` Hot News!
Railpace Newsmagazine

Hot News!
Edited by Carl G. Perelman
November 27, 2015:

VIA RAIL EXPANDS ITS RAIL NETWORK BY ACQUIRING THE BROCKVILLE SUBDIVISION : VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) is pleased to announce it acquired the Brockville Subdivision, consisting of 45 kilometers (28 miles) of single track between Smiths Falls and Brockville, in Ontario. “This acquisition will strengthen our rail network dedicated to passenger trains in the Ottawa region, where VIA Rail owns more than 200 kilometers (140 miles) of track”, said Yves Desjardins-Siciliano, VIA Rail’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “With recent improvements in the region and ownership of the track from Ottawa to Brockville, we are well positioned to improve our reliability and our On-time performance going into and out of Ottawa”. Over the last few years, VIA Rail has invested some $20 million in capital to improve safety on the Brockville Subdivision with the introduction of a Centralized Traffic Control system for train movements. This investment has also improved the reliability and flexibility of service with the addition of two new sidings for train meets. These infrastructure changes permitted the addition of two round trips to the daily schedule, allowed for higher speeds and improved trip times. In addition, curve alignments were adjusted to support increased speeds, public crossings were upgraded, and security fencing was installed for safety. “VIA Rail will have more agility to make work and infrastructure upgrades in the Brockville Subdivision to improve its service”, added Yves Desjardins-Siciliano. “On the limited infrastructure owned by VIA Rail, punctuality is in the mid-90%. Our customers will benefit greatly from this new asset.” (VIA Rail Canada, Bryce Lee - posted 11/27)

GREAT RESULTS ACROSS THE BOARD FOR THE THIRD QUARTER : VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) closed the third quarter with positive results across all its services, from inter-city and long-distance to regional services. The growth in revenues and in ridership was accompanied by improvement in employee engagement results. This quarter saw a 10% increase in overall revenues compared to the third quarter of 2014, and a 4% growth in passengers on VIA Rail’s trains. For the Québec City – Windsor corridor, ridership went up from 893,660 to 924,270 or 3.4% compared to the third quarter of 2014 and revenues increased by 8%. “All services completed the quarter with higher revenue and more passengers than the same period last year - an astounding accomplishment. Of particular note is the increase in both revenue and passengers on the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor. This growth confirms our confidence that there is an ever-increasing demand for reliable, safe and environmentally-responsible inter-city passenger rail services”, said VIA Rail’s President and CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano. “This significant progress on all fronts is evidence that our growth strategy and the dedication and efforts of all of us, experienced through VIA Rail’s superior customer service, can produce great results.” This quarter, VIA Rail received the results of a company-wide employee engagement survey report. More employees participated in the survey and the outcome shows an increasing level of engagement. However, work and change still need to happen before the employee engagement can reach the level of the best Canadian companies. “Over the coming months, action plans are being developed across all departments with the involvement of front line employees. Our best is yet to come”, stated Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano. The Government of Canada confirmed capital funding of $102 million for VIA Rail this quarter. It will be used to improve the VIA Rail-owned infrastructure and its services in and around the Ottawa area. These improvements come all the while on-time performance (OTP) continues to be a challenge. During the last quarter, on rail lines owned and controlled by freight operators, VIA Rail trains OTP ranged from 25.3% on the Canadian to 79.5% on the Ocean and 73.8% on the Quebec-Windsor corridor, a further reduction of 4.9 percentage points over last year’s results. Meanwhile, punctuality on the limited infrastructure owned by VIA Rail is in the mid-90%. “The plan we are developing to build a dedicated passenger rail infrastructure within the busiest Toronto – Ottawa – Montréal triangle will eliminate the challenges of sharing tracks with freight trains”, added Yves Desjardins-Siciliano. The quarter’s report is available at viarail.ca/en/about-via-rail/our-company/quarterly-reports . 2015 Third Quarter Highlights: Safety: VIA Rail continued to ensure the safety of its operations and inform the public about safety around railroads
  • New siding installed and now in operation in the Ottawa region - allows more flexibility in managing train meets and provides relief where crossings are frequent and close one to another.
  • Installation of a centralized traffic control (CTC) system between Kitchener and London expected to be operational by the end of the year. With this upgrade, all infrastructures owned by VIA Rail in the Québec City - Windsor corridor will be equipped with the CTC system.
  • Although reliability improvements have already been noted in the third quarter, VIA Rail will review the tools and processes used to maintain its aging rolling stock? to gain performance and continue increasing reliability
  • Launch of the mobile app and the mobile site (m.viarail.ca) for purchasing tickets, modifying bookings, reviewing reservation details, e-boarding pass, automatic insertion of travel information into calendar and real-time updates of train status.
Sales and Marketing
  • “Back to School” campaign includes inserts in school agendas, door hangs, posters around university campuses and new student testimonials to encourage youth to get on board our trains.
  • “Back to Work” campaign targets the business community, explicitly small business owners and self-employed professionals.
  • Unlimited semester pass renewed for the 2015 fall semester: offers 120 days of unlimited travel to students within the Québec City – Windsor corridor for as little as $499.
Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Continued implementation of various initiatives to reduce our environmental footprint including training of Locomotive Engineers and the use of scorecards to help reduce the idling of the train when in rail yards and improve train operations techniques to minimize the fuel consumption from train operations.
  • On-site presence at The Fergus (Ontario) Truck Show in collaboration with the Operation Lifesaver national office, informing truck drivers about safety around railways.
  • Re-certification program for Locomotive Engineers launched with a stronger focus on human factors to improve vigilance in train handling.
  • Unionized and non-unionized employees received training to be able to administer Mental Health First Aid.
  • The 2015 Employee Engagement Survey participation rate reached a record high of 63% (as compared to 54% in 2011): overall employee engagement increased by 5%.
  • Supported 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games and Para Pan Am Games. Over 200 athletes and 100 officials from 41 countries in the Americas boarded VIA Rail trains from Toronto to Niagara Falls to see the legendary falls.
  • Committed to a three-year partnership with the National Capital Open, supporting the Military Families Fund, which in turn supports the Canadian Armed Forces and their families.
  • Sponsored the 8th Annual Canadian Army Run and offered a special 20% discount for participants and family members travelling to Ottawa for the race, as well as train travel prizes.
  • Partnered with the Canada Company Military Employment Program, an initiative developed to help members of the Canadian Armed Forces, reservists and veterans to transition out of the military into the civilian workforce.
(VIA Rail Canada - posted 11/27)

BROKEN HEEL BLOCK ASSEMBLY LED TO DECEMBER 2014 CANADIAN PACIFIC DERAILMENT NEAR BANFF, ALBERTA: In its investigation report (R14C0142) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) determined that a broken heel block assembly led to the derailment of a Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) freight train that destroyed the bridge over 40 Mile Creek near Banff, Alberta, on 26 December 2014. Derailed cars loaded with fly ash, soybeans and lentils were breached, spilling product into the waterway. No initial injuries were reported; however, a crew member sought medical attention for fly ash inhalation. The investigation revealed that the westbound CP train derailed 15 cars at Mile 82.1 on the Laggan Subdivision, when the end of the north switch point rail fractured in the heel block assembly. The heel block assembly had been weakened due to looseness in the joint, occurring over time under train traffic. Although the regular, detailed, and visual track inspections were performed in compliance with regulatory and railway requirements, they did not specifically identify the deteriorating condition of the heel block assembly. The investigation determined that if loose joints cannot be identified in a timely manner, particularly in the vicinity of switches (i.e., heel block area), the resulting relative movement in the joint will increase over time, increasing the risk of cracks in the rail leading to broken-rail derailments. It also highlighted the need for crew members to discuss hazards associated with the commodities carried, prior to, or during, an inspection of derailed cars, in order to address the risk to crew members and other emergency responders. (Transport Canada - posted 11/27)

MTA NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT, NY TRANSIT MUSEUM RING IN HOLIDAYS WITH VINTAGE BUSES, SUBWAY: MTA New York City Transit and the New York Transit Museum are putting extra magic on the tracks with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s annual holiday tradition of rides to the past via its vintage fleet of buses and subway trains – and the chance for transit fans to buy museum merchandise at a special station pop-up shop. The holiday nostalgia fleet includes subway cars from the 1930s and buses from the late 1940s to the 1980s. The New York Transit Museum typically displays these vehicles during special events at the museum or around the city, but are offering these holiday nostalgia rides to the public for a limited time with the swipe of a MetroCard. Some vintage buses also will be on display at Union Square, Herald Square and at the Circle Line Terminal. For four consecutive Sundays in December, subway customers can catch the “Shoppers Special,” a train consisting of eight cars from the 1930s that ran along the lettered lines until the late 1970s. The cars, which were ordered for the Independent Subway System (IND), were the first subway cars to be identified by their contract numbers, hence the R1/9 designations. R1/9 cars, known as ““City-Cars,” have rattan seats, ceiling fans, incandescent light bulbs, and roll signs for passenger information. Their design of more doors that were also wider and faster, plus increased standing capacity to accommodate crowds, served as the model of modern subway cars, and their dimensions are identical to the latest R160 cars. They were retired from service in 1977. “For all intents and purposes, this was the first modern subway car and today’s subway fleets owe a lot to the design,” said Joe Leader, Senior Vice President of Subways. “They were basic, durable and offered the expected levels of customer comfort for decades after they were introduced into service. We continue to build upon this strong foundation with each new car design.” The “Shoppers Special” will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on December 6, 13, 20, and 27, making local stops on the 6 Av Line from Queens Plaza to 2 Av. The first run of the day departs from 2 Av, where a special museum pop-up shop will be open every Sunday during the holiday nostalgia rides. MTA NYC Transit is also putting a fleet of vintage buses on the M42 route for weekday daytime service between November 30 and December 18. The buses, which will operate between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., will only be available weather permitting. The vintage fleet will not operate in rainy, snowy or icy conditions. This year’s holiday nostalgia buses were manufactured by General Motors, Mack and Flexible, three major firms that no longer manufacture buses. “Seeing these vintage buses in service again is always a nostalgic event for many New Yorkers. My father and I drove some of these buses, which makes this an especially personal event for me,” said Darryl Irick, President of MTA Bus Company and Senior Vice President New York City Transit Department of Buses. “Each holiday season we offer a look back into the past with a holiday ride across 42nd Street.” VINTAGE FLEET HIGHLIGHTS:
  • Subway Car No. 100: Manufactured by American Car & Foundry, this R1-type car was the first car in the initial order of 300 placed in service for the opening of the IND subway.
  • Subway Car No. 484: Part of a 500-car order of R4 cars manufactured by American Car & Foundry. In 1946, this car received a retrofit of bulls-eye lighting and a public address system
  • . Subway Car No. 1575: Originally manufactured as an R7, this car was sent to the American Car & Foundry factory and rebuilt as prototype of the next generation R10 subway car.
  • Subway Car No. 6095: In 1925, the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) introduced a three-car articulated unit called the D-Type Triplex. The design meant passengers could walk from one car to another in the unit through an enclosed passageway. They carried more passengers and had fewer moving parts, making them efficient and easier to maintain.
  • Bus No. 2969: Manufactured by General Motors, this model TDH 5101 was specifically designed in 1949 for New York City. It features a double-width front door to expedite the loading and unloading of customers. This bus is known as the Jackie Gleason bus, as it is similar in style to the bus operated by Gleason’s character, Ralph Kramden, on the television show “The Honeymooners.”
  • Bus No. 3100: Manufactured by General Motors in 1956, this model TDH 5106 was the first air-conditioned transit bus to operate in New York City. It had push-type rear exit doors, wrap-around rear soft seating, fluorescent lighting, and the air-ride suspension that is the standard on modern transit buses.
  • Bus No. 6259: Manufactured by Mack Truck and Bus Company, model C49DT arrived to the fleet in 1956 and was in operation until 1969 in Staten Island and Brooklyn routes. The “DT’ in the model number stands for “Diesel Transit.” This model was delivered with cushioned seating but converted to hard plastic in the 1960s because of vandalism.
  • Bus No. 9098: Manufactured by General Motors, this model TDH 5106 introduced the two-tone green color scheme of this era’s standard and was the first New York City bus equipped with sliding windows. These buses were the last order of “Old Look” style buses from GM for New York City Transit.
(MTA- posted 11/25)

FLORIDA EAST COAST CHRISTMAS TRAIN SET TO ROLL THROUGH FLORIDA: This year marks the sixth annual Christmas Train operated by Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) in coordination with the U.S. Marine Corps Toys For Tots Foundation.  The 2015 FECR Christmas Train will run along the railroad's 351-mile mainline on the east coast of Florida, offering its employees, their families, customers, and suppliers an opportunity to contribute to the communities that FECR serves.  The train, departing Saturday, December 12 in Jacksonville with Miami as its final destination, will make 8 stops along the way, during which Santa Claus will be on hand to deliver holiday cheer.  At each stop representatives from Toys For Tots will be present to accept donations from the FECR Christmas Train, and will work to distribute the toys to children in need throughout local communities. The FECR Christmas Train is a 501c3, so anyone can donate and receive a tax deduction. The sixth annual Florida East Coast Railway Christmas Train set to roll down Florida's east coast on Saturday, December 12. Since the program's inception five years ago there has been significant yearly growth. "Last year alone we were able to donate more than 40,000 toys and we hope to surpass that goal this year," said Jim Hertwig, FECR President & CEO. "This event is, and will continue to be a favored tradition for the FECR family. We are proud to be able to once again work alongside the Toys For Tots foundation to contribute to those in need during the holiday season," he said. The FECR Christmas Train will stop at the eight railroad crossings listed below, during which strict safety procedures will be in place for the security and enjoyment of everyone in attendance:   City RR Crossing Location Times (approximate)
  • Jacksonville : Mussel Acres Road – West at 7:10 AM
  • St. Augustine: San Sebastian View – East at 8:10 AM
  • New Smyrna Beach: Canal Street – East at 10:05 AM
  • Cocoa: Rosa L. Jones Drive – West at 11:45 AM
  • Fort Pierce: Orange Avenue – West at 1:30 PM
  • West Palm Beach: 36th Street – East at 3:00 PM
  • Fort Lauderdale: SW 17th Street – West at 4:25 PM
  • Miami: NE 87th Street – West at 5:15 PM
(FEC via Randy Kotuby - posted 11/25)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEKEND ENDING NOVEMBER 21, 2015: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Nov. 21, 2015. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 532,532 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.7 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending Nov. 21 were 267,830 carloads, down 9.4 percent compared with the same week in 2014, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 264,702 containers and trailers, down 1.7 percent compared to 2014. Four of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2014. They included miscellaneous carloads, up 12.3 percent to 9,597 carloads; motor vehicles and parts, up 5.9 percent to 19,105 carloads; and nonmetallic minerals, up 2.1 percent to 35,420 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2014 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 25.8 percent to 11,894 carloads; metallic ores and metals, down 22.7 percent to 19,782 carloads; and coal, down 16.8 percent to 92,998 carloads. For the first 46 weeks of 2015, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,815,842 carloads, down 4.9 percent from the same point last year; and 12,311,269 intermodal units, up 1.9 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 46 weeks of 2015 was 25,127,111 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 1.7 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending Nov. 21, 2015, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 357,318 carloads, down 9.7 percent compared with the same week last year, and 334,360 intermodal units, down 0.7 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 691,678 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.6 percent. North American rail volume for the first 46 weeks of 2015 was 32,708,896 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.4 percent compared with 2014. Canadian railroads reported 73,774 carloads for the week, down 12.8 percent, and 58,280 intermodal units, up 2.3 percent compared with the same week in 2014. For the first 46 weeks of 2015, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 6,328,374 carloads, containers and trailers down 0.9 percent. Mexican railroads reported 15,714 carloads for the week, up 1.9 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,378 intermodal units, up 8.6 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 46 weeks of 2015 was 1,253,411 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 1.5 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 11/25)

READING, BLUE MOUNTAIN & NORTHERN TO TAKE OVVER SERVICE TO THE HUMBOLDT INDUSTRIAL PARK ON JANUARY 1: Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad will take over ownership of the rail infrastructure at the Humboldt Industrial Park beginning Jan. 1, 2016 through an agreement with the park’s owner, CAN DO, Inc., according to CAN DO President Kevin O’Donnell and Andrew Muller, Jr., owner and CEO of the rail company. In addition to owning and maintaining all of the track, Reading & Northern will also provide service to all of the customers in the industrial park. CAN DO entered into an agreement in 2012 with Reading & Northern to take ownership of the more than seven miles of rail line inside Humboldt at the end of 2016. As a result of negotiations between the park’s current rail provider, Norfolk Southern Railroad Company (NS), and Reading & Northern, the timeline was accelerated to Jan. 1, 2016, O’Donnell said. Reading & Northern is the largest privately owned railroad company in Pennsylvania and was the only railroad to be named Regional Railroad of the Year three times by Railway Age Magazine, receiving the honor in 2002, 2011 and 2015. Muller said Reading & Northern plans to run a scheduled service, but will provide additional rail switches when business needs warrant them. The company will also offer railcar storage and personalized service for each business customer. Muller noted that all traffic to Humboldt Industrial Park will be received at Reading and move directly to Humboldt via Tamaqua and that no traffic to Humboldt should move through downtown Hazleton. “Each customer will have their own local account representative who can assist them with all their rail needs and any issues that arise,” said Wayne Michel, Reading & Northern’s President. “At Reading & Northern the customer comes first and Humboldt customers will learn what our existing customers already know… our service is superior to that of any other railroad. Every Humboldt customer will be visited at least twice before we take over service. During those visits we will get to understand their needs. We will then design a service plan that guarantees every customer a service window and up to six-days-a-week service that meets their needs,” Michel said. O’Donnell said CAN DO is excited to have Reading & Northern as a partner in its economic development efforts to attract new industry to Greater Hazleton. “Rail service is critical to many companies and has been instrumental in the growth of our industrial parks. The new provider promises to be an asset in our future growth.” “As for potential customers, we will follow-up on all opportunities with our award-winning industrial development team. Reading & Northern, like CAN DO, has a national reputation for its innovative approach to economic development. We have won national awards for our efforts to attract business to the railroad,” Michel said. “We make investments in plant and equipment and we assist customers with their development. We also work to make rail infrastructure decisions easy by charging less for the needed rail work and being more flexible on track design. We have a strong team focused on industrial development and that team will work hand in hand with CAN DO.” CAN DO constructed the 7.5 miles of track in its Humboldt Industrial Park, which is the region’s largest rail-served industrial park. CAN DO launched the rail service more than 40 years ago with a $165,000 matching grant from the Appalachia Regional Commission and has extended the track numerous times since. Currently, more than 15 industries are dependent on rail service to the park. In 2013, 4,569 rail cars moved through Humboldt and the number increased to 4,633 last year. Reading & Northern is known nationwide for its commitment to working closely with economic development organizations. Michel said the company is proud to continue this approach in its partnership with CAN DO. (Reading & Northern Railroad - posted 11/24)

KEOLIS AND MBTA PROVIDE DETAILS ON COMMUTER RAIL PREPARATIONS FOR SEVERE WINTER WEATHER: Purchasing new snow fighting equipment, creating dedicated snow response teams and centralizing passenger communications are among the actions being taken by Keolis Commuter Services and the MBTA to prepare the commuter rail system for winter in order to keep trains operating safely and to minimize impacts to passengers. “Our passengers expect and deserve a safe, dependable commuter rail service year-round,” said Keolis General Manager Gerald C. Francis. “We are taking every necessary step to prepare for winter, with the goal of keeping the commuter rail system operating safely and keeping our passengers informed about any changes in service.” When snow and/or ice conditions are predicted, all Keolis departments will be placed on alert, with department heads coordinating all actions required for the storm. Keolis senior management will determine the severity of an event using such factors as the existing snow base, the three-day forecast, and the three-day temperature forecast. Weather events will be categorized as:
  • Level 1 – No impact or minor impact expected
  • Level 2 – Moderate impacts expected
  • Level 3 – Moderate to significant impacts expected
  • Level 4 – Significant impact – no revenue service
The Keolis Snow Manager and Snow Team will be activated, a radio command center will be established and, at Level 2 or greater, a Situation Room will be established as managers begin implementing relevant recovery activities. Passengers will be notified as far in advance as possible about any changes to service or schedules. During Level 4 storms, service will be halted until it can be safely restored, with non-revenue trains and snow removal equipment working round the clock to clear and remove snow.Other key elements of the winter preparations include:
  • Creation of a centralized Passenger Information Center to ensure the information provided to the public is useful, accurate and timely via T-Alerts, social media (MBTA_CR), the official commuter rail mobile app, via the Customer Service call center, in stations, on board trains and through the news media.
  • Appointment of a manager dedicated to planning, coordinating and managing activities across all departments during major weather-related events.
  • Creation of cross-functional teams focused on snow removal at locations essential to accessing and operating the commuter rail system, including station entrances, platforms, maintenance facilities and essential switches on the main lines.
  • A dedicated weather desk to monitor weather conditions and provide up-to-date information to the organization.
  • The purchase of $8.6 million in snow-fighting equipment by the MBTA, including 10 snow fighters, six speed swings, six wheel loaders and 25 tractors.
  • Training to increase the number of staff able to operate the equipment used to remove snow. For each piece of equipment, at least three operators will be trained or licensed.
  • Replacing, refurbishing or making modifications to traction motors to ensure a full fleet of locomotives is available during the winter. Mesh material has been placed over all locomotive engine compartment vents to lessen the impact of snow or ice getting into engines. Refurbished traction motors have been triple dipped in a protective coating, adding three layers of protective coating where one existed before.
  • Placing into service by year end 40 new MPI locomotives, which are built with AC traction motors that are less susceptible to ingestion of light fluffy snow.
  • Conducting required safety inspections in advance to reduce the number of locomotives taken out of service during critical winter months.
  • Pre-treating passenger coach doors with de-icing solutions 12 to 24 hours before a winter event to minimize freezing.
  • Towns near layover facilities will be notified that locomotives may need to idle throughout the night during a winter event.
  • Following a major weather event, engineering teams will conduct system wide inspections of all routes, to quickly identify defects and needed repairs.
(Keolis - posted 11/23)

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES NEW EFFORTS IN NEW YORK STATE TO HELP FIGHT TERRORISM: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced two new efforts to enhance the New York State's ability to fight terrorism. The new "See Something, Send Something" campaign encourages New Yorkers to report suspicious activity through a simple mobile app on their smart phone. The app is available for download here. Additionally, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will hire 46 more Police Officers to increase counterterrorism capabilities at Grand Central Terminal, Penn Station and throughout the Metro-North Railroad, Long Island Rail Road and Staten Island Railway systems. "These new efforts are essential pieces in our fight against terrorism," Governor Cuomo said. "We have stepped up our preparedness in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, and we continue to remain vigilant against those who seek to spread fear and violence. Despite the tremendous pain and loss that terrorist attacks around the world have caused the people of this state, the family of New York stands stronger than ever before." "See Something, Send Something" allows anyone to capture suspicious activity as a photo or written note and send the information to the New York State Intelligence Center. From there, the tip will be reviewed and if relevant, sent to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Public service announcements promoting the campaign (view here and h ere) will be played at DMV offices and service areas along state highways. By using the app, which can be downloaded for free for iPhone and Android phone users, there is no worry about who to send the tip to or what phone number to call—users can simply send a photo of the suspicious activity using their device’s camera, by choosing a photo from its library, or sending a written note. It also includes information on what to look for and when to report suspicious activity. The service is already available in Colorado, Louisiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. In order to keep the app focused on safety, users should report only suspicious behavior and situations (e.g., an unattended backpack or briefcase in a public place) rather than beliefs, thoughts, ideas, expressions, associations, or speech unrelated to terrorism or other criminal activity. The app does not replace 911 and should not to be used for someone needing immediate police action or to report an emergency. In the case of an immediate threat or emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately. New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D'Amico said, "The crime-solving, tip-sharing process is evolving and so are the New York State Police. This app works just like a traditional telephone crime tip line or hotline, except it is available with the touch of a finger on a handheld device. If you see something that may be linked to terrorism, send something. Your tip could provide valuable information that could prevent a tragedy." John P. Melville, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner, said, “It is important to remember that all New Yorkers have a role in keeping our state safe. Citizens have an obligation to report suspicious activity if they see something out of the ordinary or something that may have the potential to harm others. The new app gives individuals an additional way to alert authorities about possible threats.” The 46 new MTA Police Officers will staff counterterrorism surge assignments at Grand Central and Penn Station, as well as other deployments to ensure the traveling public is protected in the MTA network. The Officers are included in the MTA's 2016 Final Proposed Budget and will have an impact of approximately $3 million. The budget is scheduled for consideration by the MTA Board in December. All members of the MTA Police Department have been trained in techniques to counter active shooters, such as those who have been implicated in recent terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world. Rather than wait for heavily-armed Emergency Service Unit teams to arrive, officers are taught to immediately engage, pin down and neutralize any potential threat in order to minimize casualties. In addition, more than 90 percent of frontline personnel in all MTA operating agencies have been trained in how to protect their customers and themselves from an active shooter. Workers on New York City Transit subways and buses, the Staten Island Railway, the LIRR and Metro-North have learned how to evaluate locations where they can safely flee or hide if gunfire occurs. MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast said, "The MTA Police Department is a robust force of more than 700 officers dedicated to protecting our region’s rail transportation, and these dozens of new officers will bolster our regular counterterrorism patrols of high-visibility terminals. Our officers are well aware that they are protecting a vital public service, and their presence in major train stations serves as a visible deterrent as well as a decisive factor in quickly countering any threat." (MTA- posted 11/23)

NORFOLK SOUTHERN PAINTS FIRST RESPONDER GP38-2: Norfolk Southern's Juniata Locomotive Shop has repainted GP38-2 5642 into the "First Responder scheme, similar to SD60E number 9-1-1. NS 5642 will be assigned to the "Safety Train" which travels the NS system to provide training to first reponders for rail-related incidents ( posted 11/20)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING NOVEMBER 14, 2015: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Nov. 14, 2015. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 543,681 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.7 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending Nov. 14 were 270,793 carloads, down 8.7 percent compared with the same week in 2014, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 272,888 containers and trailers, down 0.3 percent compared to 2014. Three of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2014. They included: miscellaneous carloads, up 19.8 percent to 9,077; motor vehicles and parts, up 3.3 percent to 18,206; and chemicals, up 0.1 percent to 29,178 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2014 included: metallic ores and metals, down 22.9 percent to 20,715 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 16.8 percent to 13,171 carloads; and coal, down 14.5 percent to 95,293 carloads. For the first 45 weeks of 2015, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,548,012 carloads, down 4.8 percent from the same point last year; and 12,046,567 intermodal units, up 1.9 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 45 weeks of 2015 was 24,594,579 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 1.6 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending Nov. 14, 2015 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 360,217 carloads, down 8.7 percent compared with the same week last year, and 343,868 intermodal units, up 0.9 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 704,085 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.3 percent. North American rail volume for the first 45 weeks of 2015 was 32,017,218 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.3 percent compared with 2014. Canadian railroads reported 74,583 carloads for the week, down 10.1 percent, and 59,639 intermodal units, up 6.1 percent compared with the same week in 2014. For the first 45 weeks of 2015, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 6,196,320 carloads, containers and trailers, down 0.8 percent. Mexican railroads reported 14,841 carloads for the week, down 1.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,341 intermodal units, up 4.1 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 45 weeks of 2015 was 1,226,319 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 1.4 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 11/19)

CAF BAGGAGE CAR ORDER COMPLETED: On November 17, CAF released the remaining baggage cars needed to fulfill the order Amtrak had placed on July 23, 2010 for 70 such cars.  A special train from Elmira Heights, N.Y. to Albany-Rensselaer, N.Y. consisted of P42 No. 122, Amcafe No. 48188 and CAF baggage cars Nos. 61065-61062-61061-61067-61058-61059-61066-61068-61060-61063-61064-61069, with GP38H-3 #520 trailing.  Word is that the dining cars will be the next group of cars to be released. (Andy Kirk - posted 11/18)

MTA PRESENTS FINAL 2016 BUDGET: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today presented its 2016 Final Proposed Budget and its 2016-19 Financial Plan, in which a relentless emphasis on cutting costs will allow the MTA to invest $242 million in new service, maintenance and operations initiatives over the next four years, while limiting fare and toll increases to the rate of inflation. “The MTA is committed to bringing high-quality service to our customers at a reasonable cost, and our updated Financial Plan shows how we are putting that commitment into action,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “We are continuing to find new ways to save money, we are making smart investments to serve our growing ridership, and we are doing this while minimizing the impact on our customers’ wallets.” Today’s Financial Plan update was the first since the MTA Board approved a preliminary version in July. Since then, the agency’s finances have been helped by higher real estate transaction tax receipts and toll revenue, as well as lower costs for energy and debt service. Those improvements were offset by lower forecasts for some tax and fee revenue as well as fares. Taken together, the MTA expects available resources to increase by $447 million through 2019. The Financial Plan projects using these additional funds between 2016 and 2019 to invest $38 million in additional subway and bus service to meet growing customer demand; $13 million for additional Select Bus Service operations; $26 million to expand all-electronic tolling to the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge; $35 million to operate the Second Avenue Subway; $42 million to maintain subway structures and power supplies; and $21 million for maintenance on the Long Island Rail Road’s M-7 cars. The MTA will also invest approximately $43 million annually to modernize its approach to managing its physical assets, which will use modern technology to assess the cost and condition of its equipment, then use that information to improve how assets are procured, maintained and replaced. The enterprise asset management system is necessary to meet new federal requirements and international best practices, and is expected to enable more efficient and lower-cost operations and maintenance practices throughout the MTA. The MTA has cut more than $1.3 billion in costs from its annual spending, and those recurring savings are projected to increase to $1.8 billion a year by 2019. This rigorous cost discipline will allow the MTA to accelerate pay-as-you-go capital funding and defer scheduled debt issuances, saving $18 million in each of three years, as well as investing in an underfunded LIRR pension plan, saving $14 million per year starting in 2017. The Financial Plan continues the MTA’s practice of modest and predictable fare and toll increases approximating the rate of inflation, and assumes 4% fare increases in 2017 and 2019, unchanged from earlier plans. In 2016, less than $7.9 billion of the MTA’s $15.1 billion in revenue is projected to come from fares and tolls, with the remainder coming from dedicated taxes, state and local subsidies, and other miscellaneous sources. Following today’s presentation, the MTA Board is scheduled to vote on adoption of the Final Proposed Budget and Financial Plan at its December meeting. (MTA- posted 11/18)

BALTIMORE WASHINGTON RAPID RAIL AND THE NORTHEAST MAGLEV ANNOUNCE APPROVAL OF RAILROAD FRANCHISE REQUEST BY THE MARYLAND PUBLIC COMMISSION: Baltimore Washington Rapid Rail (BWRR) and The Northeast Maglev (TNEM) today announced that the Maryland Public Service Commission has approved BWRR's application to acquire a passenger railroad franchise previously held by the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis Electric Railroad Company. The railroad franchise was abandoned in 1935, with approval of the PSC. BWRR and TNEM are working to deploy a Superconducting Maglev (SCMAGLEV) system that would connect Washington and Baltimore in 15 minutes. "We are pleased that the Commission recognized the tremendous benefits of the SCMAGLEV system for greater Baltimore and Maryland. The transfer of this railroad franchise is an exciting first step in making this transformational project a reality," said Wayne Rogers, Chairman of BWRR and Chairman and CEO of TNEM. "We look forward to working with Federal, state and local government officials and other stakeholders to move this project forward." SCMAGLEV is the world's fastest and safest transportation solution, available today, and is truly the future of high-speed transportation. SCMAGLEV will provide frequent, reliable service that will fundamentally improve our region - creating jobs, enhancing access, and reducing road congestion and emissions. The service will also enable unprecedented connections between city centers and major airports and connect Baltimore and Washington in 15 minutes. In September, BWRR and TNEM opened a new headquarters located in the heart of Baltimore's central business district, investing in a closed building and renovating a historic site, which illustrates the economic development benefits that the project will bring.  In the coming months, BWRR and TNEM will focus on conducting an Environmental Impact Statement process, which will help determine routes, Federal Railroad Administration safety reviews and Surface Transportation Board construction reviews. (Randy Kotuby - posted 11/18)

SANTA TO VISIT THE STEWARTSTOWN RAILROAD: Santa’s Coming to the Stewartstown Railroad!   During the month of December, Santa will be riding on the Stewartstown Railroad, talking to our riders, telling them stories, and handing out Candy Canes to those that would like some. Each ride takes approximately 30 minutes, during which time Santa will walk through our Christmas-decorated cabooses, visiting the children on board. Be sure to bring your camera and take pictures of the kids with Santa, so they can always remember their day onboard the train! Tickets are available at the Stewartstown Train Station, located at 21 West Pennsylvania Ave, Stewartstown, PA. Ample parking is available, and the Station Museum and Gift Shop will be open as well. 
  • Saturday, December 5: Santa Train (Caboose and Locomotive) - 1:30
  • Sunday, December 6: Santa Train (Caboose and Locomotive) – 1:30, 2:30, 3:30
  • Saturday, December 12: Santa Train (Caboose and Locomotive) – 1:30
  • Sunday, December 13: Santa Train (Caboose and Locomotive) – 1:30, 2:30, 3:30
  • Saturday, December 19: Santa Train (Caboose and Locomotive) – 1:30
  • Sunday, December 20: Santa Train (Caboose and Locomotive)– 1:30, 2:30, 3:30
  • Sunday, December 27 (Caboose and Locomotive) – 1:30, 2:30, 3:30
Prices are $10.00 for Adults, $9.00 for Seniors (65 and older), and $8.00 for Children (12 and under) Tickets must be purchased at the station, on the day of the ride. (Dee Trahey - posted 11/18)

CP PROPOSES BUSINESS COMBINATION TO NORFOLK SOUTHERN: Canadian Pacific today announced that it has sent an offer letter to Norfolk Southern Corp. (NS) proposing a business combination that would create a transcontinental railroad with the scale and reach to deliver improved levels of service to customers and communities while enhancing competition and creating significant shareholder value. The proposal, which includes a sizable premium in cash and stock offered to NS shareholders, would result in a company with the potential for faster earnings growth than either CP or NS could achieve on their own, all the while maintaining a strong investment grade credit rating. CP strongly believes that the combined railroad would offer unparalleled customer service and competitive rates that will support the success of the shippers and industries it serves, and satisfy the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and Canadian regulators. Among the combined company's key innovations is a new approach to terminal access that would change the status quo in U.S. rail transportation. In the event the new company failed to provide adequate service or competitive rates, it would allow another carrier to operate from a point of connection over the combined company's tracks and into its terminals, providing an unprecedented alternative to the affected shipper. In addition, the new company would give shippers the choice of where they can connect with another railroad along its network, bringing an end to the practice of "bottleneck pricing" to a large number of shippers in the U.S. while further enhancing competition. Furthermore, a combination would alleviate the long-standing issue of congestion in Chicago , which seized into gridlock in the winter of 2014 and hobbled economic growth. By channeling rail traffic away from Chicago , CP would create fluid routes through under-utilized hubs and free up much-needed capacity for other railroads that pass through the city, providing them with new, efficient and competitive service options for their own customers. In short, a combined CP/NS would create capacity for all shippers without creating the need for more infrastructure. An efficient end-to-end freight shipment solution will also improve safety, reduce highway congestion, and allow the rail industry to play an even greater role in the revival and sustained recovery of the North American economy. CP hopes the NS executive leadership team and the Board of Directors give this offer due consideration, and looks forward to a thoughtful dialogue on creating a new industry leader. (CP, Randy Kotuby - posted 11/17)

MTA ANNOUNCES NEW PRESIDENT OF NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT: Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast today announced the appointment of Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim as the eighth permanent president of MTA New York City Transit, which moves more than 8 million daily customers on subways, buses, the Staten Island Railway and paratransit service. Hakim is a career transportation professional who returns to the MTA after an earlier 23-year career at the agency. For the past year and a half she has served as the Executive Director of NJ TRANSIT, which operates 12 commuter rail lines, three light rail lines, 261 bus routes and Access Link paratransit service across the state of New Jersey. She previously served nearly four years as Executive Director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. “Our transit network is the lifeblood of the entire region, and I am glad to welcome Ronnie back to New York City Transit and to entrust her with the responsibility of ensuring safe and reliable service even as ridership grows every month,” Prendergast said. “Ronnie’s comprehensive transportation experience, her detailed vision for the future and her demonstrated ability to bring real improvements to customers make her the right person to tackle New York City Transit’s challenges now.” In her time at the MTA, Hakim served as Special Counsel at New York City Transit as well as Executive Vice President and General Counsel at MTA Capital Construction, where she provided senior management with policy and legal advice on megaprojects such as the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access and the 7 train extension to Hudson Yards. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Rochester and a juris doctorate degree from the Pace University School of Law. “Having spent more than two decades of my life at the MTA, I am deeply honored to have the opportunity to lead New York City Transit at a time when surging ridership is affecting every element of its operations,” Hakim said. “Subway and bus customers have high expectations for the network they rely on every day, and I look forward to meeting their expectations of safety, reliability and quality at New York City Transit.” Hakim will begin serving as President on December 28. She replaces James L. Ferrara, the President of MTA Bridges and Tunnels, who has been serving as Interim President of New York City Transit since the August retirement of Carmen Bianco. New York City Transit serves more than 5.6 million subway customers and 2.5 million bus customers on an average weekday. Its 47,000 employees provide mass transit and paratransit service throughout the city, including operating almost 6,400 subway cars at 469 stations, and more than 5,700 buses at more than 15,000 bus stops. (NJ Transit - posted 11/17)

AMTRAK SERVES UP NEW PILOT PROGRAMS IN TIME FOR THANKSGIVING : Amtrak is preparing to make the busy Thanksgiving travel experience more enjoyable for passengers than ever with new, enhanced services and adventures unique to rail travel. Amtrak is now offering, on a pilot basis and just in time for Thanksgiving, the ability to bring pets and bikes onboard. In addition, Amtrak is offering its customers traveling in the Northeast Corridor a new digital newsroom for business and first class passengers. During the busiest week, which stretches from Tuesday, Nov. 24 through Monday, Nov. 30, Amtrak expects to accommodate more than three quarters of a million customers. These services highlight why Amtrak is the smarter way to travel to your Thanksgiving celebrations:
  • Pets on Trains (Pilot Program): Amtrak is offering more passengers the convenience of carrying-on their small cats or dogs onboard all Northeast Regional trains as well as Downeaster. Tickets are limited, so passengers are encouraged to plan ahead and book tickets early for the best availability.
  • Free access to Digital Newspapers (Pilot Program): Amtrak Business and First class passengers on all Northeast Corridor and eastern route trains will have free unlimited access to The Washington Post digital newspaper, normally available only by paid subscription, via Amtrak’s free on-board Wi-Fi, Amtrak Connect®. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, this free access will help you stay connected to the latest business, sports and entertainment news.
  • ClubAcela Day-Pass (Pilot Program) Northeast Regional Business Class and Acela Express passengers now have the opportunity to purchase a same-day pass for access to ClubAcela in Philadelphia and Boston. For $20 enjoy priority boarding, comfortable seating and complimentary refreshments.
  • Bring your Bikes Onboard (Pilot Program): Amtrak now also offers “walk-up” bike service on select routes outside of the Northeast Corridor to provide cyclists with a multi-modal travel option without the hassles of driving or parking. Equipment and loading procedures vary. Space is limited and reservations are required.
  • 2+2 = Free: Don’t hesitate to bring your pies, pumpkins and cozy sweaters – Amtrak has the largest allowance for free baggage in the travel industry. Passengers can bring two bags and two carry-ons for free! Amtrak’s friendly Red Caps are also available to provide baggage-handling assistance at many major stations. We also encourage customers who are carrying multiple bags to use the elevator whenever possible for safety and convenience during the holiday rush.
  • Travel to 500 Destinations: No matter where you’re headed for Thanksgiving dinner this year, Amtrak’s extensive rail network connects you to more than 500 destinations. The possibilities for new adventures and stories are infinite. Share your #AmtrakStories with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Room to Roam: Before the Turkey Day festivities begin, treat yourself and your family to spacious and comfortable seating, free Wi-Fi, the café car and enjoy many other amenities onboard the train.
  • Affordable Travel: Passengers are encouraged to take advantage of special deals and promotions including discounts for AAA members, students, military, seniors, children (ages 12 and under get 50% off) and more.
  • Know your Perks: Have you signed up for Amtrak Guest Rewards®? Earn points when you ride and participate with our partners, then redeem them for valuable rewards like free Amtrak travel and more. Visit https://amtrakguestrewards.com/info
(Amtrak - posted 11/17)

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES LAUNCH OF WI-FI SERVICES AT BRONX UNDERGROUND STATIONS: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Transit Wireless have launched the Phase 4 expansion of wireless, public safety and Wi-Fi services to 21 underground subway stations in the Bronx and 16 in Manhattan. In addition, Transit Wireless has initiated design and construction work on the fifth phase of the seven-phase project to wire all 279 underground MTA stations. When completed, Phase 5 will bring another 37 stations online by mid-2016, including the first stations in Brooklyn. “More and more, access to high speed internet is a necessity and many New Yorkers cannot afford to be blacked out while trying to get from point A to point B,” Governor Cuomo said. “By ensuring that subways stations throughout the city offer full Wi-Fi capabilities, we are not only improving rider experience, but also making public transportation a more viable option for those who work in and around our city.” Today’s announcement was made by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Transit Wireless at the 161St-Yankee Stadium Station (BD4) in the Bronx, with Transit Wireless’ wireless carrier partners, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Phase 4 of the cellular and Wi-Fi network build-out covers 37 underground MTA stations in the Bronx and Manhattan, including major MTA hubs such as Lexington Av-53rd St EM6, Lexington Av-59th St 456NQR, 149th St-Grand Concourse 245, and 125th St 456. Phases 1 through 4 of the network build-out have brought underground connectivity to 70 million MTA riders monthly in Manhattan, Queens, and now the Bronx. “The MTA has been on a clearly defined mission to modernize our mass transit system through station upgrades and several ambitious new-technology communications projects like this one,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “Enhancing the customer experience through connectivity, our Help Point Intercoms, On-the-Go Screens, and other new elements while bringing in added revenue to the MTA is a win-win for everyone.” “Transit Wireless has now connected a third borough to our robust cellular and Wi-Fi network – the Bronx. We would not be where we are today, almost a year ahead of schedule, without critical support from our wireless carrier partners and our strong relationship with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority,” said William A. Bayne, CEO of Transit Wireless. “Our partnership with the MTA also enables riders to be safer while underground by giving them the ability to make E911 calls and access useful information and assistance from Help Point Intercoms.” “This important milestone brings first ever underground wireless to the Bronx and brings us closer to fulfilling our commitment to AT&T customers to keep them connected across the five boroughs,” said Tom DeVito, AT&T’s Vice President and General Manager for New York and New Jersey. “AT&T was among the first carriers to commit to wiring every subway station because we know our customers rely on a fast and reliable network at home, at work and everywhere in between.” “We’re proud to be one of the carriers that has fully committed to deploying 4G LTE throughout the entire New York City subway system,” said Scott Santi, Regional Vice President of Network at Sprint. “We’re making strong progress as we work to bring service to millions of New Yorkers and visitors, enabling them to stay productive, connected, and entertained as they move throughout this great city.” “T-Mobile customers in the greater New York area continue to enjoy the fastest LTE speeds where they live, work and play,” said Tom Ellefson, Vice President of Engineering at T-Mobile. “In the city that never sleeps, our customers will now be able to text, tweet, post or even receive video calls – virtually anywhere and anytime they want to in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx.” “Verizon has consistently demonstrated our commitment to providing a best-in-class network experience for customers wherever they live, work and play, whether that’s in the observation deck of the Freedom Tower or underground in the subways,” said Chris Angelucci, Director of Network Performance and Engineering in New York. “This experience is made possible because of our sustained, aggressive investment in network technology and infrastructure, including more than $3.5 billion in New York and northern New Jersey since 2010.” The MTA and Transit Wireless continue to partner together on multiple initiatives including the deployment of Help Point Intercoms (HPIs). Designed to be both highly visible and easy-to use, these instant communications devices offer immediate access to E911 assistance and information with the touch of a button. Created specifically for the subway environment, the Help Point Intercom is designed to be an easily recognizable communications tool for customers who need to either report an emergency or ask for travel directions. To date, Transit Wireless has built the infrastructure for more than 800 HPIs in underground MTA stations and is on schedule to complete the infrastructure for 600 more HPIs by mid-2017. As the Transit Wireless network expands to more stations, one of the most important benefits for customers is the ability to make E911 calls when needed. The network enables emergency dispatchers to know if a call is being placed from below ground and the approximate location of the caller. The network will also give MTA employees and first responders enhanced communications capability in an emergency. This wireless service allows the thousands of underground business owners and contractors to stay connected as never before. In April 2013, Phase 1 first connected 30 midtown Manhattan underground stations, and customers have responded enthusiastically to the wireless connectivity in the underground. Phase 2 was completed in October 2014, connecting 76 total stations; Phase 3 was completed in March 2015, connecting the 100th station as well as the Flushing Main Street Station in Queens, and stations in Lower Manhattan, West Harlem and Washington Heights. As of today, 146 underground stations are connected to the Transit Wireless network. A complete and updated list of connected subway stations can be viewed here. Phases 6 and 7 of the Transit Wireless network build-out will connect the 90 remaining Brooklyn and Manhattan underground stations in 2017, about one year ahead of schedule. Transit Wireless is sponsoring “Mobile Messengers” in underground station mezzanine areas in Manhattan and the Bronx to inform riders about the availability of cellular and Transit Wireless Wi-Fi service throughout the coming weeks and help riders connect to the network. (MTA - posted 11/16)

SEPTA CELEBRATES RECONSTRUCTION OF HISTORIC WAYNE JUNCTION STATION: SEPTA today joined with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Acting Administrator Therese McMillan, federal, state and local officials, and community members, to celebrate the completion of a major reconstruction project at historic Wayne Junction Station. Located on Windrim Avenue in the city's Nicetown neighborhood, near the border of Germantown, Wayne Junction Station has been a regionally significant transportation hub station since it was opened by the Reading Railroad in 1881. It was originally designed by renowned architect Frank Furness, and was rebuilt in 1901. After more than 100 years of use, the facility had fallen into a state of disrepair. The $31.5 million project to revitalize the facility had been deferred due to funding constrains, however, a $4 million FTA Livability Grant awarded in 2011 was a catalyst for SEPTA to advance the initiative. SEPTA worked closely with the community to ensure the success of the project, which aimed to retain the station's historic significance while also positioning it to be at the center of economic growth in the surrounding neighborhoods. "We have great partnerships at the federal, state and local levels that enabled this project to be a success," SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. "Pat" Deon Sr. "Efforts like these support key parts of our transit infrastructure, and are crucial to sustaining and growing economic development in the Greater Philadelphia Region and throughout Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." Although it required significant construction, the station remained open while work was underway to maintain regular service for customers. Wayne Junction serves as a multi-modal transfer point between six of SEPTA's regional rail lines, as well as three major transit routes - the Route 75 Trackless Trolley, and Bus Routes 23 and 53. The station serves over 321,000 riders annually. "Wayne Junction Station is a critical part of the SEPTA system, and we're thrilled to be able to deliver these improvements to our riders and the community," said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. "The reconstruction delivers full ADA accessibility and long-needed modern amenities for our riders, while preserving the station's rich history." Wayne Junction Station is eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Renovations to the station building and Germantown Head House were coordinated with the Germantown Preserve and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The project received the 2015 Grand Jury Award from the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia. (SEPTA - posted 11/13)

SEPTA TO OPEN NEW 9TH STREET REGIONAL RAIL STATION IN LANSDALE ON SUNDAY: Riders along SEPTA's Lansdale/Doylestown Regional Rail Line will have a new station to use, 9th Street Station in Lansdale. The station opens on Sunday, November 15, 2015 and is the Authority's first new railroad station in nearly 20 years. Beginning Sunday, November 15, 2015, all Lansdale/Doylestown Line trains will operate on a supplemental schedule due to the opening of the 9th Street Station. The new station, located at 141 West 9th Street is an innovative public-private-partnership between SEPTA, Lansdale Borough, Lansdale Parking Authority and Stoltz Real Estate Partners working together to enhance Regional Rail service access for those who live and work in Montgomery County. "It is very exciting to be opening a new station, SEPTA's first in nearly 20 years," SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel said. "We are inviting everyone in the area to come and try it." SEPTA provided alternate parking at Pennbrook and North Wales stations for Lansdale Station customers who were displaced due to parking garage construction and the opening of the 9th Street Station adds yet another alternative location for people to use. The new station will feature 78 permanent spaces and 125 temporary spaces. All trains operating between Lansdale and Doylestown Stations will service the new 9th Street Station. The supplemental timetable, effective Sunday November 15, 2015 is available for download at: http://septa.org/alert/lan.html (SEPTA - posted 11/13)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING NOVEMBER 7, 2015: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Nov. 7, 2015. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 539,165 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.2 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending Nov. 7 were 272,063 carloads, down 8.7 percent compared with the same week in 2014, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 267,102 containers and trailers, down 1.5 percent compared to 2014. Four of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2014. They included: miscellaneous carloads, up 24.1 percent to 9,862; motor vehicles and parts, up 6 percent to 17,877; and grain, up 5.2 percent to 23,428 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2014 included: petroleum and petroleum products, down 19.7 percent to 12,999 carloads; metallic ores and metals, down 18 percent to 20,574 carloads; and coal, down 16 percent to 94,974 carloads. For the first 44 weeks of 2015, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,277,219 carloads, down 4.7 percent from the same point last year; and 11,773,679 intermodal units, up 2 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 44 weeks of 2015 was 24,050,898 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 1.5 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending Nov. 7, 2015 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 363,122 carloads, down 8.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 337,479 intermodal units, up 0.4 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 700,601 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.5 percent. North American rail volume for the first 44 weeks of 2015 was 31,313,133 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.3 percent compared with 2014. Canadian railroads reported 76,795 carloads for the week, down 10.7 percent, and 59,914 intermodal units, up 10 percent compared with the same week in 2014. For the first 44 weeks of 2015, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 6,062,098 carloads, containers and trailers, down 0.7 percent. Mexican railroads reported 14,264 carloads for the week, up 0.9 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,463 intermodal units, up 0.6 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 44 weeks of 2015 was 1,200,137 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 1.5 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 11/13)

GOVERNORS, SENATORS ANNOUNCE AGREEMENT THAT PAVES THE WAY FOR GATEWAY TUNNEL PROJECT TO PROCEED FULL STEAM AHEAD : New York and New Jersey leaders announced that they have reached an agreement on funding commitments and a governance structure that will allow the critically important Gateway Tunnel Project to move forward. The agreement marks a major milestone in the effort to build a new trans-Hudson river tunnel that is an essential portion of Amtrak’s eight-state Northeast Corridor that connects the states of New York and New Jersey and is one of our region’s most critical major infrastructure projects. “I am pleased to announce that the hard work of many people is bearing fruit and that for New Jersey commuters there is finally light at the end of the tunnel,” said U.S. Senator Cory Booker. “Since the meeting I convened in my Newark office on August 18, this group has put forward tremendous effort to find an equitable funding and governance structure for the Gateway development corporation. This agreement is a significant step forward for the Gateway project, which because of the current tunnel’s deteriorating condition and growing demand is among our nation’s most important infrastructure projects." "This agreement marks the first inning of a long game,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, “but it’s a big change that has the federal and state players on the field on the same team, instead of in opposing dugouts.” "The century-old rail tunnels under the Hudson River are antiquated and this agreement is an important step towards averting a potentially disastrous situation for millions of commuters and our entire region's economy," said U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. "The Gateway tunnel is a long overdue solution to our ailing infrastructure and this agreement moves us closer to ensuring our long term economic growth and relieving mounting congestion along the Northeast Corridor?." FUNDING AGREEMENT The framework agreement includes a first-ever federal funding commitment that Senators Schumer and Booker secured from the US Department of Transportation and Amtrak to cover no less than 50% of the project costs via grants and other federal funding described below. The 50% federal funding commitment comes in response to Governor Cuomo’s and Governor Christie’s letter of September 15, 2015 in which they announced that the two States would take responsibility for developing a funding plan to cover the other half of the project costs if the federal government committed to provide half of the funding. In order to develop a financing plan for the Gateway Project, the newly established Gateway Development Corporation (“Corporation”) shall identify and maximize federal grant opportunities in conjunction with USDOT, and will pursue a low interest loan from the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (“RRIF”), and Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (“TIFIA”) that will allow all Project partners to access capital as inexpensively as possible. Due to the extraordinary circumstances involved in building one of the largest infrastructure projects in the nation, the Senators and Governors intend to work together to ensure that payment of debt service is deferred to the time when the Gateway Project is placed into service to the nation. Senators Schumer and Booker worked closely with Secretary Foxx of the United States Department of Transportation and Chairman Coscia of Amtrak, and secured a commitment from both that their respective agencies would cover half of the total project costs. The federal share of funding for the project is likely to come from a combination of New Starts Grant dollars, Amtrak Northeast Corridor profits, Amtrak capital funds, annual appropriations, and other similar federal sources. In addition, the federal partners may utilize a low interest federal loan to lower the cost of capital for their share, for which Amtrak and/or their federal partners or federal designees take responsibility for debt service payments. The local share may include, among other financing strategies and options, the use of federal loan programs for which the states, the Port Authority and/or their partners or designees take responsibility for debt service payments. Establishing a special purpose development entity allows the authority to direct multiple federal sources of funding to the project. In addition, the federal and state partners agreed, due to the nature of this project and to make it a reality in a timely manner, to work together to expedite all environmental and planning approvals needed to bring this project online as soon as possible GOVERNANCE As part of the agreement Governors Christie and Cuomo announced they will immediately direct the Port Authority of NYNJ in consultation with its federal partners – Amtrak and the U.S. Department of Transportation (“USDOT”) – to establish a development corporation to oversee the construction and execution of the Gateway Project. This agreement to establish a Corporation comes after Senator Schumer's proposal of August 11, 2015 to establish a Gateway Development Corporation that would be a collaborative partnership of tunnel stakeholders and after Senator Booker convened a meeting on August 18, 2015, in his office with Senator Menendez, Governor Christie and Secretary Foxx to discuss governance and funding. This Corporation, will be a special purpose entity under the PANYNJ, will have a Board representing the two states - New York and New Jersey - through their Port Authority designees, and the federal government, represented by USDOT and Amtrak. A Port Authority member shall serve as the Chair of the Board with an Amtrak member serving as Vice Chair. The Board will establish governance and decision making processes that shall require approval from all four board members. Primary staff will be provided by the Port Authority and Amtrak. Facilities and logistical support for the Corporation will be provided by the Port Authority. Ownership of the Gateway Project shall reside with the Corporation while improvements to existing assets will be conveyed to their current railroad owners on appropriate terms. The full principles are below: Structure of the Development Corporation: All parties will cooperate to establish a development ?corporation as a special purpose entity under the Port Authority to oversee the Program.
  • · In accordance with the proposed capital funding split and existing ownership interests, the Federal government, represented by USDOT and Amtrak, will share membership/representation in this Corporation equally with New York and New Jersey. There will be a four-member board: New York (Port Authority), New Jersey (Port Authority), Amtrak, and USDOT.
  • · A Port Authority member shall serve as the “Chair” of the board with the Amtrak member serving as Vice Chair, constituting an executive committee of the Corporation with primary responsibility for working directly with the Executive Director or Chief Executive Officer on the daily functioning of the Corporation.
  • · The member entities shall establish governance and define the decision-making processes of the Board, and all decisions shall require approval from all 4 board members. The Board may, where appropriate, delegate decision making authority.
  • · Primary dedicated staff for this Corporation should be provided by the Port Authority and Amtrak, as well as other appropriate entities when needed. The Port Authority shall provide office space, administrative, IT, and logistical support for the Corporation.
  • · The Corporation may establish, as necessary, subsidiaries, joint-ventures or other entities in order to undertake Program activities (including planning, design, construction and financing) in order to enhance Program execution and permit the use of private-public partnership structures.
  • · The Corporation may utilize assets, workforce, design, construction management, procurement, grant eligibility and other capacity of appropriate entities including the Port Authority, Amtrak, NJ Transit and contractors through appropriate agreements to carry out Program activities.
  • · Ownership of new assets built through the Program will reside with the Corporation and improvements to existing assets will be conveyed to the current railroad owners. To the extent ownership of new assets remains with the Corporation, it will enter into operating agreements with the respective railroad operators utilizing those assets on appropriate terms. Amtrak and NJ Transit will have perpetual easements through new tunnels and other assets built by the Corporation. All these agreement shall be done on appropriate terms and shall require unanimous approval of the board.
  • · The Corporation’s expenses and activities shall be funded by the member entities or per other arrangements established by the Corporation and the long-term operation of any of the Corporation’s assets is intended to be accomplished on a self-sustaining basis.
The Initial Goals of the Development Corporation:
  • To develop a financing plan for the project based on a 50/50 cost share between the federal government (including Amtrak) and the State and local Governments (including the Port Authority).
  • To identify and maximize federal grant opportunities for the Program in conjunction with USDOT.
  • To access the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) low interest federal loan program to allow all Program partners to access capital as inexpensively as possible. It is the shared understanding that the Corporation will pursue innovative federal funding programs including RIFF and TIFIA for the Federal, State and local partners
  • The Corporation will commission, fund and approve/supervise planning, EIS and design, engineering and construction work? carried out by the Corporation or individual agencies. All parties agree, due to the nature of this project and the urgent need to make it a reality in a timely manner, to work together to expedite all environmental and planning approvals needed to bring this project on-line as soon as possible, including requesting the placement of the project on the Federal infrastructure “dashboard” qualifying the project for expedited attention within the federal system. All parties to this agreement have substantial resources that will be applied to the project and where appropriate, and approved by the board of the Development Corporation, individual agencies may take a leadership role on specific project elements.
(U.S. Senator Cory Booker. - posted 11/12)

GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL'S FLOOR BROKEN, TO MAKE MAY FOR STAIRWAYS AND ESCALATORS TO LONG ISLAND RAIL ROAD CONCOURSE: MTA officials began the process of breaking through the floor of Grand Central Terminal today, marking the start of construction on one of several access points that will connect Grand Central Terminal to a huge new concourse for Long Island Rail Road passengers being built below. The concourse being built is part of the East Side Access construction project, which will bring Long Island Rail Road trains into Grand Central. Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, President of MTA Capital Construction, struck the concrete floor with a pickax, signifying the start of work to remove the section of floor that will be opened up for the new escalators and stairway. He was joined by Joseph Giulietti, President of MTA Metro-North Railroad, which is responsible for the day-to-day maintenance and operations of Grand Central, and Patrick Nowakowski, President of MTA Long Island Rail Road, as well as East Side Access project and construction staff. The opening now being created is located across from Tracks 112-115, and will contain the structural framework and supports for the future escalators and stairway that will be installed closer to the start of new LIRR service. The work that begins today is projected to take approximately 12 to 18 months. The space that will house the stairway and escalators is a former seating area on the west side of the Lower Level Dining Concourse that was formally known as the West Pullman Dining and Seating Area. A 1,920-square-foot area has been closed to the public to allow construction to take place. When construction is completed, the size of the closed-off zone will be reduced, and the framed out and supported openings in the floor will be capped over until the escalators and stairs are installed within them. East Side Access is the largest transportation construction project underway in the United States. In addition to the passenger concourse, platforms, and passageways being built under Grand Central, the project has excavated 42,500 feet of tunnels in Manhattan and Queens, opened up a new entrance to Grand Central at 245 Park Avenue, built a pocket park on 50th Street between Park and Madison Avenues, and is making extensive improvements to the operational efficiency of Harold Interlocking, which will reduce travel time for Amtrak and LIRR passengers. “This ceremony marks the start of construction of several access points between the existing Grand Central Terminal that you all know so well, and the new concourse below that will provide access to Long Island Rail Road trains for 162,000 daily commuters when it opens for service,” Dr. Michael Horodniceanu said. “Building the largest infrastructure project in the entire country comes with its challenges, and I want to thank Grand Central’s visitors for their patience and support as we work to minimize any disruptions that come from heavy construction work.” “Metro-North is also proud to be welcoming the Long Island Rail Road into our long-time home, Grand Central,” Joseph Giulietti said. “To make that a reality, Metro-North decommissioned a set of 15 tracks on the west side of the lower level where we used to store trains, and replaced them with a new yard in the Bronx. But that took place behind the scenes. Today is the first time that customers will notice changes taking place at Grand Central.” “East Side Access represents the largest service increase for the Long Island Rail Road in more than a century,” Patrick Nowakowski said. “The new terminal will double our capacity into Manhattan, and give our customers a direct ride to the East Side for the first time. You can’t have a new terminal without a new entrance to it, so this is a critical and necessary step in the progress of East Side Access. The LIRR also thanks Metro-North and Grand Central’s customers while this work is underway.” MTA Capital Construction has installed temporary barricade walls, which incorporate noise and dust control, as well as fire protective elements to neutralize impacts of construction on the customer environment. The temporary walls will be clad with information related to the East Side Access work being done there. Metro-North will provide information regarding customer service contacts, an eatery directory and Grand Central tenant advertising. All of the surrounding eateries will remain open for business during construction. The construction work is being performed as part of a $430 million contract to build the future LIRR Concourse. The contract was awarded in February 2015 to GCT Constructors, JV, a joint venture consisting of Schiavone Construction Co. and John P. Picone, Inc. Under the contract, workers will build the architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical facilities, and escalators and elevators, that will comprise the future 350,000-square-foot LIRR concourse and related ventilation facilities. The construction that begins today will be the first of several connections to be built between the existing Grand Central and the new LIRR Concourse. Other significant work will take place in the historic Biltmore Room in mid-to-late 2016, where escalators and an elevator will be installed to take passengers directly to and from the LIRR Concourse. Additional work related to this project is underway and will become visible to the public over the coming months and years as the project progresses. The East Side Access project will increase the LIRR’s capacity into Manhattan, and dramatically shorten travel time for Long Island and eastern Queens commuters traveling to the east side of Manhattan. It is projected to reduce crowding at Penn Station and nearby subway stations and provide easier access from East Midtown to JFK International Airport via the AirTrain at LIRR’s Jamaica station. The completion of the East Side Access project will also allow Metro-North New Haven Line trains to access to the west side of Manhattan and four stations that will be built in the Bronx. (MTA - posted 11/11)

FRA RELEASES OPTIONS TO GUIDE FUTURE IN NATION'S CRITICAL NORTHEAST CORRIDOR: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today released a Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for NEC FUTURE, FRA’s long-term investment framework for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) between Washington, DC and Boston, Mass.“Over the next 30 years, an additional six million people will live along this corridor. To keep everyone to move safely, quickly and efficiently, we need smart planning and significant investment in the Northeast Corridor,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We are seeking input as we work toward developing a long-term vision that will prioritize rail investments to ensure a vibrant and safe future for the northeast region and the nation.”The Tier 1 Draft EIS includes alternative visions for investment in the NEC. The visions range from maintaining the current level of investment and service to significant investment that would dramatically increase rail’s role in transportation for the Northeast. FRA will hold 11 public hearings to gather input and feedback from stakeholders that will inform FRA’s decision on a preferred investment program.The NEC is the nation’s busiest rail corridor, with more than 700,000 passengers traveling each weekday through eight states and the District of Columbia. The NEC contributes more than $100 million every day to the Northeast’s economy, but it currently operates on outdated infrastructure, much of it built more than 100 years ago, with capacity constraints that cannot accommodate future growth. Choke points and aging infrastructure often disrupt the system’s reliability and performance.“Trains that connect our nation’s university hub to its financial center to its capital ride over bridges built before 1910 and through tunnels built after the Civil War,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg. “NEC FUTURE will guide the region in developing a long-term framework to build a stronger Northeast Corridor that supports economic growth and creates jobs.”The Tier 1 Draft EIS, which outlines the various visions, is now available for download and review by the public at www.necfuture.com Print copies are also available at libraries throughout the region.FRA considered a broad range of alternatives for the NEC, beginning in 2012 with a public scoping process and analysis of travel markets. In 2013, the FRA consolidated nearly 100 initial concepts into 15 visions (Preliminary Alternatives) that varied by level of investment, service, and route. In 2014, the FRA evaluated the Preliminary Alternatives and identified three distinct Action Alternatives; these have been refined and analyzed in the Tier 1 Draft EIS. Each Action Alternative represents a different long-term vision for improving passenger rail service that will enhance mobility options, improve performance, and better serve existing and future passengers in the study area.Public HearingsThe hearings provide an opportunity for public input on the Tier 1 Draft EIS. No decision has been made on which alternative best meets the region’s needs, and the FRA will consider all comments received during the comment period in making its decision.FRA will hold public hearings in each of the eight states along the NEC and the District of Columbia. Hearings will be held from 4:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. on the following dates and locations:
  • 12/9, Boston, MA – Back Bay Events Center, 180 Berkeley Street12/14, New Haven, CT – Gateway Community College, 20 Church Street
  • 12/15, New York, NY – CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue (at 34th Street)
  • 12/16, Washington, DC – Hall of States, 444 North Capitol Street, NW
  • 12/17, Providence, RI – Rhode Island Department of Administration, One Capitol Hill
  • 1/11, Philadelphia, PA – SEPTA, 1234 Market Street, Mezzanine Level
  • 1/12, Mineola, NY – Nassau County Municipal Building, 1550 Franklin Avenue
  • 1/13, Hartford, CT – The Lyceum, 227 Lawrence Street
  • 1/14, Baltimore, MD – University of Baltimore, 21 W. Mt. Royal Avenue, 5th Floor
  • 1/19, Newark, NJ – NJ Transit, 1 Raymond Plaza East, 9th floor
  • 1/20, Wilmington, DE – Delaware Technical Community College, 333 Shipley Street
Each hearing will include brief presentations at 4:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. There will be an opportunity to speak following each presentation. Individuals planning to speak should sign up when they arrive. A stenographer will also be available for private testimony.In the event of inclement weather, hearings may be canceled or rescheduled. Please check the website at www.necfuture.com [external link] - See more at: https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/fra-releases-options-guide-future-investment-critical-northeast-corridor#sthash.paKZB2gX.dpuf (USDOT - posted 11/11)

NEW ENGLAND STEAM CORPORATION PURCHASES MAINE CENTRAL #470: On Thursday, November 5, 2015, officials of the New England Steam Corporation completed its purchase obligation to the city of Waterville, Maine, turning over a check for the full purchase price of $25,000 to the City Manager. There was a great deal of media coverage by television and radio networks, and further coverage in the Bangor Daily News and Waterville Morning Sentinel. With this transaction completed, work crews will begin lightening the locomotive for the impending move to Washington Junction on the Downeast Scenic Railroad. This will include freeing the boiler from the chassis, removing the cross-compound pump, and dismantling other large parts on the engine. One of the most awaited items will be the cutting of the drawbar pin, allowing the separation of the locomotive from its tender
  • So wait - I thought the tender was going to be moved this fall? It was, but reassessment of the loads to be moved over the roads has necessitated securing larger cranes and a different tactic for carrying the 470 to her new home. While we have several plans engineered and available for moving the tender and locomotive, it became obvious that rigging the heavy-lift cranes should only be done once. In that manner, work crews only have to be present and set up once in Waterville and once in Hancock. Chief Mechanical Officer Leverett Fernald and Supervising Engineer Joe Foley, Jr., feel the move can take place once the ground is hard and dry in the late spring or summer of 2016. Again, these are estimates and hinge on the safe use of the moving equipment. According to the contract between NESCO and Waterville, a window of 12 months is open for safe removal of the locomotive from the date of purchase. We certainly are going to beat that time limitation.
  • So 470 goes to Washington Junction. Then what? Two separate organizations, the Deupree Family Foundation and the Samuel Freeman Foundation, have donated $10,000 and $51,400 (respectively) toward the construction of an indoor shop on Track 7 in the Washington Junction yard. An enclosed shop, based on the design created by University of Maine Civil Engineering students, will be in place to welcome our new patient. An arch-tarp structure, designed for heavy wind and snow loads, will sit atop repurposed cargo containers with drainage rock under them. A drop pit will be added as well. The chassis and tender will sit on rails, while the boiler will be on a mobile truck-carrier. The whole locomotive will be mobile.
  • What gets repaired first? Most likely the tender. The frame, brake rigging, and trucks under the tender are appear to be in very good condition. The tender cistern and coal bunker are too far gone to serve as anything other than a pattern. Since 470 can't operate without a tender, and since a tender is a significant and fairly straight-forward project, that's where we are going to start. We have submitted several grant applications to purchase new tender steel at this time. By having those funds on hand, we can start that portion of the restoration in late 2016. Our colleagues at the Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington Railroad have offered us use of their riveting jaws. We hope at least a portion of the restored tender will reflect the traditional railroad shop fabrication technique.
New England Steam Corporation members are responsible for the purchase and the further restoration of Maine Central 470. The corporation itself is a custodial body for our priceless treasure. Be proud of what we have accomplished together and revel in where we are going. (New England Steam Corporation - posted 11/10)

BLOOMBERG REPORTS THAT CANADIAN PACIFIC IS INTERESTED IN THE ACQUISITION OF NORFOLK SOUTHERN: Bloomberg.com reports that "Canadian Pacific is raising financing and has held early-stage merger talks with Norfolk Southern, which is valued at about $24 billion, said two of the people, who asked not to be identified because deliberations are private. Discussions are preliminary and talks may not progress or lead to a deal, they said. Representatives for Canadian Pacific and Norfolk declined to comment. Norfolk Southern surged as much as 14 percent, the biggest intraday gain since 2001, while Canadian Pacific increased as much as 7.5 percent in Toronto. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Railroads Index, which tracks four U.S. carriers, rose as much as 5 percent to erase an earlier drop". (Bloomberg via Randy Kotuby - posted 11/09)

BRIGHTLINE TO OFFER A SMART NEW TRAVEL OPTION FOR FLORIDA'S TRANSPORTATION FUTURE: All Aboard Florida, developer of the only privately-owned and operated passenger rail service in the United States, today introduced Brightline, the express train travel service that will connect the major cities of south and central Florida along a 235-mile route. At an event held on the construction site for MiamiCentral, the new downtown transportation hub and mixed-use urban development in the heart of Miami, the company revealed the new Brightline brand identity and previewed the innovative trains that are the centerpiece of the new service. The brand launch presents a bright and optimistic view of the future for the millions of residents and tourists who crisscross the state's highways and skyways annually by offering an important new travel alternative in Florida.With the introduction of Brightline, we set out to reinvent what traveling by train can mean in America, making it a forward-leaning solution that is a smarter alternative to more cars on crowded roads," said Michael Reininger, president of All Aboard Florida. "Brightline is built to be an intuitive transportation option aligned with the emerging preferences of our customers for mass transit solutions and keyed to providing access to the primary destinations of Florida's residents and visitors alike. With the extraordinary design expertise of Rockwell Group, we've blended train travel and hospitality, creating a new and innovative travel experience focused on providing customer service that extends well beyond the trains and stations." In developing the brand and product offering, the company tapped award-winning architect David Rockwell and his firm Rockwell Group. The firm utilized a unique cross-studio approach that began with the LAB, Rockwell Group's innovation studio, and grew to involve their architects and interior designers. The resulting brand name, logo, train exteriors and interiors, and station interiors will create a holistic hospitality experience for the Florida travel market. "We're thrilled to be working with All Aboard Florida on the creation of Brightline," said David Rockwell, founder and president of Rockwell Group. "The project provided us with a wonderful and rare opportunity to combine deep ethnographic research with our extensive hospitality experience to re-envision train travel. We believe that our holistic and collaborative approach will result in an entirely new travel experience that is welcoming, comfortable, fun, and seamless from departure to arrival." The express inter-city Brightline trains are being built in California by Siemens and – indicative of the new identity – will each be adorned in a spectrum of five distinct colors: BrightRed, BrightOrange, BrightGreen, BrightBlue and BrightPink, led by BrightYellow locomotives. "Typically, trains have been one color, either gray or silver, and tend to blend into the background," added Reininger. "As our trains pull into the stations, their colorful entry will be another way that Brightline takes the gray out of travel." Making the journey in three hours – faster than by car and comparable to total air-travel time, Brightline will make frequent departures and deliver a relaxed travel experience, providing a savvy alternative to Florida's crowded highways and airports. Brightline will dramatically ease that congestion, as well as present comforts and amenities valued by people on the go today such as convenient booking options, roomy and reserved onboard seating, free Wifi, on-board and in-station food and beverage selections and easy local transit connections. As part of the launch, the company also introduced its consumer website: www.gobrightline.com along with specific social media sites including Facebook and Twitter. "On our website and social channels, consumers can learn more about our brand and how we are looking at everything through the lens of our customer who is challenged today with limited options for travel. We are setting the expectation of what we are going to deliver which will be smart travel with purposeful design," said Reininger. (Brightline - posted 11/09)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION ANNOUNCES $10 MILLION TIGER GRANT FOR THE BARNUM STATION PROJECT IN CONNECTICUT: Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah Feinberg today announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation will provide $10 million for the Barnum Station Project in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  The project is one of 39 federally-funded transportation projects in 34 states selected to receive a total of nearly $500 million under the Department’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) 2015 program.  U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced project selections for this round of TIGER grants on October 29. The Department received 627 eligible applications from 50 states and several U.S. territories, including Tribal governments, requesting 20 times the $500 million available for the program, or $10.1 billion for needed transportation projects. “Transportation is always about the future.  If we’re just fixing today’s problems, we’ll fall further and further behind.  We already know that a growing population and increasing freight traffic will require our system to do more,” said Secretary Foxx.  “In this round of TIGER, we selected projects that focus on where the country’s transportation infrastructure needs to be in the future; ever safer, ever more innovative, and ever more targeted to open the floodgates of opportunity across America.” This TIGER grant will provide funding to support construction of a new commuter rail station, which will serve the Metro North Railroad on the east side of Bridgeport, Connecticut.  The project includes widening the existing tracks to accommodate two center island platforms, constructing an underpass tunnel to provide platform access, and modifying roadways.  The project plans were an outcome of a HUD Sustainable Communities planning grant, and the project aims to provide additional rail access to a low-income community.  The project will complement plans for new transit-oriented development and thus enhance Ladders of Opportunity for east Bridgeport. With this latest round of funding, TIGER continues to invest in transformative projects that will provide significant and measurable improvements over existing conditions.  The awards recognize projects nationwide that will advance key transportation goals such as safety, innovation, and opportunity. “This project is much more than just a stop on a train route,” said Administrator Feinberg.  “Barnum Station creates new access to transportation in a former manufacturing area and will increase Metro North ridership and benefit workers. The TIGER program really enables innovative transportation projects to become a reality.” (USDOT - posted 11/09)

ANACOSTIA ANNOUNCES SENIOR MANAGMENT TEAM PROMOTIONS: Anacostia Rail Holdings, Inc. is pleased to announce two promotions to the senior management teams of its Chicago South Shore & South Bend and New York & Atlantic operating companies. Michael R. Shore, who has more than 23 years of railroad experience, was promoted to vice president-operations of the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad (CSS), effective November 2. Previously he had been superintendent, and most recently, general superintendent for the CSS since 2012. Prior to that he was general manager of Chicago Rail Link. Previously, he held various positions, including general manager, with Chicago Rail Link since 1999 and previously held various positions with the Belt Railway Co. of Chicago, the Orient Ocean Container Lines, and the Burlington Northern Railroad. Mr. Shore has a BA and an MBA from Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois. James P. Bonner, who has more than 18 years of railroad experience, was promoted to vice president of the New York & Atlantic Railway (NY&A), effective November 1. He had been director of sales and marketing at the NY&A since January 2013. Prior to coming to the NY&A, he had been general manager for Connecticut Southern Railroad in Hartford, Conn. since August 2011 and previously held various operating posts with Rail America, Otter Tail Valley Railroad (an affiliate of Rail America), and Kyle Railroad Company. Mr. Bonner has a business/computer science degree from Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland, Kansas. (Anacostia Rail Holdings, Inc - posted 11/06)

NORFOLK SOUTHERN ROLLS OUT 'ECO' FRIENDLY LOCOMOTIVES IN CHICAGO RAIL YARDS: In Norfolk Southern joined local and state officials to dedicate a new fleet of environmentally friendly, rail yard locomotives for Chicago today at its 47th Street intermodal facility. The engines are branded "Eco" locomotives for their operating efficiencies in reducing emissions and fuel consumption. More than $19 million in grant funding through the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) made the $30 million public-private partnership to replace Norfolk Southern's entire Chicago yard locomotive fleet possible. The new units feature a stylistic green paint scheme with an Illinois-shaped icon and the slogan "Working Together for a Cleaner State." "These locomotives will be rolling billboards in Chicago for years to come of one of the finest examples of collaboration between public and private partners to think and act big on diesel emission reduction technology," said Norfolk Southern Vice President Mechanical Don Graab. "The bottom line is cleaner air quality for Chicago residents. We thank the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning for their partnership in helping us achieve this goal for our locomotive fleet." The 3,000-horsepower engines meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's strict Tier-3 emissions standards for locomotives. NS plans to put 15 of the locomotives to work at its five major Chicago rail yards by the end this year. The units are expected to prevent the release of 7.58 tons of particulate matter and 196 tons of nitrogen oxides pollutants annually while using less fuel compared with older switching locomotives. "In programming federal CMAQ dollars for the metropolitan Chicago region our agency uses a competitive review process to seek the most meritorious projects," said Joseph C. Szabo, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning executive director. "These locomotives will reduce particulate matter emissions by 76 percent, significantly benefiting the region's air quality." "Illinois EPA is proud to have sponsored this Norfolk Southern locomotive repower project," said Ryan McCreery, Illinois EPA deputy director. "The CMAQ funding provided through the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the match provided by Norfolk Southern is a great investment in Illinois' air quality and will result in significant emission reductions for the Chicago region." Illinois Department of Transportation Secretary Randy Blankenhorn said, "This type of innovation is a good example of how we can strengthen our state's robust transportation network and improve our environment at the same time. The funding that made these locomotives possible will provide an enhanced quality of life for the region's residents and make Illinois an even better place to live, work, and do business." Norfolk Southern designed and built the locomotives at its Juniata, Pa., locomotive shops, using components from Electro-Motive Diesel, a division of Progress Rail Services, a Caterpillar company. "More than 1,000 engineering and manufacturing employees working for Electro-Motive in LaGrange, Ill., designed and manufactured the engines, electrical lockers and various other components on this ECO locomotive," said Progress President and CEO Billy Ainsworth. "This locomotive is a tribute to our dedicated employees and their commitment to sustainable solutions that improve the world where we live." Norfolk Southern is taking additional steps to reduce emissions in Chicago by pairing three of the "Eco" units with "slugs" - engineless locomotives equipped with traction motors that add emissions-free pulling power - and installing plug-in engine heating systems to eliminate locomotive idling in collaboration with U.S. EPA Region V. Earlier this year, NS introduced 10 "Eco" locomotives at its Atlanta yard, and next year plans to add three more engines at its Macon and Rome yards in Georgia with additional CMAQ grants. As the nation's largest rail center, Chicago plays a vital role in Norfolk Southern's rail network. NS operates more than 100 trains daily through the city, connecting Chicago and Illinois businesses and communities to markets across the nation and world. Across the state, Norfolk Southern employs 1,625 people and operates a network of 1,256 rail miles. (Norfolk Southern - posted 11/05)

AMTRAK PREPARED FOR THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY TRAVEL: In anticipation of the busiest travel week of the year, America’s Railroad® is prepared to accommodate the surge of holiday travelers with extra trains and additional capacity on several routes in the Northeast, the Midwest, and the West Coast. Amtrak will also operate every available passenger rail car in its fleet. Tickets sell out quickly so passengers are encouraged to plan ahead and book tickets early for best availability and pricing. In the Northeast, in addition to numerous extra trains and additional capacity, Amtrak will lease equipment from our commuter partners to operate “Holiday Extra” trains between New York and Washington on Sunday, Nov. 29. Additionally, the regularly unreserved New York-Philadelphia-Harrisburg Keystone Service will require reservations Tuesday, Nov. 24 through Monday, Nov. 30. In the Midwest, Amtrak is adding extra trains to several of the Chicago hub corridors to downstate Illinois and to Michigan. In the West, Amtrak is adding capacity to several services including Auburn-San Jose Capitol Corridor, Oakland/Sacramento – Bakersfield-Southern California San Joaquin, as well as additional seating on Los Angeles-San Diego Pacific Surfliner service with one additional round trip operating between Los Angeles-San Diego during the busiest travel days. In the Pacific Northwest, Amtrak is adding one additional round trip between Seattle and Portland on Amtrak Cascades service. During the holiday, Pacific Surfliner service will require reservations. Last year, Amtrak carried a record 772,211 passengers during the Thanksgiving travel period, the most ever for the holiday. Similar passenger counts are anticipated this year. Amtrak is working hard to provide a hassle-free travel experience while connecting passengers with friends and family. These additional tips will help to ensure a smooth trip:
  • Purchasing Tickets: eTicketing is enabled on every train route throughout the nation. Travelers may purchase tickets early using Amtrak.com, Quik-Trak or ticket windows at staffed stations (where available), on Amtrak mobile app, or by calling 800-USA-RAIL.
  • 2+2 = Free: Amtrak has the friendliest baggage policy in the travel industry. Passengers can bring two bags and two carry-ons, collectively weighing up to 150 pounds, for free. Excess baggage will cost $20.
  • Avoid the Rush: The busiest travel days are the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after the holiday. Other than Thanksgiving Day, morning trains typically have more available seats than those in the afternoon or evening.
  • Arrive Early: Allow plenty of time at stations prior to departure – at least 45 minutes beforehand if picking up tickets. Arrange for pre-boarding if you need extra time or assistance and use Amtrak Red Cap agents to help you with your baggage.
  • Check Train Schedules: Make sure to check holiday train schedules prior to arriving at the station with a helpful, online-only timetable provided by Amtrak.
  • Carry Photo ID: Passengers are required to show valid photo identification when purchasing tickets. Make sure to carry valid photo ID at all times, as it may be requested aboard trains.
  • Be Safe: Be aware of your surroundings, stand back from the edge of the platform, do not leave your bags unattended, and watch your step when boarding or leaving the train or when walking between cars when the train is in motion.
(Amtrak - posted 11/05)

POOR PERFORMANCE OF WHEEL SET CONTRIBUTED TO JULY 2014 CN DERAILMENT IN ONTARIO: The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released its investigation report (R14T0160) into the 10 July 2014 derailment of a Canadian National Railway (CN) freight train near Brockville, Ontario. The 26 derailed cars included 13 Class 111 tank cars, which contained aviation fuel residue. A small amount of product was released and no injuries were reported. The investigation determined that the derailment occurred as a result of excessive "truck hunting" on an empty 80-foot long centrebeam bulkhead flat car. These types of freight cars are less rigid than other types of cars and are known to be more susceptible to excessive truck hunting. "Truck hunting" is a term used to describe the side-to-side movement of wheel sets within a freight car truck. Under certain conditions, the truck hunting can become excessive which can cause wheel lift or wheel climb, either of which can cause a derailment. In this case, the excessive truck hunting was influenced by the type of car, the speed of the train (60 mph), the worn condition of the constant contact side bearings (CCSB), as well as by the truck type. When car inspectors visually inspect these cars, they look for contact between the CCSB and the car body underframe. However, the investigation determined that visual inspections alone cannot verify if a CCSB is actually providing effective support. The damaged Class 111 tank cars contained only residue amounts of product and, consequently, only a small amount of product was lost. However, the damage observed in this derailment was consistent with the damage observed to Class 111 tank cars in other TSB investigations. The potential for catastrophic environmental impacts and loss of life remains, thereby reinforcing the need for improved tank car design standards. The transportation of flammable liquids by rail has been identified as one of the key risks to the transportation system and it is included on the TSB's Watchlist. The TSB has been pointing out the vulnerability of Class 111 tank cars for many years, and the Board has called for tougher standards for all Class 111 tank cars, not just new ones, to reduce the likelihood of product release during accidents. Although both the United States Department of Transportation and Transport Canada have introduced new retrofit requirements and timelines, until flammable liquids are transported in tank cars built sufficiently robust to prevent catastrophic failure when involved in an accident, the risk will remain high. Following the occurrence, the TSB issued a Rail Safety Advisory identifying that empty 80-foot long centrebeam bulkhead flat cars, which are used throughout North America, may be more susceptible to excessive truck hunting. For its part, CN introduced a 45 mph speed restriction on such cars and upgraded all similar cars within its fleet. (CN - posted 11/05)

MTA ROLLS OUT BIKE CARS ON ALL WEEKEND MARC TRAINS: As part of Governor Larry Hogan’s transit improvement plan to connect Baltimore, MARC Train riders and bike enthusiasts will enjoy the added benefit of a bike car on every MARC Penn Line weekend train between Baltimore and Washington, D.C., beginning Saturday, October 31. As a result, all 30 MARC weekend train trips on the Penn Line now will be equipped with bicycle access. “Our multi-phase plan to connect Baltimore with a unified transit system takes into consideration the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians,” said MTA Administrator Paul Comfort. “Adding a bike car on every weekend MARC train will provide an added level of convenience and ease of travel for our bike-riding customers. The bike cars allow passengers to bring full-sized, non-collapsible bikes on board the train and safely secure them in one of 23 racks on board the car. Passenger seating for 40 is available adjacent to the bike racks (see attached picture). There is no additional charge to use the specially-designed cars and bike racks are available on a first-come, first-served basis. (Maryland MTA - posted 11/04)

HURON CENTRAL DERAILMENT: The Huron Central Railway (HCRY) confirms that in the evening of November 1st, at approximately 10:50 PM, a derailment occurred on the HCRY line in the boundaries of the town of Spanish, in the province of Ontario. Three locomotives and 13 cars have derailed; 8 cars were carrying limestone slurry and the other five were empty. No dangerous goods were released nor spilled. The derailment site is locked down and secured. No one was injured. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the derailment. The Huron Central Railway (HCRY) is a 173-mile short line freight railroad operating in the northern part of Ontario that interchanges with Canadian National and Canadian Pacific. ( Huron Central Railway - posted 11/04)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR OCTOBER AND WEEKEND ENDING OCTOBER 31, 2015: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported weekly U.S. rail traffic, as well as volumes for October 2015 and the first ten months of 2015. Carload traffic in October totaled 1,124,470 carloads, down 6.9 percent or 83,578 carloads from October 2014. U.S. railroads also originated 1,089,310 containers and trailers in October 2015, down 1.4 percent or 15,769 units from the same month last year. For October 2015, combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations were 2,213,780, down 4.3 percent or 99,347 carloads and intermodal units from October 2014. In October 2015, five of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with October 2014. This included: grain, up 12.9 percent or 11,366 carloads; miscellaneous carloads, up 27.3 percent or 5,293 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, up 6.7 percent or 4,654 carloads. Commodities that saw declines in October 2015 from October 2014 included: coal, down 13.3 percent or 59,791 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 18.6 percent or 12,209 carloads; and metallic ores, down 27.9 percent or 9,029 carloads. Excluding coal, carloads were down 3.1 percent or 23,787 carloads in October 2015 from October 2014. Total U.S. carload traffic for the first ten months of 2015 was 12,005,156 carloads, down 4.6 percent or 579,405 carloads, while intermodal containers and trailers were 11,506,577 units, up 2.1 percent or 234,100 containers and trailers when compared to the same period in 2014. For the first ten months of 2015, total rail traffic volume in the United States was 23,511,733 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.4 percent or 345,305 carloads and intermodal units from the same point last year. "The decline in rail traffic in October is consistent with the view that a divide has opened up between the service sector, which appears to be fairly robust in many respects, and manufacturing, which appears to be facing increasingly strong headwinds, including international turmoil and slowdowns in the energy sector," said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray.
  • Week Ending October 31, 2015: Total U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending Oct. 31, 2015 was 549,707 carloads and intermodal units, down 6 percent compared with the same week last year. For the week there were 279,327 carloads, down 8.5 percent compared with the same week in 2014, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 270,380 containers and trailers, down 3.4 percent compared to 2014. Four of the 10 carload commodity groups posted increases compared with the same week in 2014. They included: miscellaneous carloads, up 15.7 percent to 9,860 carloads; chemicals, up 3.2 percent to 30,518; and motor vehicles and parts, up 2.2 percent to 18,293. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2014 included: petroleum and petroleum products, down 21.7 percent to 12,871 carloads; metallic ores and metals, down 19 percent to 22,871 carloads; and coal, down 14.4 percent to 95,894 carloads. North American rail volume for the week ending Oct. 31, 2015 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 372,471 carloads, down 8.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 344,512 intermodal units, down 2.2 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America, was 716,983 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.8 percent. North American rail volume for the first 43 weeks of 2015 was 30,612,532 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.2 percent compared with 2014. Canadian railroads reported 78,028 carloads for the week, down 10.4 percent, and 63,344 intermodal units, up 5.1 percent compared with the same week in 2014. For the first 43 weeks of 2015, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,925,389 carloads, containers and trailers, a decrease of 0.7 compared to last year. Mexican railroads reported 15,116 carloads for the week, down 7.7 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,788 intermodal units, down 11.1 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 43 weeks of 2015 was 1,175,410 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 1.5 percent from the same point last year.
  • Crude Oil Carload Update: The AAR also reported U.S. Class I railroads originated 101,167 carloads of crude oil in the third quarter of 2015, down 9,901 carloads or 8.9 percent from the second quarter of 2015 and down 31,090 carloads or 23.5 percent from the third quarter of 2014
(AAR - posted 11/04)

STATEMENT FROM MTA CHAIRMAN AND CEO THOMAS F. PRENDERGAST: The new MTA Capital Program includes $535 million over the next four years for design, planning, environmental review, property acquisition, utility relocation and construction preparations to bring the Second Avenue Subway to East Harlem. This reflects the work we can realistically accomplish in the next four years given the regulatory and engineering constraints on heavy construction in a densely populated section of Manhattan. We have committed that if we can speed up the schedule to begin tunneling the East Harlem phase sooner, we will pursue a Capital Program amendment to do so. Governor Cuomo has made clear that he would like us to accelerate work on the Second Avenue Subway, and we are actively looking for ways to deliver the project faster. The MTA Board last week unanimously approved a 2015-2019 MTA Capital Program that reduced the Second Avenue Subway allocation due to construction timing, including city Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, when she voted for what she called “a very terrific capital plan.” (MTA - posted 11/03)

UNIMIN ANNOUNCES GRAND OPENING OF NEW TERMINAL IN BENWOOD, WV: Unimin Energy Solutions announced the grand opening of its 2nd unit train capable terminal located in Benwood, West Virginia. The event, held on October 27, was attended by city and county officials and major service companies operating across the Marcellus and Utica shales. Unimin, along with partners CSX Railroad and Transload Solutions now operates an ultra-high efficiency transload and storage facility on ROUTE 2 in the heart of the liquids rich region of the southern Marcellus in West Virgina and southwestern Pennsylvania. The Benwood terminal has almost 20,000 tons of silo storage capacity and can load up to 55 trucks per hour to ensure maximum efficiency. The CSX Railroad will shuttle unit trains to continuously replenish frac sand inventory. "We continue to enhance customer service and efficiency, which is even more critical in these challenging times," stated Joe Migyanko, General Sales Manager for Unimin's Northern Region. "Benwood is the 2nd of our high efficiency terminals. Jerry Run off Highway 50 was our first in the region," added Migyanko The Benwood terminal is the most recent addition to Unimin's terminal network operating in the Marcellus and Utica plays: Others, include
  • Jerry Run, WV and Clarksburg, WV: rail terminals serving the liquids rich south west Marcellus
  • Navarre, OH – off Interstate 77 and Highway 62, serving the Utica shale
  • Monaca, PA and Crafton, PA – to cover Western PA and the wet gas sections the Marcellus
  • Punxsutawney, PA to cover Central PA
  • Williamsport and Taylor, PA
  • Binghamton and Horseheads, NY to cover the dry gas sections of the Marcellus shale
(Randy Kotuby - posted 11/02)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEKEND ENDING OCTOBER 24, 2015: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Oct. 24, 2015. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 553,144 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.6 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending Oct. 24 were 284,523 carloads, down 7.4 percent compared with the same week in 2014, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 268,621 containers and trailers, down 3.7 percent compared to 2014. Three of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2014. They are: grain, up 13 percent to 25,301 carloads; motor vehicles and parts, up 9.9 percent to 18,984; and miscellaneous carloads, up 2.6 percent to 8,972. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2014 included: petroleum and petroleum products, down 21.7 percent to 13,273 carloads; metallic ores and metals, down 18.5 percent to 21,759 carloads; and coal, down 12.7 percent to 100,829 carloads. For the first 42 weeks of 2015, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,725,829 carloads, down 4.5 percent from the same point last year; and 11,236,197 intermodal units, up 2.2 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 42 weeks of 2015 was 22,962,026 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 1.3 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending Oct. 24, 2015 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 374,774 carloads, down 9.6 percent compared with the same week last year, and 340,848 intermodal units, down 2.7 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 715,622 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.4 percent. North American rail volume for the first 42 weeks of 2015 was 29,895,549 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.1 percent compared with 2014. Canadian railroads reported 74,282 carloads for the week, down 18.1 percent, and 61,388 intermodal units, up 3.6 percent compared with the same week in 2014. For the first 42 weeks of 2015, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,784,017 carloads, containers and trailers, down 0.6 percent. Mexican railroads reported 15,969 carloads for the week, down 3.7 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,839 intermodal units, down 10.2 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 42 weeks of 2015 was 1,149,506 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 1.7 percent from the same point last year (AAR - posted 10/30)

NORFOLK SOUTHERN STATEMENT REGARDING THE EXTENSION OF POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL DEADLINE: Norfolk Southern Corp. issued the following statement regarding enactment of a key transportation law that includes an extension of the Positive Train Control (PTC) deadline to Dec. 31, 2018. “Norfolk Southern appreciates the consideration and study afforded the PTC issue by Congress, the President, and all parties who support safe and reliable rail service. “Enactment of the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2015, with its provision for extending the PTC deadline, affords us the opportunity to continue to diligently pursue implementation of PTC on the required rail lines in compliance with the law. “Following this commendable step by Congress and the President, Norfolk Southern has rescinded its cessation of service notice for Poisonous-Inhalation-Hazard commodities, and for passenger and commuter trains. The government’s action makes it possible for Norfolk Southern to conduct lawful operations beyond the former deadline of Dec. 31, 2015, maintaining full access to the rail network for customers and passengers. “Norfolk Southern is particularly grateful for the patience and understanding of our customers, suppliers, and communities as we have worked toward the common goal of a timely legislative resolution to the PTC deadline issue.” ( Norfolk Southern - posted 10/30)

POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL EXTENSION: The U.S. Senate has approved a House of Representative passed bill that would allow the railroad industry three additional years to implement Positive Train Control. The new deadline is now December 31, 2018. Postive Train Control was mandated by Congress in 2008. However, the railroad industry has been unable to install, test, and implement the technology throughout the industry. With the December 31, 2015 deadline looming, major railroads had threatened to curtail operations. With the extension, railroad operations will continue as normal, while the three additional years will for the installation of this the technology. (Randy Kotuby - posted 10/29)

AAR COMMENDS CONGRESS ON POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL EXTENSION: Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and CEO, Edward R. Hamberger lauded the bipartisan votes by lawmakers in the House and Senate to pass HR 3819 and extend the deadline for Positive Train Control (PTC). "Members of the House and Senate are to be commended for taking the responsible action to extend the PTC deadline. This provides the certainty American industries and businesses need to serve the millions of Americans who rely on rail every day," said Hamberger. "The extension means freight and passenger railroads can continue moving forward with the ongoing development, installation, real-world testing and validation of this complex technology." "The rail industry remains fully committed to being accountable and transparent in completing PTC and we look forward to working with Congress to get a broader long-term surface transportation bill to the desk of the President expeditiously." Freight railroads have spent close to $6 billion on PTC development, testing and installation and much progress has been made. The industry expects to spend up to $4 billion more before this complex technology is fully operational across the United States. (AAR - posted 10/29)

NORFOLK SOUTHERN AND NEW YORK STATE BEGIN REPLACEMENT OF PORTAGEVILLE BRIDGE: Supporting jobs and the economy of New York's Southern Tier, Norfolk Southern, the New York State Department of Transportation, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, alongside numerous other supporters, broke ground today on a new $70 million steel arch railroad bridge in Letchworth State Park. The new single-track bridge – expected to take about three years to construct – will be 900 feet long and located about 75 feet south of the current iron truss bridge, which spans the Genesee River Gorge. NS also will construct 1,200 feet of new track on either side of the gorge to align existing tracks with the new bridge.   "This successful public-private partnership underscores the strong confidence we all have in the ongoing potential of the Southern Tier," said James A. Squires, Norfolk Southern chairman, president and CEO. "Norfolk Southern has a robust bridge program, and the new Portageville Bridge will be a testament to today's expert engineers and the craftsmanship of today's railroaders. We expect this project will start a new rail legacy for Letchworth State Park and the Southern Tier." When completed, the new bridge will be the linchpin of a vibrant Norfolk Southern rail line that helps businesses in Buffalo and the Southern Tier regions connect with markets east and west. Among the New York-based entities to benefit from the new bridge will be 10 short line railroads that serve local businesses and connect them to the Norfolk Southern network. "This project is critical to the economy of the Southern Tier," said New York State Sen. Patrick Gallivan. "The current bridge has served the region well for 140 years, but it must be replaced with a modern span that can meet the transportation needs of the 21st century. In addition to the construction jobs this project will create, the bridge will serve and support businesses throughout the region for years to come." The budget for the bridge project includes $3 million in design costs and $2.5 million in construction costs from the New York Department of Transportation; a $2 million grant from the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council; and a $10 million grant from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. Norfolk Southern will contribute the balance. Construction is expected to begin by the end of 2015. "Maintaining a safe, modern freight rail network throughout New York State is critical to supporting business and generating economic activity," said Matthew J. Driscoll, New York State Department of Transportation commissioner. "The new Portageville Bridge will be a beautiful and more efficient addition to Letchworth State Park and is one more example of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's commitment to New York State's rail network." "The Portageville Bridge project is a great example of building better infrastructure through partnerships between governments at the local, state, and federal level and the private sector," said Michael Canavan, FHWA New York Division chief operating officer. "FHWA is proud to be a part of it. New York now has a bridge across the Genesee River that will move long distance freight more efficiently by rail while protecting the beautiful Letchworth State Park for the good of residents, neighbors, and visitors." The Erie Railroad built the current wrought-iron bridge in 1875, and while it has served several railroad owners from the Erie Lackawanna Railroad to Conrail, its current condition can no longer efficiently handle modern-day freight rail transportation. Currently, Norfolk Southern must slow freight trains crossing the bridge to 10 mph, and freight car weights must be reduced 13,000 pounds below the industry standard. "Our customers look to Norfolk Southern for a 21st century transportation option that's safe, reliable, and efficient," said Jim Carter, Norfolk Southern chief engineer bridge and structures. "The way we meet this demand is to have a dependable infrastructure. We look to this new Portageville Bridge as a critical part of the Southern Tier's success story." "The replacement Portageville Bridge will continue to complement the natural beauty of Letchworth State Park, while removing a longtime transportation bottleneck," said Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council co-chairs, University of Rochester President Joel Seligman and Wegmans Food Markets CEO Danny Wegman. "Breaking ground on this project underscores the importance of private and state partners collaborating to accommodate the freight rail transportation that is so critical to our region's economic viability. We are pleased that the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council is supporting this major infrastructure project." The current bridge will remain open during construction of the new arch bridge and then be dismantled. During construction, the Portage entrance to Letchworth State Park will be closed to vehicular traffic. The nearby Castile entrance has been enhanced and will accommodate additional vehicular traffic. Additionally, the Mary Jemison, Finger Lakes and Gorge trails, and the Highbridge parking lot will be closed during construction. State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, "State Parks congratulates our partners at DOT and Norfolk Southern on the start of this important economic development project. The new bridge was thoughtfully designed to frame the view of the magnificent gorge for all who visit the nation's favorite state park." (NS, Randy Kotuby - posted 10/28)

MTA APPROVES 2015-19 CAPITAL PROGRAM: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board today approved its 2015-19 Capital Program, the largest investment ever in the subways, buses, railroads, bridges and tunnels that keep New York moving. The Capital Program will buy thousands of new subway cars, train cars and buses; invest $2.8 billion in subway station improvements; finish installing Positive Train Control on Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR); bring countdown clocks to the majority of subway stations; begin work on extending the Second Avenue Subway to East Harlem; build a new LIRR station in Elmhurst, Queens; and construct four new Metro-North stations in underserved areas of the Bronx. “Since our first Capital Program in 1982, we have invested more than $100 billion to rescue our mass transit network from near-collapse and make it an engine of growth for the entire region,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the hard work of our dedicated MTA staff, this revised Capital Program will reduce costs and deliver projects more efficiently without cutting any projects or the benefits they will bring to our customers.” The revised Program totals $29 billion, almost 10% less than the $32 billion Program first proposed a year ago. It includes $21.6 billion in core investments in the MTA’s subways, buses and railroads; $4.5 billion for the East Side Access, Penn Access and Second Avenue Subway projects; and $2.9 billion for MTA Bridges and Tunnels. The Program is fully funded with $11.8 billion in MTA funds, an $8.3 billion commitment from Governor Cuomo, $6.4 billion in federal funds and $2.5 billion committed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. To deliver these projects at a lower cost, the MTA will use innovative methods such as design-build, negotiated procurement processes and public-private partnerships to operate more efficiently, spread risk more broadly and take advantage of innovative techniques. The MTA will continue its strategy of replacing deteriorated components, rather than entire systems, which has been successful in addressing subway station conditions and will now be expanded to power supplies, subway structures and other areas. The MTA will also transform how it works with contractors on projects, recognizing that becoming a better business partner can bring down costs. The 2015-19 Capital Program includes full details on all project spending and efficiencies as well as revenue sources, and is available on the MTA website at www.mta.info/capital . Following today’s approval by the MTA Board, the 2015-19 Capital Program will be submitted to the state Capital Program Review Board (CPRB) for approval. The CPRB is composed of one voting representative each from the Governor’s Office, the Senate and the Assembly, as well as from the Mayor of the City of New York for the New York City Transit portion of the program. By statute, if the CPRB does not veto the Capital Program within the next 30 days, the MTA can begin pursuing projects in the Capital Program. The Bridges and Tunnels portion of the Capital Program is entirely funded by tolls and does not require CPRB approval (MTA - posted 10/28)

NORFOLK SOUTHERN THIRD QUARTER RESULTS: Norfolk Southern Corporation today reported financial results for third-quarter 2015. Net income for the quarter was $452 million, or $1.49 per diluted share, compared with $559 million, or $1.79 per diluted share earned in the third quarter last year. Third-quarter results included $37 million of expenses associated with restructuring the company's Triple Crown Services subsidiary and closing NS' Roanoke, Va., office, which together reduced net income by $23 million, or $0.08 per diluted share. "Norfolk Southern's third-quarter results reflect commodities markets that continue to soften, as well as costs associated with restructuring initiatives to strengthen our company going forward. These pressures will linger in the fourth quarter, while traffic volume to date continues to lag last year. However, looking ahead to 2016, we are confident that with a reasonably stable economy and our own intense focus on service, returns, and growth, we are poised for better results," said Chairman, President and CEO James A. Squires. THIRD-QUARTER SUMMARY
  • Railway operating revenues declined 10 percent to $2.7 billion, largely due to reductions in fuel surcharge revenues in each of NS' three commodity groups, and continued reductions in coal shipments. Overall volume declined 3 percent to 1.9 million units for the quarter.
  • General merchandise revenues were $1.6 billion, 7 percent lower than the same period last year. Volume declined 1 percent largely due to a 9 percent decline in metals and construction traffic due to softer steel production. Four of the five general merchandise commodity groups reported lower revenue results on a year-over-year basis, principally the result of lower fuel surcharge revenue:
  • Chemicals: $451 million, down 8 percent
  • Agriculture: $380 million, up 4 percent
  • Metals/Construction: $330 million, down 20 percent
  • Automotive: $246 million, down 3 percent
  • Paper/Forest: $203 million, down 3 percent
  • Intermodal revenues were $621 million, 7 percent lower compared with third-quarter 2014, as lower fuel surcharges and fewer domestic shipments combined to reduce revenues. Total volume declined 1 percent.
  • Coal revenues were $482 million, 23 percent lower compared with the third quarter of 2014. A weak global export market and lower natural gas prices in the utility market combined to decrease volume by 16 percent.
  • Railway operating expenses declined 7 percent to $1.9 billion, primarily due to lower fuel costs, compared with the same period of 2014.
  • Income from railway operations was $822 million, 18 percent lower compared with third-quarter 2014.
  • The railway operating ratio, or operating expenses as a percentage of revenue, was 69.7 percent, compared with 67.0 percent in the same quarter last year.
(NS, Randy Kotuby - posted 10/28)

CN THIRD QUARTER REPORT: CN today reported its financial and operating results for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, 2015. Third-quarter 2015 financial highlights
  • Net income increased 18 per cent to C$1,007 million, while diluted EPS increased 21 per cent to C$1.26.
  • Q3-2015 operating income increased 16 per cent to C$1,487 million.
  • Third-quarter 2015 revenues increased three per cent to C$3,222 million. Carloadings and revenue ton-miles each declined by six per cent.
  • CN's operating ratio for Q3-2015 improved by five percentage points to a record 53.8 per cent.
  • Free cash flow for the first nine months of 2015 was C$1,741 million, compared with C$2,045 million for the year-earlier period. (1)
Luc Jobin, CN executive vice-president and chief financial officer, said: "CN delivered record third-quarter results thanks to strong team execution in safely and efficiently meeting our customers' needs while recalibrating resources to the weaker volume environment. "We remain committed to our long-term agenda of Operational and Service Excellence, investing in the safety and integrity of our network, and fulfilling our role as a true backbone of the economy. "With CN's continued strong performance this year, we are pleased to reaffirm our outlook for double-digit adjusted EPS growth in 2015 versus last year's adjusted diluted EPS of C$3.76." (1) (2) Foreign currency impact on results Although CN reports its earnings in Canadian dollars, a large portion of its revenues and expenses is denominated in U.S. dollars. The fluctuation of the Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. dollar affects the conversion of the Company's U.S.-dollar-denominated revenues and expenses. On a constant currency basis, CN's net income for the third quarter of 2015 would have been lower by C$107 million (C$0.13 per diluted share). (1) Third-quarter 2015 revenues, traffic volumes and expenses Revenues for the third quarter of 2015 increased by three per cent to C$3,222 million. Revenues increased for automotive (13 per cent), forest products (12 per cent), intermodal (five per cent), petroleum and chemicals (three per cent), and grain and fertilizers (two per cent). Revenues declined for coal (13 per cent) and metals and minerals (three per cent). The revenue performance was mainly attributable to the positive translation impact of the weaker Canadian dollar on U.S.-dollar-denominated revenues; freight rate increases; strong overseas intermodal demand, higher volumes of finished vehicle traffic, and increased shipments of lumber and panels to U.S. markets. These factors were partly offset by a lower applicable fuel surcharge rate; decreased shipments of coal due to weaker North American and global demand; reduced shipments of energy-related commodities including crude oil, frac sand and drilling pipe; lower volumes of semi-finished steel products and short-haul iron ore; as well as lower volumes of Canadian grain versus the prior year's record crop. Carloadings for the quarter declined by six per cent to 1,393 thousand. Revenue ton-miles, measuring the relative weight and distance of rail freight transported by CN, declined by six per cent over the year-earlier quarter. Rail freight revenue per revenue ton-mile, a measurement of yield defined as revenue earned on the movement of a ton of freight over one mile, increased by 10 per cent over the year-earlier period, driven by the positive translation impact of the weaker Canadian dollar and freight rate increases, partly offset by a lower applicable fuel surcharge rate and an increase in the average length of haul. Operating expenses for the quarter decreased by five per cent to C$1,735 million, mainly due to lower fuel costs and lower casualty and other expense, partly offset by the negative translation impact of a weaker Canadian dollar on U.S.-dollar-denominated expenses. Update on recovery of President and CEO Claude Mongeau Claude Mongeau had successful surgery in Montreal to remove a rare type of soft-tissue tumour. Mr. Mongeau underwent a procedure to remove his larynx and a voice prosthesis was placed in his throat. He is currently receiving radiation treatment and is expected to return to work early in the new year following his complete recovery. "Claude is upbeat, recovering well, and remains engaged in the business," said Robert Pace, chairman of CN. "We wish him a speedy and full recovery as he focuses on his health. "The Board has every confidence in the experienced leadership team to continue to deliver strong results, and all of us look forward to Claude's return." (CN, Randy Kotuby - posted 10/27)

PORT AUTHORITY BOARD APPROVES AGREEMENT TO ALLOW FOR CONSTRUCTION OF EXPRESS RAIL PORT JERSEY FACILITY : The Port Authority Board of Commissioners today approved an agreement that will allow construction to proceed on a major ship-to-rail facility adjacent to GCT Bayonne – a project that completes the agency's $600 million initiative to provide all of its major marine terminals with direct access to rail. Under a lease supplement with GCT USA, the terminal operator agreed to complete the final design and build the new ExpressRail Port Jersey facility in Greenville Yard. In return, the Port Authority will reimburse GCT up to $56 million to cover the costs of construction of the facility. The project, as with other ExpressRail projects in the harbor, is contingent on continued funding provided by the Cargo Facility Charge, a per-container fee assessed on cargo shipped through the Port of New York and New Jersey to cover the costs of critical road, rail and security infrastructure projects. Once the ExpressRail facility opens in 2018, GCT will be responsible for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the facility, which is expected to reduce truck traffic and result in significant environmental benefits for the region. The port's ExpressRail facilities, combined with other environmental programs instituted in the port, have resulted in an average 33 percent reduction across all port related pollutant emissions, despite a 7 percent increase in port cargo over the same period between 2006 and 2013. "Given the highly competitive nature of the port business, it's critical that we invest in projects that will allow for the efficient, more environmentally sustainable movement of freight and goods throughout the region," said Port Authority Chairman John Degnan. "The project will allow us to maintain our competitive edge and cement our position as the East Coast's premier destination for international cargo." "As the most populated region in the country, it's essential that we provide the necessary infrastructure to move freight in the most efficient and environmentally friendly way," said Port Authority Vice Chairman Scott Rechler. "This critical investment will help take tens of thousands of truck trips off our roads and reduce congestion and harmful emissions throughout our region, while delivering goods to the millions of people throughout the States of New York and New Jersey and beyond." "GCT is the industry leading developer of state-of-the-art marine and rail infrastructure. Completed in 2014, our automation and expansion project transformed GCT Bayonne into the most advanced facility in North America," said Stephen Edwards, President and CEO of GCT Global Container Terminals Inc. "We are delighted to work with the Port Authority and bring this same expertise to expedite and manage this important development." During the lifetime of the ExpressRail Port Jersey facility, it is expected to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions by 415 tons and particulate matter emissions by 108 tons, which is the equivalent to taking more than 45,300 cars off the road. The facility also will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 331,161 tons, which equates to the carbon emissions from 30,215 homes. Cargo coming on and off ships at GCT Bayonne today is transported to and from its final destination by truck or by truck to another ExpressRail facility. The new facility will allow for the transloading of containerized cargo from ship to rail, offering ocean carriers and their customers a more efficient and environmentally friendly option for goods movement. The facility will have an initial capacity of at least 125,000 container lifts a year. In addition to the rail facility, Global also plans to launch a truck appointment system later this year to help reduce congestion and improve efficiency at its facility. Creating a truck appointment system at all of the Port Authority's marine terminals was a top recommendation by the Port Performance Task Force. So far this year, cargo volumes in the Port of New York and New Jersey are extremely strong and on record pace for 2015, up 12 percent from the previous annual record through August. The port now handles approximately 50 percent of the cargo transported through port facilities in the North Atlantic. (AAR - posted 10/27)

TIGER GRANT FUNDING TO REDEVELOP SCHUYKILL RIVER BRIDGE: Congressman Chaka Fattah (PA-02), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, announced today that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has awarded $10.265 million to Philadelphia to support the "Closing the Gaps Project," a three-pronged initiative that includes converting an abandoned railroad bridge over the Schuylkill River into a pedestrian and bike-friendly trail. The competitive award is part of DOT's TIGER VII (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant funding. "I am a proud partner in the continued efforts to make Philadelphia the most bike-friendly city in the country and am especially pleased to have helped bring additional funding to the city that will complete a vital link of our river trail," Congressman Fattah said. "This new TIGER grant funding is instrumental in continuing the expansion and development of the Schuylkill River Trail that runs through my district. Without the help of Congressman Brady, and the support of Congressman Boyle, these efforts would not have been possible. Philadelphia is now a leader in creating sustainable pedestrian and bike-friendly infrastructure that offers access to both our bustling downtown and the recreational activities along the riverfront." The Congressman has long supported the development of the Schuylkill River Trail, and was responsible for securing the initial federal funds that saw the project become a reality. The new phase—supported by $3.265 million from the overall TIGER funding to Philadelphia—will connect the existing trail to Bartram's Gardens and adjacent communities across the river. Other funds awarded to Philadelphia through this TIGER grant will support the creation of a pedestrian and traffic friendly streetscape on American Street, and the restoration of continuous access to Westmoreland Street through the removal of a hazardous footbridge and the construction of a new multi-purpose road and bridge. Since the Department of Transportation launched the competitive TIGER grants in 2010, Congressman Fattah has been a forceful advocate in helping Philadelphia to successfully secure an award in all seven rounds of funding. Earlier TIGER grants helped support the Dilworth Park renovation, the Schuylkill Banks Boardwalk, infrastructure improvements to the Wayne Junction Substation, a master plan for Roosevelt Boulevard, and other transit infrastructure projects. (Randy Kotuby - posted 10/27)

CSX PREPARES FOR REMNANTS OF HURRICANE PATRICIA: CSX has prepared for remnants of Hurricane Patricia as weather in Texas over the past weekend caused rail traffic delays. The weather system is expected to have some impact on CSX operations this week as forecasts report heavy rain and other conditions moving eastward. Last evening, October 25th, the New Orleans Public Belt Railway suspended train traffic on the Huey P. Long bridge on two separate occasions. The bridge is currently open; however, CSX continues to monitor this important link to the western railroads and will take any necessary actions to minimize customer inconvenience. CSX crews are ready to address any situations as they arise. Minimal delays are anticipated at this time. (CSX - posted 10/26)

SEPTA ADVANCES INNOVATIVE SUSTAINABILITY PROJECT: SEPTA's Board approved two sustainability projects that will reduce energy consumption and improve resilience - at no cost to the Authority. The two projects - first, an $18.2 million energy retrofit of SEPTA five facilities and railcar fleets with high-efficiency technologies; and second, an estimated $26.8 million natural gas plant to power part of SEPTA's Regional Rail system and its largest bus garage - will be financed entirely through energy savings guaranteed to SEPTA under the Pennsylvania Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (GESA). Both projects will be designed and built by a certified energy savings company (ESCO) that specializes in energy efficient technologies to be deployed at each project location. Together, the $45.0 million in energy projects reflect a continued commitment to "budget neutral" implementation of SEPTA's award-winning Sustainability Program. The ESCOs will be responsible for providing private capital and a savings guarantee; if the savings do not materialize, the ESCOs will be responsible for covering the difference in repayment. For this reason, SEPTA is able to use the self-funding approach to improve its environmental performance without utilizing the Authority's own capital resources. "The sustainability projects approved today leverage significant private sector investment that adds value for riders while at the same time saving taxpayer dollars," said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. "The self-funding strategy continues a business-like approach towards sustainability, and it will make our system stronger moving forward." Details about each project are available below. Energy Retrofits, SEPTA Facilities & Railcar Fleets SEPTA has finalized the design of an $18.2 million project with Constellation to retrofit five SEPTA facilities and railcar fleets with high-efficiency technologies. Construction will begin in Fall 2015. Facilities and railcar fleets to be retrofitted include: -FACILITIES:
  • Southern Bus Garage (1934 Johnston Street, Philadelphia)
  • Berridge/Courtland Shop (200 W. Wyoming Avenue, Philadelphia)
  • Fern Rock Shop (5801 N. 11th Street, Philadelphia)
  • Germantown Shop (6721 Germantown Avenue, Philadelphia) -RAILCARS:
    • Regional Rail (Silverliner IV, Silverliner V, Push-Pull Fleets)
    • Broad Street Line (B-IV Fleet)
    • Norristown High Speed Line (N-5 Fleet)
    The retrofits reflect a broad range of improvements including: LED lighting, building insulation, HVAC controls, and water conservation. In total, the retrofits will generate more than $26 million in guaranteed energy savings over 17 years, an amount sufficient to pay for the entire project and still provide additional net savings to the Operating Budget. Combined Heat & Power (CHP) Plant, Midvale Complex, North Philadelphia SEPTA has selected Noresco, LLC as the ESCO to design an estimated $26.8 million Combined Heat & Energy (CHP) Plant at SEPTA's Midvale Complex in North Philadelphia. The proposed CHP plant would use twin natural gas generators to power the Wayne Junction Substation (serving the old Reading Railroad network) and Midvale Bus Garage (SEPTA's largest, housing more than 300 buses) with clean, abundant and low-cost Pennsylvania natural gas. Noresco will now conduct an investment grade audit (IGA) to determine the optimal configuration of the CHP Plant. To maximize the efficiency of the gas-powered equipment, the design will size the plant to provide base load power while assigning peak loads to the commercial power system. Excess heat from the CHP plant will cover the heating load at three additional nearby SEPTA facilities. Importantly, the CHP Plant would provide SEPTA with a resilient source of power in the event of a regional electrical grid outage, allowing trains to continue to operate to transport passengers safely to their destinations, even during a blackout. If the IGA determines the CHP Plant can be self-funded under the Pennsylvania Guaranteed Savings Act, the plant could be operational by 2017. ( SEPTA - posted 10/23)

    WESTERN MARYLAND SCENIC RAILROAD FOUNDATION SEEKS VOLUNTEER MEMBERS TO REVIVE THE 1309 STEAM ENGINE: In order to boost foundation membership to benefit the restoration of the 1309 steam engine, the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Foundation is seeking volunteers to help restore the steam engine. Donations are also needed to complete the project in time for the 2016 season. The 1309 was acquired to replace the 734 steam engine, which will be retired at the close of the 2015 season. There are a number of additional projects for which volunteer help is essential. In other cases, specific items and parts are needed to complete the various projects. In addition to the restoration of the 1309, the WMSR Foundation will be constructing the C&O Caboose bunk house to accommodate volunteers visiting from outside the area. On weekends at the WMSR rail yard, there will be the Freight Car Rehab program. This program will include rehabilitating and repainting the freight cars. There is also the Heritage Landscape Program, through which signals will be installed at Helmstetter’s Curve, the Frostburg Depot, and City Junction near The Narrows. In November, there will be a coach clean-up to clean and detail the train cars. This will include decorating the cars for the holiday season. At the beginning of 2016 there will be a clean-up at the rail yard. The turntable booth at the Frostburg Depot requires work, including some mechanical work. Also at the Depot and other locations, solid step box foundations will need to be constructed for the Photo Freight platforms. Items such as vintage luggage from the 40s and 50s, period clothing, and period newspaper reproductions are needed. Supplies for the bunk house project are required, including lumber, stove or heating unit, air conditioner, mattresses, ceiling fan, and fluorescent light fixtures. A 2’ x 5’ projector screen is also needed. The WMSR Foundation is also seeking volunteer car hosts for the 2016 season. Car hosts will need to complete training and pass background checks. These positions involve assisting guests in the train cars during train excursions. All volunteers must become foundation members before they can participate in volunteer activities. Potential volunteers and donors should visit movingfullsteamahead.com for more information and to find out how to get involved. Potential volunteers may also complete an application at the station. Foundation membership applications can be found at the ticket office on the second floor of the train station, located at 13 Canal Street, Cumberland, MD. (Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Foundation - posted 10/22)

    KENNETH GREEN NAMED MBTA TRANSIT POLICE CHIEF: MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola today announced that he has selected Acting MBTA Transit Police Chief Kenneth Green to serve in the position permanently. "I am very pleased to make this announcement today," said DePaola. "Policing in a public transit environment poses unique challenges, and I strongly believe that Chief Green's 26 years of MBTA experience will serve him well in this critical leadership role." Governor Charlie Baker commended the selection of Chief Green, and stressed the importance of choosing a respected law enforcement professional with decades of community policing experience. "The only thing more important than a reliable public transit system is a safe one," said Governor Baker. "As a Deputy Chief and Acting Chief, Ken Green has demonstrated the skills necessary to lead the Transit Police Department, and keep the MBTA safe for both riders and employees." General Manager DePaola said the MBTA was fortunate to have a number of good candidates for Police Chief, and that the screening and interview process was very thorough. "Chief Green's knowledge of the transit system and strong relationships with the communities we serve made him the clear choice for the job," said DePaola. Chief Green joined the 270-person MBTA Transit Police Department as a patrolman in 1991, after serving as a police officer for the town of Winchester for eight years. An original member of the MBTA Transit Police SWAT team, Green was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 2004 and to Lieutenant and Deputy Chief in 2012. He has been serving as Acting Chief since November 2014, when Chief Paul MacMillan retired. (MBTA - posted 10/22)

    AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING OCTOBER 17, 2015: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Oct. 17, 2015. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 554,696 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.6 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending Oct. 17 were 279,547 carloads, down 5.9 percent compared with the same week in 2014, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 275,149 containers and trailers, up 1 percent compared to 2014. Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2014. They include: grain, up 16.7 percent to 25,372 carloads; miscellaneous carloads, up 15.1 percent to 9,223; and motor vehicles and parts, up 13.2 percent to 18,894. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2014 included: metallic ores and metals, down 20.9 percent to 21,486 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 14 percent to 13,772 carloads; and coal, down 13.4 percent to 95,822 carloads. For the first 41 weeks of 2015, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,441,306 carloads, down 4.4 percent from the same point last year; and 10,967,576 intermodal units, up 2.4 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 41 weeks of 2015 was 22,408,882 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 1.2 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending Oct. 17, 2015 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 368,720 carloads, down 8.7 percent compared with the same week last year, and 347,075 intermodal units, up 1.5 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 715,795 carloads and intermodal units, down 4 percent. North American rail volume for the first 41 weeks of 2015 was 29,179,927 carloads and intermodal units, down 0.9 percent compared with 2014. Canadian railroads reported 72,928 carloads for the week, down 15.4 percent, and 58,859 intermodal units, up 6 percent compared with the same week in 2014. For the first 41 weeks of 2015, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,648,347 carloads, containers and trailers, down 0.4 percent. Mexican railroads reported 16,245 carloads for the week, down 20 percent compared with the same week last year, and 13,067 intermodal units, down 5.4 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 41 weeks of 2015 was 1,122,698 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 2 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 10/21)

    NORFOLK SOUTHERN ANNOUNCES SERVICE CHANGES IN RESPONSE TO UPCOMING POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL DEADLINE: Norfolk Southern Corporation today said its rail operating subsidiaries will no longer accept shipments of Poisonous-Inhalation-Hazard commodities, effective Dec. 1, 2015.  PIH commodities in transit on Dec. 1 will be delivered to destination by Dec. 31. Additionally, passenger and commuter trains operated by Amtrak, Virginia Railway Express, and Metra will be prohibited by law from operating on NS after Dec. 31. The cessation of service – effective across the entire NS rail network – is required to comply with federal safety laws that become effective after Dec. 31, the government’s deadline for installation of PTC. Despite investment of nearly $1 billion to date, NS will not meet the deadline. The status of non-PIH traffic interchanged with other railroads and freight operations on the Northeast Corridor after Dec. 31 is currently under review. “We remain hopeful that Congress will grant the railroad industry an extension of the PTC deadline and appreciate the consideration elected officials and regulators are giving this issue,” said James A. Squires, Norfolk Southern chairman, president and CEO. “However, in order to conduct lawful operations on Jan. 1, 2016, and beyond, we must plan ahead to clear affected loaded and empty freight cars from our system. “Norfolk Southern sincerely regrets the inconvenience that customers, passengers, and commuters will experience,” Squires said. “Our strong hope is that Congress will act quickly and decisively to allow us to restore full access to our rail network.” Squires noted that NS is installing PTC on the required lines and equipment as fast as is safe and practical. “PTC is one of the most complex technology implementations in our history,” he said. “It is in everyone’s interest – railroads, customers, suppliers, and communities – that adequate time is devoted to installation, testing, and implementation. Norfolk Southern is committed to getting this right.” (Norfolk Southern - posted 10/20)

    BOARD OF PUBLIC WORKS APPROVES $58 MILLION CONTRACT FOR EIGHT MARC LOCOMOTIVES: The Board of Public Works yesterday approved the Maryland Department of Transportation’s contract to purchase eight new diesel locomotives for MARC Train service. The $58.1 million contract was awarded to Siemens Industry, Inc., and will enable the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to enter into a cost-effective cooperative purchasing agreement with the Illinois Department of Transportation to replace older electric locomotives. By entering into this intergovernmental agreement, Maryland can purchase the locomotives at a volume discount. “Approval of this contract will enable us to replace older locomotives, thereby improving the reliability and efficiency of MARC for the thousands of commuters, businesses and tourists that depend on this vital train service every day,” said MTA Administrator Paul Comfort. “This cooperative agreement also will enable us to purchase these eight new locomotives at a lower cost and save taxpayers money.” MARC currently operates 32 diesel locomotives and 10 electric locomotives. The eight new diesel locomotives will replace older electric ones that have either reached the end of their useful life or have been prone to mechanical breakdowns, creating service reliability issues. The proposed cost for each locomotive is approximately $6.4 million, with the remaining contract costs covering cab signaling, spare parts, tools, cameras, training and manuals. Purchasing diesel locomotives also was necessary since MTA was informed last year that Amtrak no longer will maintain MARC’s electric locomotives effective July 2016. Amtrak, which has maintained MARC’s electric fleet since 1983, is retiring its electric fleet and no longer will carry the parts to maintain these locomotives. MTA will maintain its electric locomotives beginning in July 2016 until the new diesel fleet arrives in the fall of 2017. (MARC - posted 10/20)

    CSX TO CLOSE MECHANICAL SHOPS IN CORBIN, KENTUCKY: As CSX continues to evaluate network resources and match them to demand in a changing business environment, the company today announced the closure of the mechanical shops in Corbin, Kentucky. The shops at Corbin were primarily used to maintain, inspect and service locomotives and rail cars for coal trains moving from Central Appalachia to the Eastern consumption regions. The decision to close the locomotive and car shops and a locomotive service center is the result of reduced need for locomotive and car maintenance there because of the significant decline of the region's coal traffic. Approximately 180 active CSX employees who work at the facilities and in support roles will be affected. All affected employees at Corbin will receive at least 60 days of pay and benefits. Union employees also may have other benefits available in accordance with their labor agreements. Many furloughed employees will be eligible for jobs in higher-demand areas on CSX's network. Mechanical management employees at Corbin will be offered relocation opportunities as they are available, or will be eligible for severance benefits. The Corbin rail yard will remain open and train operations will continue. Approximately 100 engineering and transportation employees will remain at Corbin to support and manage the yard traffic. A small number of mechanical employees will also remain to support train operations. Corbin continues to be an important part of the CSX network for the movement of automobiles, consumer products and other freight. The combination of low natural gas prices and regulatory action has significantly decreased CSX's coal movements over the past four years, with more than $1 billion in coal revenue declines during that time. CSX remains committed to delivering strong service to customers in the region. CSX also remains committed to the Commonwealth of Kentucky, with more than 2,900 miles of track in the state, an automotive distribution center in Louisville and the new Casky rail yard in Hopkinsville. (CSX, Randy Kotuby - posted 10/20)

    PUBLIC INVITED TO PICK EXTERIOR DESIGNS FOR NEW MBTA SUBWAY CARS: The MBTA announced today that on-line voting is now open to allow the public to select the exterior designs for the new Green, Orange and Red Line cars. “The manufacture and delivery of new rail cars will go a long way to enhancing MBTA service that our customers deserve and expect,” said MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack. “In recognition of how important our customers are, and the importance of the role the T plays in the region, we are launching this contest to take this process one step further and let our customers have direct input on the final exterior design of the new vehicles.” Three sets of exterior designs for each rapid transit line are available for viewing and voting on the MBTA website https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/vehiclesurvey2015 . Votes will be accepted for two weeks, through Tuesday, November 3rd. “We’re moving another step closer to replacing some of the oldest cars on the T’s three busiest rapid transit lines,” said MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola. “As these new cars are introduced to the Green, Orange, and Red Line fleets, customers will experience improvements in both capacity and reliability.” These modern vehicles will provide a comfortable passenger experience, and feature computer-controlled lighting, heating and cooling technologies. They meet the latest Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Passengers will also notice greatly improved signage and displays for better service information and easier travel. Delivery of the first of 152 new Orange Line cars is set to begin in 2018. The first of 24 new Green Line trolley cars will be delivered in 2017, and the delivery of the first of 132 new Red Line cars is scheduled to start in November 2019. (MBTA - posted 10/20)

    CANADIAN PACIFIC HOLIDAY TRAIN 2015: The Canadian Pacific (CP) Holiday Train will be traveling across Canada and the United States again this November and December raising money, food and awareness for food banks and hunger issues. Since its launch in 1999, the program has raised more than C$10.6 million and 3.6 million pounds of food for North American food banks and shelves. "Year after year, the Holiday Train brings great talent and memorable experiences to families across our network while raising money for local food banks and food shelves," said E. Hunter Harrison, CP Chief Executive Officer. "Regardless of circumstances, everyone should have access to healthy, nutritious food. The Holiday Train plays an integral role in broadening the conversation around food and hunger issues across North America." Again this year, the Holiday Train program is encouraging people attending events to bring heart healthy donations. Heart health education and awareness is a tenet of CP's community investment program, CP Has Heart, which focuses on improving the heart health of men, women and children in communities across North America. "CP's train of lights provides a platform to speak about the needs of North American food banks. This is why we are challenging all our event attendees to reach into their cupboards and donate quality nutritious food items to help raise food for those who need it most this holiday season," said Katharine Schmidt, Executive Director, Food Banks Canada. The two brightly lit trains will kick off in the Montreal area on November 27 and 28 on their way to visit approximately 150 communities. The "Canadian Train" travels west across Canada finishing its journey in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. The "US Train" visits communities across the U.S. Northeast and Midwest, and returns back to Canada for shows in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Montreal/Winnipeg band Chic Gamine will kick the tour off from the boxcar stage, with Francophone performances in Quebec. Holiday Train veteran and award-winning country singer Kelly Prescott will then take the reins on the Canadian Train with Devin Cuddy, and CP's famed Holiday Train band. Once the Canadian train completes its journey across the prairies and arrives in Calgary, Devin Cuddy will reunite with his father, Canadian song-writing legend Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo and continue the trip with Kelly and the band until they reach the west coast. The U.S. Train, which also makes stops in Southern Ontario, will showcase one of Canada's brightest young country music stars, Kira Isabella. Kira will rock the stage with chart topping jack-of-all-trades Wes Mack, until the Doc Walker country legends come aboard in Chicago. The online schedule is now live at www.cpr.ca/holiday-train and lists which performers are stopping where and when. Each year, fans of the Holiday Train follow its journey over social media, posting spectacular images of the trains in various cities and landscapes. Those who capture the spirit of the train, holiday entertainment and the spirit of giving are encouraged to enter the "Capture the Spirit" photo contest for the chance to win an exclusive ride on next year's train. Details about the contest will be available closer to the start of the program on the Holiday Train Facebook page. To help make this year the best yet for local food banks, the Holiday Train asks fans new and old to follow the train on social media, invite their friends and family and spread the message about the importance of heart-healthy donations by using #HealthyDonations (CP - posted 10/19)

    FREE WI-FI NOW AVAILABLE ON AUTO TRAIN : AmtrakConnect® cellular-based Wi-Fi service is now available to all passengers on Auto Train as part of an ongoing effort to enhance the passenger experience. Auto Train allows passengers to travel with their personal vehicles including cars, vans, SUVs and motorcycles between the Washington, D.C. area and Florida, and stands as the first long-distance Amtrak train to provide Wi-Fi. This marks the first phase of a larger Amtrak rollout that will provide passengers with free Wi-Fi on all single-level, long-distance train routes in 2016. Combined with other routes where Amtrak has already activated the service, more than 90 percent of Amtrak passengers will soon have access to on-board Wi-Fi so that they may stay connected and entertained throughout their journey. “This new amenity marks an important milestone in our ongoing commitment to improving the passenger experience,” said Mark Murphy, Senior Vice President and General Manager Long Distance. “The availability of Wi-Fi provides the connectivity passengers expect while traveling and demonstrates yet another reason why Amtrak is a smarter way to travel.” To celebrate this momentous occasion, Amtrak is offering its passengers a special $95 Saver Fare aboard Auto Train. Wi-Fi service will be provided on these long-distance train routes in 2016:
    • Cardinal: New York – Washington, D.C. – Cincinnati – Indianapolis – Chicago
    • Crescent: New York – Atlanta – New Orleans
    • Lake Shore Limited: New York/Boston – Albany – Chicago
    • Silver Service: New York – Washington, D.C. – Charleston – Savannah – Jacksonville – Orlando – Tampa/Miami .
    -AmtrakConnect® utilizes multiple cellular carriers to provide the best mobile experience possible, taking advantage of 4G LTE technologies where available, and is provided at no cost to passengers. To ensure the best on-board internet experience for its passengers, and as demand for Wi-Fi continues to grow, data-intensive activities such as streaming video and music, and large-file downloads that can slow everyone down, will be restricted. Doing so helps ensure that high-volume data users onboard the trains do not degrade the experience for others. More information is available atwww.amtrak.com/journey-with-wi-fi-train-station (Amtrak - posted 10/19)

    (CSX - posted 10/19)

    CSX RESTORES SERVICE ON ANDREWS SUB: CSX has resumed normal train operations on the Andrews subdivision – Hamlet, NC to Charleston, SC. Most of the rail lines impacted by flooding in North and South Carolina have now been restored. The Eastover Subdivision (Columbia, SC to Sumter, SC) is in service but will require extensive repairs. The repair timetable is still under evaluation by CSX engineering. Customers should expect delays on this line over at least the next four weeks. In the meantime, CSX representatives are available to customers on this line to discuss alternatives (CSX - posted 10/16)

    AMTRAK ANNOUNCES COMPREHENSIVE DEVELOPMENT & IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM FOR CHICAGO UNION STATION As part of the ongoing work to improve Chicago Union Station, Amtrak, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago area transportation leaders from Metra and the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) announced today a set of initiatives aimed at advancing the master plan to redevelop the station. The initiatives announced today include a Request for Proposal (RFP) for designing the major improvements and a Request for Information (RFI) for a master developer to lead redevelopment efforts. In addition, $14 million in Amtrak-funded 2015-16 improvements were unveiled, including the completion of the restoration of the station’s grand staircases and plans for a new passenger lounge to open next summer with direct access from Canal Street “Chicago Union Station is an enormous asset to Amtrak as well as the City of Chicago,” said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak Executive Vice President/Chief of Business Development. “Amtrak is committed to working in partnership with our stakeholders to launch strategies and make investments that deliver value for the company and help realize the full vision a vibrant transportation hub interwoven within an integrated mixed-use urban district.” “Union Station provides an essential link to jobs and economic opportunities for Chicagoans. Modernizing Union Station is a positive development for residents, travelers, and businesses across the city,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This is another step forward in building a 21st century infrastructure to power Chicago’s growing economy, and an opportunity to strengthen the investments we’ve made in the West Loop and surrounding neighborhoods.”
    • Near-Term Improvements (RFP) Gardner and the Mayor said Amtrak, the City of Chicago, Metra and the RTA have agreed to jointly fund design services for improvements to address the most immediate passenger capacity, service, safety, accessibility, and mobility issues at and around the station. These 13 near-term (Phase 1) improvements were identified in the City-led master plan. This will advance work for renovation of an expanded concourse, expanded and added entrances, widening of platforms, disabilities compliance, pedestrian passageways and consider ventilation needs in the track and platform areas. “I understand the importance of this work on Union Station as both RTA Chairman and as a rider,” said RTA Chairman Kirk Dillard. “I take Metra in and out of Union Station daily. It is a key transit station that serves Metra as well as CTA and now Pace Bus on Shoulder express riders. We must move this project forward both to restore this iconic building to its former glory and to assure the safety and comfort of our customers.” “This is a significant step towards a revamped Union Station, which will provide new and wider and therefore safer platforms for more than 50,000 daily Metra riders and new concourses to facilitate safe and quick pedestrian movement so riders can more easily get to and from their trains,” said Metra Chairman Martin Oberman. The work to advance these improvements, called Phase 1A, includes planning, historic review and preliminary engineering services, up to 30 percent design, with an option to complete. A Request for Proposals (RFP) for a consultant to provide these services is on procurement.Amtrak.com, with a selection to be made this winter and design work is expected to be completed in 2017.
    • Master Development (RFI) An Amtrak Request for Information (RFI) is also posted on Amtrak.com and sent to local, regional and national developers includes the opportunity to redevelop the Amtrak-owned station and surrounding land parcels, as well as improvements to both passenger and employee facilities – all integrated with the surrounding neighborhoods. The RFI represents the first step in the evaluation of interested parties capable of all aspects of project delivery including an implementable Master Development Plan, design, construction, financing the potential operation and maintenance of non-rail assets, as well as identification of expansion opportunities and commercial development in surrounding areas in the West Loop. .
    (NSwork with Amtrak, Metra, RTA and Mayor Emanuel to improve and grow Chicago’s transportation infrastructure,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (Amtrak - posted 10/16)

    CSX TO REDUCE OPERATIONS IN ERWIN, TENNESSEE: As CSX works to match its resources to a changing business environment, the company today announced the reduction of train operations at Erwin, Tennessee. The decision, the result of significantly reduced coal traffic through the region, includes closing a locomotive service center, project shop and car shop, and eliminating switching operations at the Erwin yard. Approximately 300 CSX contract and management employees who work at the facilities and in support roles will be affected. Operations in Erwin primarily served coal trains moving from the Central Appalachian coal fields, and the diminished traffic levels no longer support the activities performed there. The combination of low natural gas prices and regulatory action has significantly decreased CSX's coal movements over the past four years, with more than $1 billion in coal revenue declines during that time. Affected employees at Erwin will receive at least 60 days of pay and benefits. Contract employees also may have other benefits available in accordance with their labor agreements. Many furloughed employees will be eligible for jobs in higher-demand areas on CSX's network. Affected management employees will be offered relocation opportunities as they are available, or will be eligible for severance benefits. CSX remains committed to delivering strong service to customers in the region. Remaining coal traffic, as well as merchandise traffic including grain unit trains, will be rerouted efficiently across other parts of the CSX network. Across Tennessee, CSX operates more than 1,500 miles of track, with facilities that include its division headquarters and a major yard in Nashville. (CSX - posted 10/15)

    AMTRAK SECURES $275 MILLION OF INSURANCE PROTECTION FOR CATASTROPHIC INCIDENTS: Today, Amtrak announced that it has obtained $275 million of insurance protection from PennUnion Re Ltd., an independent special purpose insurer based in Bermuda, which has issued catastrophe bonds to fund and collateralize this insurance. The protection insures against damage to Amtrak-owned infrastructure in the critical Northeast Corridor (NEC) in the event of a natural disaster due to storm surge, wind damage or earthquake. Passenger Rail Insurance Liability, a Bermuda-based insurance company wholly-owned by Amtrak, entered into a reinsurance contract with PennUnion Re Ltd., to provide this catastrophe protection. “This is the first time Amtrak has used the capital markets to broaden our base of insurance coverage,” said Gerald Sokol, Jr., Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. “The catastrophe bond market provides us with a means to diversify our sources of insurance in a cost effective manner.” The catastrophe bonds provide a capital markets source of insurance risk capital that will provide protection in the unlikely event that a natural disaster would cause damage to Amtrak-owned infrastructure in the NEC, such as damage suffered by Amtrak from Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Superstorm Sandy created a storm surge that resulted in sea water inundating both tubes of the Hudson River tunnel and two of the four tubes of the East River tunnel, causing more than $1 billion in damage. GC Securities, a division of MMC Securities Corp and an affiliate of Marsh and McLennan Companies, and Goldman, Sachs & Co., were joint structuring agents, joint bookrunners and initial purchasers of the Series 2015-1catastrophe bonds. Advisors also working on the transaction include RMS, Inc., a catastrophe risk modeling firm experienced in developing pioneering trigger mechanisms for catastrophe bonds, and Mayer Brown, LLP, transaction counsel. (Amtrak - posted 10/14)

    RICHARD G. BURNFIELD SELECTED AS SEPTA DEPUTY GENERAL MANAGER: SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon, Sr. and SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel, P.E., have announced the promotion of Richard G. Burnfield to the position of Deputy General Manager. Mr. Burnfield will also continue to serve as the Authority's Treasurer, a position he has held for the last seven years. He will report directly to the General Manager, Mr. Knueppel. Over the course of his 36 year career at SEPTA, Mr. Burnfield has focused on transforming financial business practices, introducing strategic planning innovation, and advancing critical investment in the Authority's assets. Prior to becoming CFO, he served as Senior Director of Budgets and Manager of Capital Budgets. Mr. Burnfield's career in public transit began working for the New Jersey Transit Corp. "Rich has played a major role in establishing and maintaining fiscal stability at the Authority, " Chairman Deon said. "At the same time, he has introduced new business strategies to help keep SEPTA on solid ground moving forward." Under Mr. Burnfield's leadership, SEPTA has achieved balanced budgets for sixteen consecutive years - often in the face of uncertain funding support. With a focus on business innovation, his staff has introduced many initiatives including the largest station naming rights program in the United States, and an award winning Sustainability program. "The skills, talent and expertise Rich brings to the General Manager Team - and the Authority as a whole - are invaluable," said Mr. Knueppel, who was named the new General Manager last month. "I'm thrilled to have Rich as our new Deputy General Manager." In his new role, Mr. Burnfield will oversee SEPTA divisions and departments responsible for financial efficiency, resource management, business partnership development, employee development, labor relations, communications and information technology. His Treasurer duties include managing the Authority's financial interests, such as the $1.3 billion operating budget and $534 million capital budget. Mr. Burnfield has also worked to present SEPTA's complex budgets in a clear, concise and transparent manner to the public. Those efforts have been recognized by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) of the U.S. and Canada with the "Distinguished Budget Presentation Award" in each of the last 10 years - putting SEPTA among a small group of transit agencies to receive the honor. Mr. Burnfield earned a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University, a Masters Degree from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Penn State University. He was honored as one of the region's top CFO's by the Philadelphia Business Journal and many of the Authority's finance achievements were recognized by the American Public Transportation Association's through the 2012 Outstanding Public Transit System Award. (SEPTA - posted 10/14)

    AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING OCTOBER 10, 2015: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Oct. 10, 2015. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 556,233 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.8 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending Oct. 10 were 281,073 carloads, down 5.8 percent compared with the same week in 2014, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 275,160 containers and trailers, up 0.5 percent compared to 2014. Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2014. They include: miscellaneous carloads, up 24.4 percent to 10,256; grain, up 21.3 percent to 24,818 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, up 2 percent to 17,846. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2014 included: metallic ores and metals, down 23.5 percent to 20,084 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 16.6 percent to 13,621 carloads; and coal, down 12.6 percent to 98,637 carloads. For the first 40 weeks of 2015, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,161,759 carloads, down 4.4 percent from the same point last year; and 10,692,427 intermodal units, up 2.4 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 40 weeks of 2015 was 21,854,186 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 1.2 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending Oct. 10, 2015 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 372,161 carloads, down 8.2 percent compared with the same week last year, and 351,165 intermodal units, up 1.2 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 723,326 carloads and intermodal units, down 3.9 percent. North American rail volume for the first 40 weeks of 2015 was 28,464,132 carloads and intermodal units, down 0.9 percent compared with 2014. Canadian railroads reported 75,459 carloads for the week, down 16.1 percent, and 62,664 intermodal units, up 4.2 percent compared with the same week in 2014. For the first 40 weeks of 2015, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 5,516,560 carloads, containers and trailers, down 0.2 percent. Mexican railroads reported 15,629 carloads for the week, down 8.7 percent compared with the same week last year, and 13,341 intermodal units, up 3.7 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 40 weeks of 2015 was 1,093,386 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, up 2.5 percent from the same point last year. . (AAR - posted 10/14)

    CSX ANNOUNCES RECORD THIRD QUARTER EARNINGS: CSX Corporation today announced net earnings of $507 million for the third quarter of 2015, versus $509 million for the same period in 2014, which translates to a third quarter record $0.52 per share, compared to $0.51 in the prior year. Revenue declined nine percent in the quarter, as gains in price were more than offset by the combination of lower fuel recovery, a three percent volume decline and continued transition in CSX's business mix. At the same time, expenses declined 11 percent on the collective effect of continued low fuel prices, cost reductions reflecting lower volume and savings from efficiency initiatives. The resulting $933 million in operating income drove a third quarter record operating ratio of 68.3 percent. "CSX's third quarter results demonstrate the company's ability to leverage improving service while controlling costs in a dynamic environment where commodity prices and the strength of the U.S. dollar are challenging many of our markets," said Michael J. Ward, chairman and chief executive officer. "Our performance supports strong pricing and continued efficiency gains as we continue to drive value for customers and shareholders." CSX is still targeting its full-year expectations for earnings per share growth in the mid-single digits and meaningful margin expansion as it progresses toward its longer-term goal of a full-year operating ratio in the mid-60s. These targets remain intact despite expectations for 2015 coal revenue to decline approximately $450 million primarily due to continued low natural gas prices and high inventory levels. In that regard, the company now expects domestic coal volume to decline by more than 10 percent in 2015, while the full-year outlook for export coal volume remains approximately 30 million tons. These significant coal headwinds are now also expected to continue in 2016. (CSX, Randy Kotuby - posted 10/13)

    AGREEMENT ON FUNDING FOR MTA CAPITAL PROGRAM: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio and MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast today announced that an agreement has been reached on the remaining funding for the MTA Capital Program. New York State has committed to provide $8.3 billion, and New York City has committed to provide $2.5 billion. The program, which totals $26.1 billion, outlines the next five years’ worth of vital investments to renew, enhance and expand the MTA network. This marks the largest investment in MTA infrastructure in history. Governor Cuomo said, “The MTA is the lifeblood of New York, helping millions of people travel throughout the city and the surrounding suburbs, and fueling one of the largest economies on the globe. Our challenge is not only to help the system continue to fuel the region’s growth, but to keep up with and respond to that growth as it happens. This MTA Capital Plan is what we need to make the system smarter and more resilient, facilitating major upgrades, expansions and building crucial pieces of equipment so that riders are not forced to accept the failures of outdated infrastructure. This plan will mean a safer, stronger, more reliable transit system for people all over New York, and is crucial in supporting our growing economy. And this program would not have been possible without everyone stepping up to pay their fair share. Today with this agreement, we are making an historic investment not only in the MTA, but in the future of New York.” Mayor de Blasio said, “Our transit system is the backbone of New York City’s, and our entire region’s, economy. That is why we’re making an historic investment – the City’s largest ever general capital contribution – while ensuring that NYC dollars stay in NYC transit, and giving NYC riders and taxpayers a stronger voice. I look forward to continuing to partner with the Governor and the MTA to ensure a transit system that reliably, effectively, and safely serves all of its riders.” Chairman Prendergast said, “Almost three years ago, as the floods of Superstorm Sandy receded, the MTA’s system sprang back to life, and so did New York City and the entire region. That storm dramatically demonstrated two important truths: the absolutely essential role that the MTA’s integrated transit system plays in the regional economy, and the challenges of keeping the assets of such a trillion-dollar system running safely and reliably. Today, with agreement on the largest Capital Program ever committed to the future of the MTA, we take a giant step toward making sure that this one-of-a-kind jewel of a system will continue doing what it must – keeping New York and the region moving, and moving ahead. We are grateful to the State and City for making possible the largest MTA Capital Program in its history. The MTA’s challenges have never been greater. We have plenty of work to do and we’re eager to get started.” At the State’s direction, the MTA recently reduced the Capital Program Review Board component of the Capital Program from $29 billion to $26.8 billion by utilizing alternative delivery methods such as design-build and public-private partnerships, as well as streamlined and negotiated procurement processes. The remaining $700 million (difference between the program scope of $26.8 billion and the agreed to $26.1 billion) will be closed by MTA efforts to seek further efficiencies or necessary program reductions. Under the agreement reached by the State and City, parties agree to the following:
    • 1. The State guarantees $8.3 billion to the MTA Capital Program to be provided by State sources. The City guarantees $2.5 billion to be provided to the MTA by City sources. City sources include a guarantee of $1.9 billion from direct City sources and a guarantee of $600 million through alternative non tax levy revenue sources. This agreement is dependent upon all of the conditions below.
    • 2. The City and State will fund on the same schedule on a proportionate basis.
    • 3. Projects in the City which are funded by the $2.5 billion committed by the City (including projects funded through non tax levy sources agreed to with the MTA) will be planned by the MTA Board in collaboration with the City representatives on the MTA Board, with priority consideration given for projects and timing based on input from the City.? Likewise suburban projects which are funded by the suburbs will be planned by the MTA Board in collaboration with suburban representatives on the MTA Board and with priority consideration given for projects and timing based on input from the those suburban communities. ?
    • 4. The State will not divert any funds or fail to provide any funding committed to this Capital Program or due and owing to the MTA for any other expenses unless in accordance with the provisions of Executive Law 182 passed in 2011. Likewise, the City will not divert any funds or fail to provide any funding committed to this Capital Program or due and owing to the MTA for any other expenses.
    (MTA - posted 10/13)

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