North Carolina’s Department of Transportation Thursday announced it had been awarded eight Federal Railroad Administration grants of more than $9 million. The funds will be used for track and safety improvements.
“These grants make it possible for us to improve capacity, reliability, and safety as we continue to modernize our state’s railroads,” said Transportation Secretary Gene Conti. “We look forward to strengthening our partnerships with municipalities, freight, and short line railroads as more grant funding becomes available for continued development of rail infrastructure.”
These eight grants will upgrade rail for heavier trains, reimburse recovery costs associated with Hurricane Hanna, advance locomotive emissions research, develop environmental documents and engineering for new grade separations, streamline freight operations to minimize congestion, and make safety improvements to private crossings on the federally designated Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor, one of 10 candidates for $8 billion in federal stimulus funds targeted for high speed rail development.
Union Pacific Chairman and CEO Jim Young, Iowa Department of Transportation Director Nancy Richardson, and Boone, Iowa, Mayor John Slight Thursday commemorated one of North America's tallest double-track railroad bridges, the new Kate Shelley Bridge spanning the Des Moines River. The bridge is more than 2,800 feet long and 190 feet high. UP says the new bridge improves operating efficiency, supports growth in Union Pacific’s customers’ businesses, and delivers increased freight capacity on the railroad’s busy corridor linking Chicago to the West Coast. UP invested more than $50 million in the structure.
"The new Kate Shelley Bridge enhances our long-termability to improve operational efficiency and customer service," said Young (pictured at left). "Congratulations to all Union Pacific employees and contractors who worked on what is truly a modern-day engineering feat."
"It is only fitting that the new bridge is given the name of the structure it replaced, Kate Shelley, to honor a person who helped save so many lives when she was able to help warn an oncoming passenger train that a bridge had washed out during a stormy night 1881," Young added.
"Freight transportation is critical to the economic success of Iowa and the nation and moving freight by rail is a key component of the overall freight transportation network. I am very pleased to see the completion of the Union Pacific’s new Kate Shelley Bridge that improves the operational reliability and capacity of the rail system to meet the freight needs that are so critical to the agricultural and industrial base of Iowa," said Iowa DOT Director Richardson.
The bridge's two tracks, 20 feet apart, are set on a ballastdeck that is supported by reinforced concrete towers and steel piles. Twotrains can operate on the bridge at the same time at the maximum speed of 70mph. The first train operated overthe bridge August 20.
OCCI, Inc., based in Fulton, Mo., was the contractor for theproject and Omaha-based HDR Engineering Inc., provided the engineering for thebridge construction.
The Association of American Railroads reported Thursday that U.S. rail carload traffic for the week ending Sept. 26 felt the impact of severe flooding halted freight shipments in Georgia and Tennessee for three days, and also affected western carriers that operate through Atlanta. Nationwide, traffic was down 17.1% from the same week last year to 271,659 carloads.
Intermodal traffic for the latest week totaled 205,627 trailers or containers on U.S. railroads, down 16.5% from last year. Container volume fell 11% and trailer volume dropped 37.2%.
All 19 carload commodity groups were down from last year with declines ranging from 6 %t for chemicals to 38.5% for metals and products.
For the first 38 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported total volume of 10,104,171 carloads, down 18.2% from 2008; and 7,141,006 intermodal units, down 16.8 5.
Canadian railroads originated 69,342 carloads for the week, down 15.1% from last year, and 44,838 trailers or containers, down 13.8%. Year to date, Canadian roads reported cumulative volume of 2,304,419 carloads, down 22.6% from last year, and 1,545,090 trailers or containers, down 16.3%.
Mexican railroads reported originated 11,782 carloads, down 8.9% from last year, and 6,636 intermodal units, down 13.9%. Total volume for the first 38 weeks of 2009 was as 432,036 carloads, down 14 % from last year; and 195,933 trailers or containers, down 18.9%.
Combined North American rail volume for the first 38 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian, and Mexican railroads totaled 12,840,626 carloads, down 18.9% from last year, and 8,882,029 intermodal units, down 16.8%.
Cary, N.C.-based Railinc says it has successfully launched the new Umler system, replacing a 40-year-old legacy system with modern web-based technology. The Umler system is a mission-critical application for the freight rail industry, containing vital information about rail equipment used when servicing freight customers, making trip plans, testing air brakes, or making equipment repairs.
Using the Umler system, rail carriers, equipment owners, and shippers now have real-time access to highly detailed equipment information through an easily accessible and easy-to-use web application. The result is better communication and collaboration among rail partners for better asset management and improved rail safety. “Development and implementation of the new system was an enormous industry effort,” said Alan McDonald, director of the Umler/EMIS project. “Hundreds of professionals throughout the freight rail industry came together to make the new Umler system a success.”The new Umler system was turned on August 31st. Cutover for Umler’s largest users began on September 12, including several large equipment owners, leasing companies, and Class I railroads. The Umler system tracks data on more than two million pieces of rail equipment, including 1.4 million rail cars and 25,000 locomotives.
Cutovers will continue until the end of December. Post-production support will also continue during the next several months, including release of Umler/EMIS 3.3, scheduled for October 18. Railinc will also host "Ask the Experts" Umler webinars each month to help Umler users acclimate to the new system.
“Railinc bent over backward to meet the needs of multiple industry partners to bring this complex system to fruition,” said Randy Voith, technical director for CSX Technology. “Together they worked for many years to develop a system that will better allow us to serve the needs of the rail industry in the new millennium.”Implementation of the new Umler system represents seven years of coordinated, industry-wide development. Representatives from every Class I railroad and many of the largest rail equipment owners participated in developing the system. More than 800,000 lines of code were written containing more than 20,000 business rules. Overall more than two million equipment records were transformed. “The edits and validations in the new system are great,” said Gary Boklewski, database engineering manager for General American Tank Corp. (GATX). “They are leading the industry to a whole new level of data quality and accuracy.”For more information about the Umler project or the new Umler system, visit www.railinc.com/rportal/web/guest/umleremis.
Numerous U.S. states, singly or in groups, have jockeyed for a portion of the $8 billion in federal stimulus funds to advance one of 10 proposed high speed rail routes nationwide. Subtract the state of New Hampshire from the competition, at least for now.
The Granite State’s Department of Transportation says it will not submit a $300 million funding request, and blames freight railroad Pan Am Railways for the latter’s uncooperative stance in establishing a 39-mile “New Hampshire Capitol Corridor” route. The state already has applied for $1.4 million in planning funds.
Said DOT Commissioner George Campbell, "By walking away from this unique and exciting initiative, Pan Am has effectively closed the window on strengthening New Hampshire's economy. Our citizens and businesses along this corridor deserve better transportation choices than they have today."
Pan Am Railways owns the right-of-way for the route, identified by New Hampshire for service running roughly northwest of Boston’s North Station to New Hampshire locations including Nashua, Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, and Concord. Amtrak's Downeaster service currently traverses the state on a coastal route linking Boston and Portland, Maine, stopping in New Hampshire at Dover, Durham (University of New Hampshire), and Exeter.
Mark Richardson, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Railroad Revitalization Association, said that if HSR is established linking Montreal and Boston via Vermont instead of New Hampshire, New Hampshire would lose an economic opportunity.
David Fink, president of Pam Am Railways in North Billerica, Mass., said he would be willing to negotiate with Amtrak if Amtrak approached him about using the rail line between Concord and Nashua for passenger rail. "I do business with Amtrak every day," Fink said. "They run the Downeaster for me every day. They're business partners." But Fink said any focus on HSR for New Hampshire was misplaced.
Los Angeles-based AECOM Technology Corp. Wednesday said it has been awarded a $19.3 million extension contract, the first of three possible one-year option periods, from Dallas Area Rapid Transit to complete the second phase of its light rail expansion program.
Included in the second phase is completion of DART’s 26.5-mile Green Line and 20-mile expansion of DART’s Orange and Blue lines. AECOM will provide a variety of project control, system integration, and staff support services.
“AECOM has worked closely with DART for nearly two decades," said AECOM President and Chief Executive Officer John M. Dionisio. “We are proud to continue this relationship as we enhance the mass transit systems of Dallas.”
AECOM’s work on the current light rail contract began during 2002; the company says the contract has a value of $58.1 million to date.
The Long Island Rail Road's $6.5 billion East Side Access Project reached another milestone Tuesday with the award of a $659 million contract covering what is known as the Queens Bored Tunnels and Structures phase. The joint venture of Granite Construction Northeast Inc., Traylor Bros., and Frontier-Kemper Constructors, Inc. received a "full notice to proceed" as part of the contract.
MTA Capital Construction Co.said this phase will provide the last major link in the tunnels from Queens to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. When completed, riders will have a direct route from Long Island and eastern Queens to Manhattan’s East Side.
The new contract covers the excavation and the precast concrete lining of four bored tunnels beneath an active rail storage yard. Totaling over 10,000 linear feet or nearly two miles in length and approximately 22 feet in diameter, the tunneling will utilize two 500-ton boring machines. The work also includes three emergency exits, underpinning of existing bridges, and demolition of various railyard buildings. Work is to begin immediately and is estimated to take 42 months to complete.
Seattle’s City Council Transportation Committee has given its blessing to a two-mile First Hill streetcar line, to serve Seattle’s Capitol Hill, First Hill, and International District areas and connect to the city’s recently opened Link light rail transit line. Connections to Sounder regional rail services also would be offered.
Under the plan approved by the committee, Sound Transit would pay up to $132 million between 2009 and 2014 to construct the new line and the city would manage it.
The First Hill Streetcar project would be the second new Seattle streetcar operation, following the debut of the South Lake Union Streetcar in late December 2007. The First Hill project was approved last November by voters as part of the regional, $18 billion Sound Transit expansion plan.
U.S. light rail operations seldom expand beyond a single state; St. Louis Metro’s MetroLink light rail is a prime exception, while TriMet is willing to grow its LRT operations in Portland, Ore., across the Columbia River into Vancouver, Wash. But two sister cities, one on each side of the Rio Grande, are proposing reinstating light rail service across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Juarez, Mexico, Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz and most of the Juarez City Council have accepted a resolution from their El Paso, Tex., council counterparts pledging that the two cities will work to re-establish a rail link, most likely LRT, between the two cities. The cities also said they’ll support the creation of a high speed rail line from the state of Chihuahua, which includes the city of Juarez, to Denver.
Ferriz said concerns likely to be voiced by U.S. Customs over immigration enforcement would be the biggest obstacle faced by the two cities in any joint effort. But the economic benefit to both cities would be substantial, he said. "The amount of flow that will come to our communities will more than pay for any public investment that is made to get the rail lines out of there," he said.
El Paso and Juarez were linked by streetcar service until the early 1970s.
Straddled with budget woes that have put a severe strain onexisting light rail and bus services, St. Louis Metro nonetheless is solicitinginput to develop a long-term plan to expand service reach and boost ridership,and is actively seeking options based on other U.S. rail transit operations.
Among other ideas, Metro is pondering diesel multiple-unit(DMU) or diesel light rail transit (DLRT) for suburban rail service, comparableto the beleaguered, delayed startup in Austin, Tex. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)operations, modeled after Los Angeles, are also being suggested, as is theimplementation of smart cards.
Bob Baer, recently named Metro's chief executive, andJessica Mefford-Miller, chief of planning and system development, hosted aninvitation-only forum Tuesday with local leaders, mostly area mayors and othergovernment officials, to begin the process. Eight public forums are to follow,beginning next month, to craft a plan including five-year, 10-year, and 30-yeartimelines. "The vision will be bottom-up based on what the community wantsand expects," Mefford-Miller said.
A draft of the options to enhance service will be releasedthe week of Dec. 7, after which the public will be able to comment again,before a revised draft plan is released early next year.