Waiving border fees previously demanded by Canada’s Border Service Agency, Ottawa has agreed to allow a second Amtrak train to link Seattle with Vancouver, doubling international rail access to the city in time for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
The federal government said the fee would be waived from August of this year through March 2010, as a pilot program. The Border Services Agency had sought C$1,500 (roughly US$1,300) per day to cover costs in processing rail travelers. The waiver period “will allow an assessment of traffic well outside the actual Olympic Games themselves," Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said.
Provincial officials in British Columbia and their counterparts in Washington state have argued for the fee of roughly C$500,000 per year to be eliminated altogether, noting Amtrak's current single Cascades train crossing the border incurs no such penalty. "People from both sides of the border have wanted this train for a long time," said Vickie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for Washington’s Department of Transportation.
U.S. railroads moved 255,668 fewer carloads of freight in June than they did in June 2008. Total volume of 1,059,889 carloads was down 19.7%. Intermodal traffic in June was off 18.2% to 755,000 units--meaning that railroads hauled 168,031 fewer containers and trailers than in June last year.
The Association American Railroads reported that for the first six months of 2009, U. S. carloads were down 19.5 % (1,594,411 loads) to 6,579,2944. Intermodal traffic dropped 17.0% (950,147 units) to 4,647,068.
Of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR, 18saw carload declines in June. The catch-all “all other” category was up slightly.
June's biggest carload declines were: coal, down 7.9%; motor vehicles and equipment (down 50.5%); metals and metal products, down 59.8%; and crushed stone and gravel, down 25.2%.
For the second quarter of 2009, total U.S. rail carloadings were down 22.4% (958,324 carloads).
Canadian rail carload traffic in June was down 25.7 % to 232,156 carloads. Canadian intermodal traffic was down 19.2% in June to 156,441 trailers and containers.
For the second quarter of 2009, Canadian rail carloadings were down 27.9%; Canadian intermodal traffic for the quarter was down 18.5%.
For the first six months of 2009, Canadian rail carloadings were down 24.1% and intermodal traffic was off 15.5%.
The Rail Products business unit of L.B. Foster Co. is supplying transit rail and associated products for Chicago Transit Authority's Dearborn Subway Project under a $6.5 million contract announced Thursday.
L.B. Foster has begun delivery of 80-foot rail sections, direct fixation fasteners, insulated joints, and contact rail insulators for the long delayed project, which will eliminate slow zones on CTA's Blue Line. The project is scheduled to complete construction in December.
Amtrak throughout 2009 has reiterated its commitment to long-distance train service, and an infusion of stimulus package funds, along with a healthy dose of appropriations financing, has even spurred consideration of service upgrades, including making its tri-weekly Sunset Limited route daily this fall.
But New York State budget woes could force Amtrak’s Adirondack to an opposite course, with the daily train possibly becoming tri-weekly—if not discountinued outright—between Montreal and Albany, N.Y., by Sept. 30. The Albany-to-New York portion of the train presumably would remain in operation.
New York State helps finance the train between Albany and Montreal by about $5 million per year, and Amtrak says it wants to retain the train’s current status. "We have funding for the service through Sept.30," said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole. "We've been working with the state and we'll continue to work with them to try to ensure that that service continues beyond that date."
Montgomery County, Md., planners evaluating I-270 Corridor transit needs are recommending Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) instead of light rail transit (LRT) for the route, citing lower costs, uncertain federal funding support, and planned highway widening that favor BRT as the choice.
The 14-mile “Corridor Cities Transitway” route, serving “upper” Montgomery County, would link Clarksburg and the Metrorail’s Shady Grove Station near Rockville, Md.
The recommendation for BRT runs counter to that of many Montgomery County public officials, and much general public comment, that have called for light rail as a better long-term permanent investment option for the 14-mile route.
LRT is estimated to cost $778 million vs. $450 million for LRT, but rail advocates say LRT ridership would be higher and cost perpassenger mile significantly lower. County planners claim that BRT offers “flexibility”; LRT backers counter that rail offers “permanence.”
The county endorsed LRT for its portion of the proposedPurple Line, linking its withneighboring Prince George’s County and creating a circumferential route linkingat numerous points with Washington, D.C.’s Metro system. Last month the NationalCapital Region Transportation Planning Board, the metropolitan planningorganization, also endorsed LRT for the Purple Line.
Ferrovie dello Stato (Italian Railways, or FS) Thursday suspended use nationwide of rail cars owned by GATX Corp. FS issued a statement by email, saying the suspension will remain in place until Chicago-based GATX provides certified information on its fleet.
Though no immediate reason was offered, the move appears to have been prompted by the June 29 accident in Viareggio, Italy, caused by axle failure on a tank car carrying liquefied gas, causing a derailment that killed at least 18.
GATX Rail Austria, which owns the tank cars involved in the accident, says it does not know the cause of the explosion.
Italian Transport Minister Altero Matteoli said a small crack and traces of rust had been found in the axle of the car that derailed, causing other cars to derail as they passed through the center of Viareggio.
Private investors affiliated with Value Recovery Group, Inc.,Columbus, Ohio, are behind the move by US Railcar, LLC, to acquire the Colorado Railcar diesel multiple-unit (DMU) design, in order to advance the manufacture of a U.S. DMU alternative for transit markets. The assets acquired include proprietary rights and information, manufacturing documentation, inventory, tooling, fixtures/jigs, and other equipment necessary for production.
In a statement, VRG Chairman & CEO Barry H. Fromm said, “US Railcar intends to reestablish passenger train production in the United States.”
“We want to keep American jobs and U.S. public investment at home,” said Fromm. “There is a major commitment by the Obama Administration and the Congress to make investments in intercity and high speed rail to promote economic growth and mobility, create jobs, conserve energy, and address climate change. This opens a new era for passenger trains and railcar manufacturing in the United States.”
Michael P. Pracht will serve as president and CEO of US Railcar; Pracht’s career includes stints with Siemens and Ansaldo STS. US Railcar intends to manufacture both single- and bi-level DMUs per the Colorado Railcar design.
Fatalities reported by U.S. railroads continued to decline in this year's first four months, according to statistics released July 1 by the Federal Railroad Administration's Office of Safety Analysis. The report gives accident/incidents comparisons for the last four years.
Rail fatalities totaled 209 in the January-April 2009 period, down 1.9% from the corresponding period last year and down 21.7% from the same period in 2006.
Grade crossing fatalities were down 5.6% this year to 67 and down 42.7% from the 2006 period. Trespassing fatalities increased 2.3% to 134 in this year's first four months, up 2.3% from last year but down 8.2% from 2006.
The FRA report lists seven employee fatalities through April this year, compared with six in the 2009 period and three in January-April 2006.
A total of 3,326 accidents and incidents were reported in this year's first four months by 696 large and small railroads. This was down 20.2% from last year and 24.5% from 2006.
Train accidents were down 31% from last year, to 587, and 38.6% from 2006. Collisions were down 29.7% from the 2008 period, to 45, and 22.4% from 2006.
Derailments in this year's first four months were down 32.4% to 417, and down 38.9% from 2006. Yard accidents declined 34% to 300 from last year and were down 44.1% from 2006.
Essex Junction, Vt.-based Huber+Suhner, Inc. and Electro-Wire, Inc., Schaumberg, Ill., say they successfully installed SENCITY®LINK 60 (SL-60) for the Massachuseetts Bay Transportation Authority during June. SL-60 is an integrated 60 GHz 360 Mb point-to-point antenna and radio, designed for high security, interference-free service in a range of environments, including urban settings and tunnels, with a maximum range of 1.25 miles.
“SL-60 operates in the unlicensed band at a frequency much higher than any commercially deployed system,” says Wayne Pleasant, Huber+Suhner field application engineer. “It’s six-by-six 6 inch size and 8 watt power consumption allows it to run on POE in the tightest locations. It does not look like an antenna at all, and operates like any other piece of an interconnection network; it is ‘virtual cable’ without any digging.”
Patrick McNamara, Electro-Wire’s regional manager, said one particular problem MBTA faced was “how to cross the tracks with fiber to get to a station. The cost of shutting down service and trenching would have been enormous,” but the two suppliers “installed the radio in less time than the design review.”
Portland, Ore., continues preparing for a Sept. 12 opening of its latest light rail transit expansion, the $575.7 million Green Line that extends east of the city to Clackamas County.
TriMet conducted a test run June 30 with numerous dignitaries along for the ride, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), a staunch pro-light rail advocate. The trip, stretching from Portland State University to Clackamas Town Center, highlighted upcoming light rail access to Portland’s Union Station, served by Amtrak, and through Portland’s downtown transit mall, until now the province of buses only.
The Green Line service crosses the Willamette River bridge as per TriMet’s three other MAX light rail lines, and shares the route of the Red and Blue lines between the bridge and Gateway/NE 99th Avenue station, before diverging and serving eight new stations, terminating in Clackamas Town Center, roughly paralleling Interstate 205. Five of the stations will include Park & Ride lots offering a total of more than 2,300 spaces. TriMet plans to run trains every 15 minutes, at minimum, beginning Sept. 12.