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Cincinnati's City Council Finance Committee Monday voted to borrow $64 million to begin building a streetcar line, paving the way for a vote by the full City Council, expected to occur Wednesday.

The proposed first stage, projected to cost $128 million, would run from the Great American Ball Park north through the city to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens, including a stop at the University of Cincinnati.

The route has generated predicatable controversy between rail advocates, including businessleaders and environmentalists, who argue for the streetcar as an economic development tool, and anti-rail partisans, including minority groups suspicious of the proposed route’s location and budget hawks insisting the city can’t afford to increase its debt.

Supporters anticipate fiscal funding support from both the state and federal levels. “This project can help us grow our tax base without growing our tax rate,” said Brad Thomas, founder of the advocacy group CincyStreetcar.com.  “The approval of these bonds will send a clear message to Washington, D.C. that Cincinnati is serious about this project, and will strongly position Cincinnati for the next two rounds of federal funds.”

A Streetcar Feasibility Study issued in July 2007 by HDR Inc.and Parsons Brinckerhoff identified vehicles comparable to those used by Portland, Ore., as the likely choice for a Cincinnati system.

 

 

 

--> Cincinnati's City Council Finance Committee Monday voted to borrow $64 million to begin building a streetcar line, paving the way for a vote by the full City Council, expected to occur Wednesday.The proposed first st ...

In a move encouraged by the White House to boost the thinning ranks of organized labor, the National Mediation Board announced Monday that it had adopted a rule that would approve a union organizing initiative if a simple majority of workers casting ballots voted in favor of organizing.

The new rule, if it survives expected challenges, will replace one that required the approval of a majority of the entire workforce, meaning that each non-voting worker was counted as casting a “no” vote.

The Associated Press called NMB’s action “the most significant so far in a string of White House moves designed to boost organized labor.”

Railroads and airlines are subject to NMB regulations; other industries adhere to rules of the National Labor Relations Board, where the outcome of an organizing election is determined by the workers actually voting.

The new rule could have an early import at Delta Air Lines, where a move is under way to organize flight attendants. Organizing efforts at several smaller, newer airlines could also be affected. A challenge to the new rule is expected to be filed by the Air Transport Association.

The NMB proposed the rule not long after President Obama named the former head of a flight attendant union, Linda Puchala, to the board.

The dissenting vote was cast by Chairwomen Elizabeth Dougherty, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

--> In a move encouraged by the White House to boost the thinning ranks of organized labor, the National Mediation Board announced Monday that it had adopted a rule that would approve a union organizing initiative if a simple majority of workers casting ballots ...
The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to amend two existing rules, “Track Safety Standards” and “Passenger Equipment Safety Standards,” specifically, those sections applicable to high speed and high cant deficiency train oper ...

Amtrak has launched a biofuel pilot program on its Heartland Flyer, linking Fort Worth, Tex., and Oklahoma City, adding beef-based components to diesel fuel. Amtrak is conducting a 12-month test, supported by a $274,000 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration, in its efforts to evaluate alternative fuel mixes.

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The Heartland Flyer, financially supported by the states of Texas and Oklahoma, will use Genesis P42 locomotives from GE Transportation, modified to handle a 20% biodiesel fuel mix. The Genesis locomotives will be monitored and evaluated for wear and tear on movable engine parts, emissions, and horsepower ratings.

Amtrak says the Heartland Flyer offers good testing conditions. “It’s a self-contained route that doesn’t require exchanging engines,” said Amtrak’s spokesman Marc Magliari. “We chose beef simply because it is available in the market where we’re running the test.”

Magliari acknowledged that biodiesel fuel is more costly than traditional diesel fuel, but noted the price differential is less than before, narrowing in the past two years to within 5 cents a gallon. 

--> Amtrak has launched a biofuel pilot program on its Heartland Flyer, linking Fort Worth, Tex., and Oklahoma City, adding beef-based components to diesel fuel. Amtrak is conducting a 12-month test, supported by a $274,000 grant from the Federal Railroa ...

At a special meeting, the Houston Metropolitan Transporation Authority Board of Directors accepted the resignation of President and CEO Frank J. Wilson (top), and authorized Chairman Gilbert Garcia to sign a Mutual Termination and General Release agreement with Wilson.

frankjwilson.jpgThe board also authorized Garcia to negotiate a contract with former Houston City Controller George Greanias (bottom) to serve as interim president and CEO, while a search is initiated for a permanent replacement. Greanias assumed the helm at the agency Monday, and indicated he was open to assuming the position on a permanent basis.

Though departing, Wilson reportedly signed a deal to terminate his tenure in exchange for payments totaling $456,000, plus extensive pension and insurance benefits. Wilson was present during the announcement of his resignation.

“It is a new day for openness and transparency at Metro,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker said in a statement Friday, immediately following the board vote. “Now that a new board and chief executive officer are in place, I am committed to working hand-in-hand with the new leadership and the [Federal Transit Administration] to achieve the next phase of light rail in Houston."

Wilson was hired just a few months after voters narrowly approved the construction of five new light rail lines to connect to the Main Street line that george_greanias.jpgopened Jan. 1, 2004. In recent weeks, however, questions have emerged about the anticipated federal grant for the North and Southeast lines as the FTA announced an investigation of Metro's compliance with “Buy America” rules.

Beyond that, Wilson’s departure was anticipated following the election of Parker as mayor late last year. 

--> At a special meeting, the Houston Metropolitan Transporation Authority Board of Directors accepted the resignation of President and CEO Frank J. Wilson (top), and authorized Chairman Gilbert Garcia to sign a Mutual Termination and General Re ...

Canadian National and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference/Rail Canada Traffic Controllers (TCRC/RCTC) jointly announced Monday that TCRC/RCTC members have ratified a new three-year labor agreement.

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The contract, retroactive to Jan. 1, 2009, provides for wage increases of 1.8% for 2009, 2.4% for 2010, and 2.6% for 2011, as well as dental plan benefit improvements that come into effect on June 1, 2010.

The union represents approximately 200 rail traffic controllers at CN across Canada. 

--> Canadian National and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference/Rail Canada Traffic Controllers (TCRC/RCTC) jointly announced Monday that TCRC/RCTC members have ratified a new three-year labor agreement. ...

Cattron Group International, a global manufacturer of remote control products and professional services for the industrial, mining, commercial mobile, and railroad markets, said Friday it had launched a new website, www.cattrongroup.com. 

The company, based in Sharpsville, Pa,  says the website’s features include improved navigation through easy to use drop-down menus and product page tabs, enhanced graphics, and the ability to download product information for all of Cattron’s brands from one page.

Cattron Group International has subsidiary operations in Canada, the U.K., South Africa, Brazil, Europe, and in Asia, as well as in the U.S.

--> Cattron Group International, a global manufacturer of remote control products and professional services for the industrial, mining, commercial mobile, and railroad markets, said Friday it had launched a new website,  ...
Metra Executive Director Philip A. Pagano, who has been under investigation for financial misconduct, was struck and killed by a Metra train in Crystal Lake, Ill., Friday morning.  ...
The North American Section of the Institution of Railway Signal Engineers (IRSE-NAS) isholding its Annual General Meeting and Mini Conference on Monday, May 17, beginning at 1:00 p.m., in Omaha, prior to the opening reception of the RSSIC&S Exhibition in Omaha. There is no c ...

Alstom Transportation, Inc. President Roelof van Ark has been named the new chief executive officer of the California High Speed Rail Authority.

roelof-van-ark.jpgSeveral industry sources say Van Ark, 58, an unabashed supporter of high speed rail and its potential in the U.S., was chosen in part to address the image problems the proposed $44 billion, 700-mile California system has acquired in recent months. Those problems were highlighted in a report released last month by the California state auditor, claiming the HSR program “risks delays or an incomplete system because of inadequate planning, weak oversight, and lax contract management.”

Van Ark’s appointment is backed by those who note he has served both Alstom and Erlangen, Germany-based Siemens AG, major potential suppliers for any U.S. high speed rail effort. Critics, however, suggest those very qualifications could put van Ark at a disadvantage, possibly a conflict of interest, should either of the two companies be considered for the project.

Van Ark succeeds Mehdi Morshed, who stepped down from his role as executive director in March after spending 11 years to advance HSR in California. According to a CHSRA news release, his $375,000 annual salary is “substantially less than his current compensation in the private sector.”

“California is leading the nation in high speed rail,” van Ark said. “I have seen how high speed rail projects transform the places where they have been built, creating incredible new opportunities by connecting the world s great cities. As someone who has devoted his career to this industry, there’s no doubt in my mind that California is the place to be, and I'’m honored to be given the opportunity to work with all partners to move California's high speed train project forward."

Van Ark has been president at Alstom Transportation Inc. for the past five years, and he previously served as president of Aviation Security for Invision Technologies Inc. Prior to that he spent more than 20 years as an executive, managing director, general manager, senior technical manager, and senior project engineer for Siemens, manufacturer of Germany’s ICE high speed trains. While with Siemens, van Ark worked in Germany, South Africa, and most recently in Sacramento, where he served as president and CEO of Siemens Transportation Systems from 1999-2002. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and an MBA from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

 

 

 

 

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