Virginia Beach, Va., city officials said Tuesday they were close to agreement with Norfolk Southern to acquire 10.6 miles of railright-of-way for $40 million, and could complete the deal by month’s end.
If completed, the acquisition could allow for extension of The Tide light rail service (depicted at left), with 7.4 miles now under construction in neighboring Norfolk, Va., west of Virginia Beach. Virginia Beach voters in 1999 rejected any commitment to LRT, leaving Norfolk to pursue the mode on its own; the $388 million line is slated to begin revenue service next May.
Virginia Beach officials had feared that the state might require the city to commit specifically to LRT to qualify for a $20 million state grant for the rail line purchase. Many City Council members have been reluctant to do so, preferring to wait for results of a transportation study evaluating LRT. Many also seek another voter referendum.
Under the agreement with the state, the city gets some leeway, committed to using its “best efforts” to pursue light rail in order to qualify for the funding. Alternatives, such as a Bus Rapid Transit, would be temporarily allowed as long as light rail remains the long-term goal, city attorney Becky Kubin told the City Council.
“We are extraordinarily close,” Councilwoman Rosemary Wilson said. “We don't want to lose the ground we’ve covered.”
Under the 2009 agreement to buy the route, the state willput in $20 million, the city will pay $10 million, Hampton Roads Transit (operator of The Tide) will contribute $5 million, and the remaining $5 million will come from a utility easement on the property.
The Raleigh, N.C., City Council Tuesday failed to endorse either of two alternatives envisioned to serve the North Carolina capital with higher speed rail (HrSR), asking the state Department of Transportation for additional information on two proposed route options.
One route would run west of Capital Boulevard along Norfolk Southern tracks, while the other would run east of Capital Boulevard along CSX tracks. Council members seek more information about two hybrid routes that some claim would be “less harmful” to homes and businesses.
State DOT Rail Division Director Pat Simmons said after the public comment period ends Friday, DOT will look at all comments, including any alternate routes that are proposed.
The segment in question is part of an ongoing joint effort by North Carolina and Virginia to establish HrSR linking Charlotte, N.C., Raleigh, Richmond, Va., and Washington, D.C. The route is part of a longer plan identified as the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor, which eyes a reach as far south as Jacksonville, Fla., and also Atlanta.
Chicago-based FreightCar America, Inc. said Wednesday it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the business assets of DTE Rail Services, a non-regulated subsidiary of DTE Energy, for approximately $23.2 million. The transaction is expected to close early in the fourth quarter.
Once the transaction is completed, the acquired business will bolster FreightCar America’s existing parts and repair service capabilities, the company said in a statement. “The collective offering will provide repair and maintenance, inspection, and fleet management services for all types of freight-carrying railcars. Upon closing, the acquired business will be known as FreightCar Rail Services, LLC," the company said.
“We are pleased to announce our definitive agreement with DTE Rail Services,” said Ed Whalen, president and CEO of FreightCar America. “The expansion of our railcar services activities will diversify our revenue sources and will serve to lessen the cyclicality of our earnings.”
He added, “Going forward, we expect that this addition will expand our customer base and strengthen existing relationships by significantly enhancing the company’s involvement in the entire railcar life cycle. The company will be well positioned to service coal-carrying railcars moving through the Powder River Basin in the Western United States. A majority of these coal cars were manufactured by FreightCar America. We look forward to working with the Rail Services team to grow our service offerings.”
DTE Rail Services has operations in Colorado, Indiana, and Nebraska and services freight cars and unit coal trains utilizing key rail corridors in the U.S. Midwest and West. The new business will add approximately 130 skilled employees to the company.
The proposed acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions. DTE Rail Services produces current annualized revenues of approximately $25.0 million and FreightCar America said it expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to its earnings.
The Railway Tie Association, which in January estimated wood crosstie demand for 2010 at 19.4 million ties, has taken a new look at the market and its economic model now forecasts the sale of 19 million ties. And that may be high.
“Unfortunately, the data through June 2010 shows the 12-month rolling total of annual purchases at only 18 million ties,” says RTA Executive Director James C. Gauntt. “While a rebound may be under way, there are reasons that this recovery will likely be slower and weaker than desired.”
One reason, says Gauntt, is the unfunded federal mandate for installation of Positive Train Control. He quotes industry sources as saying the tab for PTC was $70 million in 2009 and will exceed $1 billion in 2010, and “the railroads have to re-align their budgets” to pay for it.
Another reason for pessimism, said Gauntt, is the lack of certainty that the short line tax credit will be extended. (Short lines accounted for 3,821,000 of the 20 million wood ties installed in 2009.)
Bombardier Transportation said Tuesday that, in consortium with Site S.p.A., it has won a second major order in Algeria, to provide INTERFLO*250 ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) Level 1 for the new Saida-Moulay Slissen line.
As consortium leader, Bombardier will receive roughly $15 million, or roughly 62.5%, of the $24 million contract package. Italian civil works company Astaldi S.p.A. is acting as general contractor for the project, which will be delivered to the Algerian State Railways, Bombardier said. Bombadrier will be responsible for the design and supply of the signaling system for the construction of the 120-kilometer (74-mile) line.
Also included in the project is the latest generationRelease 4 BOMBARDIER EBI Lock 950 computer-based interlocking (CBI) system, the EBI Screen central traffic control center, the EBI Switch 500 point machines, and EBI Track 2000 train detection system.
Bombardier already is delivering the first electronic interlocking system on Algeria’s Tabia-Mecheria line for the same customer.
Anders Lindberg, president, Rail Control Solutions, Bombardier Transportation, said: “This ERTMS milestone for Bombardier demonstrates, yet again, the success of our technology. We look forward to working with the customer on this new line and continuing to contribute to rail development in Algeria and in Africa.”
Tax breaks totaling $200 billion would be complemented with a six-year, $50 billion plan to rebuild U.S. infrastructure under a proposal aired by President Obama on Labor Day.
The President plans to provide more details on Wednesday in Cleveland. The administration envisions the infrastructure portion of the proposal as a down payment of any reauthorization of surface transportation spending; the last such measure, TEA-LU, expired in 2009.
“We are going to rebuild 150,000 miles of our roads; that’s enough to circle the world six times. We’re going to lay and maintain 4,000 miles of our railways, enough to stretch coast to coast,” the President said Monday, announcing his latest effort to reinvigorate the U.S. economy. Also foreseen in the plan is rehabilitation or reconstruction of 150 miles of airport runway.
Among numerous groups responding, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials said Tuesday it was “highly supportive of President Obama’s proposal to immediately invest $50 billion to rebuild roads, expandhigh speed rail, and rehabilitate airport runways.”
John Horsley, AASHTO executive director, said, “We have demonstrated that investing in transportation infrastructure is one of the fastest ways to create and sustain jobs. An AASHTO January 2010 survey of states showed 9,800 ready-to-go projects valued at nearly $80 billion. If Congress wants to pass legislation investing in our transportation infrastructure, the states stand ready to put those dollars to work.”
Horsley claimed the states’ track record creating and sustaining jobs is excellent. More than 90% of Recovery Act-funded transportation projects, representing approximately $48 billion in investments, are under contract, he said. AASHTO also noted information on how states are delivering Recovery Act projects can be found at http://recovery.transportation.org. Also, details on states’ ready-to-go projects survey is online at http://downloads.transportation.org/Ready-to-Go.pdf.
Similarly, Laura Barrett, executive director of the Transportation Equity Network, said, “Just last week, TEN released a study called ‘More Transit = More Jobs.’ We’re pleased to see from President Obama’s $50 billion transportation infrastructure proposal that he agrees. We want to see as much transit as possible in federal infrastructure investments—both to maximize job creation, and to expand access to work, education, health care, and opportunity.”
Barrett offered one caveat: “When it comes to highways, repairs and maintenance should be a greater priority than new construction, since highway repairs and maintenance create more jobs than new construction,” she said.
The Partnership for Public Service for the second consecutive year has named the Surface Transportation Board No. 1 among small federal agencies in its 2010 list of the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.
Among 34 small agencies (those with at least 100 but fewer than 2,000 employees), STB achieved a top index score of 86.8 (up from its 2009 score of 80.4, and higher than the scores achieved by any other agency, small or large). The index score measures performance of agencies related to employee satisfaction and commitment.
“This award is a testament to every Board employee,” said STB Chairman Daniel R. Elliott III. “It is to their credit that they have created and nurtured a culture of collegiality in which innovation is treasured and rewarded.”
In the past year, Elliott has implemented more flexible work schedules, established weekly Chairman’s Open-Door Hours, and instituted "Genius Awards" to recognize employees who come up with good ideas.
China will finance, and a Chinese company will build, a 19-mile, $950 million railway link between the Ukrainian capital city of Kiev and its main airport, along with auxiliary facilities, the China Daily newspaper reported Friday.
The newspaper said Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich igned a loan agreement for the railway on his first visit to China, which began Thursday.
Construction will begin in 2011 and the project is expected to be completed in 2014.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Thursday announced $3.6 million for the State of Michigan to begin work on the rehabilitation of the Battle Creek Station. The funding is part of the $40 million allotted to Michigan under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for its high speed rail program.
The $3.6 million in Recovery Act funds will be used to renovate the station’s interior lobby, bathrooms, ticketing areas and offices, lighting, signage, and to make the station compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The exterior of the station will also see significant upgrades. The building will be refaced with new and restored masonry and new exterior lighting will be installed.
“President Obama’s bold vision for high-speed rail is a game-changer for transportation in Michigan and the United States,” said Secretary LaHood (pictured at left). “This undertaking will not only create good jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing base, it’s also going to relieve congestion on our roadways and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”
Kansas state transportation planners have narrowed their proposals for expanded Amtrak passenger rail service across the state to two possible options.
One option would provide nighttime service for what Amtrak estimates would be 92,500 passengers a year between Newton, Kan., and Fort Worth, Tex., essentially linking Amtrak's Southwestern Chief, which passes through Newton on its Chicago-Los Angeles run, to the Heartland Flyer, which runs from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth.
A second, more expensive option would offer daytime service between Kansas City, Mo., and Fort Worth for a projected 174,000 passengers annually over the same general route, requiring more equipment and additional improvements to track and facilitiesalong the way.
Depending on th option, officials estimate the service will require either $154 million for infrastructure and equipment costs, plus apotential $3.2 million annual operating subsidy paid by state funding, or in the second case $476 million for infrastructure and equipment, plus $8 million annually in state support.
The state is working on more detailed business plans for both routes during the next 12 months to present to Kansas state legislators in the 2012 session, said Dennis Slimmer, a transportation department spokesman.