The Surface Transportation Board has scheduled a public hearing for July 8 at its headquarters in Washington, D. C., "to examine the impact, effectiveness, and future of rail banking" under the National Trails System Act. (www.stb.dot.gov)
"In brief, the Trails Act and the board's implementing regulations give interested parties the opportunity to negotiate voluntary agreements to use for recreational trails railroad rights-of-way that otherwise would be abandoned," the STB said in a notice served Thursday. "The trail sponsor must agree to assume responsibility for managing the trail, for paying property taxes on the right-of-way, and for any liability inconnection with trail use. In turn, the rail carrier may salvage its track and discontinue service on the line. If the parties reach a Trails Act agreement, the right-of-way can be used as a trail until (if ever) a rail carrier decides to restore service on the line."
Since the program began 25 years ago, the STB says it has issued "numerous" decisions authorizing interim rail use and has also authorized nine rail-banked lines for the restoration of rail service.
The hearing now scheduled on the program's future arises out of "an increasing number of questions brought to the board informally."
Formally, the board has pending a proposal involving R. J. Corman Railroad Co./Pennsylvania Lines Inc. in Clearfield County ,Pa., to construct and operate over 10 miles of a previously abandoned right-of-way and reactivate a 9.3-mile portion of a connecting rail-banked line. STB has been informally asked "who would be responsible for bearing the cost of rebuilding a railroad bridge removed during interim trail use if active rail service should ever be restored."
This is one of the questions STB will tackle as it seeks to determine how successful rail-banking has been for both carriers and trail users.
Union Pacific and Progress Rail Services Thursday announced their intent to launch initial operation of an ultra clean diesel SD40-2 locomotive equipped for intermediate line haul service. The customer evaluation unit, equipped with state-of-the-art after-treatment, will begin operating between San Antonio and Fort Worth, Tex., late this month.
The companies said the Progress Rail PR30C-LoNOx locomotive has been re-powered with a single 3,005 horsepower, low-emission, Caterpillarclean-diesel engine. It meets EPA’s Tier 2 standards and is retrofitted with an advanced emission control technology. That technology routes the exhaust through a diesel oxidation catalystprior to entering the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) chamber, where oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions are reduced by more than 90% from the original 1970s vintage engine.
“We are excited about the prospects of bringing more environmentally friendly locomotives into service while still meeting ouroperational needs,” said Bob Grimaila, Union Pacific senior assistant vice president, Safety and Environment. “We know there are challenges ahead as we evaluate performance under demanding rail operations, but we remain committed to support this project and commend our partners, Caterpillar and Progress Rail Services, for their collaborative efforts in developing this promising technology.”
Progress Rail Services CEO Billy Ainsworth said, “The use of after treatment to reach these levels of emissions is new territory for the rail industry and we are pleased to be the first with SCR for large mobile engine applications.”
He continued, “By leveraging the expertise of Caterpillar, an established leader in clean diesel technology, we are confident we can bring this cutting-edge technology to the railroad industry just as we have been providing it in other applications. Additional prototypes, all powered by Caterpillar model 3516, 3005 horsepower diesel engines, will be retrofitted and tested with this system, making them among the cleanest locomotives in America. The durability and performance of the unit will be closely monitored and evaluated over a six-month period to ensure safe and dependable operations.”
Calgary, the province of Alberta, and the Canadian federal government have agreed to supply C$270 million (US$235 million) to advance nine transit projects, including creating four-car light rail platforms and add a station on Calgary’s new west leg of its LRT system. Each of the three players will contribute C$90 million during the next two years.
Besides station platforms, other items to be funded include installation of electronic fare collection, transit signal priority projects, closed circuit television security, an advanced passenger information system, and LRT traction power upgrades. Improvements to existing Bus Rapid Transit park-and-ride lots also are in the plan.
Calgary’s west LRT station construction is expected to start in 2010. The city was the second North American municipality to launch modern LRT service, debuting May 25, 1981, following the three-year lead of Edmonton, Alberta, and beating San Diego’s launch of LRT service by two months. Today Calary Transit’s 28-mile C-Train system averages 297,500 rides per weekday, the second-highest in North America behind only Monterrey, Mexico.
For the 20th year in a row, Norfolk Southern has won the 2008 E.H. Harriman Gold Award for Group A, recognized for the best employee safety record among line-haul railroads whose employees worked 15 million employee-hours or more each year. CSX Transportation won the silver, and Union Pacific the bronze, within Group A.
Within Group B, comprised of line-haul railroads whose employees worked four-to-15 million employee-hours annually, the gold went to Kansas City Southern Railway, KCS’s third year in a row. Canadian Pacific’s U.S. operations was awarded the silver, and Chicago-based Metra the bronze, within Group B.
Among Group C participants, railroads whose employees worked less than four million employee-hours during the award period, the gold award went to the Willamette & Pacific Railroad, while Florida East Coast Railway took the silver and the Wheeling and Lake Erie the bronze.
In Group S&T, for switching and terminal companies, the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis took the award for gold for the second consecutive year. The silver award went to the Birmingham Southern Railroad; Consolidated Rail Corp. (Conrail) received the bronze award.
Certificates of Commendation also were awarded to four railroads with continuous gains in employee safety improvements over a three-year period and showing the most improvement between 2007 and 2008. Those railroads include CSX Transportation (Group A), Metro-North Railroad (Group B), Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway (Group C), and the Belt Railway of Chicago (S&T).
The Harriman Awards were established in 1913 by Mary W. Harriman in memory of her husband, Edward H. Harriman.
In Washington Wednesday, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood praised the freight rail industry’s emphasis on safety. “Our nation's railroads and their employees can be proud of their safety record,” LaHood said. "Our freight rail industry is the envy of the world, as the cleanest, safest, most efficient way to keep America's freight moving."
Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), stressed that the industry’s safety performance was no fluke. "Railroads are the safest form of freight transportation today and such attention to safety has produced an enviable track record,” he said, adding, "I am delighted to report that this continuous emphasis on safety paid dividends last year in producing both the lowest train accident rate in history and the lowest employee injury rate in history."
On the individual level, BNSF Machinist Robert F. “Bob” Johnson was recognized as the 2008 winner of the Harold F. Hammond Award for railroad safety, honoring the employee who has demonstrated outstanding safety achievement during the preceding year.
Johnson, a machinist with BNSF for 36 years, has participated in and developed numerous projects and innovations, including bi-directional blue flags for worker protection, a universal fit locomotive stairwell platform, a structurally engineered traction motor storage rack, and a locomotive cab window removal tool and process.
Johnson is active in numerous railroad related community safety initiatives. He volunteers for Operation Lifesaver, the nationwide, non-profit public information program dedicated to reducing collisions, injuries and fatalities at highway-rail crossings and in and on railroad rights-of-way.
Seven other industry employees were honored with Certificates of Commendation for their work in enhancing safety. They include: David Cowan, a superintendent with Amtrak in Los Angeles; Gary Deval, a conductor with CN in Baton Rouge, La.; Trevor Shatek, a signal maintainer with Canadian Pacific in St. Paul, Minn.; Larry Davis, an electrician with CSX in Cumberland, Md.; Ronnie Benefield, a carman with Kansas City Southern in Monroe, Okla.; JerryBean, an engineer with Norfolk Southern in Decatur, Ill.; and Israel Maldonado, a carman with Union Pacific in Stockton, Calif.
Union Pacific announced that it hauled its 200,000th coal train out of the Southern Powder River Basin on Tuesday, a benchmark that UP said "proves the capital investment in our coal corridor continues to pay dividends for our customers."
UP's announcement coincided with the railroad's testimony at a congressional hearing on re-regulation legislation that UP says could "significantly" reduce its capital spending.
"One rail car of coal provides the energy to generate enough electricity for more than 20 homes for a year," noted the railroad. “Union Pacific's 200,000 trains out of the SPRB have carried enough coal to power all the homes in the United States for five years. Approximately 50% of America's electricity comes from coal, one of the most affordable and reliable energy sources."
Some of the railroad industry's utility coal customers are among those "captive shippers" who have been supporting a bill in Congress that would removes the industry's few remaining antitrust exemptions, which the Association of American Railroads says could be the backdoor to re-regulation on a broad scale.
After being buffeted for years by fiscal concerns and by diverse opinion and critique enveloping the overall rebuilding of New York’s World Trade Center site, the site’s Transportation Hub final design has been unveiled by architect Santiago Calatrava. A model of the design will be on display through Aug. 31 at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York, as part of an exhibition entitled, "Santiago Calatrava: World Trade Center Transportation Hub."
The Transportation Hub will serve the Port Authority’s PATH bistate rapid transit line, and serve as an access point for numerous subway lines operated by MTA New York City Transit.
The final design has emerged from a torturous political process launched in late 2003, as the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey selected Downtown Design Partnership, a joint venture of DMJM + Harris, STV Group Inc., and Parsons Transportation in association with Santiago Calatrava S.A. to design the facility, as part of the larger effort in lower Manhattan to rebuild on (and under) Ground Zero.
Calatrava’s glass and steel structure allows natural light to flood the Transportation Hub during the day; at night the illuminated building will serve as a lantern for the plaza and the (still undetermined number of) office towers surrounding it. The roof of the Hub's freestanding structure will be fitted with an operable skylight located along the central axis. During good weather, and on September 11th each year, the skylight will open, providing the interior space with a slice of sky and its natural light.
In a statement, Calatrava said, “In its revised state the project retains all of its fundamental beauty and functionality.” He added, "It is my hope that the Transportation Hub will serve generations of commuters, subway riders, pedestrians, and local residents well into the years to come."
Flouting traditional routes taken by most state departments of transportation, Maryland transportation officials are emphasizing financing the proposed 16-mile Purple Line light rail project, traversing the northern Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., while demoting two “major” road projects in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
Choosing the Railway Systems Suppliers, Inc. 2009 Exposition in Nashville, Tenn., as its announcement stage, GE Transportation on Tuesday said it has launched the Connection line of Positive Train Control-compliant products for rail networks operating in the United States.
The Erie, Pa.-based subsidiary of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric Co. said the PTC-compliant line was in response to passage last October of the Rail Safety Improvement Act, which mandates PTC for most major rail routes throughout the U.S., and for all rail routes handling a mix of freight and passenger rail traffic.
GE said the Connection line addresses four issues railroads must prevent with a PTC system: train-to-train collisions; “over speed” derailments; incursions into established work zone limits; and movement of a train through a switch left in the improper position.
In a statement, GE Transportation said, “This means upgrades for approximately 100,000 miles of track, close to 90% of the total rail network, and 17,000 locomotives to make North American railroads PTC ready. Today, there are more than 100,000 wayside signal devices alone on rail lines throughout the U.S. and Canada. In some cases, larger railroads will need to add PTC functionality to several wayside locations per day, every day, just to meet the mandate within the specified timeframe.”
On Monday, GE Transportation unveiled its Evolution® Series locomotive Model ES44C4.