U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood Thursday said the Federal Railroad Administration has received 278 pre-applications for grant funding totaling $102 billion.
"The response has been tremendous and shows that the country isready for high speed rail,” Secretary LaHood said. “It’s time to look beyond our highways and invest in public transportation services like rail, which will enhance regional mobility and reduce our carbon footprint.”
The desire to invest outstrips the current fiscal ability,since the pre-applications’ fiscal requests far exceed the $8 billion coming from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), more commonly known as the federal stimulus package, for the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail competitive grant program.
Even including the pledge by the Obama Administration to back an additional $5 billion for high speed rail funding in coming years through the congressional appropriations process, bolstering the amount available to $13 billion, the current supply of funds measures only 12.7% of the submitted demand.
FRA broke down the pre-applications by region as follows:
Northeast: total number of pre-applications submitted, 79; total requested funds, $35 billion.
South/Southeast: total number of pre-applications submitted, 44; total requested funds: $16 billion
Midwest: total number of pre-applications submitted, 47; total requested funds, $13 billion.
West: total number of pre-applications submitted, 108; total requested funds: $38 billion.
DOT said 40 states and the District of Columbia filed pre-applications. While not all proposed projects can be funded, the Department will work with states and regions to identify priorities and prepare for ongoing high speed rail development. DOT expects to announce the first round of merit-based grants in the fall. The final application deadline is August 24 for funding on individual projects and planning, and October 2 for corridor programs.
More information is available at the FRA website, www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/31.
California’s Department of Transportation will officially dedicate a “green” locomotive July 22, part of the Amtrak California service fleet, that it says reduces locomotive emissions.
The locomotive is an F59PHI originally built by Electro-Motive Diesel in October 2001. EMD has installed its 710ECO™Repower upgrade package with the latest microprocessor-controlled locomotive engine technology for lower emissions, increased fuel economy, greater reliability, and predictable maintenance costs. The upgraded locomotive will now achieve EPA Tier 2 emissions performance, two levels cleaner than required for this model, Caltrans said.
The July 22 ceremony, scheduled to occur at Sacramento Valley Station, “marks the beginning of cleaner diesel technology on Californiapassenger railroads, a longtime ambition of Caltrans in its quest to go green,” Caltrans said in a statement. “The newly upgraded locomotive has recently begun operating between Sacramento and the Bay Area along the Capitol Corridor route.”
Said Caltrans Director Will Kempton, “This is really a big step for Caltrans. We took a proactive role to get a cleaner locomotive on the tracks, and we’re proud to see this project through. It aligns with Governor Schwarzenegger's objectives to clean up Caltrans’ carbon footprint, and it contributes to the bigger goal of California going green.”
“We at EMD are pleased to offer a product that can benefit Californians in many ways,” said John Hamilton, president and CEO of Electro-Motive Diesel, Inc. “The 710ECO™ Repower solution allows Caltrans to achieve its aggressive emissions reduction and performance goals, while extending the locomotive service lives to leverage its fleet investment.”
Amtrak California operates 15 F59PHI locomotives; the goal is to convert the entire fleet, eventually reducing operating emissions by nearly 50%. Caltrans noted the effort was made in cooperation with numerous partners, including the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Amtrak, the California Air Resources Board, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and EMD.
Railroad shippers anticipate an average base rate increase of 3.3% during the next six-to-12 months, according to a new survey conducted by New York-based investment bank Dahlman Rose & Co.
The 2009 2Q Rail Shipper Survey finds rail companies expecting to continue to face pricing pressure in the upcoming months. The rate is below past quarterly survey results-- a 3.6% expected increase in the first quarter of 2009 and a 3.5% increase in the fourth quarter of 2008.
Survey respondents were small, mid-to-major U.S. companies that use rail to transport a range of materials, including metals, petroleum, and chemicals, as well as building, consumer, and paper products, Dahlman Rose said.
“Although the near-term outlook remains bleak for railroads, shippers expect their businesses to pick up and grow 4% on average across multiple industriesin the next year,” Dahlman Rose said. “The results show agricultural products, metals, and petroleum products are leading the way for best anticipated growth; chemicals, building products, and consumer products, on the other hand, expect lower growth. The results bode well for the rail space and the broader market in the long term.”
"It is clear from our proprietary survey that pricing pressure exists in the marketplace," said Jason H. Seidl, Dahlman Rose director of Rail, Trucking and Air Freight research and Railway Age Contributing Editor (photo, left). "However, if shipper optimism for business growth turns out to be well-founded, this could relieve the pressure."
The survey also indicates that a great majority of shippers do not plan to file any rate action against a railroad during the next 12 months. The results, compared to last quarter's, suggest that shippers believe that current pricing practices are not out of line.
J.B. Hunt, a major over-the-road carrier, issued a third-quarter earnings report Tuesday that disappointed Wall Street, with both revenue and earnings falling below expectations. But the trucking company expressed optimism over the future of its intermodal business.
"We believe that, as our rail partners continue to make multiyear investments to improve service and network efficiency and as shippers remain under economic and environmental pressure to find sustainable alternatives to truck, the long-term outlook of our intermodal business is very attractive," said the trucking company.
"As a result it is important for us to continue to make strategic investments even in the midst of harsh market conditions. In the interim, we are focused on cost reduction efforts to help mitigate competitive price pressures," said J.B. Hunt.
Lowell, Ark.-based J.B. Hunt said recent contract negotiations resulted in an overall decrease in price as well as changes in mix of freight which, along with "only modest increases in seasonal volumes, lead us to expect earnings comparisons will continue to be difficult over the short term."
Meridian Southern Railway LLC (MDS), a 55.5-mile short line, has asked the Surface Transportation Board for authority to build 1,910 feet of track in Lauderdale County, Miss., to extend existing MDS track to the Norfolk Southern yard in Meridian.
This will give MDS a connection to the NS main line in addition to its existing connection with the Kansas City Southern main line.
"MDS anticipates that the proposed connecting track will provide existing shippers and consignees with improved access to the national rail system by addition of a routing option with more efficient flow and adding pricing competition," STB said on Wednesday as it announced the application.
STB expects to grant MDS the requested authority barring a possible stay based on environmental or historic issues, on which MDS has already submitted its own review.
Officials from VIA Rail Canada, Canadian National, and the federal government will gather at Toronto’s Union Station Thursday to tout two developments aimed at improving passenger rail service on VIA’s Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal route.
The news conference in Toronto is highlighting VIA infrastructure work on CN's Kingston Sub Project, designed to improve passenger train frequency and capacity. In addition, VIA will ceremonially acknowledge receipt of its first fully rebuilt F40 locomotive at simultaneous events in both Toronto and Montreal. The locomotive is the first of 54 F40s to be rebuilt by CAD Railway Industries (CAD) of Lachine, Québec.
Slated to appear are Gary Goodyear, federal Minister of State (Science and Technology), CN Executive Vice President Claude Mongeau, and Donald E. Wright, chairman of VIA Rail Canada.
Washington state’s Port of Vancouver Commission has approved plans to acquire six acres of property to allow new rail access into port facilities across the Columbia River from nearby Portland, Ore.
The West Vancouver freight access rail project plans call for the new line to be built across property adjacent to the port and owned by Clark Public Utilities and Clark County, Wash., as well as port property leased by Great Western Malting Co.
Four Class I railroads currently serve the port, including BNSF,Union Pacific, Canadian Pacific, and Canadian National.
The port will pay Clark County an amount still to be determined for approximately four acres and will swap parcels, each less than an acre, with Clark Public Utilities. The port intends to negotiate a new lease with Great Western Malting Co. intended to reclaim nearly an acre for port use.The port has planned to purchase the properties for more than three years, but has not yet set a price.
Planners in California’s Sonoma and Marin counties, north of San Francisco, have recommended diesel multiple-unit (DMU) equipment for a proposed 71-mile rail line serving the northern Bay Area. The Sonoma Marin Area Rapid Transit (SMART) Board of Directors approved the recommendation Wednesday in a 9-2 vote, directing staff to write specifications. The process will take several months at a cost of $400,000.
SMART’s directors endorsed plans for a fleet of 11 “American-style” DMU units, projected to cost $88 million, as opposed to diesel light rail transit (DLRT) cars similar to those used in New Jersey and southern California. Doing so would allow the project to meet crash standards mandatedby the Federal Railroad Administration, and avoid temporal separation of freight and passenger services; the proposed rail service, linking Cloverdale and Larkspur, Calif., would share the right-of-way with existing freight rail services. The line would interface with Golden Gate Ferry services at Larkspur, providing intermodal passenger service to and from San Francisco.
Planners and area rail advocates are aware of the difficulties Austin, Tex., has experienced in its ongoing, much-delayed startup of rail service there; Austin’s Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority opted for DLRT equipment, which FRA said necessitated temporal separation of freight and passenger rail operations.
“The majority understand it’s a tough choice, but in the end the regulatory environment is what it is, and we don’t want to have a systembased on regulations that we wished existed. We need to build a system based on regulations the way they are,” said SMART spokesman Chris Coursey, explaining SMART’s desire to avoid any entanglements with FRA.
“It is passionate because this is one of the biggest decisions we will make and it will impact the people who ride it,” said Debora Fudge, vice chairman of the SMART board. “They will see these cars, and theywill look sleek and modern.”
The board says it’s aware that only one U.S. manufacturer, Columbus, Ohio-based US Railcar LLC, is capable of producing DMU equipment. US Railcar, owned by the Value Recovery Group, purchased most of the assets of Fort Lupton, Colo.-based Colorado Railcar earlier this year.
The city of Phoenix has awarded contracts valued at $255 million to Bombardier Transportation for the design, supply, operation, and maintenance of an INOVIA automated people mover (APM) at Sky Harbor International Airport.
New York Gov. David Paterson Tuesday nominated Jay Walder to head the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Walder must be confirmed by the state Senate, which is expected to meet Wednesday on the matter.
Walder, 48, previously served with MTA as its chief financial officer from 1983 to 1995. He also served as managing director for finance and planning at Transport for London from 2000 to 2006. He then became a partner in McKinsey & Co., a consulting firm.
If confirmed, Walder will serve as both chairman and chief executive officer. Walder would succeed Lee Sander as MTA’s CEO; Sander was forced to resign last May. Helena Williams, president of MTA Long Island Rail Road, has been acting CEO in the interim.
Walder’s nomination has been greeted warmly by regional transit advocacy groups, including the Straphangers Campaign and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign.