Thursday, February 26, 2009

February 2009

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February 10, 2009

NJ Transit sets sights on more EMUs

After investing heavily in Bombardier multilevel cars to augment its passenger rail fleet, New Jersey Transit now says it's ready to acquire electric multiple-unit (EMU) equipment to supplement its existing fleet of Arrow III cars, and eventually retire those cars.

NJT has issued requests for proposals, according to Executive Director Richard Sarles, who observed, "Certain areas [of the NJT rail network] need quick acceleration" provided by EMU equipment, such as on stretches of right-of-way with short intervals between stations. NJT's 230 Arrow III cars were last rebuilt beginning in the late 1980s.

Sarles said any EMU order would be funded through the state Transportation Trust Fund.

Not clear at this point is whether the order will include diesel units, with the "D" units allowing train consists to travel in both electrified and diesel rail territory; two major NJT routes, the North Jersey Coast Line and Boonton/Montclair Line, are electrified only in part, requiring NJT to operate both electric and diesel consists.


February 10, 2009

Acquisitions boost Genesee & Wyoming January traffic

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. Tuesday said its January traffic was up 12.2% compared with the comparable month of 2008. The increase was attributable in large measure to GWI's rail acquisitions made during 2008, including CAGY Industries, Inc., the Georgia Southwestern Railroad, and the Ohio Central Railroad System.

Minus those acquisitions, GWI's same-railroad traffic in January 2009 fell 9.4% compared with the year-ago period. The company said the decline was largely due to falloff in pulp & paper, metals, and lumber & forest products traffic.


February 10, 2009

Metro-North notches 2008 ridership records

While casting a wary eye on potential customer declines for 2009, Metro-North Railroad has reported a new record of 84 million rides in 2008, its 25th year of operations. Ridership in 2008 was up 3.9% compared with 2007 figures, and includes customers using the railroad’s connecting ferry and bus services, mostly in Westchester County, N.Y.

Metro-North's East-of-Hudson rail operations claimed on-time performance of 97.5%, the fourth year on-time performance has logged 97.5% or greater. Metro-North's West-of-Hudson on-time performance was 96.9% on the Pascack Valley Line and 94.7% on the Port Jervis Line, both of which traverse through New Jersey to points in Rockland and Orange counties in New York.

"We are very proud that Metro-North's performance continues to reflect the MTA's core commitment to provide high quality customer service," said MTA Executive Director Elliot G. Sander.

"The consistent level of fine service that Metro-North employees provide is even more telling when you consider that the number of employees has remained virtually constant since Metro-North's inception in 1983 while the number of trains operated has increased by 31%,” said Metro-North President Howard Permut. "In addition, the additional train service has been met with rail ridership that has almost doubled since 1983."

But Permut acknowledged that Metro-North ridership may slip in 2009 if economic conditions continue to slump, affecting Wall Street and the financial sector, and possibly forcing the railroad to cut service and raise fares.

"We were projecting much smaller growth even before some of the real economic calamities of November and December," Permut said. "We knew things were slowing down, but they weren't falling off the cliff like now."


February 10, 2009

Riverso named president of STV Inc.

Milo E. Riverso, Ph.D., P.E., has been named president of STV, Inc., with the company's four operating divisions--Buildings and Facilities, Construction Management, Emerging Markets, and Transportation and Infrastructure--reporting to Riverso.

Riverso joined STV in April 2005 as senior vice president of STV Construction Inc. He was promoted to STV executive vice president in 2006, and was named chief operating officer of STV Construction Inc. The company says that under his leadership, STV's Construction Management practice doubled in size.

Riverso also serves as the chair to STV's Operating Committee, which provides oversight and assistance to the firm's operations, outside consultants, and strategic planning efforts.

"In his years with STV, Milo has proven to be a true leader who fits our culture," said Chairman and CEO Dominick Servedio, in a statement. "His industry knowledge is substantial, gained through more than two decades of nationwide design and construction management experience."

Prior to joining STV, Riverso served in executive management positions at a number of construction management firms. He also was president and chief executive officer of the New York City School Construction Authority.


February 10, 2009

GO Transit orders locomotives from MotivePower

Wabtec Corp. says its MotivePower subsidiary has been awarded an $85 million option order to build an additional 20 MPXpress locomotives for GO Transit. The contract follows an original order for 27 locomotives, already delivered.

The 20 additional units, to be built at MotivePower's facility in Boise, Idaho, will be delivered beginning late this year. Wabtec says the locomotives will contain components produced by Wabtec and its other subsidiaries, including braking equipment, relays, contactors, air compressors, brake shoes, and radiators.

"This order is a nice addition to our backlog and reflects our leading role in the commuter locomotive market," said Wabtec President and CEO Albert J. Neupaver in a statement.


February 10, 2009

Hill International picked to manage Gold Line extension

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has chosen Hill International to manage the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority, an LACMTA affiliate overseeing the design and construction of the $458 million, 11.4-mile extension of Gold Line light rail service from Pasadena to Azusa, Calif.

The Foothill Extension will reach from the Gold Line's current eastern terminus in East Pasadena through the cities of Arcadia, Monrovia, Duarte, and Irwindale, terminating in Azusa. The project is scheduled for completion in 2013, assuming it receives funding in 2010.

"The Foothill Extension is the only rail project in Los Angeles County that is ready to go, and the board's selection of a program manager indicates how close we are to getting construction boots on the ground," said Metro Gold Line Chief Executive Officer Habib Balian, who was authorized to negotiate the terms of the contract with Hill International.

As program manager, Hill International will oversee implementation of a design/build contract including design, construction, quality assurance/quality control, safety, community involvement, business impact, environmental mitigations, maintenance of traffic oversight, and related issues. Hill's primary subconsultant on the project is Jacobs Engineering Group, Inc.

"I am honored to be part of the Foothill Extension, having been part of Phase 1 of the project," said John K. Skoury, Hill International vice president and program manager. "The Phase 2A extension is even more exciting to me personally and the Hill team is ready to help our client deliver this ambitious project."


February 9, 2009

11.8% container decline forecast

Cargo volume at major retail container ports in the U.S. will drop by around ll.8% in the first six months of 2009, according to the latest Port Tracker report from the National Retail Federation and IHS Global Insight. Volume was down 7.9% in 2008.

"2008 was one of the most challenging years retailers have seen, and all indications are that 2009 won’t be any better," said NRF Vice President Jonathan Gold. "Unfortunately, cargo volumes at the ports reflects retailers' anticipated sales, and NRF expects that sales will get worse before they get better. Retailers are only going to import what they can sell."

Ports covered by Port Tracker are Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, and Tacoma on the West Coast; New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, and Savannah on the East Coast; and Houston on the Gulf Coast. All are currently rated "low" for congestion.


February 9, 2009

RFTrax appoints new president, vice president

Sugar Land, Tex.-based RFTrax has appointed Roger Keyte as its president, while John Felty has been named vice president.

Keyte began working with RFTrax in July 2008, and has extensive experience in sales, marketing, R&D, and strategic acquisitions. He will relocate to the company's Sugar Land headquarters from its Austion, Tex., offices.

"We are pleased to have an executive with Keyte's experience and credentials joining our team," RFTrax Chairman of the Board Walter Pharris.

Felty was promoted to vice president as February began, and will oversee all aspects of sales, marketing, and new business development. Since joining RFTrax in 2005, Felty has held various positions in business development and sales management, and is credited with overseeing the launch of several new product lines including the launch of RFTrax locomotive monitoring platform and railcar monitoring platform.

"John has the leadership qualities and rail market knowledge the company needs at this time of challenge and opportunity" said Keyte.


February 9, 2009

ExpressYard unveils file converter

Flint, Mich.-based ExpressYard has unveiled its ExpressYard CRBX File Converter, which allows users to download and convert AAR data exchange files into easy-to-read billing repair cards online.

The company says the product was introduced in in response to the Association of American Railroads Circular C-10899, which states that as of Jan. 1, 2009, shops are no longer required to provide detailed repair information to car owners. Owners that cannot utilize the information from the Railinc data exchange must pay a fee to the shops to get copies of their billing repair cards.

"Not all car owners have systems to read and audit 500-byte data exchange files, said Justin Gillam of ExpressYard. "We're just trying to provide a cheap and easy solution for companies to get their data exchange information and download it in a format they’ll be able to read."

Gillam added that "for the time being, we're going to allow people to use this product for free."


February 6, 2009

AAR: Traffic down, investment strong

In an announcement Thursday that carried the bad news of a continuing traffic decline, the Association of American Railroads also reported some good news: Railroad capital spending remains strong.

"January marks the third straight record monthly decline for U.S. railroad traffic, as the severe recession is now negatively affecting every major rail market," said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. "Nevertheless, railroads are planning to maintain a strong level of reinvestment in 2009, as they have for the last several years. Actual investment levels will depend to some extent on how deep the recession goes and how long it lasts, but railroad know that the have to invest today to have the rail capacity America needs tomorrow."

The AAR reported that U.S. carload traffic in the first four weeks of 2009 fell 17.2% compared with the corresponding period of 2008; rail intermodal traffic was down 12.9%; and ton-mile volume declined 15.9%.

In the same period, Canadian carload traffic dropped 17.5% and intermodal volume was down 12,3%; Mexican carload originations were down 15.4% and intermodal originations were off 23.7%.

For just the week ended Jan. 31, U. S. carload volume was down 18.4% from the same week in 2008; intermodal was down 16.0%; and ton-miles were off 17.3%.

In Canada, carloads for the last week in January were down 6.5% from last year and intermodal was off 6.3%.


February 6, 2009

Biden pushes broad spectrum of rail aid

Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. paid a visit Thursday to a MARC commuter station at Laurel, Md., which he cited as "one of the thousands of rail and commuter stations all over the country where we need to make improvements, creating jobs, and creating a better transportation system for the 21st century."

Biden's visit to the suburban, Md., station, was in support of the administration's $900 billion economic stimulus program. He was joined by Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who said he will meet with state DOT chiefs on Feb. 11 to select a list of projects that can get moving fast.

LaHood made it clear that stimulus funding will not be limited to passenger rail. "There are critical projects all over the country that are waiving for funding," he said. "While we create jobs today, we are also laying the foundation for sustained economic growth and a better quality of life through passenger, freight, and high speed rail and transit systems that ease congestion on the road and in the air and through the airports."


February 6, 2009

Rail/truck partnership marks 20 years

The intermodal partnership that began with a simple handshake between railroader Mike Haverty and trucker J.B. Hunt marked its 20th anniversary yesterday.

“Twenty years ago today, J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. and BNSF predecessor Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company loaded a Hunt trailer onto a railcar and ushered in the modern age of intermodal freight transport,” BNSF noted yesterday. “Today, intermodal is one of the most efficient, economical, and environmentally friendly ways to move goods. Twenty years ago, trucks and trains were more competitors than partners. All that changed in 1989 when Santa Fe and J.B. Hunt Transport came together in a move that would lead the industry in innovation.”

Haverty, then an executive with Santa Fe, conducted a demonstration in 1988 for J.B. Hunt, attaching an intermodal flat car to a Santa Fe business car on an inspection trip out of Chicago. Hunt, a hard-boiled, cigar-chomping trucking magnate, was impressed with the flat car’s ride quality. According to Haverty, Hunt extended his hand and said, “Let’s do a deal.”

Several months later, the joint effort started with 150 trailers and five railcars moving freight between Chicago and California. It grew quickly. “Today, BNSF and J.B. Hunt provide transportation solutions throughout North America,” said Steve Branscum, BNSF vice president, Consumer Products. “In 2008, more than 700,000 shipments were moved through this strategic transportation alliance. When the partnership started, no one could have imagined the effect it would have on the industry. Once thought of as experimental, intermodal today offers shippers innovative, efficient, and value-added services that allow them to effectively compete, both domestically and worldwide.”

J.B. Hunt died just a few years ago, and Mike Haverty went on to run the Kansas City Southern and create the “NAFTA Railway” by acquiring a major portion of Mexico’s national railway when it was privatized in 1997. The partnership they forged two decades ago continues to thrive. J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. last year began shifting more freight to containers, running it cross-country on doublestack freight trains, further reinforcing the advantages of rail over long-haul trucking.


February 6, 2009

Analyst: “A glimmer of hope" and solid service metrics

Dahlman Rose & Co. Director Equity Research and Railway Age Contributing Editor Jason Seidl sees "a glimmer of hope in an otherwise weak rail environment" as some traffic sectors are beginning to show signs of recovery.

Declining volume numbers in November (10%), December (17%), and January (13.5%) "may be somewhat overinflated as many mines and manufacturing plants have temporarily shuttered operations over this period," Seidl said. "Although we are far from calling a turning point, we have started to hear about some of these operations coming back on line. The question we ask is, where is the true underlying demand? Although we would be loath to answer this question (we note that even the railroads themselves are steering clear of trying to provide an answer), we view these operations coming back on line as a glimmer of hope in an otherwise weak rail environment."

Seidl noted that Class I overall volumes "continue to remain extremely depressed on severe demand destruction and extended production curtailments, both mine and plants." However, service metrics have been strong. "Overall performance was solid as train speed, cars on line, and dwell time improved 11.0%, 2.3% and 2.8%, respectively" over the past two weeks.


February 6, 2009

EPA: Next two years will be “difficult”

Economic Planning Associates sees 2009 and 2010 as “difficult” years for the freight railcar industry, based on the economic and financial environments as well as EPA's analyses of customer market activities.

"It now appears that carbuilders will survive primarily on backlogs this year," EPA said. "2010 will also be weak in terms of assemblies, but improvements in new orders throughout the year will lead to a pickup in future railcar deliveries."

EPA noted that the recession caught up to carbuilders in the fourth quarter of 2008 as 4,259 cars were ordered, the lowest level since the first quarter of 2001. Add to that the cancellation of about 10,000 ethanol-related cars from backlogs. As a result of this, carbuilders are entering 2009 with backlogs of 31,921 cars, the lowest level since the first quarter of 2003. However, “in spite of the disappointing news of the fourth quarter, carbuilders registered assemblies of 59,954 rail cars and intermodal platforms last year, an impressive level from an historical perspective,” EPA said.

"Based on beginning-year backlogs and limited new demand, we expect railcar deliveries of 28,950 cars this year," EPA said. "While orders will begin to pick up next year, extremely low backlogs will serve to keep assemblies at 26,000 units in 2010."

EPA said 2010's pickup in orders will lead to an upturn in deliveries beginning in 2011 and extending through 2014: “Beginning in 2011, far stronger economic activities will provide support for certain railcar assemblies while an improvement in the financial environment and higher gasoline prices rejuvenate demand for ethanol and DDG cars. Replacement pressures and technological advances as well as legislative measures will also play a role in promoting the demand for a variety of railcars. Replacement pressures will be mounting among the boxcar, mid-sized and small-cube covered hopper, and multilevel flat car fleets. At the same time, good growth in customer markets will propel demand for centerbeams, high-cube covered hoppers, tank cars, intermodal equipment, and coal cars. Under these circumstances, we look for assemblies to rise to 38,500 cars and platforms in 2011, followed by annual increases each year to the level of 58,000 units in 2014.”

Like many other analysts, EPA took note that in spite of the recession, the Class I’s posted strong profit improvements during the fourth quarter of 2008 and are looking to the future: “While fully cognizant of the current recession and difficult economic times ahead, the railroads continue to maintain high levels of capital outlays to improve existing services and to be prepared for the eventual revival in commodity haulings. There can be little doubt that the railroads are indeed ‘looking beyond the valley’ as the major deterioration in last year’s haulings continues into 2009.”


February 6, 2009

Oregon loan keeps short line revival plans alive

Oregon's Economic and Community Development Commission has approved $12.6 million worth of loans to allow the International Port of Coos Bay to acquire most of a 120-mile short line railroad between Coquille and Eugene.

The port faced a Feb. 18 deadline placed by the Surface Transportation Board to raise enough funds to acquire the line for current owner Central Oregon & Pacific (CORP), a subsidiary of RailAmerica. Failure to meet the deadline would allow CORP to abandon the route and sell parts for scrap. CORP shut down operations on the line in September 2007.

Last summer the port secured a $12.5 million line of credit, but the line expired last November.

The Economic and Community Development Commission approved two loans to the port, with money from its special public works fund. One is a short term-loan of $7.2 million, to be repaid within 24 months if and when the federal money comes in. State transportation officials already have $5.7 million of that money, although it still has to be reallocated from a bridge project. Another $1.5 million installment is expected from federal transportation officials by April.

The second loan is for 25 years and $5.4 million. Oregon agreed to a four-year period of deferred principal and interest payments, during which the interest rate will be 1 percent annually. After that, port officials can request a four-year extension of the deferred payments. If they don’t, the rate then climbs to 5%.


February 5, 2009

Five locomotive builders eye ventures in India

India plans to acquire 1,800 new locomotives over the next 10 years, and has short-listed five global manufacturers for two joint ventures that are expected build them.

EMD of the U.S. and General Electric's India unit are candidates for a joint venture that will supply 1,000 diesel-electric units in the 4,500 hp to 6,000 hp range. Short-listed for the venture that will supply 800 12,000 hp electric locomotives are Alstom of France, Siemens of Germany, and Bombardier of Canada.

India's cabinet was reported this week to have authorized foreign companies to hold 74% of each of these venture, whose plans are to be built in the eastern state of Bahir at a cost of around $410 million. Indian Railways will hold the remaining stake.


February 5, 2009

Pennsylvania proposes new freight rail aid

Norfolk Southern, a major rail operator in Pennsylvania, praised Gov. Ed Rendell for proposing a $27 million investment in freight rail infrastructure in the state, on top of the $3 million available annually through the Rail Transportation Assistance Capital Bond Program.

After Rendell made the proposal in an address to the General Assembly Feb. 4, Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman commented: "As part of our Crescent Corridor Project, over the next several years Norfolk Southern plans to spend tens of millions of dollars in Pennsylvania to build new intermodal facilities, and add track capacity, which will, in turn, create new jobs and economic development opportunities."

Norfolk Southern's Crescent Corridor is a 2,590-mile network extending from Pennsylvania to the Gulf Coast, along which more than $2 billion in projects have been identified to improve rail service and reduce highway congestion.


February 5, 2009

Central Florida 'Sunrail' plan gets backing, brickbats

Led by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, officials are striving to generate support for the 61-mile , four-county commuter rail plan in central Florida, now christened "Sunrail."

"We keep talking about the economy," said Volusia County Chairman Frank Bruno, who attended a news conference Wednesday in Tallahassee, the state capital, where supporters of Sunrail held a rally. “This will sure fire up our economy."

A measure to advance the project, being introduced into this year’s session of the state legislature, eliminates a controversial provision that would have shielded private contractors from legal liability if they caused accidents on rail line. Florida plans to contract with private companies to operate the system, and the change in plan has removed opposition by trial lawyers, who argued contractors should be held liable if they are at fault.

But other opponents of the project, who garnered enough support last year in the state legislature to stymie the proposal, still say that Sunrail is too costly and a "sweetheart deal" for CSX Transportation. Labor, including the state chapter of the AFL-CIO, opposes the deal for fear that non-union employees would be used to operate Sunrail service.

The state had agreed to pay CSX $615 million to purchase rights-of-way for the service, as well as $491 million to augment CSX freight and intermodal capacity in the state.

A poll conducted by Ayres McHenry & Associates Jan. 27-29 says more than 60% of 641 Florida residents surveyed oppose state funding for Sunrail, with nearly the same percentage saying the state legislature should oppose the deal without any attempts to modify it.

But a Florida Department of Transportation spokesman says FDOT and rail allies also have conducted a survey "which shows different results." Hill Research Consultants last October surveyed 502 respondents showing "strong support among the citizenry ... proceeding with development of a commuter rail in Central Florida."


February 4, 2009

UTU holds internal trial for current, former officers

The United Transportation Union Wednesday launched an internal trial for four of its UTU International vice presidents, accused of being "agents" for a competing union and failing to follow UTU directives.

The trial is linked to a federal court injunction issued in December 2007 halting implementation of a proposed merger between the UTU and the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, which was to create the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation (SMART) Workers.

A request by the four vice presidents to halt or delay the internal trial was rejected Feb. 2 by Federal judge John R. Adams, United States District Court, Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division.

"The UTU Constitution, Article 24, provides that the union has the abiity to conduct hearings regarding charges preferred against an international officer for failure to perform the duties and responsibilities of his office," Judge Adams noted, adding that the court should not "operate to prevent both a resolution on the merits and a more th orough development of the issues at stake."

UTU International vice presidents on trial include John Babler, Vice Baffoni, J.R. "Jim" Cumby, and Tony Iannone. Two former International vice presidents who retired Feb. 2, Roy Boling and John Fitzgerald, also are on trial. Charges against UTU National Legislative Director James "Brokenrail" Brunkenhoefer, recently deceased, "have been dismissed," according to court documents.


February 4, 2009

Railpower seeks to restructure under court protection

Lacking the cash to meet current obligations, Brossard, Quebec-based Railpower Technologies Corp. announced Wednesday that it is seeking court protection from its creditors in Canada and the U.S. as it seeks to restructure under new management.

The troubled locomotive builder, whose U.S. subsidiary is Railpower Hybrid Technologies Corp., announced the departure of Jose Mathieu as its president and the appointment of Richard Laliberte, formerly vice president engineering, quality assurance, and product service, as its chief restructuring officer. Also departing is Hilaire Boudreau, vice president, human resources, project management, and information technologies.

Railpower announced Jan. 28 that it was reducing its workforce by 37% to 84 employees and could not guarantee its ability to continue as a going concern.

In Canada, the company filed for court protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. A simultaneous Chapter 15 bankruptcy filing was made with the United States Bankruptcy court for the Western district of Pennsylvania.

"Railpower's normal day-to-day operations are expected to continue without interruption," said the Wednesday announcement. "Railpower remains focused on serving and supporting its customers during the restructuring process."


February 4, 2009

GE Transportation, Tenneco in partnership

GE Transportation and Tenneco, Inc. announced Wednesday a strategic partnership agreement to develop proprietary selective catalytic reduction (SCR) aftertreatment technology to reduce and control diesel engine emissions, to be applied to transport machinery and other items.

The partners noted that Tenneco has been awarded a development contract for locomotive projects, which they said positions Tenneco to become a long-term strategic supplier of diesel aftertreatment solutions to GE Transportation, a subsidiary of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric Co.

The partners will collaborate on developing and producing GE's Hydrocarbon-Selective Catalytic Reduction catalyst technology (HC-SCR), designed to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions as effectively as urea-based SCR systems. The two will market to rail, “on-road,” marine, and stationary power customers.

"We're pleased to partner with GE Transportation on this exciting advanced-technology initiative and look forward to developing cutting-edge diesel aftertreatment systems for their locomotives and other applications," said Tenneco Chairman and CEO Gregg Sherrill. "We're also very excited about the opportunity this creates for Tenneco to diversify our SCR aftertreatment technology offerings and capabilities and expand our emission control business into new market segments."

"GE Transportation has been developing this game changing technology at its Global Research Center based on the request of our customers," said Vice President of Engineering Steve Gray. "Our partnership with Tenneco will position both companies to serve present and future customers worldwide."


February 4, 2009

Massachusetts OKs Green Line extension to Medford

Massachusetts has endorsed a plan to extend the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Green Line five miles from its current northern terminus at Lechmere Station, in Cambridge, to Medford, Mass.

The approved plan honors a settlement reached with the Conservation Law Foundation. The state seeks to commence construction in 2012, opening the extension for service in 2014, depending in part on the availability of federal funding.

The state chose the longer and more expensive option of two proposals; the other railway expansion proposal would have terminated at Tufts University in Medford. Both proposals emerged from a settlement stemming from a lawsuit filed in 1990 by the Conservation Law Foundation, which charged that the state advanced the "Big Dig" highway project in Boston at the expense of public transit funding.

"We had some concerns as to whether the state was going to follow through on their commitment," said Carrie Russell, CLF's staff attorney. "I'm so thrilled that they have listened to the community and honored their commitment by moving forward on what is really a great project that will benefit so many."

Massachusetts officials a year ago estimated the project's cost at $600 million; the five-mile extension is expected to generate 8,900 new weekday riders.


February 4, 2009

DOT's 'TIGER' team to apportion transport stimulus funding

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) team, composed of officials from various offices within the Department of Transportation, is being assembled to coordinate DOT's efforts to fund transportation infrastructure projects from economic stimulus funds advocated by the Obama Administration.

DOT Secretary Ray LaHood Wednesday said the TIGER team will be co-chaired by Lana Hurdle, deputy assistant secretary for budget and programs, and Joe Szabat, deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy.

The TIGER team will prioritize highway, bridge, transit, rail, aviation, and intermodal spending, and is also charged with developing reporting standards to track the money spent and ensure accountability, LaHood said.

"We created the TIGER team to make sure that DOT's portion of recovery funding goes out to states and localities as quickly as possible in order to immediately create jobs and strengthen our economy and transportation systems," LaHood said in a statement.


February 3, 2009

An extra $5 billion for transit?

To the $12 billion provided for transit in the House-passed economic stimulus legislation, a group of powerful Senate Democrats, headed by Patty Murray of Washington, wants to add $5 billion.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which the House passed Jan. 28, originally contained $9 billion for transit, but a last-minute amendment providing an additional $3 billion, proposed by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and others, was adopted by voice vote.

The House also adopted an amendment offered by Infrastructure Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) requiring 50% of stimulus finding to be obligated within 90 days. The House Appropriations Committee had proposed 180 days.

While the fate of the stimulus bill in the Senate is far from certain, there is strong support for the kind of infrastructure investment that would generate jobs quickly.


February 3, 2009

CSX taps RailComm for Alabama yard

CSX Transportation has expanded its Domain Operations Controller system located at its Boyles Yard in Birmingham, Ala. RailComm has provided modifications to the existing DOC® Server to add graphical control for additional switch locations. CSXT has taken advantage of the DOC® system's built-in expansion capabilities, which allow the addition of workstations and/or field control nodes without interrupting operation of the current system.

In addition, a new DOC® workstation has been added to remotely control several additional power switches. RailComm's 2.4-GHz RADiANT™ data radios provide a wireless communications network to link the office with the field locations.


February 3, 2009

KCS 4Q beats Street

Kansas City Southern Tuesday reported fourth-quarter 2008 revenue of $423.8 million, down 7.9% from the comparable 2007 quarter, attributing the falloff to weaker economic activity in both the U.S. and Mexico. Operating expenses of $332.6 million were down of 5.4% for the quarter, and fuel expense was down 13.7%. Operating income for the fourth quarter was $91.2 million compared with $108.7 million last year, a 16.1% decrease. KSC's fourth-quarter operating ratio was 78.5% compared with 76.4% a year ago.

Net income available to common shareholders in the fourth quarter totaled $36.4 million, or 40 cents per diluted share, compared with $49.9 million, or 56 cents per diluted share, in fourth-quarter 2007, a 28.6% decrease in diluted earnings per share. But the 40 cents per share earnings handily beat Wall Street estimates of 32 cents per share.

For the full year 2008, KCS notched revenue of $1.85 billion, up 6.3% increase from 2007. Earnings per diluted share were $1.86, an 18.5% improvement over the prior year in spite of recording the foreign exchange loss for the fourth quarter. KCS's operating ratio for the year was 78.9%, an improvement from the 79.2% recorded in 2007.

In trading early Tuesday afternoon, shares of Kansas City Southern were up 50 cents at $19.01.

"KCS reported record revenues, operating income, and diluted earnings per share for full year 2008 despite depressed fourth quarter revenues resulting from the most severe economic conditions in recent history," said KCS Chairman and CEO Michael R. Haverty in a statement. "As soon as traffic volumes began to fall in the wake of two September hurricanes, KCS management reshaped its transportation service plan and took out costs throughout the entire company. As a result, despite volumes that weakened throughout the quarter, KCS achieved a fourth quarter operating ratio of 78.5%. For the full-year 2008, KCS' operating ratio was 78.9%, a 0.3 point improvement over 2007, and despite declining in the fourth quarter, 2008 annual revenues increased 6.3%."


February 3, 2009

Berkshire Hathaway buys more BNSF stock

Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. last week purchased another 2.3 million shares of BNSF, according to documents filed with the Security and Exchange Commission. The most recent purchase increases Berkshire Hathaway's holdings to more than 76 million shares, or roughly 22% of the Class I railroad company.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has stated he believes freight railroads remain a good long-term investment.

Berkshire Hathaway's BNSF stock is held by National Indemnity Co., one of Berkshire's insurance subsidiaries.

In trading early Tuesday afternoon, shares of BNSF were up 2.25% at $66.90.


February 2, 2009

Critics question 'dead-end' trans-Hudson tunnel plans

Despite the recent Record of Decision approved by the Federal Transit Administration, New Jersey Transit's Access to the Region's Core Mass Transit Tunnel continues to draw criticism for its limited scope in upgrading passenger rail traffic under the Hudson River.

NJT's approved plan, touted as improving regional mobility, "would not meet the goals such a major project should achieve," according to an analysis co-authored by Ross Capon, president of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), and Vukan R. Vuchic, professor of transportation systems engineering and city planning at the University of Pennsylvania.

"At a cost of $9 billion, including $3 billion in federal funds and $3 billion from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the tunnels would lead to six dead-end tracks in a new 34th Street terminal serving only New Jersey Transit trains," Capon and Vuchic state. "Without a connection to New York's Penn Station, the new tunnels could not be used by Amtrak trains headed to New England or to create new routes through the city.

"In this age of competition among the world's metropolitan areas for economic, social and cultural leadership, New York is far behind Paris, London, Tokyo and others in its rail accessibility. It has one station for intercity trains, while its peers have six to 12 stations," the authors add.

"Considering the high cost of the new tunnels, they should do more than add capacity for NJT trains to Manhattan," Capon and Vuchic state. "However, the approved plan would not meet the goals such a major project should achieve."

Besides NARP and New York area rail advocacy groups, the National Corridors Initiative has questioned NJ Transit's current trans-Hudson tunnel approach. The $8.6 billion project, half of a two-part project to expand Northeast Corridor capacity between Manhattan and Secaucus, N.J., could begin construction within a year.


February 2, 2009

Train accidents continue double-digit decline

U.S. railroads reported 11,144 accidents and incidents in the first 11 months 2008, down 11.2% from the comparable period of 2007, according to preliminary statistics released Jan. 30 by the Federal Railroad Administration's Office of Safety Analysis.

Train accidents declined 10.2% to 2,182, with collisions down 1.6% to 180; derailments down 10.2% to 1,578 and yard accidents down 5.3% to 1,191.

Railroads reported 23 employee deaths in the 2008 period, compared with 16 in the prior year.

There were 271 highway-rail grade crossing fatalities in January-November 2008, down 11.3% from 2007. Trespasser fatalities increased 0.9% to 435.


February 2, 2009

Second call for Shortline/Regional Rail award nominees

Railway Age is now accepting entries for its annual Short Line/Regional Railroad of the Year competition. Short lines and regionals--and there are more than 500 of them--are invited to submit entries describing outstanding achievement in one or a combination of areas.

"Short line and regional railroads adapt quickly, and given the current economic climate that's a major advantage," says Managing Editor Douglas John Bowen. "As in past years, we're looking for examples of flexibility including, but not limited to, turnaround situations, consistent excellence, innovation in operations or maintenance, marketing, customer service, enhanced productivity, community relations, safety improvement, and ingenuity in dealing with the unexpected."

Small roads in Mexico, the U.S., and Canada are eligible for an award (and railroads can even nominate themselves). The 2009 winner (or winners) will be awarded a specially designed plaque at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association Annual Convention in Las Vegas April 25-28. Coverage will appear in Railway Age's April 2009 issue, which will be distributed at the show. We'll work with the winners to publicize the awards in online and national media.

"Award winners have ranged from large regionals to small short lines," says Bowen, "and we've recognized and honored carriers ranging from 20 miles to nearly 2,000 miles. In some years, separate awards have been given for regional and short line carriers."

Submit any entries to: Douglas John Bowen, Managing Editor, Railway Age, 345 Hudson Street, 12th Floor, New York, N.Y., 100l4. Email: Fax: (212) 633-1863. Entries should contain the name, position, and contact information of the nominator and an approximately 500-word description of the achievement(s) of the nominated railroad. (Longer and short descriptions are admissible; 500 words is only a guideline.) Entry forms are not essential, but may be obtained from Bowen by fax or email. The entry deadline is Friday, Feb. 27, 2009, so please don't delay.


February 2, 2009

Four submit bids for Cincinnati streetcar

Four bids have been submitted to Cincinnati officials seeking to establish a streetcar system linking the city’s riverfront to its Uptown neighborhoods near the University of Cincinnati. The city has identified $67 million in local and private funding; total cost currently is estimated at $219 million.

Bidders include: URS Washington Division; Herzog Contracting Corp., Bombardier Transportation; and Veolia Transportation.

"I’m encouraged that we have that kind of interest," said Michael Moore, interim director of Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation and Engineering. "I hope it means that we’ve got some good alternatives for a partner."

The city has forwarded the streetcar project as a "ready to go" item on a list of projects compiled by the U.S. Conference of Mayors for infrastructure stimulus spending.


February 2, 2009

CN brings EJ&E into its fold

Canadian National completed its acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway Feb. 1, announcing its intention to begin using the EJ&E for some through freight traffic as early as March 4.

"Streamlined rail operations, along with reduced congestion resulting from the acquisition, are critically important to the Chicago region's economy and its continued role as one of America's most important transportation hubs," E. Hunter Harrison, CN's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

CN said it will post notices of any additional trains at EJ&E rail crossings beginning today, 30 days or better in advance of the move. It will also publish notices in newspapers. The company said it had not yet determined how many additional trains would be added starting March 4.

Despite completing the acquisition, opponents of the merger vow to contest CN's use of the route to expedite cross-continental rail freight moves. The Regional Answer to Canadian National, or TRAC, a coalition of suburban, argues that CN's acquisition is not final, because of a complaint it has filed with the U.S. Court of Appeals. "Obviously, Aurora and other communities are continuing their litigation," said Ryan McLaughlin, a spokesman for TRAC. "There is going to be a court process on this."

TRAC also notes that the Illinois Commerce Commission has filed a petition with the Surface Transportation Board, urging STB to reconsider its approval of the deal. STB granted approval last December. 23. ICC states that STB’s environmental impact study was not thorough enough to address traffic conflicts, safety issues, and other matters.

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