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.
BNSF said Thursday Paul Bischler has been named vice president and chief sourcing officer, responsible for BNSF Railway Co.’s sourcing efforts, effective Oct. 1. He will report to Carl Ice, executive vice president and chief operations officer. Bischler succeeds Dennis Johnson, who will leave the company on Sept. 30.
Julie Piggott, previously vice president finance and treasurer, will succeed Bischler and assume the role of vice president planning & studies and controller. She will report to Tom Hund, executive vice president and chief financial officer. Piggott will also have this position for BNSF. Before being named to his present position, Bischler served as vice president and controller since June 2006. He joined BNSF in 1997 and has held a number of positions in Finance, supporting both the Operations and Marketing departments. Prior to joining BNSF, he was with the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse.
Piggott has served as vice president finance since June 2006 and was named vice president finance and treasurer in 2009. She joined BNSF in 1991 and has held various positions at BNSF, including: assistant vice president, Strategic and Financial Analysis; assistant vice president, Expedited Services, Consumer Products Marketing; and assistant vice president and assistant controller. Prior to joining BNSF, she was with the accounting firm of Ernst & Youngand Corporate BancServices.
The Association of American Railroads reported Thursday that U.S. rail carloadings for the week ended Aug. 29 were at their highest level since the week ended Dec. 13, 2008. Railroads originated 285,580 carloads in the latest week, down 16.2% from the same week in 2008.
U.S. railroad intermodal traffic of 202,553 trailers or containers was down 15.66% from last year. Container volume fell 9.4% and trailer volume dropped 38.7%.
All 19 carload commodity groups were down, with declines ranging from 8.7% for farm products not including grain to 42.1% for metals and metal products.
Canadian railroads reported volume of 65,256 cars for the latest week, down 17.9% from last year, and 43,274 trailers or containers, down 17.2%. Mexican railroads reported originated volume of 12,286 cars, down 18.22%, and 6,446 trailers or containers, off 11%.
Total North American rail volume for the first 34 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting railroads added up to 11,426,889 carloads, down 19.4% from last year, and 7,894,694 trailers and containers, down 17%.
Union Pacific Thursday ceremonially commenced construction of its $370 million, 785-acre Joliet Intermodal Terminal in Illinois, saying the facility “will support customer growth by increasing the railroad’s international and domestic container capacity and improving rail traffic efficiencies inChicago, the nation’s largest rail center.” UP cited the facility’s anticipated annual capacity of 500,000 international intermodal containers.
The intermodal terminal is part of the CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Joliet, a 3,900-acre logistics center, backed by $2 billion in private investment, expected to generate as many as 15,000 new jobs in the coming decade. CenterPoint’s overall layout includes 975 acres zoned for railand intermodal terminal development, 1,900 acres available for up to 20 million square feet of industrial facilities (warehouse, distribution, manufacturing, cross-dock, and transloading), and 400 acres for container/trailer and equipment management facilities. The remaining 625 acres have been reserved for stormwater and conservation purposes.
“Our new intermodal terminal demonstrates Union Pacific’s unwavering commitment to provide outstanding customer service and make additional investments in our communities. Ultimately, the impact means good paying jobs for the community, growth in the markets we serve, and an expansion of the role of rail–one of the ‘greenest’ and safest modes of freight transportation,” said UP Chairman and CEO Jim Young (pictured at left).
UP hopes to complete the initial phase of construction next June, and stresses that the site has “additional space for future expansion based on customer demand.”
Joliet Intermodal Terminal features include: four 8,000-foot tracks with capacity to handle the loading or unloading of 107 intermodal double-stack rail cars; six 8,000-foot tracks to give train crews the ability to sort rail cars by destination; an additional six tracks to stage rail cars prior to unloading or loading; four cranes,equipped with Global Positioning System technology, that straddle the rail cars and two rubber-tired mobile “packers” that lift trailers and containers on and off rail cars; more than 3,400 “staging” or parking places for trailers and containers; an advanced Yard System that coordinates all movement of rail cars, trucks, trailers and containers at the facility; AGS Gate technology that decreases truck processing time from five minutes to between 30 to 90 seconds; and a state-of-the-art security system.