CEO Rick Webb. “We have a great deal of respect for the Rio Grande team and look forward to building on their good work in Boise.”
Overland Park, Kan.-based Transportation Certification Services (TCS) said Wednesday it has been selected to train equipment operators for Minnesota’s North Star Commuter Rail service, set to commence November 16. TCS trained the first class of equipment operators earlier this year, and began training additional equipment operators in classes which started Monday.
TCS and its subsidiary, Rail Temps Inc. (RTI), also based in Overland Park, have been providing training and staffing solutions to North American railroads and rail-related industries since 1991, a company spokesman says.
North Star service, Minnesota’s first new commuter rail service, will offer five inbound trips daily to Minneapolis from Big Lake, Elk River, Anoka, Coon Rapids, and Fridley, with five outbound trips in the evening hours. The service will connect to Minneapolis' Hiawatha Line light rail service.
Presaging its annual meeting in Orlando, Fla., October 4, the American Public Transportation Association says it has unveiled a “newly redesigned and redeveloped website,” still accessible at www.apta.com.
"The new site offers APTA and industry information in a user-friendly and reorganized manner. All the information you need is just a click away,” APTA says.
The site upgrade includes enhanced search capabilities, improved functionality, and one sign-in to access all APTA products and services, APTA says. APTA expects to add committee collaborative sites to the mix shortly.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) concurred with Black’sassessment after the vote. “In order to receive any federal funding under this amendment, Amtrak would have six months to build a process for checking and tracking firearms,” said Murray, who voted against the amendment. “It would have to find the manpower necessary to screen and guard firearms, and it would have to purchase the equipment necessary. Now, there is nothing in the underlying appropriations to pay for any of that. So this amendment is going to put a severe burden on them, and if they do not comply, Amtrak will shut down.”
A second amendment by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) would have recommended elimination of any unspent Amtrak funds from the current fiscal year appropriations law and the Recovery Act, according to the National Association of Railroad Passengers. But by late Wednesday, Ensign had not offered the amendment for consideration, NARP said.
Norfolk Southern Corp. has commended its Crescent Corridor state partners, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, for supporting the Crescent Corridor program designed to increase NS’ freight transportation capacity and mobility in the eastern U.S.
"On behalf of Norfolk Southern, I thank our partners for their farsighted support of the Crescent Corridor," said NS CEO Wick Moorman (pictured at left) in a statement. "The Crescent Corridor is a tremendous economic advantage for the states and the nation. It will stimulate jobs, tax revenue, and business growth, while delivering substantial public benefits forcommunities and customers. Governors Ed Rendell, Tim Kaine, Bob Riley, Haley Barbour, and Phil Bredesen are leading the way in showing how public-private partnerships can create safe, affordable, green solutions to America's transportation infrastructure challenges."
NS says lead state Pennsylvania on Monday submitted "The Crescent Corridor Intermodal Freight Application" to apply for federal stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Program.
The application seeks $300 million in support of new independent intermodal facilities at Memphis, Birmingham, and Franklin County, Pa.; and the expansion of intermodal terminals in Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Track improvements in the five partner states will include 10 passing tracks, 557 individual speed improvements, and 393 miles of track improved with upgraded rail, NS says.
The Crescent Corridor stretches 2,500 miles, linking New Orleans and Memphis with northern New Jersey. In their TIGER application, the five partner states described the Crescent Corridor as "one of the single largest additions of new freight transportation capacity in America since the Interstate Highway System. Building the last long haul intermodal freight distribution supply chain is one of the best transportation investments of our time."
NS says the improvements planned will generate $326 million in tax revenues to states and communities, divert 1.3 million long-haul trucks from Interstate highways, generate $146 million in accident avoidance savings, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 1.9 million tons, generate $575 million in congestion savings, generate $92 million in highway maintenance savings, and offer fuel savings of 169 million.
Almost 1,800 special interest groups of all kinds are trying to influence Congress as it moves to enact a new surface transportation bill, according to a report entitled “The Transportation Lobby,” issued by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity.
The Center said Wednesday that interest groups employed 2,100 lobbyists and spent an estimated $45 million to lobby lawmakers on transportation in the first half of 2009, comparable to “the amount spent lobbying on climate change.”
The report is being released in two stages on the Center’s website, beginning Wednesday, that will feature an interactive map tracking exactly who's hired the lobbyists nationwide, ranging from cities, counties, and planning agencies to universities, real estate firms, and construction companies.
Signed into law in August 2005, the $244.1 billion Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), the current transportation package, expires Sept. 30, but Congress and the Obama Administration have yet to agree on the next step. A House subcommittee has passed a six-year, $500 billion bill to succeed SAFETEA-LU, but the Senate and the White House are backing just an 18-month extension of current law.
Among the players in the mix, the Center counted more than 475 U.S. cities and 160 counties in 44 states, more than 55 local development authorities nationwide, at least 65 private real estate development companies, and at least 95 transit agencies, 25 metropolitan and regional planning organizations, a dozen individual states, and the national lobbying associations for all three groups.
Also in the mix: more than 75 road and auto organizations, from highway builders and car manufacturers to interstate coalitions andtrucking interests; at least 65 construction and engineering groups, from cement and steel makers to domestic and foreign-owned builders; and more than 45 rail organizations, 50 shipping companies and ports, and 45 additional transportation-centric outfits, from bicycle coalitions to research groups.
Norfolk Southern’s second annual sustainability report includes the company's first calculation of its carbon footprint, a measure of greenhouse gases produced by business operations. It turns out to be "less than one tenth of one percent of the 7.2 billion total emissions of carbon dioxide equivalents in the entire United States for 2007, the latest year for which data is available."
"The largest single component, about 90%, is carbon dioxide emissions from diesel-burning locomotives," noted NS as it released the report Tuesday. "Other sources include emissions from production of electricity for rail facilities and fuel consumption by everything from company vehicles to boilers. Putting it all together, Norfolk Southern's carbon footprint for 2008 is calculated at 5.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents."
"This is an important indicator that establishes a baseline for future improvement," said CEO Wick Moorman in a letter introducing the 62-page report, posted on the company's Web site at www.nscorp.com/footprints. "The Disclosure also demonstrates to our customers, communities, employees, and investors the seriousness of our intent to be good environmental stewards."
Since issuing the company's first sustainability report last year, Moorman said, "We have continued efforts on several fronts to increase our fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse emissions." For example, locomotive fuel economy has improved almost 3% over the past year and 10% over the last decade. The report notes that the greenhouse gas emission ofone Norfolk Southern locomotive per revenue ton-mile "is about one ounce, which is equivalent to the weight of a slice of bread."