Rae, who moderated, related how FRA is essentially “working in a greenfield site” with its high speed rail development program. “We are looking for consistency,” she said. “We need to build domestic manufacturing capacity as well as human capacity.” Rae referred to HSR and HrSR as “a network of multiple lines connected to other forms of public transportation.”
The perpetually exuberant Jolene Molitoris detailed the Ohio DOT’s ambitious plans for what she calls the “3C and D Project,” an HrSR network connecting Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton, “the densest population corridor in the nation without passenger rail service.” ODOT’s short-term goal is implementing 79-mph conventional passenger rail service in the region by 2012, then using this as a base to get to 110-mph HrSR. She noted that the region is home to 220,000 university students located within 10 miles of proposed passenger rail stations. Providing these budding “talented young professionals” with a reliable rail transportation system “will help encourage them to stay in Ohio.”
“We are re-framing our public message on passenger rail to say that transportation must move our economies,” Molitoris said. “The [American Reinvestment and] Recovery Act taught us how to work faster, more collaboratively, more transparently, and more multimodally. Those same lessons will allow us to deliver the high speed and intercity rail network of the future.”
Molitoris also talked about Ohio’s commitment to freight rail, referring to the capital dollars the state has invested in public-private partnerships to build CSX’s National Gateway and Norfolk Southern’s Heartland Corridor.
Florida Rail Enterprise, said Kevin Thibault, is an agency within the Florida DOT created by the state legislature to administer Florida’s HSR program. The first phase consists of 84 miles and five stops connecting a downtown Tampa Multimodal Center to Orlando International Airport. Trainsets will operate at 168 mph, primarily using the median of Interstate 4. “This highway was purposely widened to the outside several years ago to accommodate a future HSR line,” he said. Fifty percent of phase one funding is in place, “and if all the stars align, we will release a Request for Qualification in late November 2010, followed by a shortlist and Request for Proposals in March 2011.” A DBOM (design-build-operate-maintain) contract is to be awarded in late 2011, with construction to commence in 2012.
Texas’s state rail plan is in its early development stages, said Bill Glavin. Texas has neary 10,400 miles of rail lines and 44 freight railroads. Only three intercity passenger trains—Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer, Sunset Limited, and Texas Eagle—operate in the state. The “Texas Triangle”—Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio—is among the fastest-growing population center in the U.S. and is ripe for passenger rail. Projects will be funded through PPPs, Glavin said. He also stressed that the state would take a “do no harm to our freight rail system” approach.
Al Engel opened his remarks by saying that Amtrak “hopes it wil have the opportunity to work with Florida, Texas, and Ohio as an operator.” He then described Amtrak’s long-range vision for Next-Generation High Speed Rail in the Northeast, which he’s named the “3T Corridor” because it “annually generates $3 trillion in economic activity with the largest population density” in the U.S. If all goes as envisioned, Boston-Washington trip times will be reduced to about three hours, “consistent with HSR systems in other nations.” Fully built out in about 30 years, Amtrak’s Northeast services will include Super Express, Regional Express, Shoreline Express, and Keystone Express services.
Fairport, N.Y.-based RailComm said Tuesday it has been selected to provide a wireless remote control yard system at Union Pacific’s Englewood Yard in Houston.
The RailComm Domain Operations Controller (DOC®) System will provide remote control to several GETS HydraSwitch machines. RailComm’s DOC® system will be configured to control all switches individually as well as provide eNtrance eXit (NX) routing functionality. RailComm’s 2.4GHz RADiANT™ data radios will provide a wireless communications network to link the office with the field locations.
The American Trucking Associations has thrown its support to a bill, the Freight FOCUS Act of 2010, which it says would protect “the depleted Highway Trust Fund” by requiring that funding for “critical freight transportation needs come from additional user fees paid by modes that benefit from projects.” Furthermore, the bill makes sure that revenue is distributed according to each mode’s financial contribution to the program, said the truck lobbying group.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.).
“This legislation will go a long way toward addressing critical bottlenecks on our nation's most important highway corridors,” said ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. “These chokepoints cost the trucking industry tens of billions of dollars each year, and force trucks to waste a tremendous amount of fuel. With Congresswoman Richardson’s help, we can begin to fix these problem areas, which will reduce shipping costs and lower emissions from all vehicles.”
ATA said it is “aware of other freight proposals under consideration by Congress and we look forward to continuing to work with members and the Administration to come up with the best available solutions to address the nation’s freight transportation challenges.”
The Surface Transportation Board’s newly determined cost of railroad capital for 2009, 10.43%, is one percentage point less than the 2008 figure but exceeds the latest reported industry-wide return on investment (ROI).
ROI for Class I railroads as a group was 9.60% for the 12 months ended June 20, 2010, according to an STB report released a few weeks ago.
Determination of a railroad's cost of capital was ordered by the Staggers Rail Act of 1980, which essentially deregulated the industry, as a measure of a railroad's “revenue adequacy.” It is a critical statistic in challenges of railroad freight rates by their customers, in railroad abandonment cases, and in setting compensation for use of another railroad’s trackage.
In the most recent 12-month determination of return on investment, only one railroad met the revenue adequacy test of exceeding the 10.43% cost of capital. That was Soo Line, with an ROI of 16.30%.
Other ROIs were BNSF, 10.25%; Union Pacific, 10.02%; Norfolk Southern, 9.44%; CSX Transportation, 8.54% Kansas City Southern, 6.43%; and CN/Grand Trunk Corp., 7.84%.
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn Monday announced Amtrak’s Union Station in Chicago will undergo $40 million in renovations, funded from Amtrak’s capital budget. Improvements will include air-conditioning for public areas, set to be in place by next summer, and more restrooms at track level. Seating in Amtrak’s boarding lounges at the station will be expanded to 950 seats, almost doubling the existing capacity.
Amtrak ridership at the station has grown more than 40% in the past 12 years, according to Amtrak. Metra also uses Union Station for many of its trains.
“This project is going to be part of the revival of passenger rail,” said Tom Carper, chairman of the Amtrak Board of Directors.
Once the current round of renovation is completed in late 2012, redevelopment of Union Station’s headhouse building will be set in motion, with an eye toward adding retail businesses, similar to development at other major Amtrak stations such as 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.’s Union Station.
“This is a very important investment to make sure [Chicago] Union Station is 21st century-ready,” Gov. Quinn said during a news conference at the station.
The Midwest High Speed Rail Association hailed the announcement. “MHSRA has been advocating for a similar set of improvements for several years,” association Executive Director Rick Harnish told Railway Age. “We applaud Amtrak for taking these steps to improve this critical component of the nation’s transportation network.”
Standard Strength rail produced by Steel Dynamics, Inc. at its Columbia City, Ind., plant has been “tested and approved” by BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and Amtrak, the company announced Monday.
“Following extensive internal research and testing, samples of our rail underwent rigorous testing and evaluation by independent laboratories to certify adherence to specifications prescribed by the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association, the industry organization that sets standards for design, construction, and maintenance of America’s railroad infrastructure,” said Steel Dynamics. “The railroads then completed their own testing and evaluation protocols, clearing the way for Steel Dynamics to become an approved rail supplier.”
The rail production facility has an on-site continuous welded rail plant. The company said CWR shipments have been made to a Class I railroad and, in conjunction with the L.B. Foster Co., 5,600 tons of CWR rail have been supplied for the Northeast New England Passenger Rail Authority. Other CWR customers include regional and short line freight and passenger railroads.
Jacksonville, Fla.-based RailAmerica Inc. said Monday its RaiLink Canada Ltd. subsidiary has entered into a long-term deal with Canadian Pacific to operate a portion of the Ottawa Valley Railway line.
Rail America ended its lease with Canadian Pacific over the Ottawa Valley line in December 2009. As part of that termination deal, the company has continued to operate 157 miles of the line between Sudbury and Mattawa, Ontario, and between Mattawa and Temiscaming, Quebec.
RailAmerica now has agreed to continue to operate that stretch for five years, with the option for a further extension. Terms were not disclosed.
The Ottawa Valley Railway line primarily transports pulp and paper products.