Amtrak Wednesday implemented a “multi-force security surge” at stations and on trains in the Northeast Corridor, which included “random passenger bag inspections at unannounced locations,” according to the Transportation Security Administration. A mix of federal, state, regional, and local officers were on patrol along the route, some accompanied by canine units.
The effort, part of Allied Law Enforcement for Rail and Transit Security (ALERT), was scheduled to improve coordination among many law enforcement and security agencies, covering roughly 150 rail stations in New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
“We look forward to conducting more of these operations in the future, varying in size, timing, and location” said John Sammon, a TSA assistant administrator. TSA emphasized that the exercise was not in response to, or anticipation of, any specific security threat.
General Electric Co. is seeking to secure Chinese business partners for its technology infrastructure unit, as it moves to increase its role for both rail and wind power business in the world’s most populous nation.
“We are always looking for partnership opportunities invarious configurations in China,” said GE Technology Infrastructure China President Tim Schweikert. GE is open to making wholly owned investments for assets or in acquiring stakes in Chinese companies to grow a business sector, Schwikert said.
Even a modest presence in China’s rail market could boost Fairfield, Conn.-based GE’s bottom line. China is committing 700 billion yuan (roughly $100 billion) per year in each of the next three years on rail infrastructure, roughly 17.5% of its overall economic stimulus package, to promote growth and ease transport bottlenecks. It hopes to have upgraded or put in place 86,000 kilometers (53,320 miles) of rail by year-end, expanding to 110,000 kilometers (68,200 miles) by 2012.
B.H.I.T., Inc. , a publicly traded company based in Boca Raton, Fla., has acquired 100% of the equity securities of the Wood Energy Group, Inc. for $6.4 million.
St. Louis-based Wood Energy is a railroad tie reclamation/energy generation company. It reclaims ties for Class I, regional, and short line railroads and disposes of them to either the energy co-generation or landscape markets. The company also processes wood products for forest products companies.
Wood Energy has contracts with Union Pacific and CN, as well as International Paper, Mead Westvaco, and others. In 2008, Wood Energy reclaimed approximately 900,000 railroad ties and generated revenue of more than $5.2 million.
The six-year, $500 billion surface transportation bill spearheaded by Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, would terminate the Section 130 rail-highway grade crossing program two years after enactment, according to an update Tuesday provided by Railway Systems Suppliers, Inc. (RSSI).
Said RSSI, “This bill, The Surface Transportation Authorization Act, terminates the Section 130 rail-highway grade crossing program in two years and consolidates the funding and such authority that remains into the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP).”
“This means that if the Chairman’s bill is allowed to remain as crafted, two things happen. First, the annual $220 million Section 130 Rail-Highway grade Crossing program disappears in two years. Second, it is combined with 21 other major highway safety programs, thereby requiring grade crossing interests to compete for limited Federal safety dollars,” RSSI said.
RSSI noted that a coalition of rail interests was working to advance an amendment to the authorization, House Resolution H.R. 2125. Language in the amendment “extends the authorization and funding of the Section 130 program through 2014 and beyond, if possible.”
The American Public Transportation Association released a report Sept. 4 showing that an individual in a two-person household can save an average of $762 a month by taking public transportation and living with one less car.
APTA’s latest Transit Savings Report is based on the Sept. 3, 2009 national average gas price ($2.5896 per gallon) and the national unreserved monthly parking rate. The cost of this parking in a downtown business district is $154.23, according to the 2009 Colliers International Parking Rate Study.
Estimated monthly savings in the top 10 cities with the highest transit ridership: New York, $1,145; Boston, $1,027; San Francisco, $1,014; Chicago, $936; Seattle, $932; Philadelphia, $922; Honolulu, $885; Los Angeles, $835; San Diego, $822; and Minneapolis, $809.
Siemens Transportation Systems has routinely touted its commitment to U.S.-based production of passenger rail equipment through its plant in Sacramento, Calif. The company now seeks to fill positions for welders and other workers as it prepares for a $26 million expansion of its light rail transit construction capabilities.
Siemens says it expects to add 200 employees at the plant during the next three to five years. “We're hiring people on an ongoing basis,” said spokeswoman Becky Sabin.
The company is using a temporary staff agency to do the actual initial hiring, but temps will get the opportunity to be hired by Siemens directly after six months of employment, depending on performance, Siemens says.
Some residents in a Rowlett, Tex., neighborhood, northeast of Dallas, are expressing displeasure with Dallas Area Rapid Transit's plans to extend its Blue Line 4.8 miles from nearby Garland. Neighborhood representatives complain that DART will eliminate trees growing along the right-of-way, creating a negative impact on the area’s quality of life.
But DART spokesman Morgan Lyons tells Railway Age “it’s a corridor we’ve owned since 1997,” and any trees being felled are within DART’s own property lines. He stressed that DART is meeting with concerned citizens and is trying to address their issues in good faith.
Surveyor stakes have delineated the right-of-way recently, generating alarm in "four homes on a five-mile [stretch of] right-of-way," Lyons said, apparently surprised after property boundaries were not where they anticipated. The right-of-way, averaging 150 feet in width, will accommodate three tracks, Lyons said, with two for use by DART and a third for freight rail movement.
"The number of trees to be removed varies according towhere the lines go,” Lyons said. He acknowledged that some of the trees are “pretty good-sized” specimens.
One concerned citizen, addressing DART by e-mail, asked the agency to upgrade drainage near an industrial area on the north side of the tracks, retain as many trees as possible on the south side and replace ones that are removed, and install an 8-foot stone wall.
Said DART’s Lyons, "We've met with neighborhood residents ... and talked several times with them informally about our new tree survey and plans for a two-season sound study.” Lyons told Railway Age the original sound study took place in summer, when trees "were in full bloom"; subsequent studies will occur in fall and winter periods.
He added, "The tree study indicates which trees might be removed depending on the final rail alignment." The DART study evaluating noise impact will begin this fall. "We've committed to not start construction in this area until after the studies are complete," Lyons said.
GE Transportation forecasts a "very tough and bleak" market for new railroad locomotives through 2010, since "[t]here are no (U.S.) customers who are actively purchasing right now," company President and CEO Lorenzo Simonelli says, adding, "North America, from the standpoint of purchasing locomotives, is not moving."
Simonelli (pictured at left) previously has estimated that locomotive production from Erie, Pa.-based GE Transportation would decline roughly 44% in 2009, to 485 locomotives, and possibly by 50% in 2010 from a base of previous estimates.
GE Transportation, a subsidiary of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric Co., relied on locomotive manufacturing and related service for more than 70% of its 2008 revenue of $5 billion. But the company has been affected as Class I railroads have sidelined much of their locomotive and rail car fleet, though carriers such as Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific began redeploying some of their sidelined fleet as August drew to a close.
Simonelli, acknowledging the moves by NS and UP, cautioned that it doesn’t offer the hope for significant new orders. “Freight volumes going from negative20% to negative 16% don't do much for a manufacturer," he said. Simonelli said GE has some alternative plans in motion to generate revenue, including an effort to bid to supply versions of its fuel-efficient locomotives for planned U.S. high-speed passenger rail service. GE Transportation already provides passenger locomotives for conventional rail passenger services, including Amtrak.
GE and other suppliers also are talking to government officials about a possible effort to replicate a federal “cash for clunkers” effort to upgrade the nation’s freight locomotive fleet with more fuel-efficient engines.
Efforts to spotlight California's proposed $44 billion, 800-mile high speed rail project have encountered their own public relations problem. The California High-Speed Rail Authority Thursday delayed approval of a $9 million, five-year public communications contract after board members said they lacked sufficient information on the finalists, including a staff-recommended firm that has close ties to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Before the authority’s meeting, a three-member staff panel chose Mercury Public Affairs out of nine applicants for the contract. Two of the staff panelists work or have worked for Schwarzenegger: Jeffrey Barker was the governor's deputy communications director until Sept. 1; Mike Bowman is Schwarzenegger's current deputy secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency. Mercury itself also has closel inks with the governor. In all, five of 18 staffers Mercury plans to use for the rail project have worked for the governor.
Authority board members said the two-page staff memo they received was insufficient to make a $9 million decision; some members said they wanted to see the contract finalists make presentations in a future board meeting.
“The staff report and recommendation here wouldn't be adequate in kindergarten,” said Richard Katz, a Schwarzenegger appointee to the board and a longtime advocate of passenger rail transit in the state. “There is no discussion of deliverables. There is no discussion of what our expectation is of them. I am assuming (staff) went through a rigorous process to get there. But I don't have anything to support that.”
Mercury Public Affairs is part of the Omnicon Group, a New York-based advertising, marketing, and corporate communications company. Mercury has California offices in Los Angeles and in Sacramento, the state capital.