Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, will be the featured luncheon speaker Thursday, May 7, during the one day symposium entitled Selling to America’s Railroads: Freight, Intercity and High Speed Rail Development–How Stimulus Funds Will Be Spent on Rail.
The symposium, sponsored by the Railway Supply Institute, the OneRail Coalition, and Women in Government Relations, will run from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Phoenix Park Hotel Ballroom, 520 North Capitol Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001.
DeFazio will address the symposium armed with recent experience. Joined by fellow Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D), DeFazio last week celebrated Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's awarding $75 million in federal funds for Portland, Ore.'s streetcar system, which includes funds to purchase six streetcars from domestic manufacturer United Streetcar LLC, recently established by Clackamas, Ore.-based Oregon Iron Works.
Besides DeFazio, other government and industry authorities will analyze the availability of stimulus money for rail, including: Karen Rae, deputy administrator, Federal Railroad Administration; Stephen Flippin, director of Federal Affairs, CSX Corp.; Mike Rock, vice president of External Relations, Union Pacific; Darrell Wilson, Norfolk Southern assistant vice president, Government Relations; Frank Busalacchi, secretary of transportation for the state of Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation and also chair, States For Passenger Rail; and Donald Itzkoff, partner, Nossaman LLP, and also former FRA deputy administrator.
Along with flexible spending money available for freight trail projects, some $9.3 billion has been committed toward intercity and high-speed passenger rail development. The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a strategic plan on how to use those funds to improve/deploy high speed rail, outlined by President Obama April 16. Discussion will focus on what this means for rail and rail suppliers.
The cost to RSI and WGR members is $150 per person and includes breakfast and lunch ($200 for non-members).
Contact RSI’s Nicole Brewin at (202) 347-4664, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Agenda information and registration forms are available at www.railwaysupply.org/convention/Selling2009.aspx.
The Salem County Short Line railroad, located in New Jersey’s southwestern quadrant south of Philadelphia, will get $950,000 in federal funding to bolster freight rail traffic in the region and, possibly, improve ship-to-rail intermodal movements.
New Jersey’s two U.S. senators, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez (both Democrats), and Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo are credited with securing the funding for the 18-mile short line, which runs from Swedesboro to the port of Salem on the Delaware River.
"Our rail line is a crucial element to Salem County'seconomy and a critical factor in the continued economic development," said county Freeholder Deputy Director Beth Timberman. "Investment in our rail line is truly economic stimulus."
Current customers on the short line include floor covering manufacturer Mannington Mills, the South Jersey Farmers Exchange, and Anchor Glass Container Corp.
"It's crucial that we invest in the type of projectsthat will create jobs and keep the economic engine of Salem County running," Menendez said. "The rail line supports our vital manufacturing and agricultural centers and it helps create employment."
One local rail industry observer tells Railway Age that the upgrade in Salem County may aid efforts in neighboring Gloucester County, north of Salem, to restore passenger rail service there. Existing freight rail service provided by Conrail Shared Assets almost certainly would increase along with any increased traffic traversing the Salem County Short Line, necessitating track upgrades and, possibly, more track capacity to handle both freight and passenger traffic expected.
The U. S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of the Shell Oil Co. and two railroads that claimed that they should not have to repay most of the $8 million that the government spent on environmental cleanup at a former chemical storage site.
The 8-1 high court ruling overturned a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling holding Shell, along with BNSF and Union Pacific, responsible for almost all of the cleanup costs, though the circuit court acknowledged that the involvement of the plaintiffs in the contamination had been relatively small.
Monday's ruling upheld that of a federal judge who found the railroads' share of the cleanup costs to be 9%.
Nicholasville, Ky.-based R.J. Corman Railroad Group LLC is acquiring most of the assets of Brossard, Que.-based locomotive manufacturer Railpower Technologies Corp. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Railpower, which has been operating under court protection from its creditors since early February, said the deal includes all assets except cash and the land and property located in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., as well as two road switching locomotives. The deal is set to close on May 20, pending court approval.
The offer won't provide any value to shareholders, Railpower said, though it added that the deal is "in the best interests" of the company.
Railpower said R.J. Corman plans to hire approximately 75% of Railpower's current work force, or roughly 29 employees. Railpower recently shut down its active operations and cut its already diminished workforce by half, to 39 employees.
As part of the deal, R.J. Corman has agreed to sell to certain current Railpower managers certain assets in the agreement, including the RTG cranes technology, and grant a "non-exclusive, perpetual, fully-paid royalty free license" to use intellectual property rights.
An R.J. Corman spokesman said the company would continue to advance Railpower's Gen-Set technology.
R.J. Corman adds Railpower’s assets to its stable of nine short line railroads, 19 derailment and emergency services locations, and 10 locations providing track materials.
Moncton, New Brunswick-based Industrial Rail Services Inc. Monday formally was awarded contracts worth about C$100 million (US$85 million) to restore 98 VIA Rail passenger cars that ply the Montreal-to-Toronto route.
Funding is from the C$691 million in federal funds the government has pledged to improve VIA Rail services throughout Canada.
"This government's support of VIA Rail, through the Economic Action Plan, will create skilled jobs and stimulate the economy across Canada," said Minister of State Rob Merrifield. "We are pleased to be taking action that will provide faster, more frequent, more reliable passenger rail service across Canada."
The refurbishment will take place at the company’s facility in Moncton, formerly a locomotive repair and rebuild shop for Canadian National.
U.S. carload freight traffic for the week ended April 25 remained lower than the comparable week one year ago, down 22.4%, according to the Association of American Railroads. AAR noted traffic rose 2.1% from the preceding week. But compared with year-ago levels, carload freight fell 20.7% in the West, 24.7% in the East.
U.S. intermodal volume slumped 17.8% from year-ago levels, though it, too, gained ground on the previous week, up a modest 0.7%. Volume of 27.7 billion ton-miles, off 21.1% from a year ago but also up 1.8% from the previous week.
Canadian carload freight fell 23.5% for the week compared with last year, while intermodal retreated 14.1%. Mexico’s two major railroads reported carload freight fell a modest 5.7%, while intermodal actually gained ground, up 0.5%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 16 weeks of 2009 on U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads showed an 18.4% decline in carload freight traffic, and a 15.8% fall in intermodal traffic, compared to the comparable period in 2008.
Along with a sharp drop in railroad traffic came a corresponding decline in accidents and incidents in this year's first two months.
Preliminary statistics posted Friday by the Federal Railroad Administration's Office of Safety Analysis show a 22.1% decline in total accidents and incidents in January-February 2009 compared with the corresponding period in 2008. Fatalities of all types declined 8.0% to 92.
Train accidents were down 27.8% to 307, with collisions down 34.1% to 270 and derailments down 30.5%% to 216. Yard accidents declined 34.1% to 155.
Track causes were cited in 87 train accidents, down 40.8% from the 2008 period; equipment causes in 51, down 13.6%; and human factors in 109, down 28.3%.
Fatalities at highway/rail crossingswere down 18.6% to 31, and trespasser fatalities declined 1.8% to 54.
There were seven employee fatalities in January-February 2009, four more than in the 2008 period. Employee injuries declined 21.1% to 643.
Plans for regional passenger rail service in central Florida are in jeopardy following a Florida state Senate vote Thursday rejecting the $1.2 billion project by a 23-17 vote. In a last-ditch vote Friday evening, the Senate again spurned the measure, this time by a 23-16 margin.
Supporters of SunRail service, planned for five central Florida counties in the Orlando metropolitan area, appeared resigned to the outcome. “It'll take some maneuvering to get it done. I think the forces of evil have won," said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.
The state Senate Friday afternoon was to consider one last attempt at passage, with language added to the measure approving a $200 million insurance policy necessary to operate train service. Supporters were successful in obtaining a two-hour extension of the 6:00 p.m. close of the current legislative session, in order to bring the issue up for one last vote.
The project has been supported by Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, but 15 Republican senators voted against the proposal Thursday. One, Sen. Paula Dockery, was cautiously optimistic, noting, "We still have one day [Friday] to go. There's always a few tricks in the book."
SunRail, a proposed 61.5-mile route roughly paralleling Interstate 4, ran into trouble when state legislators objected to provisions protecting CSX Corp. from liability in the case of an accident. CSX would remain as a tenant on the right-of-way following its sale by CSX to the Florida Department of Transportation for $600 million.