` Hot News!
Railpace Newsmagazine

Hot News!
Edited by Carl G. Perelman
May 23, 2016:

LANDSLIDE EFFECTS WESTERN MARYLAND SCENIC OPERATIONS: Repair of a landslide that has kept Western Maryland Scenic Railroad excursions from reaching their Frostburg destination is expected to be completed by Aug. 1. The landslide discovered during routine track inspection in late February was the result of a mine-related issue near a switch about two miles from Frostburg, said John Garner, the railroad's superintendent. Land below the railroad tracks slipped away at an estimated 2 to 4 feet. Garner said the Maryland Bureau of Mines is in the process of removing debris and coal from the former mine site and improving the drainage system in the area to prevent future incidents. The repairs are being funded with federal money administered by the state bureau. In the meantime, the railroad's 2016 season is offering tourist train rides between Cumberland and Switch No. 9. (AP via Alex Mayes - posted 5/23)

MBTA GENERAL MANAGER DEPAOLA TO RETIRE ON JUNE 30: Frank DePaola, P.E., who has served as General Manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) since February 2015, announced to staff today that he plans to retire after his current appointment expires on June 30. Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack thanked DePaola in a letter to MBTA employees and announced that MBTA Chief Administrator Brian Shortsleeve would step into the role of Acting General Manager effective July 1, with MBTA Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Gonneville assuming additional responsibilities at that time. Secretary Pollack said, "I have already begun consultations with the members of the Fiscal and Management Control Board on how best to ensure that during the coming transition the MBTA continues to serve its customers safely and reliably, builds on the progress that has been made on financial stability and increases its investment in maintenance and capital assets." "It has been an honor to serve as General Manager during this critical period and to work with so many dedicated colleagues and employees who have helped the MBTA improve service, become more resilient and fix the T's aging assets," DePaola said. Referring to his battle with cancer, DePaola called the job of General Manager "rewarding and relentless." He added, "My decision to retire is a difficult one but I cannot continue to spend the countless hours that the job demands while continuing needed treatment and focusing on my health." Governor Charlie Baker praised DePaola for his service, "Frank has been the kind of General Manager that the MBTA needs, someone whose management style has helped the MBTA to increase the public's confidence in the transit system's performance while also leading the T workforce during a period of change. On behalf of the Baker-Polito Administration, I want to express my appreciation to Frank for his work ethic and dedication." Secretary Pollack added, "Frank has always stepped up when his management and engineering skills were needed." She noted that DePaola had been working at the MBTA as Assistant General Manager for Design and Construction in March 2011, when he was named MassDOT's Highway Administrator after a light fixture fell from the ceiling in one of the Central Artery tunnels. DePaola went on to serve as Acting Secretary of Transportation beginning in November 2014 and, after Pollack was named Secretary in January 2015, DePaola was named the first Chief Operating Officer of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. "Almost exactly four years after Frank left the MBTA to help MassDOT's highway programs regain their footing, he agreed to return to the MBTA to help the organization recover from the devastating winter of 2015, re-focus on customer service and operating performance and develop and implement a winter resiliency program," Pollack noted. She recalled that, "When I walked into his office to ask if he'd take on the challenge, Frank told me he'd already begun planning for both the recovery effort and for repairs to tracks, power and signals that would need to begin almost immediately in order to be completed before the next winter." Since assuming the leadership role of the MBTA in February 2015, DePaola has shared responsibility with Chief Administrator Shortsleeve, overseeing the MBTA departments responsible for operations, safety, systemwide accessibility and capital program delivery. His accomplishments as General Manager include improving service for MBTA riders, designing and implementing an $83 million Winter Resiliency program and ensuring that the renovation of Government Center Station was completed on time and on budget. DePaola also supervised the Interim Project Management Team that re-designed the Green Line Extension Project after massive cost overruns led the MassDOT Board and MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board to call for comprehensive changes in the project. DePaola is a licensed, registered Professional Engineer in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and holds a Master of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from Northeastern University and a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. Secretary Pollack, who under the MBTA reform legislation enacted last year is responsible for hiring the MBTA's General Manager, pledged to "work closely with FMCB and MassDOT Board members and MBTA leaders to develop a transition plan that will ensure continued progress in the near-term while laying the groundwork for the stable, long-term leadership and governance that will help the MBTA to once again become one of the safest, most reliable and customer-focused and best maintained transit agencies in the United States." As part of that transition, as of July 1 Chief Administrator Shortsleeve will become Acting General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Gonneville will take on additional responsibilities including oversight of the MBTA's safety, environmental and system wide accessibility departments. (MBTA - posted 5/23)

MTA LIRR’s CANNONBALL EXPRESS TO HAMPTONS & MONTAUK DEBUTS THIS FRIDAY: The Long Island Rail Road’s popular Cannonball express, offering premium Hamptons Reserve service and the fastest ride from Manhattan to Montauk, debuts Memorial Day Weekend with the Cannonball East departing Penn Station on Friday, May 27 at 4:06 p.m. Ticket sales for the Cannonball East’s three Hampton Reserve cars on the May 27 departure is already sold out. When the double-decker train pulls out of Penn Station, more than 1,000 additional customers will have filled the nine non-reserved cars on a first-come, first-served basis. And don’t fret if you miss the Cannonball because trains bound for Montauk continue to depart from Penn Station, Hunterspoint Ave. and Jamaica through the rest of the day. . “Nothing is faster than the Cannonball on Friday afternoons,” said LIRR President Patrick A. Nowakowski. “We are beefing up our Montauk service to meet the summer demand and working to make sure that everyone rides comfortably by strict enforcement of our boarding rules. The LIRR is the best way to beat the traffic and avoid the parking hassles and make the most of your weekend getaway in the Hamptons and Montauk this summer.”
  • Hamptons Reserve Service: Hampton Reserve seating is available by advance reservation, offering the comfort of a reserved seat as well as at-your-seat bar and snack service. To purchase Reserve seating, all the information you need is on the MTA LIRR website. Passengers unable to get a reservation due to the date(s) being sold out will be placed on a waiting list and filled starting at noon on the Thursday before the Cannonball’s departure.
  • Cannonball East: The Cannonball East departs Penn Station on Fridays at 4:06 p.m. from Penn Station - May 27th through September 2nd and travels non-stop to Westhampton in 95 minutes, also stopping at Southampton, Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Montauk. For the July 4th holiday weekend, the Cannonball East departs on Friday July 1. Hamptons Reserve seating is $49.25 one-way. The remaining cars are filled on a first come, first-served basis priced at the regular one-way peak fare of $28.25.
  • Cannonball West: Departs Montauk on Sundays (Mondays on May 30, July 4, & September 5) at 6:37 p.m., stopping at East Hampton at 7:01 p.m., Bridgehampton 7:10 p.m., Southampton 7:20 p.m., Hampton Bays 7:31 p.m., Westhampton 7:39 p.m. and then Jamaica at 9:10 p.m. and Penn Station at 9:31 p.m. Hamptons Reserve seating is $41.25, and again, the Cannonball’s remaining seats are priced at regular Weekend Off-Peak fare of $20.25
(MBTA - posted 5/23)

KANAWHA RIVER RAILROAD LLC: WATCO plans to operate the remaining portion Norfolk Southern's West Virginia Secondary between Columbus, Ohio and Dickinson, West Virginia, along with the former Virginian Railroad, between Deepwater and Princeton, West Virginia. This new operation will be known as the Kanawha River Railroad, L.L.C. ("KNWA"). When available, additional news will be posted on this new regional railroad. (posted 5/20)

CSX ANNOUNCES SENIOR LEADERSHIP TEAM CHANGES: Michael J. Ward, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, today announced a number of senior management changes, including the retirement July 1 of Lisa Mancini, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, following nearly 13 years of exemplary service to CSX Corporation (Nasdaq: CSX). Mancini joined CSX in 2003 and is a member of the chairman’s executive management team, with responsibility for people functions, procurement and real estate. “We thank Lisa for her many contributions to CSX’s people and success. We wish her the very best in her retirement,” Ward said. The company is realigning the senior team to advance its vision for the workforce, service, productivity and technology of the future. Cressie Brown, currently vice president-labor relations, will become senior vice president and chief administrative officer, and Kathleen Brandt, currently head of the company’s information technology subsidiary, will become senior vice president and chief information officer. Both moves will be effective July 1, and both leaders will join the executive management team, reporting directly to Ward. Brandt joined CSX in 1985 and rose through the information technology organization, becoming its leader. She has succeeded in key roles in organizational strategy and capital planning, and has ideal skills to lead CSX teams in accelerating deployment of automation, analytics and systems to contribute to next-generation safety, service and efficiency. Brown, who joined CSX in 1988, held leadership roles in critical operational and support functions including technology, finance, service design, and customer service before her most recent appointment as vice president-labor relations. With these roles, Brown has gained deep and broad organizational expertise. She understands the vital role of CSX’s people in shaping the company’s future and is committed to their continued development and success. Zachery M. Jones has been appointed vice president-labor relations to succeed Brown. Jones, who previously was with the National Mediation Board in Washington, D.C., joined CSX in 2010 and is currently assistant vice president-employee services. In that role he has been closely involved in positively addressing workforce issues and improving employee engagement. His knowledge and experience give him tremendous credibility and background for this new role. “These promotions underscore the importance of continuing to develop our highly skilled and committed employees, while accelerating CSX’s next-generation technologies and performance in safety, service and efficiency,” Ward said. (CSX - posted 5/20)

BR&W STEAM PHOTO FREIGHT AND NIGHT PHOTO ON JUNE 25TH: The Volunteer Railroaders Association in conjunction with the Black River Railroad Historic Trust is proud to announce a special photographers Photo Freight on June 25th featuring the Black River & Western #60. The #60 is a 2-8-0 Consolidation and is New Jersey’s oldest operating steam locomotive. The train will be made up of passenger equipment, freight cars and even a caboose. At least 7 photo run-bys will be staged along the route between Three Bridges and Ringoes, which will give everyone the chance to get some great pictures. The day will start at 2:30pm in Flemington where participants will meet to find out all the details for the day. When the last regularly scheduled train of the day arrives, it will head for Three Bridges instead of turning back for Ringoes. Due to “excepted track” we will not be able to board the train for this leg of the trip, but instead we will follow the train and be given the chance to take some very rare photos of the #60 and her train. After a few photo run-bys the train will return to Flemington where passengers will board for a round trip to the end of in service track at Boss Road in Ringoes. Along the route the train will stop a number of times for more photo run-bys, some at locations not accessible to the public. When completed passengers will reboard the train for a non-stop run back to Flemington and then head out for dinner on their own. As darkness arrives a Night Photo session will take place for up to 30 photographers in and around the Ringoes yard and station. A variety of scenes will be set up featuring the #60 and other equipment operating on the BRW. Passengers can choose to ride in coach for $40, Club Car for $60 or for a select few you can ride in the Caboose for $50. The night photo session is limited to only 30 participants and can be purchased for $25. A special combination ticket is being offered in coach for $55, Caboose for $65 and Club Car class for $75, each a $10 savings. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the VRA’s web site at or by calling 973-238-0555 and leaving a message. Be sure to buy your tickets early as there a very limited quantity available and are sure to sell fast. This event is being run as a fund raiser for the VRA and to help raise funds needed for the BRW to return service to the line to Lambertville. You are encouraged to visit www.blackriverrailroad.com for more information and to donate directly to this effort. (VRA - posted 5/20)

METRO-NORTH TO RESTORED REGULAR TRAIN SERVICE FOR FRIDAY, MAY 20: Metro-North Railroad today announced that, as expected, it will return to its regular weekday schedule for Friday, May 20. The railroad has completed major but temporary repairs to a small section of the railroad’s Park Avenue Viaduct that was damaged in a massive fire at a street-level business at E. 118th Street on Tuesday evening. The return to a full schedule was made possible by round-the-clock work on the part of dedicated employees who on Thursday safely completed the installation of six temporary steel columns to brace a column damaged in Tuesday’s fire. After the temporary columns were put into place and fully secured, Metro-North performed a number of required test train runs over the section of damaged viaduct, and the railroad pronounced that all four tracks are ready for service for the first time since the fire, although there will be speed restrictions of 30 miles per hour for the time being. Customers should be prepared for minor delays resulting from the track speed restriction, which the railroad hopes to clear in the coming days. Customers should continue to check the website and news media for any updates, and listen for announcements at stations. “I would like to thank our customers for bearing with us during what has been a very challenging two-and-a-half-day period,” said Joseph Giulietti, President of Metro-North Railroad. “I also thank all the employees who responded to this crisis starting the moment it was reported, and who will continue to respond to it in the weeks ahead as we build permanent repairs to the viaduct,” President Giulietti continued. “It took a team effort of enormous proportions to get this service back as quickly as we did and to manage limited service over the past two and a half days, while dealing with reduced track capacity, and reduced fleet size and shorter trains on Wednesday that resulted when trains were blocked from leaving Grand Central on Tuesday evening.” Metro-North crews will continue to work aggressively at the site, making other needed structural repairs to the viaduct, including the reinforcement of horizontal steel girders that run east-west along the width of the underside of the viaduct. (MTA - posted 5/19)

SOUTHERN SD40-2 3170 DONATED TO TVRM: The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum is pleased to announce the recent donation by Norfolk Southern of former Southern Railway diesel locomotive 3170, a model SD40. Built by the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors in April 1971, 3170 was the first of 159 SD40 and SD40-2 units eventually rostered by the Southern, and she served for nearly forty years before being retired. Recognizing 3170’s historical significance, Norfolk Southern, successor to Southern Railway, set aside the unit for preservation, while most sister locomotives were either converted to other uses or scrapped. In 2015, NS returned the 3170 to service and repainted it in its original Southern Railway "Tuxedo" (black, light gray and gold) paint scheme. 3170 has spent the past year as the diesel escort for 21st Century Steam excursions and on display in special appearances across the NS system, as well as in regular freight service. SD40 locomotives were the most popular freight haulers of their era. They replaced the so-called “first generation” diesel locomotives that themselves displaced steam locomotives in the 1940s and 1950s. 3170 is believed to be one of only four SD40 locomotives preserved, out of approximately 1,268 built. Each is powered by a 3,000 horsepower 645-series General Motors engine. For TVRM, Southern 3170 has additional significance: it joins Southern Railway steam locomotive 4501 in TVRM’s collection, which was built in 1911. 4501 is a “Mikado”-type locomotive built for everyday freight-hauling service and can be considered the SD40 of its day. 4501 was the very first of 435 Mikado-type locomotives eventually owned by Southern. Like 4501, Southern 3170 will help to fulfill TVRM’s mission of preserving, interpreting, displaying and operating trains in an authentic setting. A formal dedication of the locomotive will be scheduled in the future (TVRM - posted 5/18)

LIMITED SERVICE INTO AND OUT OF GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL TONIGHT: In order to restore full train service as quickly as possible, MTA Metro-North Railroad crews Limited train service continues into and out of Grand Central Terminal following a massive four alarm fire Tuesday night at a local business at 118th Street under Metro-North Railroad’s Park Avenue Viaduct. Harlem-125th Street Station Customers: Between 5 pm and 8 pm tonight, all inbound trains will not make stops and some outbound express trains will not make stops at Harlem-125th Street Station in order to relieve congestion in the affected area. Please listen for announcements. Customers are encouraged to take a subway connection as an alternate service in and out of New York City as follows:
  • Hudson Line customers can take train service to/from Yankees-East 153rd Street with subway connections to the Lexington Ave. 4 Subway train, D Subway train or the 1 Subway train at 225 St-Marble Hill Station.
  • Harlem Line customers can take train service to/from Wakefield Station with subway connections to the 2 Subway train at 241st Street.
  • New Haven Line customers can take train service to/from Woodlawn Station with subway connections to 2 Subway train and 5 Subway train at 233rd Street.
NYC Transit is cross-honoring Metro-North tickets at Grand Central, Harlem-125th Street and the Bronx stations. Hudson Line customers: NJ TRANSIT is cross-honoring Hudson Line tickets on Port Jervis and Pascack Valley Line trains. Until further notice, a Saturday schedule will remain in effect on all three lines. Customers should refer to the schedules page at http://as0.mta.info/mnr/schedules/sched_form.cfm or a timetable for schedule information. Between 5 pm and 8 pm, customers should expect delays and extremely crowded conditions. As such, customers are encouraged to stagger their departures out of Grand Central Terminal. Metro-North crews are working around the clock to make temporary repairs to a section of the viaduct which requires the two inside tracks to remain out of service. Trains are safely operating on the two outside tracks of the viaduct with train speeds reduced from 60 mph to a maximum allowable speed of 30 mph. As soon as the temporary repairs are completed, Metro-North will perform structural tests and tests of train movement over the viaduct. If testing proves successful, restricted speed train service could then resume over the tracks that are currently out of service. The construction and testing process is expected to take 24 to 48 hours to complete. Customers should continue to check the website and news media for any updates, and listen for announcements at stations. (MTA - posted 5/18)

METRO-NORTH ENGINEERING FORCES ARE MAKING TEMPORARY REPAIRS TO PARK AVENUE VIADUCT AFTER TUESDAY NIGHT IN EAST HARLEM CURTAILED SERVICE: In order to restore full train service as quickly as possible, MTA Metro-North Railroad crews are working around the clock to make temporary repairs to the railroad’s Park Avenue Viaduct in Manhattan that was damaged by a four-alarm fire underneath the viaduct on Tuesday evening. The fire caused structural damage to one steel supporting column and three adjacent horizontal steel girders that run east-west along the width of the underside of the viaduct and are known in engineering terminology as floor beam stringers. Because of the structural damage, Metro-North has taken the inside two of the viaduct’s four tracks out of service, and put a speed restriction in place on the two outside tracks. As a result of the track restrictions, Metro-North is operating on a Saturday schedule until further notice. Scores of workers from Metro-North’s engineering division are installing six temporary steel columns that will surround the damaged column and connect to it and to one another. Once in place, the seven columns, braced together, will function as a single structure that will bear the weight of the overhead viaduct until permanent repairs can be put in place. As soon as the temporary repairs are completed, Metro-North will perform structural tests including the impact of train movement over the viaduct. If testing proves successful, restricted speed train service could then resume over the tracks that are currently out of service. The construction and testing process is expected to take 24 to 48 hours to complete. The fire did not cause any damage to Metro-North’s tracks, signals, or third rail power systems. The damaged column, located near the centerline of the viaduct, is an older, multi-piece “built-up” column design notable for its lattice-like steel appearance; portions of the column date to the initial construction of the viaduct in the 19th century. Columns on the east and west sides of the viaduct, which were put in place by Metro-North in the 1990s, are a newer design consisting of single monolithic blocks; they were not damaged by the fire. (MTA - posted 5/18)

GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES FINAL PLAN FOR ADIRONDACK RAILROAD CORRIDOR: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the final plan to govern the use of the 119-mile travel corridor from Remsen to Lake Placid. The final plan, signed by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation will maximize the use and economic benefits of the corridor. The state will also immediately invest in the implementation of the plan, including $15 million to upgrade the rail line between Big Moose and Tupper Lake and $8 million to build a multi-use trail between Tupper Lake and Lake Placid. The rail line will be rehabilitated and the trail will be built within the next three years. “From Tupper Lake to Lake Placid, the Adirondacks is home to unparalleled natural beauty, and today we are building on what makes this region so special,” Governor Cuomo said. “By rehabilitating the railway and building a scenic trail, we are better utilizing the corridor and its surrounding lands to create more economic and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors alike. I am proud the state is moving forward on this important project and this is yet another example of our commitment to ensuring the Adirondacks remain a first-class tourism destination for generations to come.” The funds committed to implement the final plan will enable the scenic railroad to expand continuous operations for 45 miles on fully restored rails. Additionally, the plan calls for a longer-term lease for the scenic railroad operator. The scenic railway will continue operations on the Tupper Lake to Lake Placid segment through November 2016. The removal of the tracks and the development of the 34-mile community connector trail will begin after November 2016. “We commend the Adirondack Park Agency Board for determining that this proposal is compliant with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan, and are excited to release this final Unit Management Plan amendment,” said DEC Acting Commissioner Seggos.“This is a unique public land resource that will afford New Yorkers and visitors many new and thrilling recreational opportunities in the Adirondack region.” “This proposal will strengthen the existing excursion railroad from Utica and extend its operation to Tupper Lake—a distance of more than 100 miles,” said DOT Commissioner Driscoll. “At the same time, we will work to mitigate impacts and to preserve the character of communities along the rail corridor. The plan will strengthen connections to the communities, Forest Preserve, and conservation easement lands along the Corridor to fully optimize regional economic development benefits. The array of enhanced outdoor recreation opportunities will be accessible from the train and from the long distance multi-use recreation trail. “We thank Governor Cuomo for his leadership and commend our colleagues at the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Transportation for preparing a comprehensive travel corridor plan,” said Adirondack Park Agency Chairwoman Leilani Ulrich. “This plan represents over two years of extensive public outreach and regional planning. It maximizes public recreational opportunities in a way that minimizes environmental impacts. The Adirondacks benefit immensely when we come together and find solutions which result in the greatest possible good for the greatest number of individuals.”  “This long-distance, multi-use recreation trail between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake will complement our facilities like no other here in the Olympic Region,” said Ted Blazer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Olympic Regional Development Authority.“Families, elderly people and a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts will be able to safely and easily bike, walk or ski between the Tri-lake communities. The trail will not only provide economic growth for the region, but can also be used to educate users about the history and culture of the communities and the corridor. Those using the trail will also observe and learn about the wonders of the Adirondack Forest Preserve.” Other actions called for in the 2016 Unit Management Plan Amendment include:
  • Providing for snowmobile use, under permit by DOT, to continue along the entire length of the Corridor, starting December 1 of each year;
  • Developing snowmobile community connector trails between Tupper Lake and Old Forge on Forest Preserve and conservation easement lands;
  • Encouraging the development of snowmobile trails that connect with existing trail systems on the Tug Hill and Western Adirondacks;
  • Bolstering the recreation-connectivity along the Corridor; 
  • Link Lake Lila to active rail Corridor; 
  • Establishing railway stops in adjacent communities for visitors and recreationists;
  • Constructing snowmobile trails connecting adjacent communities with the local system;
  • Evaluating and possibly develop Hut-to-Hut cross-country ski trail between Beaver River and Horseshoe Lake;
  • Continuing consultations with the State Historic Preservation Office to examine mitigation measures to address the impacts of removing the rails with regards to the Corridors listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
The preferred alternative of the 1996 Unit Management Plan which governs the use of the 119-mile Remsen-Lake to Placid Travel Corridor called for rail use to be developed along the entire length of the Corridor and encouraged the development of a parallel trail where feasible. However, in recent years many individuals, recreation groups, and municipalities along the corridor expressed an interest in re-examining the Unit Management Plan and evaluating the development of a long distance multi-use recreation trail. At the same time, the attempt to develop a trail parallel to the rail between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake was determined to be infeasible, as it would necessitate excessive disturbance of sensitive wetlands.  In 2013, DEC and DOT sought public input to re-assess the best future uses of the Corridor. After further evaluation, DEC and DOT in 2015 provided a draft Unit Management Plan Amendment/Draft Environmental Impact Statement for public review and comment, which proposed converting the segment of the corridor between Lake Placid and Tupper Lake into a long distance multi-use recreation trail. It also proposed improving the railway between Big Moose and Tupper Lake to provide for a scenic railway between Utica and the Tri-Lakes area. During the nearly three year public review process, DEC and DOT held ten public meetings in communities from Lake Placid to Utica, met with numerous stakeholders, received thousands of comments and undertook a number of studies. This process demonstrated strong local support for a long distance, flat, wide, multi-use recreation trail in the northern segment of the corridor, and the scenic railway in the southern segment. Based on public input and expert evaluations, DEC and DOT determined the optimal use of the Corridor in the final Unit Management Plan will benefit the local economies of communities along the Corridor, provide superb recreation opportunities on the Corridor and protect the natural resources of adjacent Forest Preserve and private lands. (NTSB - posted 5/18)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING MAY 14, 2016: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending May 14, 2016. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 498,379 carloads and intermodal units, down 9.2 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending May 14 were 238,353 carloads, down 11.4 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 260,026 containers and trailers, down 7.2 percent compared to 2015. Four of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2015. They included miscellaneous carloads, up 11.8 percent to 9,646 carloads; metallic ores and metals, up 5.5 percent to 23,881 carloads; and nonmetallic minerals, up 4.8 percent to 35,702 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2015 included coal, down 30.8 percent to 64,800 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 19 percent to 11,727 carloads; and grain, down 8.5 percent to 18,373 carloads. For the first 19 weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,559,020 carloads, down 14.2 percent from the same point last year; and 4,888,034 intermodal units, down 1.4 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 19 weeks of 2016 was 9,447,054 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 8 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending May 14, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 319,835 carloads, down 12.4 percent compared with the same week last year, and 329,731 intermodal units, down 7.3 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 649,566 carloads and intermodal units, down 9.9 percent. North American rail volume for the first 19 weeks of 2016 was 12,390,336 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.6 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 64,651 carloads for the week, down 18.6 percent, and 57,876 intermodal units, down 9.6 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 19 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 2,436,211 carloads, containers and trailers, down 7.3 percent. Mexican railroads reported 16,831 carloads for the week, up 0.7 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,829 intermodal units, up 1.5 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 19 weeks of 2016 was 507,071 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 0.2 percent from the same point last year. (AAR- posted 5/18)

TRAIN ENGINEER'S LOSS OF SITUATIONAL AWARENESS LED TO AMTRAK DERAILMENT, NTSB SAYS TECHNOLOGY COULD HAVE PREVENTED FATAL ACCIDENT: The May 2015 derailment of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia was the result of a loss of situational awareness by the train’s engineer after his attention was diverted to an emergency involving another train, the National Transportation Safety Board announced in a public meeting here Tuesday. The Washington-to-New York City passenger train, Amtrak 188, was traveling at 106 mph around a curve in Philadelphia — more than twice the authorized speed of 50 mph — when it derailed May 12, 2015. Eight passengers were killed and more than 180 others were sent to area hospitals, some with critical injuries. “It’s widely understood that every person, no matter how conscientious and skilled, is fallible, which is why technology was developed to backstop human vulnerabilities,” said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “Had positive train control been in place on that stretch of track, this entirely preventable tragedy would not have happened.” NTSB investigators who interviewed the Amtrak engineer described him as “very cooperative.” At the time of the accident he was not impaired by any substance and was not using his cell phone. There was no evidence that he was fatigued or suffering from any pre-existing medical condition while operating the train on the night of the accident. In interviews the Amtrak engineer indicated that he was concerned for the well-being of a commuter train engineer, whose locomotive had just been struck by an object, spraying that engineer with glass from the windshield. The radio communications about that emergency, in which the Amtrak engineer participated and listened, lasted six minutes and, preceded the derailment by less than one minute. Investigators determined the Amtrak engineer became distracted by the emergency involving the commuter train and lost situational awareness as to where his train was located in relation to the curve with the 50 mph speed restriction. The acceleration past 100 mph before entering the curve where the derailment occurred was consistent with a belief that his train had already passed the curve into an area of relatively straight track where the authorized speed was 110 mph. The survival factors aspect of the investigation revealed some of the windows failed to remain intact throughout the accident sequence. Investigators said if the windows had not failed, some passengers who were ejected from the train and killed would likely have remained inside the train and survived. In 1970 the NTSB recommended that then-available technology — that could prevent collisions, overspeed accidents and protect track workers — be implemented on the nation’s railroads; the NTSB has advocated for it ever since. At Tuesday’s meeting, NTSB members expressed frustration with the slow progress of positive train control implementation, which for passenger trains was previously required to be completed by the end of 2015 before Congress extended the deadline until 2018 and delayed enforcement of the regulation for two years beyond that. “Unless positive train control is implemented soon, I’m very concerned that we’re going to be back in this room again, hearing investigators detail how technology that we have recommended for more than 45 years could have prevented yet another fatal rail accident,” Hart said. The NTSB issued 11 safety recommendations in the report. The Federal Railroad Administration received five of the 11. Also receiving safety recommendations were Amtrak, the American Public Transportation Association, the Association of American Railroads, the Philadelphia Police Department, the Philadelphia Fire Department, the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, the Mayor of Philadelphia, the National Association of State EMS Officials, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Emergency Management Association, the National Association of Emergency Medical Service Physicians, the National Association of Chiefs of Police, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. In addition to the 11 new recommendations made in this report, five other safety recommendations were previously issued during the course of the investigation. The opening and closing statements, presentations, accident synopsis, findings, probable cause and safety recommendations are available at: http://go.usa.gov/cJctT (NTSB - posted 5/17)

CSX CFO SHARES EXPECTATIONS FOR SECOND QUARTER AND FULL YEAR: CSX Corporation (Nasdaq:CSX) Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Frank Lonegro spoke with investors and analysts today at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Transportation Conference in Boston, updating them on second-quarter volume trends and the company’s plans to continue managing through the transition in its business mix. “We are seeing year-to-date volume declines across most of our markets, reflecting continued low global commodity prices, the strong U.S. dollar, and the transition in the energy markets,” Lonegro said. “For the second quarter, we now expect high-single digit volume declines, which will negatively impact second quarter earnings.” At the same time, continued service improvements are supporting strong pricing through this business cycle. With the impact of improving service and ongoing initiatives to drive further network efficiency, CSX now expects efficiency savings for the full year to exceed $250 million, approaching a company record.  However, market forces are still expected to more than offset the gains in safety, service, pricing and efficiency, resulting in the company’s first full-year earnings decline since the recession. Looking forward, CSX is driving long-term strategies to maximize its evolving business portfolio, including transforming its network to match resources with demand, leveraging technology solutions for service and efficiency, investing in the future of intermodal, and continuing to focus on delivering excellent service for customers. As the company’s business transitions to merchandise and intermodal markets, these initiatives are designed to drive earnings growth and margin expansion as CSX continues to target a mid-60s operating ratio longer term. (CSX - posted 5/17)

HARRISBURG DETECTIVE SELECTED AS 2015 AMTRAK OFFICER OF THE YEAR: Detective Charles Crandall is the 2015 Amtrak Police Department Officer of the Year. Chief of Police Polly Hanson, presented the award to Detective Crandall for his significant contributions to the Amtrak community, including his likely life-saving assistance of a fellow law enforcement officer. “Detective Crandall’s persistence, unwavering professionalism, and dedication to duty have all contributed to our ongoing employee and passenger safety and security efforts,” said Chief Hanson. “It is my honor to present him with our most prestigious honor by naming Detective Charles Crandall the 2015 Amtrak Police Department Officer of the Year.” Based in Harrisburg, Crandall notably helped rescue a Pennsylvania State Trooper just feet away from a burning vehicle. He also played a significant role in a two-year investigation into copper wire theft leading to eight arrests. While returning from an investigation, Crandall and Sergeant Robert Cameron observed a Pennsylvania State Trooper with a car stopped on the interstate. The trooper had stopped to extinguish a car fire when a speeding vehicle hit the trooper’s police cruiser, causing a chain reaction which knocked the trooper over 8 feet into the air. Both APD officers immediately ran from their vehicle to assist. Crandall provided first aid and comfort to the trooper while he lay on the ground within 10 feet of the burning vehicle. Rather than move him and cause more injury, Crandall lay on the ground and placed his body between the burning car and the injured trooper while Cameron worked on extinguishing the fire. Detective Crandall began his career with the Amtrak Police in 1988. In addition to working as a patrol officer and K-9 officer, he has worked as a firearms instructor, receiving the President’s Top 100 United States Shooters Award and Pennsylvania and Georgia’s Governor’s Top 20 Shooters Award. Crandall was also awarded the Amtrak Presidential Safety and Service Award (PSSA) for Achievement for his work in the Training Unit. The Officer of the Year award is a prestigious honor, presented this year during National Police Week which was created by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 to honor law enforcement officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting others. (Amtrak - posted 5/16)

CAPEFLYER LOCOMOTIVE: . The MBTA has rebuilt and repainted an F40PH locomotive No. 1056 for use on the CapeFlyer. The locomotive, with a special paint scheme in blue livery, will be assigned to the CapeFlyer trains between Boston and the Cape beginning Memorial Day weekend, and used for regular commuter rail service on weekdays (MBTA- posted 5/13)

USDOT AND NJ TRANST TO HOST MEETINGS ON HUDSON TUNNEL, BEGIN ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and NJ TRANSIT will hold two meetings next week on the Hudson Tunnel Project to build a new tunnel and rehabilitate the current, 106-year-old tunnel. The meetings in New York and New Jersey on May 17 and 19, respectively, are part of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review process required by law. The FRA and NJ TRANSIT are leading the effort to prepare the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that evaluates the project.  The first meetings will be in New York City on Tuesday, May 17, and the second meetings will be in Union City, N.J. Both days will include an afternoon session from 3 to 5 p.m. with a brief presentation about the project at 4 p.m., and an evening session from 6 to 8 p.m. with a brief presentation about the project at 7 p.m. The public will be able to review Project information, talk informally with members of the study staff and formally submit comments to FRA/NJ TRANSIT (via a stenographer or in writing). The meeting facilities will be accessible to persons with disabilities. Spanish language translators will be present. The Project will preserve the Northeast Corridor’s (NEC) Hudson River rail crossing between New Jersey and New York and strengthen the resilience of the NEC. The existing tunnel is used by Amtrak for intercity passenger rail service and by NJ TRANSIT for commuter rail service. It is a critical NEC asset and is the only intercity passenger rail crossing into New York City from New Jersey and areas west and south. Service reliability through the existing tunnel has been compromised because of the damage to tunnel components caused by Superstorm Sandy. The storm inundated both tubes in the existing tunnel with seawater in October 2012, resulting in the cancellation of all Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT service into New York City for five days. While the tunnel was restored to service and is now safe for travel, chlorides from the seawater remain in the tunnel’s concrete liner and bench walls, causing ongoing damage to the bench walls, imbedded steel, track and signaling and electrical components. Adding a new tunnel under the Hudson River will allow uninterrupted commuter and intercity rail service while the current, 106-year-old tunnel is rehabilitated. The scoping meetings will be the first of several opportunities for public and stakeholder involvement in this critical project. Comments may also be submitted on the Internet, at www.hudsontunnelproject.com/contact.html , or in writing or by phone until May 31, 2016. Additional information can be found at the project website, www.hudsontunnelproject.com Meetings on the Hudson Tunnel Project  Meeting in New York:
  • WHEN:         Tuesday, May 17                     3 – 5 p.m. EST, with a brief presentation at 4 p.m. EST and                     6 – 8 p.m. EST, with a brief presentation at 7 p.m. EST
  • WHERE:       Hotel Pennsylvania,                     Gold Ballroom, 3rd Floor,                     401 Seventh Avenue at West 33rd Street,                     New York City
Meeting in New Jersey::
  • WHEN:         Thursday, May 19                     3 – 5 p.m. EST, with a brief presentation at 4 p.m. EST and                     6 – 8 p.m. EST, with a brief presentation at 7 p.m. EST
  • WHERE:       Union City High School,                     2500 Kennedy Boulevard,                     Union City, N.J.
(USDOT- posted 5/13)

METRO-NORTH RAILROAD TO ACQUIRE STATE-OF-THE-ART TRACK INSPECTION VEHICLE: MTA Metro-North Railroad today announced that it will enter into a contract with Ensco Inc. to design, build and deliver one of the most advanced track inspection vehicles in the world. The vehicle will use innovative laser, optical and inertial sensor systems to analyze the condition of the rail and track infrastructure, alerting Metro-North to any track anomalies. The inspection vehicle, known within the railroad industry as a Track Geometry Vehicle, will be a diesel powered rail car filled with advanced machinery specifically designed by Ensco Inc. to inspect Metro-North tracks. It measures track geometry, gage (the distance between the rails), alignment, cross-level, surface, alignment, speed, twist and warp (a comparative measure of rail to rail profile over a given distance) at one-foot intervals to regulatory standards. “This vehicle will further enhance our efforts to identify any potential track problems so they can be repaired before becoming safety issues and affecting service,” said Joseph Giulietti, President of Metro-North Railroad. “The MTA’s Blue Ribbon Panel, the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board all determined that the acquisition of a Track Geometry Vehicle would enable Metro-North to improve track inspections. This cutting-edge inspection vehicle will significantly contribute to Metro-North’s intense focus on ensuring customer safety.” Metro-North has previously relied on third party contractors to operate their inspection vehicles on tracks during off hours and provide the railroad with data feedback. “The Track Geometry Vehicle now gives Metro-North in-house inspection capability; the railroad can examine track and make necessary repairs with greater speed and efficiency, resulting in cost savings,” said Glen Hayden, Vice President - Engineering for Metro-North Railroad. “It will allow Metro-North to inspect track to meet Federal requirements as well as to verify quality of track production efforts.” Metro-North’s new inspection vehicle will undergo a period of calibration and testing before it’s entered into service in early 2018. (MTA- posted 5/12)

LIRR BREAKS GROUND FOR $23.9 MILLION MODERNIZATION OF WANTAGH STATION: MTA Long Island Rail Road President Patrick A. Nowakowski today marked the official start of construction for the $23.9 million modernization of the Long Island Rail Road’s Wantagh Station, a project made possible by the State of New York’s support for the MTA Capital Program as well as a $4 million contribution from Nassau County. Nowakowski was joined at groundbreaking ceremonies on Sunrise Highway by State Senator Michael Venditto, State Assemblyman David McDonough, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, Nassau County Legislator Steve Rhoads, Town of Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King-Sweeney and Chris Brown, President of the Wantagh Chamber of Commerce. Also on hand was Barney Fortunato Jr. of Long Island-based Fortunato Sons Contracting, Inc., the primary contractor on a project expected to create 100 construction jobs. “Governor Cuomo’s administration has made investment in mass transit a top priority and it is sure to pay future dividends in continued economic growth for Long Island, “ said Nowakowski. “The modernization of Wantagh Station is just one example of the kind of transportation infrastructure improvement made possible by the state’s support of the MTA and how that support ultimately benefits our local villages and towns.” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said: “The Wantagh Station modernization is part of the MTA’s ongoing commitment to Long Island and its future. It will benefit thousands of residents who depend each day on the LIRR, create jobs and enhance the look and feel Wantagh’s business district.” Nowakowski said the LIRR was grateful the legislative support for the MTA Capital Plan by State Senator Venditto and Assemblyman McDonough and also for the funding from Nassau County. In preparing for the Wantagh project, he said the LIRR has worked very closely with local government officials, business and civic leaders and Fortunato Sons to plan carefully and minimize the impact of construction. “Everyone’s cooperation has been important,” Nowakowski added. “We pledge our continued support and promise to do our best to see that the people of Wantagh have a station they can be proud of.” Wantagh Station has over 5,700 passenger trips each weekday. The current elevated station was constructed in 1968 as part of a Babylon Branch grade-crossing elimination project. The rehabilitation will include a new concrete platform, segmented canopy, platform waiting room, escalator, elevator, lighting, communications system and signage as well as a distinctive public art project. It’s all part of the first significant upgrade of the facility since it was built nearly 50 years ago. The addition of an elevator will make the station ADA accessible for the first time. Governor Cuomo recently announced an initiative to speed up station enhancement projects by changing MTA contracting procedures to enable one private sector company to build to its own designs. Although the design of the Wantagh station modernization was already completed prior to this new initiative, the LIRR is closely monitoring this “design-build” approach, which is being undertaken at other LIRR projects as well as 31 New York City Transit subway stations, in order to adopt best practices for its future capital projects. The LIRR says it will take two years to complete the project, which must be carried out in stages so as not to impact train service. But in keeping with the Governor’s initiative, the LIRR will also work with the contractor to identify ways to speed up that timeline. During construction, when one end of the station platform or the other is closed, customers will have to follow detour signs to the active portion of the station. In addition, a limited number of parking spaces will be temporarily affected along the station plaza. The LIRR will be alerting customers to these changes in advance by posting signs, making public address announcements and issuing customer service alerts via email and text message. Senator Michael Venditto said: “I am pleased that by working together we are able to secure funding for this project and break ground today on a much needed $23.9 million modernization for the Wantagh Station. I want to thank the MTA and LIRR team for all of their thorough planning and hard work with the community to make the new improvements possible," Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said: “With the majority of our infrastructure built more than 50 years ago, infrastructure investments such as this are needed and will benefit the thousands of riders who commute on this line – the busiest on Long Island - each and every day. I also thank Governor Cuomo, the MTA and LIRR for accelerating station enhancement projects.” Town of Hempstead Councilwoman Erin King-Sweeney said: “As a Wantagh resident, I applaud the MTA for making this critical infrastructure investment for Wantagh commuters. When completed, Wantagh station will be a beautiful, modern facility that will bring added conveniences, enhanced safety, and access for the disabled for the first time. I look forward to the completion of this project that will enhance the quality of life for all Wantagh residents!" The Wantagh Station project also features a permanent public art project under the MTA Arts & Design Program. MTA Arts & Design selected artist Marc Dennis’ proposal for a colored art glass scenes depicting an idyllic day at nearby Jones Beach will decorate the platform waiting room window. In addition, mosaic panels at stairways will highlight ocean waves and the shoreline. (MTA- posted 5/12)

LONG ISLAND'S CANNONBALL RESUMES SERVICE FOR THE SEASON: To get you in the summer spirit, MTA Long Island Rail Road is introducing new system-wide train timetables on Monday, May 23 featuring traditional seasonal service enhancements such as the mighty Montauk Cannonball, the fastest way to the East End, as well as a number of new options that should be welcomed by the weekend traveler. The new train schedules will remain in effect through Monday, September 5, 2016. The Cannonball, of course, is the popular 4:06 p.m. Friday departure from Penn Station, featuring the LIRR’s premier Hamptons Reserve service, that gets you to Westhampton in 95 minutes and returns on Sundays, leaving Montauk at 6:37 p.m. You get to your destination quickly with the added comfort of a reserved seat as well as at-your-seat bar service. Hamptons Reserve seating is limited to the first three passenger cars and available only by advance reservation. (MTA- posted 5/11)

WESMONT TRAIN STATION TO OPEN ON MAY 15: NJ TRANSIT will officially open the state’s newest station, Wesmont Train Station, on Sunday, May 15. Located in Wood-Ridge, N.J., on the Bergen County Line, Wesmont is part of a new transit-oriented development and is the result of a public/private partnership between NJ TRANSIT and Somerset Development. Wesmont is within walking distance for local residents and will be ADA compliant with a high-level, center-island platform design for easy boarding and deboarding, and elevators and a pedestrian overpass to reach the platform. Customers can access Bergen County Line trains for convenient service to Hoboken Terminal and Penn Station New York and Newark Penn Station (via Secaucus Junction), where connections can be made with NJ TRANSIT’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail as well as NY Waterway ferry and PATH service. Both NJ TRANSIT and Somerset Development shared in the cost for design and construction of the project located on the site of the former Curtiss-Wright industrial plant. The project cost just under $18 million, with NJ TRANSIT’s portion of the bill totaling $6 million. “This project is a prime example of how a public agency and a private developer can work together to invest in our transportation system for the benefit of neighboring communities,” said Interim Executive Director Dennis Martin. “This new station will be primed to provide easy connections for nearby residents to get anywhere in the tri-state region and beyond.’’ "At Wesmont Station, we set out to transform an underserved portion of Wood-Ridge into a vibrant and walkable, transit-oriented community, and the opening of this station represents the realization of our vision," said Ralph Zucker, President of Somerset Development. "We're extremely proud to officially open Wesmont Train Station alongside NJ TRANSIT." A one-way train fare ticket from Wesmont to New York City will cost $6.75, with monthly passes costing $184. A one-way train fare ticket to Hoboken will cost $5, with monthly passes costing $145. Amenities at Wesmont include bicycle racks and ticket vending machines. A temporary parking lot that can accommodate approximately two dozen parking spaces is in place with a larger, permanent parking lot accommodating approximately 215 parking spaces is planned for the future. The temporary parking will be by permit only, costing $120 per quarter. Wesmont is located at the end of Highland Avenue and Johnson Drive, adjacent to the new residential and commercial development that is currently under construction in Wood-Ridge. (NJ Transit - posted 5/11)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING MAY 7, 2016: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending May. 7, 2016. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 492,923 carloads and intermodal units, down 10.6 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending May. 7 were 233,047 carloads, down 14.8 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 259,876 containers and trailers, down 6.4 percent compared to 2015. Three of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2015. They were miscellaneous carloads, up 6.7 percent to 9,839 carloads; chemicals, up 1.6 percent to 31,075 carloads; and grain, up 0.1 percent to 18,004 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2015 included coal, down 33.5 percent to 62,394 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 26.4 percent to 11,394 carloads; and metallic ores and metals, down 12.8 percent to 20,569 carloads. For the first 18 weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 4,320,667 carloads, down 14.3 percent from the same point last year; and 4,628,008 intermodal units, down 1.1 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 18 weeks of 2016 was 8,948,675 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 8 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending May. 7, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 314,690 carloads, down 14.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 330,817 intermodal units, down 5.8 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 645,507 carloads and intermodal units, down 10.4 percent. North American rail volume for the first 18 weeks of 2016 was 11,740,770 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.5 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 65,949 carloads for the week, down 17 percent, and 59,876 intermodal units, down 4.5 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 18 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 2,313,684 carloads, containers and trailers, down 6.9 percent. Mexican railroads reported 15,694 carloads for the week, down 3.5 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,065 intermodal units, up 1.7 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 18 weeks of 2016 was 478,411 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 0.3 percent from the same point last year. Crude Oil Carload Update The AAR also reported U.S. Class I railroads originated 63,261 carloads of crude oil in the first quarter of 2016, down 21,664 carloads or 25.5 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015 and down 49,828 carloads or 44.1 percent from the first quarter of 2015. (AAR - posted 5/11)

VIA RAIL RELEASES ITS 2015 ANNUAL REPORT : VIA Rail Canada (VIA Rail) issued its 2015 annual report today, noting an increase in both ridership and revenues for the first time in seven years, across the network, including regional train services. Total passenger-miles were up by some 1.7% year over year, buoyed by a rising trend line in the second half of the year that has continued into 2016. Revenues continued to show a year-over-year improvement, increasing by 6.2% compared to the year prior. As a result, VIA Rail’s requirement for government operating funding decreased by 11.7% compared to the previous year, $13 million less than planned. From the Annual Report, “There are many reasons to be optimistic, including the focus that our Government has on strengthening the Canadian economy through job-creating investments and sustainable transportation,” said Eric Stefanson, VIA Rail’s former Interim Chairman. “This year, the Government of Canada confirmed additional capital funding of $102 million for VIA Rail. This investment will be used to improve the infrastructure VIA Rail owns, as well as services in and around the Ottawa area. Keeping Canadians mobile is imperative to a strong and healthy economy.” ”On behalf of VIA Rail and all of its employees, we’d like to thank Mr. Stefanson for his dedicated service. For over a year and a half, Mr. Stefanson has generously shared his time and expertise as interim Chairman of the Board. His extensive experience as a partner in his own accountancy firm as well as an elected official in Manitoba was of infinite value to the Crown corporation. Under his leadership, the Board of Directors supported VIA Rail as it evolved over the year, and contributed to the success we are reporting today,” recognized VIA Rail’s President and CEO, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano. “Fueled by the year’s positive results and a renewed interest in the train as a greener, smarter travel option, I am very encouraged,” added the President, “In the coming years, we will continue our efforts to increase our ridership, not only for the good of the Canadian economy and the Canadian population, but also for the good of the environment. In 2015, we reaffirmed our commitment to decreasing our environmental impact by taking the COP21 pledge to support international goals of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.” "But VIA Rail's greatest contribution to the reduction of GHGs is yet to come,” Desjardins-Siciliano continued, “Our plan to build infrastructure dedicated to passengers will eliminate over five million car trips annually. This means a reduction of 10.8M tons of CO2 equivalent, over the life of the project. This represents 1.5% of Canada's total GHG emissions or 13% of all car emissions.” 2015 milestones
  • New mobile application and redesigned Web site (viarail.ca)
  • VIA Rail launches Instagram profile
  • Launch of SMS/Email Train Alert Service
  • Full implementation of Prestige Class on The Canadian
  • New 50/50 seat configuration Economy Class cars enter service
  • Intermodal partnership between VIA Rail and Union Pearson Express
  • New Canrailpass introduced
    • VIA Rail wins Railway Association of Canada Safety Award
    • Honourable Mention for Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) from the Risk Management Society (RIMS)
    • More Ocean departures added for Holiday season
    VIA Rail’s annual report is available to download on viarail.ca (VIA Rail Canada - posted 5/10)

    WEEKEND SUSPENSION OF COMMUTER RAIL SERVICE BETWEEN BEVERLY DEPOT AND NORTH STATION: Due to necessary construction activity, MBTA commuter rail service will be temporarily suspended this weekend between Beverly Depot and North Station in both directions. A temporary weekend schedule for the Newburyport/Rockport Line will be in effect on Saturday, May 14, and Sunday, May 15. The diversion will allow for work on the Beverly Drawbridge and Silver Line project in Chelsea. Inbound Newburyport/Rockport Line service will be replaced with shuttle buses between Beverly Depot, Salem, and North Station. These shuttle buses will operate on a "drop off only" basis between Swampscott and North Station. Any inbound passengers at Swampscott, Lynn, or Chelsea must board local MBTA bus service and/or the MBTA Blue Line subway service to Boston. There will be no direct shuttle bus service from Chelsea, Lynn, or Swampscott to North Station. Passengers seeking outbound Newburyport/Rockport Line service from Boston to Salem Depot or any station thereafter must board a shuttle bus at North Station to Beverly Depot (via Salem Depot) for outbound Commuter Rail connections. Passengers desiring outbound Newburyport/Rockport Line service from North Station to Chelsea, Lynn, or Swampscott Stations must board local MBTA bus service and/or the MBTA Blue Line subway service. There will be no direct shuttle bus service from North Station to Chelsea, Lynn, or Swampscott Stations. Outbound trains will depart Beverly Depot at their regularly scheduled weekend times. Bicycles will not be allowed on shuttle buses. Passengers desiring outbound service from Chelsea, Lynn, or Swampscott Stations must board shuttle buses at the times indicated in the temporary weekend schedule and will be transported directly to their destination station. (MBTA - posted 5/10)

    USDOT CELEBRATES KANSAS CITY STREETCAR GRAND OPENING: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers today joined Kansas City Mayor Sylvester “Sly” James Jr. and other local officials to celebrate the opening of a two-mile streetcar line through the city’s revitalized downtown area. The line, credited by local officials with spurring billions of dollars in investment as it was being planned and constructed, is expected to serve tens of thousands of residents as well as visitors to the growing Midwestern city. - See more at: https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/us-department-transportation-celebrates-kansas-city-streetcar-grand-opening#sthash.Z8ytTnHe.dpuf “The Department is proud to partner with Kansas City on its new streetcar, which will provide important connections to jobs, community services and other opportunities for residents,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The streetcar will continue to reinvigorate the heart of the city by bringing together neighborhoods, improving transportation options, and attracting new housing and economic activity.”The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) helped fund the project with $20 million from a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant and approximately $17 million in other DOT funds. Since 2009, DOT has awarded $562.7 million to 16 streetcar projects across the country, including starter lines in Dallas, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Tucson, as well as extensions to systems in Portland and New Orleans.“Streetcars are an increasingly popular transportation choice for cities seeking new ways to integrate reliable, convenient transit services that connect residents to jobs and other destinations,” said FTA Acting Administrator Flowers. “By supporting the Kansas City Streetcar, we are helping to create a strong transportation network that gives people options and helps build ladders of opportunity throughout the region.”Streetcar systems not only contribute to improved mobility and enhanced development opportunities, but also help stimulate the economy. In Kansas City, more than $1 billion from private and public sources has stimulated economic growth and redevelopment, including new housing, retail and commercial projects. Since the streetcar project began in 2012, the city has recorded 40 projects along the streetcar route, including a $300 million, 800-room hotel and convention center under development, a $121 million project to convert a 30-story office building to apartments, and the $37 million renovation of a vacated theater that will house an 85,000-square-foot community center.The streetcar service will also connect existing local bus services throughout the downtown corridor. The Downtown KC Streetcar line is part of a long-range plan to create a regional, integrated transit system to connect the Greater Kansas City area that includes several bus rapid transit routes. - (USDOT - posted 5/10)

    THE CITY OF MONTREAL AND CN STRENGTHEN THEIR PARTNERSIP ON SAFETY: On his visit to CN Headquarters in Montreal , the Honourable Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal , today joined Sean Finn , Executive Vice­-President, Corporate Services and Chief Legal Officer at CN, in announcing the areas of safety that the City of Montreal and CN will continue to focus on together. Mayor Coderre began by pointing out that "CN is a great economic partner of the City of Montreal with some 2,000 employees in its Montreal headquarters building alone. Its North American network is also a key enabler for our businesses. Our partnership on safety announced today shows great collaboration between CN and local authorities." Sean Finn also emphasized the strategic nature of the partnership between CN and the City of Montreal : "We are very proud to be headquartered in Montreal and work with our logistics chain partners, including the Port of Montreal , to enhance the economic vitality of the city and the region. Montreal is more united and driven than it has been in a long time, and that's mostly due to Mayor Coderre's efforts to reach out to all stakeholders." CN has been working closely with the City of Montreal on safety. For example, the Company provides Montreal's civil protection centre with detailed reports on the movement of dangerous goods. With new regulations taking effect recently, this partnership will grow stronger. Mayor Coderre also invited municipalities in Quebec to use a new important tool: "CN and the railroad industry developed ways to improve communications with cities. The AskRail mobile application gives emergency first responders access to information they need in the event of an incident." The Montreal police department and CN Police are also taking steps to improve rail safety around railroad crossings. "Rail Safety Week may be over, but we must continue to promote and practise safe habits. Montreal police and CN Police will work closely to prevent accidents and make sure everyone stays safe," said Finn. What's more, CN and the City of Montreal will join efforts to better protect the rail network against malicious acts. (CN - posted 5/09)

    U.S. DOT ANNOUNCES $10 MILLION TIGER GRANT TO EXTEND AMTRAK SERVICE TO BURLINGTON: U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Federal Railroad Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg joined Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and U.S. Congressman Peter Welch at an event today to announce that the U.S. Department of Transportation will provide $10 million to extend Amtrak’s Ethan Allen Express passenger train service all the way to Burlington, Vermont.  Currently, the service begins in New York City and stops in Rutland, Vermont. “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 grants, we selected projects that focus on where the country’s transportation infrastructure needs to be in the future: safer, more innovative, and more targeted to open the floodgates of opportunity across America.” The $10 million grant will fund approximately 11 miles of new rail track along the state-owned line and three passenger platforms in Middlebury, Vergennes, and Burlington.  The project will also reduce long-term maintenance costs for the state, allow passenger trains to operate up to 60 miles per hour and enhance safety at multiple railroad crossings. 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.  Secretary Foxx announced project selections for this round of TIGER grants on October 29, 2015.  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. “This is a day Burlington has been waiting a long time for - this funding will help not only take us back to a time when passenger rail extended to Burlington, but more importantly, it will take us into the future,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E Feinberg. 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 grant is part of the seventh round of TIGER grants since 2009, bringing the total grant amount to more than $4.6 billion provided to 381 projects in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, including 134 projects supporting rural and tribal communities.  Demand for the program has been overwhelming: to date. The U.S. Department of Transportation has received more than 6,700 applications requesting more than $134 billion for transportation projects across the country. (USDOT - posted 5/06)

    GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES MAJOR STEPS FORWARD FOR LIRR EXPANSION PROJECT: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced major steps forward for the Long Island Rail Road Expansion Project, including a continued commitment to community outreach by holding four public meetings, expedited modifications to all train crossings along the project route, and increased transparency with the release of a new project scoping report, website and community center. “A third track on the main line is crucial to the future of Long Island,” said Governor Cuomo. “This project will make the LIRR more reliable for millions of customers, while also eliminating multiple dangerous train crossings along the main line. Our proposal will ensure that we can continue to improve the quality of life and grow the economy in the region, and I encourage New Yorkers to learn more about how we’re working to build a brighter future for Long Island. Extensive Public Engagement Since Governor Cuomo unveiled the proposal in January, a project team composed of his executive staff along with key MTA, LIRR and DOT officials have worked non-stop to refine the plan in close consultation with elected officials, property owners, business and civic leaders and other major stakeholders. To date, more than 80 meetings have been held with stakeholders, including the mayors of the Villages of Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Garden City, Mineola and Westbury, state legislators, local civic associations and school boards, chambers of commerce, officials from the Towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Babylon, Islip and Brookhaven as well as Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The Governor also met personally with the mayors to discuss the proposal and address concerns. While only one public meeting is required, the four public meetings announced today will offer the public direct access to the project team and provide residents, business owners and other stakeholders an opportunity to discuss the project and comment on the scope of work needed, which will result in an environmental impact statement to be released late this summer. Increased Transparency Reaffirming his commitment to transparency, the Governor today released a detailed draft scoping document that outlines options for modifying the crossings and the proposed environmental analysis. The project has also launched www.AModernLI.com – a website where the public can learn more about the project and provide direct input. The release of the scoping document comes nearly three weeks ahead of the first public hearing, ensuring that local residents, business owners, and elected officials have ample time to review the proposal. Governor Cuomo is committed to ensuring an extensive degree of public engagement about the project, and state officials will be holding four separate public hearings throughout the affected corridor. Those hearings will be held on:
    • Tuesday, May 24, 2016 from 11 am to 2 pm at The Inn at New Hyde Park, located at 214 Jericho Turnpike, New Hyde Park, NY 11040.
    • Tuesday, May 24, 2016 from 6 pm to 9 pm at Hofstra University, in the Mack Student Center’s Student Theatre, located at 1000 Fulton Ave, Hempstead, NY 11549.
    • Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 11 am to 2 pm at the ”Yes We Can” Community Center, located at 141 Garden St, Westbury, NY 11590.
    • Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 6 pm to 9 pm at Antun’s, located at 244 W. Old Country Road, Hicksville, NY 11801. MTA officials will also open a LIRR Expansion Project Information Center beginning May 6, located on the south platform at the Mineola Train Station. This information center will provide opportunities for people to review the scoping document and ask questions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11 am to 7pm, Thursdays and Fridays from 7am to 3pm, and Saturdays from 10am to 3pm.
    Improving Grade Crossing Safety The Governor has already committed to modifying all seven street-level train crossings in the project corridor but will now also do this on an expedited basis in order to dramatically improve safety for both vehicles and pedestrians; to sharply reduce noise by train horns and bells; and to reduce severe traffic congestion caused by crossing gates being down for prolonged periods of time during peak travel times. MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast said: “We all know grade crossings are a chronic problem, complicating traffic flow and presenting round-the-clock safety challenges. The Governor’s commitment to speeding up the construction to solve crossing issues along the project route is welcome news for everyone.” The draft scoping report presents a number of key safety-enhancing options for train crossing improvements along the project’s 9.8 mile route. These construction improvements would also take place on an expedited timetable – with each grade crossing project completed in nine months or less – to significantly ease local traffic congestion. The train crossings along the LIRR Main Line segment between Floral Park and Hicksville that will be modified are: Covert Ave., South 12th St. and New Hyde Park Rd., all in New Hyde Park; Main St. and Willis Ave., in Mineola; School St. in Westbury and Urban Ave. in New Cassel. About the Project With just two tracks to service Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson, Hempstead, Oyster Bay and some Montauk Branch trains, the Railroad has historically been hindered by congestion during peak travel periods and frequent delays, whether caused by a disabled train, a track condition, a medical emergency or a trespasser. A third track will bring other improvements, including infrastructure upgrades at LIRR stations and parking facilities, the construction of retaining walls along portions of the corridor to minimize property impacts and the upgrading of railroad signal systems, substations, culverts, interlocking, crossovers, sidings, track bed, power systems and communications systems. This LIRR Expansion will support current service plans, and is an important component to the future success of the LIRR’s East Side Access Project, taking Long Island commuters to Grand Central Station and the East Side of Manhattan for the first time. Together the projects are expected to cut commuting time for many customers by up to 20 minutes in each direction. (MTA - posted 5/05 )

    AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR APRIL AND WEEK ENDING APRIL 30, 2016: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported weekly U.S. rail traffic, as well as volumes for April 2016. Carload traffic in April totaled 944,339 carloads, down 16.1 percent or 180,598 from April 2015. U.S. railroads also originated 1,028,460 containers and trailers in April 2016, down 7.5 percent or 83,729 units from the same month last year. For April 2016, combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations were 1,972,829, down 11.8 percent or 264,327 carloads and intermodal units from April 2015. In April 2016, five of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with April 2015. These included: miscellaneous carloads, up 25 percent or 4,743 carloads; coke, up 16.1 percent or 2.354 carloads; and chemicals, up 1.5 percent or 1,909 carloads. Commodities that saw declines in April 2016 from April 2015 included: coal, down 39.7 percent or 160,624 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 25.1 percent or 15,122 carloads; and grain mill products, down 7.1 percent or 2,760 carloads. Excluding coal, carloads were down 2.8 percent or 19,974 carloads from April 2015. Total U.S. carload traffic for the first 17 weeks of 2016 was 4,087,620 carloads, down 14.3 percent or 83,729 carloads, while intermodal containers and trailers were 4,368,132 units, down 0.8 percent or 33,771 containers and trailers when compared to the same period in 2015. For the first four months of 2016, total rail traffic volume in the United States was 8,455,752 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.8 percent or 715,985 carloads and intermodal units from the same point last year. "Rail coal traffic continues to suffer due to low natural gas prices and high coal stockpiles at power plants. Coal accounted for just 26 percent of non-intermodal rail traffic for U.S. railroads in April 2016, down from 36 percent in April 2015 and 45 percent as recently as late 2011," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. "We expect non-coal carloads to strengthen when the economy gets stronger, and we think intermodal weakness in April is probably at least partly a function of high business inventories that need to be drawn down before new orders, and thus new shipments, are made." Week Ending April 30, 2016 Total U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending April 30, 2016 was 502,045 carloads and intermodal units, down 11.3 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending April 30 were 243,604 carloads, down 14.1 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 258,441 containers and trailers, down 8.6 percent compared to 2015. Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2015. They included miscellaneous carloads, up 12.7 percent to 10,204 carloads; grain, up 8.7 percent to 20,038 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, up 3.1 percent to 18,965 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2015 included coal, down 37 percent to 64,145 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 25.5 percent to 11,053 carloads; and forest products, down 13.1 percent to 10,025 carloads. North American rail volume for the week ending Apr. 30, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 331,394 carloads, down 12.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 330,622 intermodal units, down 7.3 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 662,016 carloads and intermodal units, down 10.1 percent. North American rail volume for the first 17 weeks of 2016 was 11,095,263 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.3 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 71,400 carloads for the week, down 11.3 percent, and 60,413 intermodal units, down 4.7 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 17 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 2,187,859 carloads, containers and trailers, down 6.6 percent. Mexican railroads reported 16,390 carloads for the week, up 3.2 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,768 intermodal units, up 9.8 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 17 weeks of 2016 was 451,652 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 0.2 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 5/04)

    LAUNCH OF A NEW PERMANENT EXHIBITION ON RAILWAY SAFETY AT EXPORAIL: Stop, Look, Listen: Incoming Train?, a new permanent exhibition on railway safety produced by Exporail, the Canadian Railway Museum in collaboration with Operation Lifesaver, was inaugurated today in the presence of public figures from the world of transportation and municipal life as well as from the culture, tourism and media industries. This initiative promoted by CN is intended primarily for children aged 3 to 7 years old and their parents. It aims to encourage families to be vigilant around railway tracks and to teach young children to safe practices near railway facilities. This project was made possible through financial support from CN as well as other players in the rail industry, including the Agence métropolitaine de transport (AMT). The exhibit, presented at Exporail's Hays train station as an interactive course with railroad-themed decor, facilitates the understanding and application of safety messages. Joined by their parents, young visitors take on the role of apprentice locomotive engineer, using their imagination, senses and motor skills to complete eight challenges. It teaches them to detect danger when approaching train tracks and to recognize the safety signs and devices surrounding them. The whole visit provides an interactive, educational, fun and preventative railway safety experience. The museological approach was developed by the teams at Exporail and Operation Lifesaver under the museographical direction of Carrier Communication & Design. According to C. Stephen Cheasley, President of the Canadian Railroad Historical Association and Exporail, "This exhibition is part of Exporail's educational mission and will provide our family clientele with an authentic railway safety experience on site. We kindly thank all our partners that supported the project, in particular the teams at Operation Lifesaver and CN for their collaboration in putting together this exhibition." The Stop, Look, Listen: Incoming Train? exhibition meets a need for increased public awareness with regard to trespassing on railway tracks. According to Sean Finn, Executive Vice-President, Corporate Services and Chief Legal Officer at CN: "Railway safety is a shared responsibility, but it is especially important to CN. On one hand, we want to save lives and prevent accidents. On the other, as a leading railway company, our success directly depends on our ability to transport our merchandise safely. This being public-rail safety week, we could not have asked for a better time to launch this exhibition that will encourage children and adults alike to adopt safe practices around railway tracks." Michael Bourque, President and CEO of the Railway Association of Canada, reiterated the importance of being vigilant around railway property: "Rail safety is our number one priority. Through this exhibition, the public will gain a better understanding of safe behaviour around railway tracks, and we are proud to be a part of that. I would like to thank CN for launching this initiative, for which I was very proud to act as the honourary president during the funding campaign." For his part, La Prairie MP Jean-Claude Poissant expressed his delight at the fact that this new children's exhibition will enhance visits to Exporail, which are already greatly enjoyed by the public. "I am especially pleased about this exhibition given that it addresses railway safety, a theme that is a key priority within our government." He also stressed the major role Exporail plays in the preservation and enhancement of Canadian railway history and in the area's cultural tourism. Exporail would like to thank the donors who made this project possible: CN, Agence métropolitaine de transport, Cando Rail Services, Montreal Port Authority, Sydney Coal Railway (Logistec Corporation), Ontario Southland Railway, Tshiuetin Rail Transportation and The Canadian Heartland Training Railway Services Inc. (Exporail - posted 5/03)

    FLORIDA EAST COAST RAILWAY DELIVERS FIRST INTERMODAL SHIPMENT PURCHASED ON EZ BUY: Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) has delivered the first intermodal shipment purchased through its new tool EZ Buy, an online price quote and booking system for customers to ‘buy’ door-to-door intermodal transactional freight connecting the Southeast U.S. to South Florida markets. Addison Transportation utilized EZ Buy and its price negotiation functionality to purchase and book their shipment. The shipment was delivered safely and on time from Murfreesboro, TN to Stuart, FL the week of April 12th. EZ Buy is easy for customers as it allows users to receive access to dynamic price quotes, while having the ability negotiate that price, and book an order in one quick easy transaction. “EZ Buy is very simple to use and allowed us to negotiate a fair price to have our freight quickly delivered from Tennessee to Florida, said Step Perfilev, Director Brokerage Development Addison Transportation. “We are very pleased with FECR’s on-time, safe delivery of our shipment and will employ EZ Buy in the near future.” EZ Buy offers the purchase of various service options and lanes between the Southeast U.S. markets of Atlanta, Charlotte and Jacksonville, and the South Florida markets of Fort Pierce, Fort Lauderdale and Miami, by simply entering a pick-up and delivery zip code or city within these serviceable areas. All freight purchases made through EZ Buy move reliably and efficiently across FECR’s premier door-to-door intermodal network utilizing FEC Highway Services (FECHS), the drayage and trucking arm of FECR. Seamless overnight service is provided between North and South Florida, and two-day service connects South Florida markets and the Southeast U.S. markets of Atlanta and Charlotte. “We are pleased to offer this unique system to shippers and are thrilled to have had Addison Transportation as our first official customer to purchase through the online tool, said Jim Hertwig, President and CEO Florida East Coast Railway. “FECR will continue to implement innovative technology like EZ Buy to enrich our customers experience.” (FEC, Alex Mayes - posted 5/03)

    BLET AND UTU REJECTED TENTATIVE CONTRACTS WITH NJ TRANSIT: Both the UTU Local 60, representing conductors, and the BLET, representing locomotive engineers, have rejected a tentative agreement with NJ Transit concerning a new contract. The new contract would have granted a 21% retroactive salary increase, while requiring employees to contribute up to $160 per month for health insurance coverage. According to NJ Transit spokeswoman Nancy Snyder "The two unions representing the conductors and engineers have the right, under the Federal Railway Labor Act, to request the resumption of negotiations. In the event the two unions make that request, NJ Transit will meet with them. Under the earlier agreements, there is an additional 60 day cooling off period in effect now, through the end of June, that precludes strikes or lockouts." Snyder had mentioned that both ratification votes failed by narrow margins. She also stated "Although NJ Transit is disappointed in these two rejections, it is heartened that all 14 other unions ratified their contracts by significant majorities. These 14 contracts have been finally approved by the Board of NJ Transit and are now final and in effect." (NJ.com, Randy Kotuby - posted 5/02)

    MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR BAKER REVIEWS PROGRESS OF MBTA INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENTS: Governor Charlie Baker today visited a Keolis work site in Ashland to review the progress on infrastructure upgrades the MBTA is making as part of a larger effort the MBTA, its Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) and leadership are making to improve service, access, accountability and reliability for riders and taxpayers. In Ashland and along the Framingham-Worcester Commuter Rail Line, the MBTA is replacing over 26,000 rail ties between March and early June, to allow more efficient travel and lift speed restrictions due to heat that have been in place since the MBTA obtained the line in 2012. To date, over 10,000 of the 26,000 ties along the line have been installed and put the project three weeks ahead of schedule. "Riders and taxpayers deserve and depend on a cost-effective and world-class transit system that can get them to work, school or wherever they need to be in a safe and timely way," said Governor Baker. "Since last winter, the MBTA and its new leadership have undertaken a renewed focus on the important work of reducing costs and investing in infrastructure improvements to the core system that will ultimately mean more reliable public transit for commuters." The MBTA has invested over $600 million this fiscal year for State of Good Repair deferred maintenance, including an $83 million winter resiliency program, system-wide station improvements, and track, signal, and power system upgrades and the MBTA's Fiscal Year 2016 capital investment plan calls for over $1.05 billion in long-term infrastructure, vehicle and station upgrades, including 325 new busses to replace the MBTA fleet. Additionally, a $104 million effort to refurbish 86 Green Line trolley cars is underway and the MBTA has hired a new Chief Procurement Officer to ensure timely and cost-effective investments. "Access to reliable transportation plays a crucial role in the lives of people throughout the Commonwealth, and while we still have much work to do, the Baker-Polito Administration, MassDOT and the MBTA remain dedicated to the goal of improving the transit system for riders," said MassDOT Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. As part of the winter resiliency work, nearly 70,000 linear feet of brand new third rail between JFK/UMass Station and Quincy on the Red Line and more than 36,000 linear feet of heater element infrastructure that includes conduit, wiring, and junction boxes have been installed to support the Red Line's third rail heating systems. Along the Orange Line, more than 200,000 linear feet of new wiring for third rail heating and 5,321 linear feet of snow fencing have been installed. "We continue to invest capital dollars to improve services for our riders, including the refurbishing of Green Line trolley cars and winter resiliency work to reduce weather impacts on the Red and Orange lines," said MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola. "This work is essential to preserving the integrity of our vehicles and service." In June 2015, Governor Charlie Baker appointed a Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) to help oversee the system's operations and finances and increased the MBTA's direct aid in his Fiscal Year 2016 budget by 50% to $187 million, a historic level continued into Fiscal Year 2017. The FMCB, MassDOT and MBTA have since increased the MBTA's capital spend capacity to a record $799 million in Fiscal Year 2015 and made progress in reducing the Fiscal Year 2017 budget deficit from $242 million to $80 million; increasing own-source revenue by $10 million; reducing employee overtime hours and costs by over 50% with new leave and attendance policies; reducing dropped bus trips by 40% and energy costs by $12.5 million. The MBTA is the fifth-largest transit agency in the U.S., serving over 1 million passengers a day. (MBTA- posted 4/29)

    FRA ANNOUNCES $25 MILLION AVAILABLE FOR RAIL INFRASCTURE SAFETY UPGRADE: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced that it is accepting applications from local governments, states and railroads for $25 million in competitive grants to increase rail safety.  Applicants can request funds for safety improvements to railroad infrastructure, including railroad crossings, track, tunnels, bridges, yards and other areas.  The funding is made available from the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act that funds DOT. “As the country’s population increases, rail will play a larger role in transporting more people and more freight.  To do that safely, we must invest in our rail infrastructure,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “These funds will help address some of the improvements that are essential for safe, reliable, and efficient railroad operations, and I encourage applications that achieve the maximum benefits possible with this limited funding.” FRA will accept applications until 5 PM EDT on June 14, 2016.  “To safely move tons of freight and millions of passengers each day in this country, we need to continually invest in safety. These dollars will help get us closer to that goal,” FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg said. “We hope to receive applications that can make these limited funds go as far as possible.” The Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvements Grant program can fund safety improvements to railroad infrastructure, but the focus of a project must be safety improvements.  This includes the acquisition, improvement, or rehabilitation of intermodal facilities; improvements to track, bridges, and tunnels; upgrades to railroad crossings; and the separation of railroad crossings and roads. FRA requested a total of $2.3 billion for rail infrastructure safety upgrades as part of the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal. This includes $520 million for competitive local rail facilities and safety project grants and $1.8 billion for competitive rail infrastructure and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance grants. More details about this funding opportunity will be available on April 29 at www.grants.gov (FRA - posted 4/28)

    AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING APRIL 23, 2016: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Apr. 23, 2016. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 491,946 carloads and intermodal units, down 11.7 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending Apr. 23 were 230,599 carloads, down 17.1 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 261,347 containers and trailers, down 6.3 percent compared to 2015. Three of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2015. They were miscellaneous carloads, up 23.3 percent to 9,515 carloads; chemicals, up 1.6 percent to 30,858 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, up 1.3 percent to 19,138 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2015 included coal, down 40.1 percent to 58,837 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 24.9 percent to 11,348 carloads; and grain, down 7.9 percent to 18,340 carloads. For the first 16 weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,844,016 carloads, down 14.3 percent from the same point last year; and 4,109,691 intermodal units, down 0.2 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 16 weeks of 2016 was 7,953,707 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 7.6 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending Apr. 23, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 315,373 carloads, down 16.2 percent compared with the same week last year, and 333,142 intermodal units, down 5.4 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 648,515 carloads and intermodal units, down 11 percent. North American rail volume for the first 16 weeks of 2016 was 10,433,247 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.1 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 68,351 carloads for the week, down 16.3 percent, and 60,979 intermodal units, down 2.3 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 16 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 2,056,046 carloads, containers and trailers, down 6.5 percent. Mexican railroads reported 16,423 carloads for the week, down 0.1 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,816 intermodal units, down 0.7 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 16 weeks of 2016 was 423,494 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 0.6 percent from the same point last year. (AAR- posted 4/27)

    FAREWELL TO AEM-7 FANTRIP: Since 1980, the iconic AEM-7 electric locomotives have distinguished themselves carrying passengers between Washington, Philadelphia, New York, New Haven, Boston, Harrisburg and everywhere in between. Together with the introduction and growth of Acela Express, they have built on the legacies of the Pennsylvania and New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroads as the Northeast Corridor has expanded into the 21st century as a first-class passenger railroad. Now, after 37 years and over 220 million miles of service, they are being replaced by the new, advanced next-generation Siemens Cities Sprinter locomotives. It is time to give a proper sendoff to true workhorses of America's Passenger Railroad. On Saturday, June 18, 2016, Amtrak will salute these remarkable machines with a special Farewell to the AEM-7 Excursion. Be sure to join us and be part of a celebration of railroad history. The Trip: The special train will depart from Washington - Union Station, DC at 9:10 am, and operate north on the Northeast Corridor passing through Baltimore, Wilmington, and other intermediate cities to Philadelphia. (There will be no intermediate passenger station stops. An en route photo opportunity** is planned.) In Philadelphia, the train will be turned on the wye trackage near the Philadelphia Zoo, including the "New York & Pittsburgh Subway" and other connecting trackage in the Philadelphia terminal area not normally used by passenger trains. Passengers will then have the opportunity to detrain for a brief walking tour** of the shop facility that was so integral to the successful service of the AEM-7s and other electric locomotives dating back to the days of the legendary Pennsylvania Railroad. There will be photo opportunities with a variety of equipment during the stopover. At 3:45 pm, passengers will re-board the excursion train for the return trip south to Washington, DC. Arrival is scheduled for 5:40 pm. Boarding Instructions: Arrive at least 45 minutes prior to departure to fill out waivers. Liquor is not allowed onboard. The Special Train: The train is planned to consist of two AEM-7 locomotives, seven Amfleet-I coaches and two Amfleet-I food service cars. Besides the included box lunches, snack items will be available for purchase onboard. Tickets: Ticket price is $155 per adult, half-fare for children. Employee passes and other discount tickets are not valid on this train. Tickets are expected to go on sale on May 2, 2016. Ticket includes round-trip transportation on the excursion train from/to Washington; box lunch and souvenir lapel pin; **photo opportunities ; **walking tour of Wilmington Shop. ** Due to the unique access to railroad property not normally open to the public, participants must complete and sign this Entry on Property Release of Claim Form , and must wear proper footwear: e.g., no open-toed shoes, high heels, sandals, flip-flops, etc. Release form must be printed, signed and presented at train side. How to Book this Trip From the 'Buy Tickets' tab:
    • 1.Select One-Way.
    • 2.Enter Washington, DC - Union Station (WAS) in the From box.
    • 3.Enter AEM-7 Excursion Train, DC (AEM) in the To box.
    • 4.Select June 18, 2016 as the Depart date.
    • 5.Select the number of Adult or Child passengers. Maximum of 8.
    Passengers with disabilities should call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245) to book this trip. (Amtrak - posted 4/27)

    LIRR WEEKEND SERVICE TO GREENPORT & NORTH FORK RESUMES SATURDAY, APRIL 30: The Long Island Rail Road’s weekend service to Greenport and Long Island’s North Fork resumes Saturday, April 30 with trains running on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays through November 27. Surrounded by Peconic Bay and Long Island Sound, this part of the East End offers an easy-going, rural feel first noticed from the window of your LIRR double-decker train as it moves through a picturesque landscape that is the heart of Suffolk County’s wine country. There are more than 35 vineyards in this part of Long Island and the train trip takes you so close to the grapes that you actually transverse the Castello de Borghese Vineyard and its rural railroad crossing in the hamlet of Cutchogue. The Village of Greenport offers a delightful blend of small shops and waterfront restaurants and nearby Shelter Island is just a quick ferry ride away. Aquebogue, Jamesport, Laurel, Mattituck, New Suffolk, Peconic, Southold, East Marion and Orient are among the region’s other popular destinations. And at the tip of the fork are Orient Point County Park and Orient Beach State Park, both with fine beaches.
    • Traveling Eastbound from Penn Station on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays To get an early start, take the 9:12 a.m. from Penn Station to Ronkonkoma where a LIRR double decker train waits to transport you further east, stopping at Medford, Yaphank, Riverhead, Mattituck, Southold and arriving in Greenport in time for lunch at 12:02 p.m. A second train departs Penn Station at 2:12 p.m. taking the same route with your connecting train arriving in Greenport at 5:02 p.m.
    • Westbound from Greenport to Penn Station Trains leave Greenport at 1:11 p.m. and 6:11 p.m. making all stops to Ronkonkoma where customers can connect to a train continuing west to Jamaica and Penn Station.
    • For More Information View a Greenport timetable at http://web.mta.info/lirr/Timetable/Station2/RonkonkomaKO4.pdf or contact the LIRR’s Customer Service Center by calling 511, the New York State Travel Information Line, and say: Long Island Rail Road. If you are deaf or hearing impaired, use your preferred relay service provider for the free 711 relay to reach the LIRR at 511.
    ( MTA - posted 4/26)

    CN CELEBRATES 20 YEARS OF TRANSFORMATION CHANGE AT 2016 ANNUAL MEETING OF SHAREHOLDES: Claude Mongeau, president and chief executive officer of CN said today the company has made huge strides since its 1995 initial public share offering (IPO), transforming itself into a North American railway and true backbone of the economy. "CN's journey since its IPO is the story of a remarkable and uniquely successful business transformation," Mongeau told the company's annual meeting of shareholders here. Once an industry laggard based largely in Canada, CN today is the clear North American rail industry leader. Following five successful acquisitions, the company now efficiently spans eight Canadian provinces and 16 U.S. states, transporting more than C$250 billion worth of goods annually over a 20,000-route-mile network that reaches all three coasts on the continent. Mongeau said core financial measures attest to CN's superior record of efficiency, profitability and shareholder value-creation since the IPO:
    • The railway's operating ratio – a key measure of efficiency – in 2015 improved to a record 58.2 per cent from 89.4 per cent in 1994, the year before privatization, and has consistently been the best in the industry since 1998.
    • CN has generated almost 20 per cent average annual growth in adjusted diluted earnings per share since becoming a publicly-traded company.
    • From an initial value of C$2 billion in 1995, CN's market capitalization has increased several fold to stand at C$63 billion currently. Close to C$70 billion of capital gains and dividend distributions have been generated since the IPO for the benefit of loyal investors who rely on CN for the effective stewardship of their stock ownership.
    The privatization of CN 20 years ago was a pivotal policy decision by the Canadian government that gave impetus to a wave of broadly positive change and fundamental innovation. CN's uniquely successful business transformation unlocked significant and lasting value for all stakeholders involved, and it serves to underscore the importance of a vibrant commercial policy framework staying in place for the North American rail industry. "We are extremely proud of our transformational journey," Mongeau said. "Today we touch just about every sector of the economy, serving thousands of valued customers with high quality and reliable service at world-class freight rates. With the right policy framework in place, we will continue to fulfill the extraordinary promise of CN's business transformation with significant investments in our business and bold customer service innovation." (CN- posted 4/26)

    FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION CELEBRATES OPENING OF DENVER'S "TRAIN TO THE PLANE" COMMUTER RAIL LINE: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers today joined top Colorado officials to open the University of Colorado A Line commuter rail service from downtown Denver to Denver International Airport. The rail line is among the nation’s first transit projects built by a public-private partnership and represents an important milestone in an ambitious transit expansion plan for the eight-county metropolitan area. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and other officials were also on hand at the opening of the airport’s new station. “Denver-area residents decided more than a decade ago that a comprehensive transit system was important for their growing city, and this new rail extension to the airport will open the door to even greater opportunities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We commend them for their foresight, which will bring the Denver area the economic development and accessibility that come with a modern transit system.” The 2004 voter-approved FasTracks transit plan for Denver’s Regional Transportation District (RTD), one of the largest in the nation, is a $7 billion, multi-year program to build 122 miles of new commuter and light rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit service, and enhanced bus service, with many of the rail projects expected to be completed this year. The University of Colorado A Line connects Denver Union Station, which underwent a DOT-supported historic renovation in 2014, to the airport 23 miles away. A trip that would take motorists or city bus riders close to an hour has been halved with the new train service. “The Federal Transit Administration is proud to help Denver develop new travel options, continuing our agency’s support of the A Line commuter rail extension,” said FTA Acting Administrator Flowers. “The line creates a fast and efficient connection for residents of downtown Denver, South Denver and Aurora, as well as a strong foundation for strategic development along the corridor.” The University of Colorado A Line is part of the $2 billion Eagle Public-Private Partnership (P3) project, which includes the A Line, the under-construction Gold Line commuter rail project, a commuter rail maintenance facility, and electric-multi-unit vehicles. FTA is providing approximately $1 billion through its Capital Investment Grant Program, or 50 percent, toward the Eagle P3 set of projects. In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation also provided approximately $62 million in other funds. The remaining cost was covered by state and local sources, including the private contribution. Under the P3 arrangement, the private team agreed to fund a share of the project, assuming much of the risks, allowing RTD to minimize public costs for construction. In addition to a safety review by the Federal Railroad Administration, FTA reviewed and approved a safety checklist covering platforms, surrounding roads, and pedestrian improvements prior to the A Line opening. (FRA- posted 4/22)

    NORFOLK SOUTHERN REPORTS STRONG FIRST QUARTER RESULTS: Norfolk Southern Corporation(NSC) today reported financial results for first-quarter 2016. Net income for the quarter was $387 million, 25 percent higher compared with $310 million during the same period of 2015. Diluted earnings per share were $1.29, up 29 percent compared with $1.00 diluted earnings per share in the first quarter last year. “Our strong first-quarter results demonstrate the significant progress we are making in line with our strategic plan,” said Chairman, President, and CEO James A. Squires. “Since I became CEO in June, our team has been committed to streamlining operations, reducing expenses and maintaining superior customer service levels. Our focus on strengthening Norfolk Southern is yielding results, and the company is now on track to achieve productivity savings of about $200 million and an operating ratio below 70 in 2016. We are confident the continued execution of our strategic plan will deliver superior shareholder value by best positioning Norfolk Southern to succeed while ensuring the company is prepared to capture revenue and volume growth opportunities in 2016 and beyond.” As previously announced, Norfolk Southern is implementing a strategic plan to reduce costs, drive profitability, and enhance value for all Norfolk Southern shareholders.  Through this plan, the company expects to achieve annual productivity savings of more than $650 million by 2020 and an operating ratio below 65 percent by 2020. FIRST-QUARTER SUMMARY
    •     Railway operating revenues were $2.4 billion, 6 percent lower compared with the first quarter of 2015. Volume declined 2 percent, the result of lower coal volumes. Average revenue per unit decreased 3 percent as the effects of higher rates were more than offset by a $114 million, or 70 percent, decline in fuel surcharge revenues.  
    •      Merchandise revenues were $1.5 billion, 2 percent higher than the same period last year. Led by an 18 percent increase in automotive traffic, volume grew in all business groups except chemicals, which was impacted by fewer crude oil shipments due to low oil prices.  The five merchandise commodity groups reported the following year-over-year revenue results: Chemicals: $419 million, down 3 percent; Agriculture: $386 million, up 3 percent;   Metals/Construction: $300 million, down 3 percent; Automotive: $254 million, up 16 percent; and Paper/Forest: $190 million, up 3 percent
    •      Intermodal revenues were $522 million, down 12 percent compared with first quarter 2015. Volume was even for the quarter as growth in international volumes was offset by lower domestic volumes due to the restructuring of the company’s Triple Crown Services subsidiary.
    •        Coal revenues were $349 million, 23 percent lower compared with first quarter of 2015. Mild winter temperatures, low natural gas prices, and a weak global export market combined to decrease volume by 23 percent year-over-year.
    •          Railway operating expenses decreased $264 million, or 13 percent, to $1.7 billion compared with same period of 2015, due to lower fuel costs and targeted expense reduction initiatives.
    •          Income from railway operations was $723 million, 19 percent higher compared with the same period in 2015.
    •        The operating ratio, or operating expenses as a percentage of revenues, was 70.1 percent, a first-quarter record, and an 8 percent improvement compared with first-quarter 2015.
    (Norfolk Southern - posted 4/21)

    TRAILS AND RAILS PROGRAM ADDS ROUTE FROM NEW YORK CITY TO WASHINGTON, DC: The National Park Service (NPS), in partnership with Amtrak, has added the New York to Washington, D.C. Saturday morning route as part of its Trails and Rails program. NPS volunteers will assist passengers with information about national parks and monuments on Saturday mornings aboard Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 153, leaving New York Penn Station at 8:05 A.M. and aboard Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 152, leaving Washington Union Station at 8:10 A.M. Afternoon service can vary but the program is typically offered on select mid-afternoon trains. Volunteers will help passengers “Find Your Park” among the more than 80 NPS sites and even more state and local parks along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. Volunteers will serve as NPS ‘concierges,’ ready to let passengers know what parks they can visit along the route. The Trails and Rails Guides can also assist passengers as they connect to public transportation, provide alternate routes and schedules. Any passenger with a tablet or smartphone may take this information with them. Service between New York and Washington began on Saturday, April 9. Joshua Laird, commissioner of National Parks of New York Harbor, noted that 50 million people live along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. “In this Centennial year of the National Park Service,” he said, “Trails and Rails will help connect passengers with the parks which are all around them, including the ten national park sites in New York Harbor. Trails and Rails is a smart program that reaches park audiences in unconventional ways. Amtrak is a great, green way to visit your national parks in New York City, in the nation’s capital or anywhere in between.” “Amtrak is proud to partner with the National Park Service and congratulates the agency on its centennial,” said Mike DeCataldo, Amtrak Senior Vice President and General Manager of Northeast Corridor Operations. “America’s Railroad is pleased to help connect the citizens of our great country with some of our finest treasures – our national parks. The free service these dedicated National Park Service volunteers are providing to our customers is an example of the kind of experience that makes Amtrak the smarter way to travel.” Since 2000, Amtrak and the NPS have partnered through the Trails and Rails program. In 2016, the program covered 25 segments on 17 routes nationwide. The Northeast Regional route from Washington, D.C. to New York City has been staffed by volunteers since 2012. The Adirondack routes in northern New York are some of the older Trails and Rails routes in the Northeast. In 2015, 741 volunteers contacted approximately half a million passengers. The program is still training new volunteers. If you wish to become a Trails and Rails guide along the route from New York to Washington, D.C., email TrailsandRails.npnh@gmail.com (Amtrak - posted 4/21)

    AMTRAK NATIONAL TIMETABLE... FAREWELL!: For several years we have simultaneously produced the Amtrak System Timetable in printed form and as an electronic downloadable document housed on Amtrak.com. The decision has been made to discontinue production of the printed Amtrak System Timetable effective immediately. The final printed timetable is the January 2016 Winter/Spring version recently printed. The reasons for this decision are:
    • Usage and demand for the printed document have steadily declined over the past five years.
    • Surveys have revealed that few customers want or use the printed System Timetable and expressed a preference to access information on line.
    • Schedules, policies and programs are ever changing and it’s impossible to keep the printed document accurate and up-to-date.
    • Reducing print is financially responsible
    • Reducing print is environmentally responsible
    • All Amtrak timetables, including the System Timetable are housed within and may be accessed on Amtrak.com
    • At this time many of the smaller individual route and corridor wallet cards and panels will continue to be printed.
    (Bill Chaplik, John Kilbride, Amtrak - posted 4/20)

    NORFOLK SOUTHERN TO REDUCE OPERATIONS IN KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE: Norfolk Southern Corp. announced today that it will reduce train operations at its Knoxville, Tenn., rail yard, effective May 1. The action is in response to lower traffic volumes and is consistent with the company’s ongoing implementation of its strategic plan to enhance operating efficiencies, reduce costs, drive profitability, and support long-term growth. NS remains on track to achieve its previously announced annual expense savings of more than $650 million and an operating ratio below 65 percent by 2020. NS plans to idle switching operations at the rail yard, where freight cars from inbound trains are sorted by destination and assembled into outbound trains. As part of the change in operations, train traffic will decrease at the yard, reducing the need for personnel and infrastructure associated with train operations and maintenance activities. The Knoxville terminal will continue to serve as a hub for through-train operations and provide safe, reliable service to local customers, and NS has developed an operating plan to minimize any customer impact. Knoxville will continue to serve as headquarters for the company’s Central Division, which includes 1,100 track miles primarily in Tennessee and Kentucky. Although approximately 135 positions will be impacted by the reduction of operations at the yard, nearly 300 employees in Knoxville will continue to support division operations and manage yard traffic. NS will assist impacted employees by offering them opportunities to fill job vacancies as they become available across the system. NS currently employs more than 1,570 people across Tennessee with nearly 850 miles of track across the state, intermodal terminals in Memphis, and a major rail classification yard and locomotive shop in Chattanooga. Today’s announcement is part of other recent initiatives in NS’ five-year strategic plan to implement cost control initiatives and network improvements, including:
    • Consolidating two operating divisions in West Virginia and Virginia, idling a major Lake Erie coal terminal, and discontinuing operations on some coal routes in Central Appalachia, all in response to changes in the coal business;
    •   Restructuring the company’s Triple Crown Services subsidiary;
    • Realigning operating regions from three to two;
    •   Consolidating corporate office locations.
    (Norfolk Southern - posted 4/20)

    AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING APRIL 16, 2016: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Apr. 16, 2016. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 499,779 carloads and intermodal units, down 10.1 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending Apr. 16 were 240,462 carloads, down 12.9 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 259,317 containers and trailers, down 7.4 percent compared to 2015. Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2015. They included miscellaneous carloads, up 22.8 percent to 9,823 carloads; grain, up 14.3 percent to 20,784 carloads; and chemicals, up 3.4 percent to 32,355 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2015 included coal, down 36.5 percent to 63,090 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 27.7 percent to 10,887 carloads; and forest products, down 7.5 percent to 9,963 carloads. For the first 15 weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,613,417 carloads, down 14.1 percent from the same point last year; and 3,848,344 intermodal units, up 0.2 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 15 weeks of 2016 was 7,461,761 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 7.3 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending Apr. 16, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 327,138 carloads, down 12.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 329,899 intermodal units, down 6.7 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 657,037 carloads and intermodal units, down 9.8 percent. North American rail volume for the first 15 weeks of 2016 was 9,784,732 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.8 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 70,820 carloads for the week, down 13.7 percent, and 59,305 intermodal units, down 4.8 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 15 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 1,926,716 carloads, containers and trailers, down 6.2 percent. Mexican railroads reported 15,856 carloads for the week, down 5.6 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,277 intermodal units, up 0.2 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 15 weeks of 2016 was 396,255 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 0.6 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 4/20)

    SUSTAINABLE TRACK INFRASTRUCTURE COMES TO THE STATEN ISLAND RAILWAY: As Earth Day approaches and as part of recommendations from a blue-ribbon commission tasked with reducing the impact of public transit on the environment, MTA New York City Transit has installed approximately 6,500 sustainable composite ties in a major Staten Island Railway (SIR) track renewal project to repair significant damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. The St. George SIR terminal is undergoing a major track and switch reconstruction project as the railway continues to recover from Sandy-related damage. Prior to the storm in October 2012, a terminal rehabilitation project had been planned to repair and update signals, switches and track. Sandy made the project critical when storm surge flooded SIR tracks and the entire St. George yard complex with corrosive saltwater, highlighting areas where flood protection or protective infrastructure needed to be installed. The saltwater significantly damaged all 12 tracks, multiple switches, equipment and cables, as well as facilities and the train control tower. “With careful planning and foresight, we took this opportunity to not only make critical Sandy-related repairs but to do it better using environmentally friendly materials,” said Doug Connett, Vice President and Chief Officer for Staten Island Railway. “Switching out thousands of wooden rail ties to composite ties is a boon to the environment and our bottom line.” NYC Transit started the St. George renewal project in September 2014, with plans to integrate resiliency measures while replacing outdated or damaged equipment and making repairs. Those resiliency measures include raising signal equipment to 72 inches above the tracks, raising platforms for battery and generator enclosures and installing a new third rail system. Repairs at St. George include the replacement of 12,000 linear feet of track and installation of a total of approximately 7,500 high-density plastic rail ties. The ties, which are made of 100 percent recycled materials, were manufactured by Axion International. Traditional railroad ties are made of wood and need to be replaced when they splinter, rot or disintegrate over time due to exposure to severe weather. Plastic composite ties, however, can withstand weather elements and insect or fungus infestation. In particular, composite ties such as the Axion ties being installed by NYC Transit will not absorb moisture or leach toxic chemicals into the environment during a major flooding event similar to Sandy’s record storm surge. The change in track tie materials from traditional wood to high-density plastic stems from a recommendation made by the MTA’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Sustainability, which released a report in 2009 on ways to operate a greener transit system throughout the New York area. The commission’s final report made nearly 100 recommendations to reduce the MTA’s carbon footprint while generating savings and economic growth, one of which included a recommendation that the MTA expand procurement of sustainable railroad ties across all rail agencies. The $105 million St. George Terminal project is taking place with no service interruptions to customers and is 55% complete with composite tie installation to be completed by June 1. A video on the project is available on the MTA YouTube channel. (MTA - posted 4/19)

    AMTRAK AND THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE PARTNER TO OFFER UNIQUE SUMMER ADVENTURES : Just in time for families making summer travel plans, Amtrak is partnering with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service to expand the popular Trails & Rails program and help Americans connect with one of our nation’s true treasures – the national park system. With convenient connections to more than 260 national park lands, monuments and historic sites, America’s Railroad® is the smarter way to see America’s natural beauty. Amtrak connects customers to some of the most famous national parks in the country including Glacier, Grand Canyon, Yosemite and more. “A train ride does more than just transport people from point A to point B; it affords customers time to reconnect,” said Amtrak President & CEO Joe Boardman. “Whether that’s a card game, a meal together in the dining or café car, or a quiet moment enjoying the beautiful scenery out the window, Amtrak is the smarter way for America’s families to travel to our national parks, giving them a chance to spend time together in a way they might not in a car or on an airplane.” As part of the National Park Service’s 100th Anniversary celebration, Amtrak is offering a 75 percent discount to fourth-graders, with the purchase of one adult ticket, to promote family travel to national parks through August 31. The discount is part of the “Every Kid in a Park” initiative implemented by President Barack Obama to help young people connect to the outdoors (some restrictions apply; more information here). “From the earliest days of the National Park Service, railways have helped Americans discover the natural, historical and cultural wonders of our national parks,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “Amtrak’s new offer for families with Every Kid in a Park pass-holding fourth graders will help a new generation discover everything that a national park adventure can be.” The Every Kid in a Park initiative is part of an overall strategy to connect young people to the outdoors. The program allows fourth graders nationwide to go to www.everykidinapark.gov and obtain a pass for free entry for them and their families to more than 2,000 federally managed lands and waters nationwide. Current third graders can get their fourth-grade passes starting September 1, 2016. More Northeast Corridor customers can now take advantage of the Trails and Rails program, recently expanded between New York and Washington, where volunteers walk the train providing information on national parks and other points of interest along the route. Most long distance trains, including the Empire Builder, California Zephyr and Southwest Chief, already feature volunteer guides who are well-versed on the natural and cultural heritage sites passing by the windows of the train. Amtrak Vacations also offers more than 50 national park packages across the United States and Canada – Amtrak’s top-selling vacations – which include hotel accommodations, sightseeing excursions, activities, dining and more. Passengers can visit Amtrak.com . to plan their trip, check out Amtrak’s generous baggage policy, and expanded pets program, as well as information on other deals and discounts. (Amtrak - posted 4/18)

    SEPTA STATES "TRACKS ARE FOR TRAINS, NOT PHOTO SHOOTS": There's something about the rails that draws photographers and videographers - professional and amateur - looking for that beautiful backdrop. "When it comes to train tracks, there is no picture-perfect setting," said Scott Sauer, SEPTA's Assistant General Manager of System Safety. "In fact, if you take photos or shoot video on the tracks, that picture or film might be the last footage you take. Tracks are for trains. They are not photo or movie studios." With the better weather upon us, residents are taking out their cameras and smartphones to capture the colorful spring scenery. SEPTA is warning all photographers to stay away from train tracks. "The place for selfies, family, engagement, wedding and school photos might be a studio or a park, but not the rail right-of-way," said Sauer, who is also a board member for Operation Lifesaver Inc., a national organization dedicated to rail safety. "No one should ever assume that there is a time when tracks are completely clear of train traffic. A train can come on any track at any time in any direction." According to a recent study by Priceonomics, railroad tracks are the world's third most deadly place to take selfies. "The majority of train-related incidents are preventable," said Sauer. "By entering the track area for photo and video sessions, people are putting themselves in imminent and unnecessary danger. The picture is not worth the risk." Entering the track area for any reason is both dangerous and illegal - it's trespassing. Engineers are not expecting trespassers to be in the train's right-of-way. Sauer adds that, even if an engineer sees a trespasser on tracks, the train cannot come to an immediate stop. "You can't slam on the brakes and expect a vehicle that large to stop instantaneously," said Sauer. "And trains can't swerve around a person or object in its path." SEPTA also warns photographers and videographers that taking photos and video on platforms can also be dangerous. "Tripods can be tripping hazards to passengers entering and exiting trains," said Sauer. "Lights on cameras and flashes can also be a distraction to or momentarily blind engineers." SEPTA welcomes photographers and videographers who safely take photos or video of the Authority's vehicles and stations. For information on SEPTA's film and video policy and shooting photos and video, contact SEPTA Media Relations at 215-580-7842 or click here. (SEPTA - posted 4/18)

    LONG ISLAND RAIL ROAD OPENS NEW ELLISON AVENUE BRIDGE TO THE PUBLIC: Long Island Rail Road President Patrick A. Nowakowski was joined today by State Senator Jack M. Martins, State Assemblyman Michael Montesano, Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano, Nassau County Legislator Laura Schaefer and Village of Westbury Mayor Peter I. Cavallaro for the opening of the new Ellison Ave. Bridge in Westbury, a $17.5 million project delivered by the LIRR right on schedule. At a ribbon cutting ceremony, Nowakowski said: “We want to thank Sen. Martins, Assemblyman Montesano, County Executive Mangano, Legislator Schaefer, Mayor Cavallaro and the residents of this community for their cooperation as we planned and executed this project and their patience during this year-long process. The MTA and Long Island Rail Road are proud to deliver a new bridge, one that you can be confident will provide safe and convenient passage for pedestrians and motor vehicles for many decades to come.” State Senator Jack M. Martins said: "Today the community says goodbye and good riddance to the old Ellison Avenue Bridge, rated the worst bridge on Long Island, and cuts the ribbon on a new, state of the art bridge that will service the area for generations. Congratulations to the MTA LIRR for completing this project on time and on budget, the Village of Westbury for their tireless advocacy, and most importantly the community for their patience and persistence. The light at the end of the tunnel is finally here.” Assemblyman Michael Montesano said: "The new and improved Ellison Avenue Bridge was long awaited by residents of the Westbury community. As a central route in Nassau County, it was critical to tackle this undertaking, and I am extremely appreciative of the hard work and commitment that has gone into this project.” Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said: “Replacement of the Ellison Avenue Bridge has helped improve our local quality of life for Westbury residents while increasing public safety for pedestrians and drivers alike. Nassau County is pleased to have assisted in this project and I thank Senator Martins and the LIRR for ensuring its completion.” Nassau County Legislator Laura Schaefer said: “I am extremely pleased to see that the Ellison Avenue bridge is reopening. I want to thank Mayor Cavallaro and the Village of Westbury for seeing this project through with the LIRR as the bridge has needed this reconstruction for some time now and is a very important thoroughfare for so many residents of the Village of Westbury and beyond. “ Village of Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro said: “The condition of the Ellison Avenue Bridge has been a major concern for the greater Westbury community for several decades, and the replacement of the bridge was long overdue. The residents of the Village and surrounding communities are happy, relieved and grateful that this project has finally been completed, on time and on budget I am deeply appreciative to Senator Jack Martins for working hard to make sure that the LIRR finally undertook this important infrastructure improvement. I want to thank LIRR President Nowakowski and his staff for the open, transparent and efficient manner in which they conducted the project.” The LIRR’s Ellison Ave. Bridge Replacement Project got underway in March 2015 when the Railroad closed and later demolished the old bridge. It promised a new span over the LIRR’s busy Main Line would be open to the public by April 2016 and that the work would proceed with as little impact on train service and the community as possible. The weekend demolition last May and installation of a major portion of the new bridge in October by the contractor Posillico Civil Inc. of Farmingdale L.I., still makes for good viewing on You Tube and illustrates the advantages of the design-build process championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. With the bridge back in service, Posillico still has two months of remaining work, including fencing, anti-graffiti proofing, grading & landscaping and utility connections. The road will remain open during the performance of this work, but will require occasional sidewalk or shoulder closures and lane shifts. The original Ellison Ave. Bridge was a pedestrian overpass built by the Long Island Rail Road in 1896, then rebuilt as a two-lane roadway with sidewalks in 1941. In recent years, the structure and roadway had deteriorated significantly and the steel plates that covered the holes made for a bumpy ride. The project, funded by the MTA Capital Program, is also important because 40 percent of the Railroad’s daily ridership passes along the Main Line Corridor. Another innovative aspect of the project was that it was carried out under a unique Project-Labor Agreement negotiated by the LIRR and the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk designed to reduce labor costs while ensuring that jobs go to local construction workers. (MTA- posted 4/15)

    TEAMSTERS: SAFETY CULTURE AT AMTRAK MUST BE CHANGED: The following is a statement from Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa and Freddie Simpson, President of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) of the Teamsters Rail Conference on the recent collision between an Amtrak train and maintenance of way equipment which resulted in the deaths of two workers outside of Philadelphia. "We fully support our brothers and sisters at the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division who are calling on Amtrak for a complete overhaul of their safety culture and performance. As Teamsters, we are saddened that two union brothers lost their lives in the collision—a collision which may have been prevented had Amtrak not neglected calls from the BMWED and other rail unions for proper training, enforcement of safety protocols, and a safety culture based upon collaboration and not intimidation," Hoffa said. "All across America there is a vital need to improve and rebuild our transportation infrastructure. The members of the BMWED play a critical role in the work which must be performed to improve our nation's tracks, bridges and related railroad infrastructure. Work on rail lines carrying passenger trains and freight cargo is some of the most dangerous and demanding work in the nation and we urge Amtrak to heed our call to work with BMWED and strengthen safety training and procedures so that fatalities such as this can be prevented," Simpson said. (BMWED, Randy Kotuby- posted 4/15)

    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION ANNOUNCES $20.5 MILLION TO IMPROVE ACCESS TO TRANSIT IN COMMUNITIES AROUND THE COUNTRY: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced that $20.5 million in competitive grant funds is available to support planning efforts that improve access to public transit in communities across the country. The grant funds are provided through FTA’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Planning Pilot Program. A Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) appears in today’s Federal Register . “Public transit plays a critical role in connecting Americans to jobs, education and opportunity,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “When we plan housing, jobs and services centered around transit lines, we build a strong foundation for the economic development that our growing nation needs – and reduce pollution, congestion and carbon emissions at the same time.” The TOD Planning Pilot Program provides grants for comprehensive planning in communities that are developing or implementing major new public transportation projects. Last year, FTA awarded $19.5 million to 21 projects in 17 metropolitan areas around the country. The grants supported comprehensive planning efforts such as conducting an economic analysis for communities along a planned light rail extension in Durham, North Carolina; developing updated zoning codes, an infrastructure assessment and affordable housing plans for areas along a planned streetcar route in Sacramento, California; and developing land-use plans along a corridor where a bus rapid transit system is planned in Lansing, Michigan. “This funding opportunity will help communities plan development that creates jobs, encourages transit use, and gives residents convenient access to work, school, medical care, housing and other vital services,” said FTA Senior Advisor Carolyn Flowers. “Transit-oriented development helps ensure that the benefits of new transit lines extend throughout a community.” FTA’s TOD Pilot Program helps advance President Obama’s vision for a 21st century, clean transportation system. In this year’s budget, the President laid out this plan, which calls for increasing Federal investments in surface transportation by 50% while reforming the investments we already make to help reduce carbon pollution, cut oil consumption, and create new jobs. These investments would make transportation easier for American families, reduce carbon pollution, and strengthen our economy. And they would be fully paid for by a combination of a new $10 per barrel fee on oil, which would be paid for by oil companies and pro-growth business tax reform. FTA’s TOD Pilot Program was established under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) and amended by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. The program helps localities plan improved access to transit, jobs, education and services, and helps revitalize communities by attracting new opportunities, jobs, and housing. In addition, the program encourages inclusive communities and seeks planning solutions to reduce residential and commercial displacement that can result from gentrification. It seeks to connect people to opportunities through multimodal access to transit stations and to enhance connectivity of disadvantaged populations to essential services. To be eligible for the Pilot Program, the planning work must be associated with a transit project for which the local community intends to seek funding through FTA’s Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Program or that recently received funding through the CIG Program. The CIG Program is FTA’s primary grant program for funding major transit capital investments, including heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, bus rapid transit and core capacity projects. (USDOT - posted 4/14)

    FEDERAL TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION UPDATES CONGRESS ON WMATA METRORAIL SAFETY OVERSIGHT: Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) reported to Congress that it has conducted more than 100 inspections and directed millions in Federal funds to support safety priorities in its first six months of temporary safety oversight of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (WMATA) Metrorail system. FTA Senior Advisor Carolyn Flowers testified before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform panel; below are excerpts from her written testimony. “In a short time, FTA has provided more thorough safety oversight over WMATA than it has ever received,” Flowers stated. “We all want Metrorail safety to improve and we want change now.” In October 2015, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx instructed FTA to assume direct and temporary safety oversight of WMATA Metrorail from the ineffective Tri-State Oversight Committee (TOC). This role continues only until Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia set up a new State Safety Oversight Agency (SSOA) – something the three jurisdictions have been discussing since April 2010. “We are now in April of 2016, and very little action has taken place to move towards a fully functioning SSOA. It is long past time for Virginia, Maryland, and DC to create a new safety oversight body for WMATA Metrorail,” Flowers said. Flowers explained that WMATA is responsible for the safe operation of the Metrorail system, including the performance of daily inspections and preventative maintenance. The current and temporary role of FTA is to verify WMATA’s progress on implementing Corrective Action Plans and remedial actions, and to ensure that WMATA is effectively carrying out its own critical maintenance, operations, and safety training programs, until the three jurisdictions set up a new SSOA. In the six month period from October 2015 to April 2016, the FTA WMATA Safety Oversight Office has conducted 107 inspections that cover track, the Rail Operations Control Center, vehicle and systems maintenance, automatic train control, and traction power. During these inspections, FTA identified 229 defects requiring WMATA to implement 66 remedial actions. FTA is currently in the midst of a three-part safety blitz [external link] focused on red signal overruns, track integrity and rail vehicle securement. A final report of this safety blitz is expected to be made public in early summer 2016. FTA is also leading WMATA accident investigations as warranted and working to close out more than 100 open accident investigation reports it assumed from the TOC. FTA is exercising its authority to direct WMATA’s use of Federal funds to prioritize safety projects and purposes, particularly in support of the corrective actions arising from the FTA Safety Management Inspection conducted in the spring of 2015, safety recommendations from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and state of good repair infrastructure improvements. For example, FTA is requiring that WMATA hold in reserve $20 million in FY 2016 Federal funds for urgent safety issues that may arise, rather than expending those funds on two non-safety related projects as WMATA originally requested. Furthermore, Flowers said that until Virginia, Maryland and DC create a new State Safety Oversight Agency, FTA is the best and most appropriate agency to provide temporary Federal safety oversight of WMATA Metrorail. “We have the knowledge, expertise and enforcement powers to do the job. Our current safety rulemaking framework provides us with the authority to take action that will protect the safety of transit riders and workers in our Nation’s Capital and elsewhere in the country,” she stressed. “With WMATA, FTA is fulfilling the short-term need while at the same time requiring the development of an effective State Safety Oversight Agency.” The U.S. Congress first granted FTA the authority to oversee the safety of public transportation with the passage of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) in 2012. Previous to this, Congress authorized transit safety oversight at the state level beginning with the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in 1991, pursuant to the NTSB’s recommendation in a report entitled Safety Study: Oversight of Rail Rapid Transit Safety. In 2015, Congress strengthened FTA safety oversight with the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST), by providing explicit authority for FTA to assume the role of a non-functioning State Safety Oversight Agency, on a temporary and expedient basis, and clarifying FTA’s ability to withhold FTA financial assistance or direct the use of federal funding for safety purposes. A copy of the full written testimony can be found here . (FTA - posted 4/13)

    AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIN TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING APRIL 9, 2016: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending Apr. 9, 2016. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 479,059 carloads and intermodal units, down 14.1 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending Apr. 9 were 229,704 carloads, down 20 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 249,355 containers and trailers, down 7.8 percent compared to 2015. Two of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2015. They were miscellaneous carloads, up 20.7 percent to 9,274 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, up 0.9 percent to 17,986 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2015 included coal, down 44.9 percent to 58,166 carloads; petroleum and petroleum products, down 22.3 percent to 11,910 carloads; and grain, down 20.5 percent to 18,871 carloads. For the first 14 weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,372,955 carloads, down 14.2 percent from the same point last year; and 3,589,027 intermodal units, up 0.8 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 14 weeks of 2016 was 6,961,982 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 7.1 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending Apr. 9, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 315,661 carloads, down 18 percent compared with the same week last year, and 317,414 intermodal units, down 7.4 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 633,075 carloads and intermodal units, down 13 percent. North American rail volume for the first 14 weeks of 2016 was 9,127,695 carloads and intermodal units, down 6.6 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 70,683 carloads for the week, down 13.1 percent, and 56,907 intermodal units, down 8.1 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 14 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 1,796,591 carloads, containers and trailers, down 6 percent. Mexican railroads reported 15,274 carloads for the week, down 8.4 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,152 intermodal units, up 7.2 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 14 weeks of 2016 was 369,122 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 0.4 percent from the same point last year. . (AAR - posted 4/13)

    CSX ANNOUNCES FIRST QUARTER 2016 NET EARNINGS: CSX Corporation (Nasdaq: CSX) today announced first quarter 2016 net earnings of $356 million, or $0.37 per share, down from $442 million, or $0.45 per share, in the same period of last year.  “As we managed through the impact of the continued coal decline and other market forces during the first quarter, CSX took aggressive actions to improve efficiency, reduce costs and streamline resources across the network to further reshape the company,” said Michael J. Ward, chairman and chief executive officer.  Revenue for the quarter declined 14 percent, reflecting lower fuel recovery, a 5 percent volume decline and a $95 million year-over-year decline in other revenue related to payments received in 2015 from customers that did not meet their minimum volume commitments. These impacts more than offset pricing gains across nearly all markets from an improving service product and volume growth in automotive, intermodal, minerals and waste and equipment.  Expenses decreased 12 percent, driven by efficiency gains of $133 million and lower volume-related costs of $64 million as CSX reduced its cost structure in the face of the challenging market environment. In addition, the reduction in the price of fuel decreased fuel expense by $78 million for the quarter.  Including the impact of these cost savings and the decline in other revenue, operating income decreased $139 million to $704 million. At the same time, the operating ratio increased 90 basis points year-over-year to 73.1 percent. “While CSX delivered strong efficiency gains in the first quarter, we continue to expect full-year earnings per share to decline in 2016 as a result of ongoing coal headwinds combined with other market fundamentals,” said Ward. “At the same time, CSX remains focused on meeting and exceeding customer expectations while driving further efficiency savings to maximize shareholder value and achieve a mid-60s operating ratio longer term.” (CSX - posted 4/12)

    CANADIAN PACIFIC TERMINATES EFFORTS TO MERGE WITH NORFOLK SOUTHERN: Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. today announced that it has terminated efforts to merge with Norfolk Southern Corp. (NS), including the withdrawal of a resolution asking NS shareholders to vote in favour of good-faith negotiations between the two companies. No further financial offers or overtures to meet with the NS board of directors are planned at this time. CP proposed the creation of a true end-to-end railroad that would enhance competition, ease freight congestion now and into the future, improve service to shippers, better support the economy and generate significant shareholder value for both companies. "We have long recognized that consolidation is necessary for the North American rail industry to meet the demands of a growing economy, but with no clear path to a friendly merger at this time, we will turn all of our focus and energy to serving our customers and creating long term value for CP shareholders," said CP CEO E. Hunter Harrison. CP has a proven approach – precision railroading – that delivers superior results for customers, employees, communities and shareholders. CP will continue to focus on providing the best service, controlling costs, optimizing assets, operating safely and developing the best team of railroaders in the industry. (CP, Randy Kotuby - posted 4/11)

    NORFOLK SOUTHERN COMMENTS ON CANADIAN PACIFIC'S WITHDRAWL OF ITS PROPOSAL TO ACQUIRE THE COMPANY AND RELATED SHAREHOLDER RESOLUTION: Norfolk Southern today issued the following statement regarding Canadian Pacific’s withdrawal of its unsolicited acquisition proposal and its related shareholder resolution:  Norfolk Southern’s board and management team are committed to enhancing value for shareholders.  Since the company’s new management team was appointed, Norfolk Southern has been focused on implementing a strategic plan to streamline operations, reduce expenses and maintain superior customer service levels.  The Norfolk Southern team has made significant progress and is on track to achieve annual productivity savings of more than $650 million and an operating ratio below 65 percent by 2020.  We are confident the continued execution of our plan will deliver superior value to all of the company’s stakeholders by best positioning Norfolk Southern to succeed. We thank our shareholders for their input and support throughout this process and our employees for their hard work and dedication to strengthening Norfolk Southern as a critical component of the nation’s transportation infrastructure. (NS- posted 4/11)

    SEPTA REPORTS ON POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL IMPLEMENTATION: Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has given SEPTA written authorization to commence Provisional Revenue Service Operations for our Positive Train Control (PTC) system. As reported in previous updates, our plan is to launch the PTC program on the Warminster Regional Rail Line. Now with FRA approval, we will implement PTC Revenue Service Operations on this Line on Monday, April 18, 2016, beginning with the first scheduled train. SEPTA has a strong commitment to safety and the introduction of the Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES) as a PTC compliant system on our Regional Rail network is an important milestone in our on-going efforts on behalf of our customers, employees, and neighbors. We are the first commuter railroad operation in the country to implement ACSES and an important part of our PTC rollout program will be continuing to work cooperatively with Amtrak regarding the operations of our trains, under ACSES, on their PTC equipped lines. Getting to this point has taken an extensive and intensive period of testing to ensure that every aspect of the system meets the guidelines established by the FRA and our own reliability requirements for this critical safety system. To fully prepare for the April 18th service day, we will operate shuttle buses in place of Warminster Line service on Sunday, April 17, 2016 in order to conduct one last round of checks and testing of the PTC system and our Rail equipment (SEPTA - posted 4/11)

    READING AND NORTHERN WINS MAJOR AWARD: The American Shortline and Regional Railroad Association awarded the industry’s highest award for marketing achievement. This is the third time Reading & Northern has won this prestigious award in the last six years. Dennis Shaffer, Vice President Business Development, accepted the award today at a ceremony in Washington D.C. The Association recognized Reading & Northern for its rapid response and development of a railroad-operated warehouse in Old Forge, PA. The need for this new warehouse facility came suddenly in April, 2015 when a valued customer notified Reading & Northern that it needed a new warehouse to handle and store their wood pulp. The critical part of the request is that this new warehouse needed to be available within a month. In a little over a month Reading & Northern was able to find a long unused building along our railroad in Old Forge, PA, negotiate a lease, modify and rehabilitate the building, acquire the necessary handling equipment, train our employees, and rehabilitate a long unused rail siding that was buried under several feet of dirt. Simultaneously, Reading & Northern moved to acquire and rehabilitate, in our Port Clinton car shop, additional boxcars to handle this wood pulp from Old Forge to final destination. This new facility was up and running by May 2015 and has seen continual business growth ever since. In addition to the ASLRRA Marketing Award, Reading and Northern was also recognized in 2015 when we were named Regional Railroad of the Year by Railway Age Magazine. This was the third time we won this prestigious award and we are the only railroad ever to have achieved this recognition three times. Reading and Northern’s superior marketing and business development efforts have paid dividends in business growth. 2015 was a record breaking year for Reading and Northern. Freight carloads were up 19% and revenue up 30% compared to 2014, which was also a record year. Reading Northern’s passenger operation, the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, also broke all previous ridership record in 2015 as over 100,000 visitors rode our trains. This was a smashing 38% increase in ridership over the previous record year. Reading & Northern Railroad, with its corporate headquarters in Port Clinton, is a privately held railroad company serving over 60 customers in nine eastern Pennsylvania counties (Berks, Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Northumberland, Schuylkill and Wyoming). It has expanded its operations over the last 20+ years and has grown into one of the premier railroads in Pennsylvania. Reading and Northern operates both freight services and steam and diesel powered excursion passenger services through its Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, owns over 1,000 freight cars, and employs over 200 dedicated employees. (R&N - posted 4/11)

    U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OPPOSES CANADIAN PACIFIC'S PETITION TO ESTABLISH VOTING TRUST: On April 9th the Department of Justice filed a reply in opposition to Canadian Pacific Railway Limited’s (“CPRL”) petition for a declaratory order regarding use of a voting trust pending the Surface Transportation Board’s (“STB”) review of a potential merger between Canadian Pacific Railway Company (“CP”) and Norfolk Southern Railway Company (“NS”). The reply states that the proposed voting trust would fail to preserve the independence of the merging railroads during the pendency of the transaction’s regulatory review and would risk harm to current and future competition. It urges the STB to reject the proposed voting trust structure or, in the alternative, to deny the request for a declaratory order. “Canadian Pacific’s voting trust proposal would compromise Norfolk Southern’s independence and effectively combine the two railroads prior to completion of the STB’s review,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “That makes no sense. We urge the STB to preserve its ability to review the impact of the proposal on competition and consumers before Canadian Pacific starts scrambling the eggs.” On March 2, 2016, CPRL, the holding company that owns CP, petitioned the STB for a declaratory order approving a proposed voting trust structure pending the STB’s review of a merger between CP and NS. Under the proposed voting trust structure, CPRL would acquire NS, CP’s stock would be placed in trust, and CP’s current CEO would become CEO of NS. As explained in the filing, this proposed voting trust structure fails under each prong of the STB’s regulatory requirements. The proposal fails to preserve the independence of NS and CP. In addition, both CP and NS will have the economic incentives and the ability to align their business strategies before a review of the transaction. Finally, the proposal would also make it difficult, if not impossible, to effectuate a successful divestiture if the STB were to reject the merger applications. The STB is an independent agency. The Administrative Procedure Act provides the STB discretion to issue declaratory orders to terminate a controversy or remove uncertainty. (US Department of Justice - posted 4/10)

    NJ TRANSIT BOARD SELECTS WILLIAM “BILL” CROSBIE AS AGENCY’S NEXT EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR : In a unanimous vote, the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors appointed William (“Bill”) Crosbie as the new Executive Director of NJ TRANSIT during a special meeting today. The appointment is effective on or about April 25, 2016. Mr. Crosbie succeeds Dennis J. Martin, who has served as the agency’s interim Executive Director since December, 2015. Mr. Martin will resume his previous position as VP/GM of NJ TRANSIT’s Bus Operations Division. “I would like to thank Governor Christie and the NJ TRANSIT Board of Directors for this tremendous opportunity to serve the more than 900,000 people who utilize the New Jersey Transit system each year,” said incoming Executive Director Crosbie. “I am anxious to roll up my sleeves and stand shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of NJ TRANSIT to address the service, safety, equipment and facility needs of our customers and our infrastructure.” Prior to Executive Director Crosbie’s appointment, he served as President & CEO as well as Regional Director for North America for SYSTRA USA, an international transportation engineering consulting firm. During his tenure, he was responsible for leading day-to-day operations as well as the strategic development of the firm. In addition to serving as Vice President of Railroad Programs for the Parsons Corporation, Executive Director Crosbie spent more than seven years as the Chief Operating Officer of Amtrak where he directed the transportation, engineering (infrastructure), mechanical (rolling stock), police and security, environmental, health, and safety functions. “Bill Crosbie brings a depth of background in operations, transportation, engineering, finance, and security to New Jersey Transit that is perfectly suited to address the needs facing the agency at this important time,” said Acting Transportation Commissioner and NJ TRANSIT Board Chairman Richard T. Hammer. Executive Director Crosbie is a transportation security expert and Professional Engineer with more than 30 years of experience in the transportation field. He is a regular guest lecturer at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School on intelligence analysis, cyber security, and infrastructure protection. He has served on numerous Boards including the Boards of Directors for Washington Union Station Redevelopment Corporation and Chicago Union Station. Executive Director Crosbie holds a Master of Arts degree in Security Studies from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School and an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. (NJ Transit - posted 4/10)

    SEPTA RELEASES PROPOSED FY 2016 CAPITAL BUDGET & 12 YEAR PROGRAM: SEPTA will continue to advance initiatives to renew critical infrastructure, replace aging portions of its fleet and expand capacity for growing ridership under its proposed Fiscal Year 2017 Capital Budget and 12-Year Capital Program. The capital budget funds projects such as bridge and track replacement, reconstruction of stations and other facilities, and the purchase of new vehicles. Following public hearings, the Capital Budget plan will go to the SEPTA Board for approval. The $548.63 million FY 2017 proposal advances SEPTA's "Rebuilding for the Future" initiative. The Authority embarked on this plan following the November 2013 passage of Act 89, which provides capital funds for transportation improvements throughout Pennsylvania. In the coming year, SEPTA will move ahead with projects such as its bridge program, including the Crum Creek Viaduct replacement - an initiative to renew a critical span along the Media/Elwyn Line that dates back to the late 1800s. Other major initiatives include:
    • Communications, Signal Systems and Technology Improvements
    • Safety and Security Improvements
    • SEPTA Key - fare modernization project
    • Stations, Loops and Parking Improvements
    • Substations and Power Improvements
    • Track and Right-of-Way Improvements
    • Vehicle Acquisitions and Overhauls
    The full budget proposal, including program and project details, can be viewed or downloaded on SEPTA's website at http://septa.org/strategic-plan/reports/2017-capital-budget-proposal.pdf . SEPTA riders and other local residents are invited to ask questions and submit comments about the Capital Budget during public hearings on Monday, May 2. Sessions will be held at 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. in the Board Room at SEPTA Headquarters, 1234 Market Street, Philadelphia. An independent hearing examiner will review testimony and submit a recommendation prior to the SEPTA Board's (SEPTA - posted 4/10)

    FRA RELEASES REVISED PROPOSAL TO REBUILD B&P TUNNEL AFTER RECEIVING INPUT FROM BALTIMORE COMMUNITY: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today presented a revised proposal to replace the Civil War-era Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel based on feedback provided to the FRA by Baltimore residents during three public hearings in February. In December 2015, the FRA presented three options for replacing the tunnel in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Based on feedback during three recent meetings in February and 19 public hearings, open houses, project and community association meetings during the last two years, two options have fallen (Alternative 3A and Alternative 3C) from consideration, and FRA will make several significant changes to Alternative 3B in the Final EIS. “Rebuilding the B&P Tunnel is a significant undertaking, and it is our responsibility to incorporate input from everyone it will serve and affect,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “I encourage everyone to stay involved and provide feedback during the two open forums.” FRA will host two more public hearings to gather additional feedback from residents and stakeholders today, Wednesday, April 6, from 5-8 p.m. at the Frederick Douglass High School Cafeteria, and on Saturday, April 16 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Carver Vocational-Technical High School Cafeteria. FRA’s proposed changes include: not placing the vent plant where a community garden is located and instead seeking community input for a location along North Avenue; reducing the number of parcels of land and historic properties impacted; decreasing relocations; improving the West Baltimore MARC station to be larger and ADA compliant; and shifting the new tunnel closer to the existing tracks;. The proposed tunnel would be an average of 115 feet deep underground in comparison to the average 20 feet of the current B&P Tunnel. The deeper tunnel would nearly eliminate any noticeable vibrations from passing trains. “The changes that the FRA is proposing based on the feedback provided by citizens in Baltimore will reduce the impact to the communities and make the project stronger and better,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “The FRA remains committed to listening to and working with residents in Baltimore as the project moves forward, and we hope everyone will stay engaged.” One hundred and forty Amtrak and MARC trains travel daily through the tunnel that is part of the Northeast Corridor, the nation’s busiest rail corridor. While Amtrak owns the tunnel, FRA is leading the EIS process in cooperation with Maryland’s Department of Transportation. The federal government has invested $60 million for the preliminary design and environmental review of the project. The state of Maryland estimates 7,000 jobs a year over seven years will be created or supported and more than 50 percent of those jobs will be in construction. (FRA - posted 4/10)

    DEVELOPER SELECTED BY MBTA FOR NORTH QUINCY PARKING LOT MIXED USE PROJECT: The MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board voted unanimously Monday to approve lease rights to the firms Bozzuto Development and Atlantic Development so the firms may design and build a mixed use project on MBTA land at the North Quincy Red Line Station. The winning bid for the project from Bozzuto and Atlantic was one of three bids under consideration. In addition to creating a large, transit-oriented development that will spur economic growth for the city of Quincy, the project also generates own-source revenue for the MBTA. Bozzuto/Atlantic's offer will pay the MBTA approximately $230 million over the course of a 99-year lease. The project will generate significant new tax revenue for the city of Quincy - estimated at $1.5 million - and a $5.7 million contribution to the city's affordable housing fund. The property is approximately 295,000 square feet, and includes 852 surface parking spaces. It is bordered on the east by Hancock Street, and on the south by West Squantum Street. As part of the project, the developer will build a new parking garage which replaces the 852 surface spaces that will be owned by the T. During the construction phase, parking accommodations will be made when work impacts the current parking area off Hancock Street. An invitation to bid for the property was released on July 1, 2015. It is anticipated that the permitting and design process will take approximately one to two years, with construction possible in 2018. The MBTA has additional parking lot space on Newport Avenue, and will work with the developer to limit parking-related impacts during construction. Bozzuto is a privately held residential real estate company and Atlantic is a firm based in Hingham which has been involved in many non-MBTA projects previously (MBTA - posted 4/10)

    TRIBUTE TO CONRAIL IN SOUTH AMERICA: In honor of the 40th Anniversary date of the foundation of Conrail, the Chosica locomotive shop of Peru’s Ferrocarril Central Andino (FCCA) has painted former Conrail C39-8 No. 1031 in a “Tribute” paint scheme. In addition to wearing FCCA’s Conrail-inspired logo, the locomotive has been painted in Conrail colors and named the James A. Hagen, in honor of Conrail’s former Chairman.  FCCA chairman Dr. Juan Olaechea commented, “The Conrail story has had an impact as far away as Cerro de Pasco, on the far side of the Andes. Conrail’s transformation from a State railway into an efficient, competitive private sector enterprise is a path that Peru has followed, and continues to resonate around the world. It is therefore both appropriate and important that we honor that legacy.” Henry Posner III, chairman of FCCA shareholder Railroad Development Corporation, added, “While the Conrail story is well-known, less known is the important role of Jim Hagen in the very beginning of the rail privatization movement. In 1991, Conrail’s willingness to serve in a supporting role in Argentina was critical to lending credibility to a concept that at the time seemed both audacious and risky. That model has since been replicated in many forms worldwide.” Dr. Olaechea concluded, “Jim Hagen showed us the importance of railroads as an industry of the future and their importance for national development, at a time when many people thought that it was an industry of the past.” Later this year, FCCA will be honored to host a visit by Jim Hagen to Peru, at which time the locomotive will be dedicated in a more formal way.  About FCCA Throughout its 535 kilometers (332 mi) of tracks, the Central Railroad is not only legendary as the “Highest and Hardest” for its breathtaking scenery, but also for being the highest railway in the Americas and the second highest in the world, linking the Pacific port of Callao and the capital city of Lima with Huancayo and Cerro de Pasco.  Since its builders conquered the Andes in the 1890s with manual labor, the railway stands as one of the most noteworthy feats of engineering, including 69 tunnels, 58 bridges and 6 zigzags. (RDC -posted 4/01)

    READING & NORTHERN ANNOUNCES RDC EXCURSIONS: From May through September the Reading and Northern Railroad will operate RDC Excursions. For the first time in a generation, RDC trips will originate in Pottsville. Included in the ticket price enjoy food service in our refreshment car on board the only RDCs that have windows that open and shut. The commuter-like schedule will get you from Schuylkill County to Jim Thorpe in less than 2 and a half hours.  While in Jim Thorpe, enjoy many of the shops, restaurants, and attractions. Pottsville to Jim Thorpe with stops at Schuylkill Haven and Tamaqua: May 8, May 28, June 18, July 10, August 13, August 28.  Also available are Schuylkill County trips that head to North Reading, then take a tour at the Reading and Northern Railroad Corporate Headquarters in Port Clinton.  The headquarters tour will last nearly one hour.  See a functioning car shop, engine shop, headquarter building, and dispatching center on the tour. Pottsville to North Reading with stops at Schuylkill Haven and tour at Port Clinton Headquarters: June 11, July 30, September 10.  Call 610-562-2102 for pricing, scheduling, and purchasing tickets. (R&N -posted 4/01)

    GOVERNOR CUOMO AND LEGISLATORS AGREEN TO FUNDING $27 BILLION FOR MTA: “The landmark financial commitment agreed to today by Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Heastie is a monumental win for the people of New York. This $27 billion agreement marks the largest investment ever made in the MTA. It is an important victory not only for New York City and its suburbs but for all the communities across New York State. The plan will enable the MTA to maintain critical infrastructure while renewing, enhancing and expanding our system to meet the ridership and growth demands of the future and improving the current experience for the millions who critically rely on our system each day. The Governor has once again assured a year-to-year increase in state operating assistance for the transit system and brought us a significant increase in support for the MTA, including a commitment to the second phase of the extension of Second Avenue Subway to East Harlem, and billions of dollars for the essential work of keeping the transit system safe and reliable. Our thanks also go to Senate Majority Leader Flanagan, Speaker Heastie and their members, who recognize that healthy public transit connectivity is the very backbone of our regional economy. The MTA has been hard at work preparing projects supported by the new Capital Program and will now submit a revised plan to our Board as well as to the State's Capital Program Review Board.” (MTA -posted 4/01)

    AMTRAK ADVANCING WI-FI TECHNOLOGY: Amtrak is expanding availability of its cellular-based Wi-Fi service, AmtrakConnectSM, as well as advancing new wireless technology on board trains that will lead to overall improvements in Wi-Fi reliability and performance across Amtrak's national network. AmtrakConnectSM is now offered as the latest onboard amenity available to customers on several eastern long-distance trains including the Cardinal (New York – Washington, D.C. – Cincinnati – Indianapolis – Chicago), Crescent (New York – Atlanta – New Orleans), Lake Shore Limited (New York/Boston – Albany – Chicago) and Silver Service (New York – Washington, D.C. – Charleston – Savannah – Jacksonville – Orlando – Tampa/Miami). Amtrak is advancing its Wi-Fi technology and is now offering free Wi-Fi on eastern Long-Distance trains. With this latest service rollout, more than 90 percent of Amtrak's customers have access to free onboard Wi-Fi, allowing them to stay connected and entertained throughout their journeys. "Expanding our Wi-Fi network to eastern long-distance trains provides customers with a much-anticipated and expected amenity," said Lenetta McCampbell, senior director of passenger experience at Amtrak. "Now, more than 28 million customers have access to free onboard Wi-Fi. Our commitment to expand and enhance the customer experience through connectivity is another reason why Amtrak is the smarter way to travel." To ensure that Amtrak's wireless infrastructure and supporting systems represent the very best-in-class in terms of capacity, performance and operational reliability, Amtrak is embarking on a multi-year program aimed at overhauling its current Wi-Fi service. The first phase will focus on replacement of its original onboard equipment— in service since 2010—with the latest next-generation Wi-Fi solution. The implementation of this advanced solution will allow Amtrak to incorporate higher-speed backhaul technologies, such as trackside Wi-Fi and satellite. In addition, it will lay the foundation for future applications that will further enhance the customer experience including onboard entertainment and real-time journey information. The second phase will focus on further construction of Amtrak's groundbreaking private trackside wireless network, a high-speed fiber network that, when implemented over the next two to four years, could stretch from Washington, D.C. to Boston.  The network promises to deliver significantly better performance than the limited cellular-based solution in use today. "Our next-generation onboard technology solution, in combination with our trackside network, will enable us to provide our customers with a better, faster and even more reliable Internet experience while also enabling Amtrak to remain competitive in the aggressive travel marketplace," McCampbell said. In October, Amtrak launched Wi-Fi on Auto Train, an east coast long-distance train that travels between Lorton, Va. and Sanford, Fla. To see a full list of wireless-enabled train routes and stations across the Amtrak national network, please visit: https://www.amtrak.com/journey-with-wi-fi-train-station . Free Wi-Fi is just one of the many perks of traveling with Amtrak. In addition, customers can enjoy a generous baggage policy, an improved Amtrak Guest Rewards program and an expanded pets program. (Amtrak, Alex Mayes, Randy Kotuby -posted 3/31)

    LIRR ANNOUNCES START OF $23.9 MILLION MODERNIZATION OF WANTAGH STATION: MTA Long Island Rail Road today announced that the planned $23.9 million rehabilitation of the LIRR’s Wantagh Station is getting underway with Long Island-based Fortunato Sons Contracting, Inc., as the primary contractor on a project expected to create 100 construction jobs. The infrastructure investment at Wantagh, financed by the MTA Capital Program, will include a new concrete platform, segmented canopy, platform waiting room, escalator, elevator, lighting, communications system and signage as well as a distinctive public art project. It’s all part of the first significant upgrade of the facility since it was built nearly 50 years ago. The addition of an elevator will make the station ADA accessible for the first time. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced an initiative to speed up station enhancement projects by changing MTA contracting procedures to enable one private sector company to build to its own designs. Although the design of the Wantagh station modernization was already completed prior to this new initiative, the LIRR is closely monitoring this “design-build” approach, which is being undertaken at other LIRR projects as well as 31 New York City Transit subway stations, in order to adopt best practices for its future capital projects. The LIRR currently expects it will take two years to complete the project, which must be carried out in stages so as not to impact train service. But in keeping with the Governor’s initiative, the LIRR will also work with the contractor to identify ways to speed the timeline for the project. During construction, when one end of the station platform or the other is closed, customers will have to follow detour signs to the active portion of the station. In addition, a limited number of parking spaces will be temporarily affected along the station plaza. The LIRR will be alerting customers to these changes in advance by posting signs, making public address announcements and issuing customer service alerts via email or text message. MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said: “This station rehabilitation project is part of the MTA’s ongoing commitment to Long Island and will benefit thousands of customers who depend each day on the LIRR. Governor Cuomo has made clear that New York State needs to support projects like this, which create construction jobs and help the local economy.” LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski said: “Wantagh Station is going to look spectacular when this project is complete. Thanks to Governor Cuomo’s commitment to the MTA, the LIRR continues its modernization efforts across Long Island with the Wantagh Station Rehabilitation Project. The Babylon branch is our busiest line and we are investing in these improvements to better serve our customers.” The Wantagh Station project also features a permanent public art project under the MTA Arts & Design Program. MTA Arts & Design selected artist Marc Dennis’ proposal for a colored art glass scenes depicting an idyllic day at nearby Jones Beach decorating waiting room windows. Colorful and realistic paintings of birds, beachgoers, sunsets, seashells and fish will be translated into glass for the completed artwork. In addition, mosaic panels at stairways will highlight ocean waves and the shoreline. Fortunato Sons Contracting, a fourth generation family enterprise, is no stranger to the Long Island Rail Road having completed two other LIRR projects in recent years, the Massapequa Station platform rehabilitation and the construction of the LIRR’s new train wash facility in Babylon. (MTA -posted 3/31)

    STEAM IS COMING BACK TO STEAMTOWN: Steamtown National Historic Site will host an entrance fee-free week to celebrate National Park Week from Saturday, April 16 through Sunday, April 24. This year is the National Park Service's centennial, and we invite your family to "Find Your Park." All indoor and outdoor exhibit areas and park museum facilities including guided tours and the park movie, "Steel and Steam," are included in the entrance fee-free week. We'll begin our seasonal train rides with a dedication ceremony on Sunday, April 17, returning our 1929 Baldwin Locomotive Works 0-6-0 steam locomotive to service. While the park will open at 9:00 a.m., the festivities will begin at 11:00 a.m., and will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony, free commemorative baseball-type cards of the locomotive's history and statistics, and a special photo exhibit in our Technology Museum that documents the locomotive's restoration. "Scranton Limited" short train rides within the Steamtown NHS yards will be powered by the newly-restored locomotive that day, and will operate continuously between 12:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Cost of the "Scranton Limited" rides are $5.00 per person, all ages 6 and older, and will include a special commemorative ticket issued for that day. The "Scranton Limited" will operate as follows for the remainder of April, at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.; the "Nay Aug Gorge Limited" will operate on Sundays following the same schedule:
    • April 20 – "Scranton Limited" operating with diesel power
    • April 21 – "Scranton Limited" operating with diesel power
    • April 22 – "Scranton Limited" operating with steam power (BLW #26)
    • April 23 – "Scranton Limited" operating with steam power (BLW #26)
    • April 24 – "Nay Aug Gorge Limited" operating with steam power (BLW #26)
    • April 28 – "Scranton Limited" operating with diesel power
    • April 29 – "Scranton Limited" operating with steam power (BLW #26)
    • April 30 – "Scranton Limited" operating with steam power (BLW #26)
    • May 1 – "Nay Aug Gorge Limited" operating with steam power (BLW #26)
    Except during the entrance fee-free week, the daily entrance fee to the grounds at Steamtown is $7.00 per adult, all ages 16 and older. Children ages 15 and younger, accompanied by an adult, are admitted to the park at no cost.Included in the entrance fee are all walking tours offered by the Steamtown NHS staff, including museum access and the park movie, "Steel and Steam." Train ride fares are extra cost. Located in downtown Scranton, Pa., Steamtown NHS is open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. through March 19; summer hours, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. resume on Sunday, March 20. From I-81 follow exit 185 (Central Scranton Expressway); then, follow the brown and white signs to the park entrance at Lackawanna and Cliff Avenues (GPS: N 41.41, W 75.67). General park information is available by phoning (570) 340-5200 during regular business hours, or by visiting the park website anytime at www.nps.gov/stea (NPS -posted 3/30)

    WORK IS PART OF OVER $90 MILLION INVESTMENT TO UPGRADE AMTRAK’S THIRD BUSIEST STATION : Amtrak plans to continue work this spring to restore the facade of Philadelphia 30th Street Station to its former glory. This project is one of several upgrades at the transportation hub completed or now underway to improve the passenger experience, tend to the long-term infrastructure needs of the nearly 100 year-old building and improve pedestrian mobility in and around the facility. These upgrades represent more than $90 million in total capital investment. “30th Street Station is an iconic fixture in Philadelphia,” said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak vice president of Northeast Corridor infrastructure and investment development. “As stewards of this national historic landmark we are committed to ensuring that the Station maintains its status as a first-class facility for passengers and becomes further integrated into the vital University City neighborhood.” In late-March, passengers should expect to see additional scaffolding erected around the southwest corner of the building stretching to the northeast corner. This scaffolding will be the support work for Phase I of the facade restoration project that is scheduled to begin in April and completed in October. Already in place is a temporary sidewalk canopy system to keep pedestrians safe and provide a weather-proof area under which to access the station. Some entrances to the building will be temporarily closed and services relocated throughout the construction period, with appropriate signage indicating alternate points of access. Additionally, Amtrak is planning to repair and restore the station’s portico doors, many of which are original to the 1930s construction of the station. The combined projects are estimated to cost $60 million upon completion. There will be no disruption or alteration to train service as a result of the construction (Amtrak -posted 3/30)

    BNSF RAILWAY LAUNCHES VIDEO SERIES "MAKING CONNECTIONS": BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) today launched the first video in a new series called “Making Connections,” which takes viewers behind the scenes with railroad employees as they provide the safe transportation of people and products across the Pacific Northwest. Filmed across Washington and Oregon, the new series showcases the everyday lives of BNSF employees – both on and off the job. In this series, you will see how BNSF employees address slope stabilization in Puget Sound, offer training and education to local first responders, and keep BNSF infrastructure in top condition to help ensure the safe transportation of a broad range of materials and finished products we depend on every day. The series will also show why BNSF employees volunteer their time in their local communities to improve the quality of life and why they are committed to the work they do. Our employees know the Pacific Northwest is a special place and this series will highlight why they are proud to call it home. “Communities across the Pacific Northwest depend on freight rail to deliver the goods we all use, but often they don’t see the intricate work that our people undertake every day to safely and efficiently make that happen,” said Andrew Johnsen, assistant vice president, Community Affairs. “This new series will allow viewers to better understand why our people are so committed to Pacific Northwest, our complex operations, and the unique 24/7 culture of BNSF that helps keep the PNW on the move.” The first video features Roger Hsieh, BNSF’s Agricultural Ombudsman for the Pacific Northwest. Hsieh’s role is to interact directly with agricultural producers in the Pacific Northwest and work with them to ensure their needs are effectively served by BNSF. In this segment, he explains why freight rail is not only important to American farmers and ranchers, but to the millions of consumers who benefit from the safe, efficient transportation of agricultural products. How to Watch: The videos will be available at BNSFNorthwest.com and through BNSF’s social media channels, including YouTube.com/BNSFrailway Facebook.com/BNSFrailway , Twitter.com/BNSFrailway, and Instagram.com/BNSFrailway. BNSF plans to release new videos in the series every few months throughout 2016. For those interested in receiving periodic updates on future videos and BNSF news, sign up for our newsletter at BNSFNorthwest.com. (BNSF -posted 3/30)

    GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES CONTRACT AWARD FOR ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT FOR LIRR EXPANSION PROJECT: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the hiring of a consulting firm to assist in the environmental review and formal community engagement process for the LIRR Main Line Expansion Project, which calls for adding a third track along a critical 9.8-mile section of LIRR’s Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville Stations. The addition of the third track will increase capacity while allowing trains to pass disabled equipment and avoid track and signal problems, thus greatly improving service reliability along this heavily traveled corridor. It will also allow for reverse-peak service and greater intra-Island travel, and support planned service growth in future years as the LIRR begins service to Grand Central Terminal. The contract is being awarded by the Long Island Rail Road to a joint venture of Gannett Fleming and AECOM - firms that have vast experience in conducting in-depth and accelerated reviews. The joint venture was selected by the LIRR to conduct public outreach, environmental review and preliminary engineering. The contract is valued at $6.95 million. "This is an important step forward in this project, which is so critical to the future of Long Island residents and the region's economy," Governor Cuomo said. "Earlier this year, I promised that we would engage with the community at an unprecedented level and use the environmental review process to mitigate adverse impacts on the local communities in every way possible. This project will not only improve commutes but also reduce traffic congestion and strengthen the environment by getting more Long Islanders out of their cars." The contract announced today calls for the development of initial conceptual engineering designs within the existing right-of-way between Floral Park and Hicksville where a third track will be constructed and can be extended to cover preparation of design-build contracts and additional support during the project’s construction. The review will also identify community benefits from the project and ways to mitigate adverse impacts during construction. Governor Cuomo has already announced that construction of the third track right-of-way will not require any acquisition of residential properties. The LIRR Main Line Expansion project will greatly benefit the local communities by modifying all seven street-level railroad crossings in the project's corridor. The project team will work with local communities to determine the best possible outcome for each crossing. The seven crossings are:
    • Covert Avenue in New Hyde Park
    • S. 12th Street in New Hyde Park
    • New Hyde Park Road in New Hyde Park
    • Main Street in Mineola
    • Willis Avenue in Mineola
    • School Street in Westbury
    • Urban Avenue in New Cassel
    Modifying these crossings will increase safety for motorists, pedestrians and rail commuters; eliminate traffic congestion on local streets from crossing gates, and sharply reduce noise from bells and train horns. The environmental review process will also include an extensive public outreach program that will far exceed statutory requirements. This effort will encompass public meetings, a project office within the affected corridor and frequent meetings and other communications with local elected officials and community stakeholders. Outreach is being modeled on the highly successful process used on the New NY Bridge project, in which the environmental review was expedited to happen concurrently with the project team conducting more than 100 community meetings. The LIRR and the Gannett Fleming/AECOM team will hold public hearings, accept formal public comment, and issue an environmental impact statement about the project (MTA -posted 3/29)

    CP FILES DEFINITIVE PROXY STATEMENT REGARDING SHAREHOLDER PROPOSAL FOR NS ANNUAL MEETING, WELCOMES OPPORTUNITY TO MEET WITH NS BOARD: Canadian Pacific (CP) (CP) today filed its definitive proxy statement for its Norfolk Southern Corp. (NS) shareholder resolution asking their board of directors to engage in good faith discussions with CP regarding a business combination. CP also filed a letter that will be sent to all NS shareholders about the opportunity to create significant value for NS shareholders. In filing its own definitive proxy statement on March 28, NS stated: "[The] Shareholder Proposal from Canadian Pacific is Unnecessary Because Norfolk Southern Would Have Discussions with CP if it Obtains a Declaratory Order and States a Willingness to Meaningfully Increase its Offer." "CP has consistently stated that we are open to discussing all terms of a potential deal, including price, but we can't negotiate with ourselves," said CP CEO, E. Hunter Harrison. "Given we have also asked the Surface Transportation Board for a declaratory order on the voting trust model we were pleased to hear that Norfolk Southern may now be willing to engage in direct face-to-face discussions." CP's proposed business combination with NS would create a true end-to-end transcontinental railroad that would enhance competition, benefit the public and drive economic growth. CP has demonstrated from the beginning that it is flexible on price, having improved its offer twice already, and shown flexibility on the structure of a potential combination, offering a voting trust structure as the quickest way for NS shareholders to receive consideration for their shares. CP has consistently said, however, that the voting trust is not a condition of its offer. NS shareholders have been telling CP from the beginning that their own board should, at the very least, talk to CP about a potential combination. CP's shareholder resolution to NS asks shareholders to formally vote in favour of what they have been saying to CP anecdotally for months; it is a vote for a discussion between the two companies, not on the proposal itself. The shareholder resolution will be voted on at the NS annual meeting May 12 in Williamsburg, Virginia. "The NS board has refused to meet with us in the past, which ultimately led to our shareholder resolution," said Harrison. "While we remain open to meeting with them anytime and anywhere, we are putting the question to the shareholders of NS so they can finally be heard. We continue to see tremendous opportunity and enormous potential in the proposed business combination." CP strongly believes that a combined railroad would offer unparalleled customer service and competitive rates that will support the success of the shippers and industries it serves, create far more shareholder value than NS' strategic plan and satisfy the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and other regulators. (CP -posted 3/29)

    SEPTA RELEASES PROPOSED FISCAL YEAR 2017 OPERATING BUDGET PUBLIC HEARINGS THROUGHOUT REGION APRIL 25-29: SEPTA has released its proposed Fiscal Year 2017 Operating Budget and Fiscal Years 2018-2021 Financial Projections. The Authority will hold a series of public hearings on the spending plan throughout the five-county service region April 25-29. SEPTA's proposed Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2016, the 12-month period from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017, is $1.4 billion, an increase of approximately 3 percent over Fiscal Year 2016. The operating budget provides funding for the everyday costs of running the transit system, such as labor, fuel and power. The proposed Fiscal Year 2017 Operating Budget maintains current SEPTA service levels, with no increase in fares for riders. The budget reflects SEPTA's ongoing efforts to control costs. Fuel consumption, for example, has been reduced, thanks in large part to the Authority's effort to replace aging buses with more fuel efficient diesel-electric hybrids. SEPTA expects fuel consumption to decrease by 2.2 million gallons annually. In addition, costs for injuries and damages are also expected to go down, due in large part to the increased role of video evidence from surveillance cameras. To engage the public in the budget process, SEPTA holds two hearings in each of the five counties in which it operates. Public comments are considered before the budget proposal goes to the SEPTA Board for a vote at its monthly meeting in May. Below is the public hearing schedule:
    • Bucks County-Monday, April 25: Bucks County Free Library, Pearl Buck Room; 150 South Pine Street, Doylestown, PA. Hearings at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
    • Philadelphia-Tuesday, April 26: SEPTA Headquarters, Board Room-Mezzanine Level; 1234 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA. Sessions at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.
    • Delaware County-Wednesday, April 27: Delaware County Courthouse, County Council Meeting Room-First Floor; 201 West Front Street, Media, PA. Hearings at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
    • Montgomery County-Thursday, April 28: Montgomery County Human Services Center, Community Room-Main Floor; 1430 Dekalb Pike, Norristown, PA. Sessions at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
    • Chester County-Friday, April 29: West Chester Borough Hall, Council Chambers; 401 East Gay Street, West Chester, PA. Sessions at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m.
    To view the full budget proposal, please visit the Reports page . For the public hearing notice and form to submit comments, visit the Public Hearing page . (SEPTA -posted 3/28)

    GATEWAY PROGRAM PARTNERS MOVE CRITICAL REGIONAL TRANSIT AND RAIL PROJECT FORWARD : The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Amtrak, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, together with NJ TRANSIT, and with the support of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced a series of concrete steps to move the Gateway Program forward.
    • - The Gateway Program’s Hudson Tunnel Project to construct a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River will receive $70 million in funding for critical preliminary engineering work, with $35 million in federal funding coming from Amtrak and $35 million from the Port Authority, subject to the consideration and approval of each party’s Boards, in order to expedite and accelerate environmental review and permitting for the Hudson Tunnel Project.
    • - U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the department will commit the necessary resources and take steps to accelerate federal environmental reviews and permitting for the Hudson Tunnel Project. Inclusion of the project on the President’s Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard is expected and will help ensure swift and thorough completion of the environmental process. NJ TRANSIT already has issued a formal notice-to-proceed for consulting services funded by Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT to help support the process
    • - The Port Authority, Amtrak, the U.S. Department of Transportation and NJ TRANSIT have agreed to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding setting forth an interim framework for coordination among the parties to advance the Program, including establishment of an executive committee to coordinate activities and specific working groups focusing on environmental permitting, construction and preliminary engineering, funding and financing, rail operations, and governance matters.
    • - The local agencies also announced their intent to apply for competitive federal grants in the coming months – including those recently authorized by the FAST Act in December 2015 - to advance the Gateway Program. Representatives expect to pursue funding in the coming months from the U.S. Department of Transportation from grant programs such as TIGER, FASTLANE and New Starts. These grants would help fund Gateway’s projects including the Hudson Tunnel Project, Portal Bridge replacement project in New Jersey, and the completion of the Hudson Yards tunnel right-of-way preservation project in Manhattan, which has already received $235 million in federal funds. A $16 million TIGER grant has previously been awarded to NJ TRANSIT to help replace the century-old Portal Bridge which long has been a chokepoint for travel along the Northeast Corridor. NJ TRANSIT will solicit contract proposals for early construction work in the second quarter of 2016.
    • - The project participants announced today that the Port Authority, Amtrak, and USDOT are taking steps towards finalizing the structure and form of a development corporation to oversee the entire Program. The parties are structuring the new entity to maximize flexibility and eligibility for the full spectrum of federal funding and financing programs, as well as potential public-private partnership structures in order to accomplish the various aspects of the Gateway Program.
    The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Board of Commissioners is expected to vote on authorizing $35 million for preliminary engineering for the Hudson Tunnel Project at its March 24 meeting. Amtrak has also pledged $35 million for the preliminary engineering work which will support the environmental and planning efforts for the tunnel project. The new tunnel will allow for the closure and rehabilitation of the existing 106-year old tunnel that was badly damaged by Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. The new two-track, trans-Hudson rail tunnel will provide a vital backup to the current century-old tunnel. This financial commitment will help build momentum and expedite review and permitting for the rehabilitation of the existing tunnel and creation of the new tunnel. The Hudson Tunnel Project is a major priority of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Amtrak, the Port Authority, and NJ TRANSIT. The 50/50 contribution from Amtrak and the Port Authority for preliminary engineering is consistent with the overall framework announced in November. Following calls to action by Secretary Foxx, Governors Christie and Cuomo and Senators Booker and Schumer, the non-federal agencies have been pursuing a 50/50 framework between federal and local funding. A development corporation will be responsible for developing a specific funding and financing plan for the Program. The Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners is also expected to be briefed on steps being taken towards the formation of a development corporation that will oversee and manage the Gateway Program. Consistent with the framework outlined in the November 12, 2015 press release issued by Governors Christie and Cuomo, and Senators Booker and Schumer, the corporation’s board would consist of representatives from Amtrak, Commissioners of the Port Authority as representatives of the States of New York and New Jersey, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. The Gateway Program will deliver a set of rail infrastructure projects between Newark, NJ and New York City. Major projects include the construction of the Hudson Tunnel Project including the rehabilitation of the existing rail tunnel, replacement of the Portal and Sawtooth bridges in New Jersey, the Hudson Yards tunnel right-of-way preservation project, and expansion of New York Penn Station, Newark Penn Station, and Secaucus Junction. The Program will improve resiliency and – when completed – is expected to significantly increase capacity for Amtrak and NJ TRANSIT along the busy Northeast Corridor line. New York and New Jersey representatives also are expected to utilize federal low-interest loan opportunities as another way to meet their share of the Program’s cost. Later this year, preliminary filings are expected to be submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s credit programs, which will allow for accelerated funding decisions on various projects in the Gateway Program. (PANYNJ -posted 3/25)

    AMTRAK RECOGNIZED AS A TOP EMPLOYER : Amtrak received recognition for workplace excellence by earning a spot in Forbes magazine’s America’s Best Employers 2016. More than 20,000 Amtrak employees nationwide give customers a safe and reliable travel experience that delivers on a shared vision of moving America where it wants to go. America’s Railroad® is on the list for the second year in a row and is among 500 employers across 25 industries where the workers feel right at home at the office and like their jobs enough to tell others. Listed under the transportation & logistics category, Amtrak was chosen based on Forbes’ independent survey of 30,000 workers throughout the U.S. to see which companies were the best. “Amtrak is a remarkable story because of the people who continuously make the railroad the smarter way to travel,” Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman said. “We want employees to find a safe workplace, be challenged, and rewarded with competitive pay and benefits in a performance-oriented culture.” The nation’s intercity rail provider operates more than 300 trains each day and reaches more than 500 destinations in 46 states, the District of Columbia and three Canadian provinces. Employees enable a national network of long-distance, corridor and high-speed rail, connecting communities, regions and various modes of transportation all across the country. This recognition as a top employer highlights a work environment where everyone adds value and contributes to the business of delivering the company’s mission and strategic goals to provide rail service with superior safety, customer service and financial excellence.Amtrak welcomes applicants to jobs.Amtrak.com jobs.Amtrak.com to join a diverse workforce of professionals in a variety of career fields throughout the United States. We seek qualified, and dedicated professionals to join #TeamAmtrak (Amtrak -posted 3/24)

    30,000 RAILROAD TIES TO BE REPLACED ON FRAMINGHAM-WORCESTER LINE : Work is set to start on the Framingham-Worcester Line this month, with a goal of replacing 25,000-30,000 railroad ties while work to end the line’s heat-related speed restrictions wraps up. Keolis Commuter Services, which operates and maintains MBTA Commuter Rail, will be performing and overseeing much of this work, which is expected to have minimal impact on passengers. Most of the work will be performed mid-day to avoid peak commutes. Some speed restrictions will take place around the construction. “Commuter rail’s performance on the Framingham-Worcester Line has improved dramatically thanks to the work we and the MBTA have already completed,” said Keolis General Manager Gerald C. Francis. “This next round of track work will help move trains more efficiently and finally end the speed restrictions riders have dealt with for many years.” The track on the Framingham-Worcester Line was built and maintained by previous railroads using different design and maintenance standards than the MBTA. When the MBTA took control of the rail line in 2012, there were insufficient records available about the original installation of the rail, which helps engineers verify that the rail will respond to heat variations between winter and summer season. To compensate for these unknowns, over the past two years the MBTA has either replaced rail or de-stressed sections of rail to ensure the safety of the Worcester Line. That work is ongoing this spring between Worcester and Framingham, and between Newtonville and Wellesley Farms. When complete, the commuter line will be free of speed restrictions. At the same time, crews will start replacing 25,000-30,000 railroad ties between Newtonville and Southborough. Tie replacement will continue into the fall. In addition, the construction of the new Boston Landing Station will be taking place near the New Balance headquarters in Allston. None of these projects are expected to impact peak service on the line, though off-peak service could be slowed by speed restrictions near construction zones. (Keolis Commuter Services -posted 3/23)

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