The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association said Wednesday that bipartisan Congressional support was growing to extend and improve the short line railroad tax credit. House Resolution H.R. 1132, introduced by Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D,) and Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), has notched 101 co-sponsors, while counterpart Senate bill S. 461, introduced by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), currently has 22 co-sponsors.
ASLRRA notes that more than 1,000 businesses relying on short line and regional railroads also are on record supporting the legislation, which would extend and improve the Short Line Rehabilitation Tax Credit, allowing short line and regional railroads to undertake critical projects, assuring continued investment in the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
The Section 45G Railroad Track Maintenance Credit is set to expire on December 31, 2009. The legislation proposes the credit be extended for three years, changed to allow eligibility for new short line railroads and an increase in the credit limitation.
The tax credit helps small railroads maximize infrastructure spending, which is important for railroads that serve small businesses that do not ship volumes high enough to fund all the rehabilitation needs of the railroad. The credit allows the railroad to take on and complete track upgrades quickly and efficiently. ASLRRA asserts this is particularly important at a time when the federal government is trying to spur immediate economic activity.
“America’s short line and regional railroads play a critical role in our nation’s transportation infrastructure by connecting rural communities, strengtheninglocal economies and protecting our environment,” said ASLRRA President Richard F. Timmons (photo at left). “As our economy is on the cusp of recovery, the tax credit is timely and vital to the small freight railroads and the local businesses and communities that rely on them to ship local products, create local jobs, and even divert trucks off of local roads.”
Rep. Pomeroy, author of H.R. 1132, said in a statement, "Small freight railroads are critical to the continued growth of the agriculture and oil and gas industries in North Dakota, and across the country. I believe the strong level of bipartisan support for this legislation demonstrates the impact short line railroads have on our economy, and I am confident that support for this legislation will continue to grow.”
The giant Brazilian company Vale announced in Sao Paulo Wednesday that it will invest $395 million to produce biodiesel from palm oil to fuel its Carajas mine and railway operations.
Vale, which claims to be the world's largest iron oreproducer, says it plans eventually to use a 20% biodiesel blend in the fuel consumed by its railway locomotives and large equipment servicing the company's main iron ore mine.
In a joint venture with biodiesel producer Biopalma da Amazonia, Vale plans an initial investment of $40 million in 2009. The switch to the new fuel blend will begin 2014. Vale expects savings of $150 million a year from the use of palm oil biodiesel.
Harold H. “Hal” Carstens, president of Carstens Publications, died Tuesday at his home in Newton, N.J., at age 83.
Carstens, formerly also the publisher of Railfan & Railroad and Railroad Model Craftsman magazines, was “a true giant” in the rail hobby industry as well as a respected voice in the rail industry, according to Railfan & Railroad Managing Editor E. Steven Barry. “Hal joined the staff of Railroad Model Craftsman in 1952, became editor in 1954, and president of the company in 1962," Barry said in an email statement.
Barry noted Carstens served as president of numerous rail-related organizations, including but not limited to Hobbies Industries of America, the Model Railroad Industry Association, and Friends of the New Jersey Railroad & Transportation Museum. He also lent his aid to the Photographic Society of America, Hobby Industry Association, and the Wagner College (Staten Island, N.Y.) Board of Trustees.
Said Barry, “It was his leadership of Carstens Publications where he will be missed the most. The business has always been more of a family, and Hal was our patriarch.”
Lancaster, Pa.’s City Council has agreed to seek a $20,000 from its namesake county to fund a study of a proposed $14.1 million, 2-6 mile streetcar line.
The proposal, which first gained traction in 2007 (RA, Oct. 2007, p. 19), is supported by the non-profit Lancaster Alliance, which includes 15 of the city’s businesses, and by Mayor Richard Grey, who believes the city’s population density can support such a system. Both the Alliance and the Mayor's office are also representatives of the non-profit Lancaster Streetcar Co., which seeks to advance the project.
Hedging its position, however, the City Council stressed that the request for study funds was not in itself an endorsement of the streetcar project. Similarly, Randy Patterson, city Economic Development & Neighborhood Revitalization director, said the city is seeking the funds from the county's Urban Enhancement Grant program to look at the economic and engineering feasibility of the proposal. "Neither of them has been adequately addressed," Patterson said.
The county grant program requires a dollar-for-dollar match, Patterson said. The streetcar study application is one of three city officials will submit.
A survey released last month by the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau, conducted for the Lancaster Streetcar Co., found that nearly 80% of respondents chose an electric streetcar on rail, traveling a set loop, as their attendees’ preferred mode of downtown transportation versus walking, city bus, taxi, orrental car.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Board of Directors Tuesday said it will route the final section of the DART Rail Orange Line (light rail transit) to connect to Terminal A at DFW International Airport in December 2013. The board made its decision following staff recommendation for such direct terminal access with the Orange Line from the future Belt Line Station on airport property.
Construction on the first two sections of the Orange Line, from the future Bachman Station in northwest Dallas to Las Colinas and then to Belt Line Station, began earlier this year. The sections are scheduled to open in December 2011 and 2012, respectively. A contract for the final section to the airport is scheduled to be awarded next year.
DART’s website touts the Orange Line as “a key component ofa regional rail expansion that will lead to the doubling of DART's rail network to more than 90 miles by 2013.”
The Board vote also adds a future light rail connection fromthe Orange Line to the Cotton Belt, a DART-owned rail line that crosses through airport property north of SH 114. This would provide additional rail access to the airport.
DART owns 52 miles of the Cotton Belt, presently in use as a freight rail line, between the Collin County city of Wylie and Fort Worth. DART’s long-range plan is to connect the Red Line in the Plano/Richardson area to DFW Airport in 2027.
A DART spokesman adds, "We're getting a lot of interest in a public-private partnership for developing that corridor. Our plan is to develop a new type of rail vehicle for it, as well, that will work in varied circumstances."
Minneapolis’s Hiawatha Line light rail service will be closed this weekend as Metro Transit works to lengthen station platforms along much of the route to accommodate three-car LRT trains. Crews will also be adjusting signals and safety items at grade crossings to compensate for and accommodate the longer train consists.
Metro Transit will offer substitute bus service between Mall of America and 46th Street, or roughly the southern half of the 12-mile line, beginning 11:00 p.m. Friday, June 26, running until 3:30 a.m. Monday, June 29, and provide staff to direct customers to alternate transportation. Travelers are warned that travel times will be longer.
Hiawatha LRT notched 10.2 million riders in 2008, up 12.3% from 2007. The line is being extended to interface with planned Northstar regional rail service; sister city St. Paul’s Central Corridor LRT line, now in advanced planning, also will connect with the existing LRT route.
Dallas-based Trinity Rail Group Inc. has enlisted Miner Enterprises, Inc. to provide components for 185 sugar cars being built for Imperial Sugar Co. In a statement, Miner said its SaniLOK™ gate system was a critical component in the order, in order to meet strict food safety guidelines.
"Miner’s SaniLOK™ gravity pneumatic gate system will ensure that Imperial Sugar is able to safely and effectively transport and unload its products in keeping with food industry standards," said Ric Biehl, vice president of sales for Geneva, Ill.-based Miner.
"And, with Miner’s Series 2008 Brake Beams, these 185 new cars are equipped with the finest array of Miner products guaranteeing long lasting, high quality performance for years to come," Biehl said.
Imperial Sugar Co., based in Sugar Land, Tex., has refining plants in Gramercy, La., and in Savannah, Ga.
Kansas City Southern Tuesday said it had accepted the first two 710ECOTM Repower locomotives from LaGrange, Ill.-based Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc., with the cars on display at the railroad’s yard in Kansas City, Mo. (photo below) through Tuesday. The two locomotives are the first of 27 being delivered by EMD.
EMD said the order would allow the Class I railroad “to convert a group of tired GP40 and SD40 locomotives into EMD GP22ECO and SD22ECO repower units as well as GP22ECO-M mother/slug combinations--providing the ultimate operating flexibility for the locomotives, which will be deployed in both The Kansas City Southern Railway Company (KCSR) and Kansas City Southern de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. (KCSM) systems.” KCS said 11 locomotives will be deployed in the U.S., while 16 would operate in Mexico.
The supplier says the 710ECOTM Repower locomotives "minimize fuel consumption while maintaining emissions compliance. In addition, the reduction of emissions makes the locomotives eligible for both state and federal funding as clean air projects-meeting all relevant criteria with a cost effective solution," EMD said.
"The 710ECOTM Repower solution provides a unique combination of emissions reduction, fuel savings, and locomotive reliability," said Scott Arvidson, executive vice president and COO of KCSR. "Those were key factors in the decision, allowing KCS to meet our commitment to continuously improve railroad operations while simultaneously addressing future environmental concerns.""Shifting market conditions, high fuel costs, and more stringent environmental regulations are posing difficult challenges for railroad operations," said John Hamilton, EMD president and CEO. "By implementing the 710ECOTM Repower solution, KCS has taken a leadership role in demonstrating how the latest locomotive technology can effectively accommodate these conflicting demands."
Freight railroads could benefit from what Morgan Stanley analysts William Greene and Adam Longson describe as “a large increase in North American auto production” during the third quarter. Citing the latest Wards North American auto production forecast, Greene and Longson “estimate that the likely increase in [railroad] auto volumes could add up to 2.0% and 1.0%-to-3.5% to our EPS [earnings per share] estimates for the railroads in 2009 and 2010, respectively.”
“Among freight carriers, railroads are the laggards in the group, and we've been hesitant to build in a large volume rebound given economic headwinds. However, if the latest auto production forecasts are correct,we will need to bring forward our auto recovery and raise our auto volumeforecast materially,” Morgan Stanley said, adding, “While not a game changer for EPS, it could have a large impact on sentiment.”
The analysis particularly noted improved prospects for Norfolk Southern, due to its “large Ford exposure,” and Union Pacific, through its “large auto franchise.”
Beyond specific companies, Morgan Stanley stated, “While the auto production forecast may not be a significant catalyst by itself, we think analyzing auto carloads alone understates the significance. A number of commodities, namely steel and chemicals, have a large automotive component. Steel inventories are already low and our steel analyst expects U.S. production to increase in [the second half of 2009] on greater demand, particularly in the automotive sector.”