Traveling to Baltimore on business, or to see the Birds play at Oriole Park at Camden Yards? Bethesda, Md.-based developer Hospitality Partners has signed a contract with Amtrak to construct and manage a hotel on the upper three levels at the city’s Pennsylvania Station, located on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
The 77-room, $9 million hotel, to be called The Inn at Penn Station, reportedly would be the first such hotel at a rail station in the Northeast that also continues to serve rail passengers. Hotel rooms will line the station's perimeter and will be reached from corridors overlooking the main concourse below. Construction is expected to begin this year and be completed by late 2010.
Amtrak currently commands roughly 61% of the combinedair/rail travel market between New York and Washington, making the hotel’s location potentially lucrative for the national rail passenger carrier. Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black says that, in addition, the city is pinning much of its redevelopment efforts for the neighborhood, dubbed the Charles North renewal area, using Penn Station as a central focus.
The station is also served by Baltimore’s light rail system, operated by the Maryland Transit Administration, bolstering intracity access.
Erie, Pa.-based GE Transportation Friday said it had signed “two landmark agreements” with partners in Kazakhstan. The first, a 15-year customized service agreement (CSA) with Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) valued at nearly $500 million, is the largest service agreement outside North America in GE Transportation’s history. Asecond agreement, outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by bothparties, will involve GE Transportation and KTZ investing jointly in a GE Evolution® Series locomotive assembly plant in Astana, Kazakhstan.
In the first agreement, GE will provide maintenance and overhauls for Joint Stock Company (JSC) Lokomotiv’s fleet of 404 GE-modernized locomotives. JSC Lokomotiv, a subsidiary of KTZ, the nation’s state-owned railway, manages KTZ’s locomotive fleet. The 15-year contract is GE Transportation’s largest for locomotive maintenance outside North America and its first in Kazakhstan.
GE has teamed up with Kamkor Repair Corp. (Kamkor) to further improve performance of KTZ’s fleet of “2TE10” locomotives by providing guaranteed locomotive availability and reliability; supply of all material and componentsto safeguard JSC Lokomotiv’s fleet investment; manage locomotive component inventory and material logistics; and share training to ensure long-term maintenance capabilities from local personnel. Kamkor will provide the facilities, labor, and the remaining legacy equipment for the 404 “2TE10” locomotives.
"The ongoing cooperation between GE and the Republic of Kazakhstan is proof that a strategic partnership can help fuel long-term economic growth,” said Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of Fairfield, Conn.-based parent General Electric Co., at an official signing ceremony in Astana (photo at left). “Today’s announcements ensure that Kazakhstan’s critical rail infrastructure remains modern and efficient in the future while expanding GE’s global service base. GE not only continues to supply industry-leading products and services, but also helps Kazakhstan create sustainable growth through manufacturing capacity and a world class rail system.”
In the second agreement, GE Transportation will be an investment partner in the 54,000 square meter Astana Assembly Plant, expected to begin production of GE’s Evolution Series locomotives by the end of the year. The facility would be capable of assembling approximately 100 locomotives per year while employing more than 600 people. KTZ in 2006 ordered 310 GE Evolution Series locomotives and the first 10 units are already in operation in Kazakhstan. The 300 other locomotives will be assembled in the Astana plant from components and kits manufactured in Grove City and Erie, Pa.
“GE and the Republic of Kazakhstan have a long and fruitful history of working together,” said Lorenzo Simonelli, president and CEO of GE Transportation. “Since 1995, GEand KTZ have collaborated to drive Kazakhstan’s economic development. These agreements are a natural extension of our existing strategic partnership with KTZ and mark an important milestone in Kazakhstan. Both the locomotive assembly plant and service capabilities we provide will allow the customer to maintain its assets for years to come. We look forward to building upon our productive relationships in Kazakhstan to continue to serve the country’s infrastructure needs.”
The Association of American Railroads is urging concerned industry participants to contact their U .S. Senators quickly to voice concern over the proposed rail antitrust bill, S. 146, now scheduled to hit the Senate floor June 2. A link at AAR’s website, http://www.bipac.net/alert.asp?g=aar, offers one way to create and customize a letter for delivery; AAR is offering to forward any letter to the appropriate Senate representative.
S. 146, sponsoredby Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), who sits on the Judiciary Committee, would repeal railroad antitrustexemptions and remove the Surface Transportation Board’s exclusive jurisdiction over the industry. The June 2 vote will be to invoke cloture, or shut off debate, on the bill. AAR urges those contacting their representative to urge a vote against cloture, so that the bill will not go to the Senate floor for a vote.
AAR maintains that S. 146, if enacted, would impose new and conflicting regulations, subjecting railroads to oversight by not only STB but the Department of Justice as well. Also, the bill could subject railroads to a duplicative and unnecessary dual regulatory scheme, allowing use of the court system for regulatory purposes.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has awarded a $1.2 million contract to ProTran1 LLC to provide more than 1,800 safety awareness devices for transit workers. The contract runs through June 30, 2010.
Blue Anchor, N.J.-based ProTran1 produces automatic warning devices for both trackworkers and train operators. The company says its product line has been installed and pilot-tested by numerous agencies, including MTA New York City Transit, the Maryland Transit Administration, the Massachusetts BayTransportation Authority, and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.
Tucson, Ariz. Wednesday became the second U.S. city awardinga contract to United Streetcar LLC, a subsidiary of Clackamas, Ore.-based Oregon Iron Works, Inc.
Tucson’s $26 million order, for seven streetcars, follows an earlier order by Portland, Ore., for six streetcars, which itself followed United Streetcar’s production of a prototype car now being tested in Portland.
Carsbuilt by United Streetcar are similar in design to those of Plzen, Czech Republic-based Skoda Transportation a.s., under a technology transfer agreement signed by the two companies in 2006.
Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo Wednesday announced the award of $15 million to nine states for emergency repairs to damaged railroad infrastructure resulting from natural disasters. The funding, from FRA’s Railroad Rehabilitation and Repair Program (RRRP), will go to state Departments of Transportation to reimburse short line and regional railroads for the cost of repairs.
“Freight railroads are critical to local economies and we are committed to helping them restore rail service after a major disruption,” said Szabo. “This funding will help the carriers defray repair costs and keep the trains running.”
RRRP funds can cover up to 80% of the total cost of a selected project, with the remainder to be provided from non-federal sources. Grants may be used to repair bridges, signals, and other infrastructure.
FRA listed the grant recipients, and amounts, as follows:
AlaskaDepartment of Transportation and Public Facilities
Flood repair for the Alaska Railroad: $637,440
Flood repair for the Alaska Railroad: $945,680
ArkansasState Highway and Transportation Department
Emergency repairs to Missouri and Northern Arkansas Railroad: $737,292
IllinoisDepartment of Transportation
Flood control on the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad: $569,700
KansasDepartment of Transportation
Repair of flood damage to the Gorilla Subdivision on the South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad: $405,702
Indiana Department of Transportation
Flood damage repair on the Indiana Southern Railroad: $1,244,217
Iowa Department of Transportation
Flood damage restoration to rebuild a bridge and repair signals on the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway: $6,965,163
Flood damage restoration for the Keokuk Junction RailwayYard: $459,200
Replacement of the Waterloo Bridge over the Cedar River forthe Iowa Northern Railway: $2,174,880
Missouri Department of Transportation
Flood damage repair on Missouri & Northern ArkansasRailroad: $353,600
North Carolina Department of Transportation
Repair of washouts and debris removal on the CarolinaCoastal Railway: $11,101
Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Repair of flood damage and washouts on the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad: $354,006
FRA is authorized to make $20 million available for grants to repair and rehabilitate railroad infrastructure damaged in areas declared by the President as a major disaster. FRA intends to issue another solicitation for the remaining $5 million in funds through a Notice of Funding Availability to be published in the Federal Register that will be available on a competitive basis.
Union Pacific Chairman, President, and CEO Jim Young urged Congress Wednesday to be very careful about changing the Staggers Rail Act of 1980.
Since enactment of Staggers, Young said, inflation-adjusted rail rates have dropped by more than half, railroads have reduced accident rates by 70%, rail market share has steadily increased, and the industry has poured $440 billion back into track, equipment, and facilities improvements.
Young, who is also chairman of the Association of American Railroads, made these points in a speech at the annual meeting of the North American Rail Shippers Association in Chicago.
Aware that some big rail customers in his audience were supporting legislation now in Congress that would dilute Staggers regulatory reforms, Young said the Staggers system had succeeded in its goal of protecting "the rights of shippers from excessive rail market power while at the same time providing railroads with new ability to react to changes in the marketplace."
"The result has been an unqualified success," asserted Young.
He contended that the antitrust legislation now in Congress "would subject railroads to conflicting regulatory schemes, creating inefficiencies that would cause operating costs to increase. Eventually these cost increases would reach each of our customers, causing their costs to increase as well."
As for the high speed passenger rail systems contemplated by the Obama Administration, Young said "there are many good things" they could accomplish, "including reduction of greenhouse gases and fuel consumption as well as highway and air congestion."
But he had a caveat. “If all we do is superimpose high speed rail on existing freight networks, it will consume freight capacity needed for freight customes today and limit our ability to expand for the customer's growth in the future."
The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority has learned that its plan to make drastic service cuts to meet a funding shortfall would violate terms under which the Federal Transit Administration granted the agency $256 million toward the cost of adouble tracking project completed in 2006.
That came to light May 22 asSFRTA's board met to consider--and, as it turned out, approve--the plan to slash the number of daily trains and eliminate weekend service. To keep Tri-Rail running full strength and avoid federal penalties, SFRTA Chairman Josephus Eggelletion asked the state for $10 million in stop-gap funding until the legislature can reconsider its recent turndown of the agency's funding request.
When traffic returns to the railroads in a post-recession economy, it may not come from the old familiar places, suggests CP Rail Chief Executive Fred Green.
Talking with reporters following the company's annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, on May 22, Green said changes in public policy as well as in the financial markets may require a re-examination of long-term investments in railroad infrastructure.
As examples, he mentioned the possibility that the volume of container imports (a greatpre-recession source of revenue for intermodal carriers) may find new shipping lanes. He also said that shifting mandates in how energy is provided could affect such proposals as that to build a new coal-hauling line into the Powder River Basin coalfields (an option that CP acquired with its purchase ofthe Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern, which had won regulatory authority for sucha buildout but not the necessary financing).
If changes occur, said Green,"I wouldn't predict that there will be a net negative to the company, but jus ta net difference to the company ... it's something we have to keep oureyes wide open for." For instance, he said, a change in trade patterns between North America and China "could cause a completely different set of logistical needs: We'll still be involved, but in a different lane, a different corridor."