` Hot News!
Railpace Newsmagazine







Hot News!
Edited by Carl G. Perelman
February 16, 2017:


STRESSES AMTRAK'S RENEWED FOCUS ON STRENGTHENING SAFETY, OPERATIONAL EXCELLENCE AND QUALITY SERVICE: In a hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman called for a new era of investment in Amtrak’s infrastructure, fleet, and stations, which are critical to the operations and future growth of passenger rail. “The time is now to invest in our aging assets,” Moorman testified. “More than ever, our nation and the traveling public rely on Amtrak for mobility, but the future of Amtrak depends on whether we can renew the cars, locomotives, bridges, tunnels, stations and other infrastructure that allows us to meet these growing demands.” Moorman noted that in fiscal year 2016 Amtrak had record ridership of more than 31 million passengers and ticket revenues of $2.2 billion. “I’m certain that we can get even better by relentlessly improving our safety culture, modernizing and upgrading our products and strengthening our operational efficiency and project delivery.” Moorman stressed that Amtrak’s job is to deliver the services and run the network that Congress and the Administration – the principal stakeholders – believe is worth the investment. To do so, Amtrak needs additional support from Congress and the Administration. After 45 years of service, many of Amtrak’s assets are at the end of their useful life. For example, Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, with 363 miles of Amtrak-owned infrastructure, is North America’s busiest railroad with 2,200 daily high-speed, commuter and freight trains, but was largely built over 100 years ago. Noting that Amtrak’s list of investment needs is long, but provides considerable benefits to the traveling public and the national economy, Moorman outlined projects that warrant significant investment including:
  • Construction of the Portal North Bridge and new Hudson Tunnels, both parts of the larger Gateway Program that will ensure that 450 daily Amtrak and NJ Transit trains can continue to serve New York City from the south;
  • Construction of new B&P Tunnel and Susquehanna Bridge in Maryland to expand service and improve trip-time;
  • Expansion and improvement of Chicago and Washington Union Stations to improve accessibility, expand capacity, spur local development and enhance safety;
  • Construction of fleet of new or rebuilt diesel locomotives to support Amtrak’s National Network; and
  • Construction of track, signaling, and other improvements to remove chokepoints on our host railroads or restore service in key underserved markets, like along the Gulf Coast.
Additionally, Moorman emphasized the importance of the 21 states and various commuter agencies that Amtrak partners with to provide service on corridors across the country and on the Northeast Corridor. He noted that Amtrak is focused on identifying ways to work even more collaboratively with these states and agencies on the long list of important rolling stock, infrastructure, and funding needs. Moorman urged Congress and the Administration to consider the many ways in which the Federal government can advance intercity passenger rail service through direct investments, public-private partnerships and innovative financing, streamlining of the environmental review process and removal of red tape. Moorman added that such rail infrastructure investments not only help Amtrak better serve passengers, but also stimulate job growth in construction, manufacturing, and professional services. Rail cars, locomotives, steel, concrete, machinery, signals and track are sourced from across the nation. “Investments in these sectors can help spur the rebirth of America’s passenger rail manufacturing and supply sector,” he concluded. (Amtrak - posted 2/16)

CSX CALLS SPECIAL MEETING IN LIGHT OF EXTRAORDINARY MANTLE RIDGE AND HUNTER HARRISON REQUESTS: CSX Corporation announced that its Board of Directors has called a special meeting of shareholders to seek shareholder guidance on certain extraordinary requests of Mantle Ridge and Hunter Harrison. On January 18, 2017, Mantle Ridge advised CSX that Mantle Ridge had recently become a CSX shareholder owning less than 5 percent of the Company’s stock. Mantle Ridge also advised CSX that Mr. Harrison had terminated his employment with Canadian Pacific that day, was working with Mantle Ridge on an exclusive basis and would be eager to become CEO of CSX. CSX had been engaged in CEO succession discussions and was planning to make an announcement. In light of Mr. Harrison’s notable experience and accomplishments, however, the CSX Board quickly engaged in extensive discussions with Mr. Harrison and Mantle Ridge, including by inviting Mr. Harrison and Mantle Ridge to present to and engage in dialogue with the full CSX Board during a meeting which lasted more than five hours. In the course of these discussions, Mantle Ridge consistently requested first, that it receive substantial representation on the CSX Board, and second, that Mr. Harrison be engaged immediately as CEO of CSX on terms dictated by Mantle Ridge and Mr. Harrison. It became apparent that CSX would be unable to retain Mr. Harrison unless it acceded to Mantle Ridge’s requests with respect to the composition of the CSX Board and the governance of CSX, in addition to agreeing to Mr. Harrison’s terms of employment at a total cost which CSX estimates to exceed $300 million. Since engaging in discussions, CSX has made several proposals to Mr. Harrison and Mantle Ridge, including proposing the following in February 6 letters to Mr. Harrison and Mantle Ridge, which letters are reproduced herein and summarized below:
  • Mr. Harrison would be appointed as CEO of CSX with compensation that fully reflects Mr. Harrison’s experience and accomplishments, replacing Michael Ward, who would retire as Chairman and CEO;
  • Mr. Harrison, Paul Hilal (the CEO of Mantle Ridge) and three other individuals (to be mutually agreed) would be appointed to the CSX Board;
  • Four incumbent CSX directors would retire over the next three years;
  • Chairman of the Board and composition of committees would be determined by the newly constituted CSX Board; and
  • There would be no standstill agreement between CSX and Mantle Ridge.
CSX’s proposals have not been accepted by Mr. Harrison and Mantle Ridge. Based on subsequent discussions and receipt of a proposed employment agreement for Mr. Harrison, CSX believes that the following represent Mantle Ridge’s and Mr. Harrison’s current demands: With respect to matters relating to Mr. Harrison’s employment:
  • CSX estimates that the aggregate value of the compensation package requested by Mr. Harrison and Mantle Ridge, including the requested reimbursement and tax indemnity, exceeds $300 million. The details are summarized below.
  • CSX would pay $84 million to fund Mr. Harrison’s obligation to reimburse Mantle Ridge for compensation and benefits he chose to forego at Canadian Pacific, which Mantle Ridge had previously agreed to cover, and would assume a related tax indemnity provided by Mantle Ridge to Mr. Harrison. Mantle Ridge has described the cost of the tax indemnity to be “as much as a few tens of millions” of dollars. CSX would also reimburse Mantle Ridge for a $2 million annual consulting agreement with Mr. Harrison.
  • CSX would enter into a four-year employment agreement with Mr. Harrison providing, among other things, an immediate equity award, such as an option, covering 1% of CSX’s outstanding common stock, at least half of which would not be subject to performance measures of any kind and would vest upon Mr. Harrison’s death or disability, his resignation for “good reason” or his termination for poor performance, subject to performance metrics on the performance portion of the award. The proposed employment agreement provided by Mr. Harrison includes as an illustrative example a stock option with a present value, as stated in the proposed agreement, of $159.5 million.
  • Mr. Harrison would also receive an annual base salary of $2.2 million, a target bonus of 120% of base salary, with a minimum bonus of $2.64 million for 2017, extensive benefits and severance protections as well as housing in Jacksonville, Fl., and be eligible to participate in CSX’s incentive programs, including long-term incentive programs. The average nominal value of the long-term incentive awards granted to CSX’s CEO during the last three years was approximately $7.67 million per year.
  • The proposed employment agreement omits customary non-compete and employee non-solicit covenants. The proposed employment agreement also would require CSX to assume responsibility for non-compete and employee non-solicit obligations owed by Mr. Harrison to Canadian Pacific, which could restrict CSX’s conduct, including the entry into potential mergers.
  • Mr. Harrison has declined CSX’s request that an independent physician designated by the CSX Board conduct a pre-hire review of Mr. Harrison’s medical records.
With respect to governance matters, Mantle Ridge has insisted that:
  • Mr. Ward would retire as CEO and Chairman immediately.
  • Mantle Ridge would designate six of fourteen directors on the reconstituted CSX Board, including Mr. Hilal and Mr. Harrison.
  • Three incumbent CSX directors, in addition to Mr. Ward, would retire from the CSX Board effective as of CSX’s 2017 annual meeting, and Edward J. Kelly, III, CSX’s Presiding Director, would retire from the CSX Board in 2018, leaving at that point seven incumbent CSX directors. Director John Breaux would be ineligible to stand for reelection, under CSX’s current director age limitations, after CSX’s 2018 annual meeting. At that time, the number of incumbent CSX directors would drop from seven to six.
  • Mr. Kelly would serve as Chairman of CSX for one year, with Mr. Hilal as Vice Chairman. Mr. Hilal would succeed Mr. Kelly as Chairman.
  • Mantle Ridge would select the Chairs of CSX’s Compensation Committee and Governance Committee, and would have “heavy” representation on these committees and representation on all other CSX committees.
  • To account for Mr. Harrison’s age, CSX would amend its bylaws to permit any director who is younger than the current director age limitation (i.e., 75 years of age) when first elected to continue to serve as a director for up to five consecutive one-year terms.
CSX’s Board has concerns with Mr. Harrison’s and Mantle Ridge’s proposals.
  • First, the CSX Board believes that the governance requests would grant effective control of CSX to a less than 5% shareholder, which would be receiving additional benefits from CSX that may substantially exceed $100 million.
  • Second, the economic costs of Mr. Harrison’s and Mantle Ridge’s employment-related proposals (which CSX estimates, with the requested reimbursement and tax indemnity, to exceed $300 million), are extraordinary in scope and structured largely as an upfront payment and as equity grants that would be payable to Mr. Harrison upon his death or disability with only a portion of the equity grant including any performance metrics. The CSX Board believes such an employment arrangement for an incoming CEO is exceptionally unusual if not unprecedented.
The CSX Board is committed to being responsive to the interests of its shareholders and has closely observed the market reaction to Mr. Harrison’s possible employment. Accordingly, in light of the unusual circumstances surrounding Mantle Ridge’s approach the CSX Board has decided to seek guidance from shareholders on whether CSX should agree to Mr. Harrison’s and Mantle Ridge’s proposals. To accomplish this and to ensure that all shareholders are heard, the CSX Board has called a special meeting of shareholders. At the special meeting, and as will be described in further detail in CSX’s proxy statement relating to the special meeting, each shareholder will be asked to vote on whether the shareholder approves of (a) the employment arrangements proposed by Mr. Harrison and Mantle Ridge (including the requested reimbursement) and (b) if Mr. Harrison is hired as CEO, the governance arrangements proposed by Mr. Harrison and Mantle Ridge. The CSX Board does not intend to recommend for or against either item of business. The record date for the special meeting will be March 16, 2017, and the meeting will be held at a time and place to be announced. CSX’s shareholders are not required to take any action at this time. The CSX Board is deferring scheduling the CSX annual meeting of shareholders, which the CSX Board anticipates will occur after the special meeting. Goldman, Sachs & Co. and UBS Securities LLC are serving as financial advisors to CSX, and Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP and Hunton & Williams LLP are serving as legal advisors. (CSX, Alex Mayes - posted 2/15)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING FEBRUARY 11, 2017: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending February 11, 2017. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 518,431 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.6 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending February 11 were 253,670 carloads, up 3.9 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 264,761 containers and trailers, up 1.5 percent compared to 2016. Three of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They were coal, up 18.7 percent to 89,318 carloads; nonmetallic minerals, up 4.2 percent to 30,850 carloads; and metallic ores and metals, up 0.8 percent to 19,348 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 13.6 percent to 9,763 carloads; grain, down 8.5 percent to 20,477 carloads; and forest products, down 7 percent to 9,614 carloads. For the first 6 weeks of 2017, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 1,520,237 carloads, up 4.5 percent from the same point last year; and 1,557,309 intermodal units, down 0.4 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 6 weeks of 2017 was 3,077,546 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 2 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending February 11, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 345,752 carloads, up 4.4 percent compared with the same week last year, and 337,597 intermodal units, up 1.3 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 683,349 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.9 percent. North American rail volume for the first 6 weeks of 2017 was 4,054,988 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.5 percent compared with 2016. Canadian railroads reported 76,471 carloads for the week, up 7.6 percent, and 62,036 intermodal units, up 2.3 percent compared with the same week in 2016. For the first 6 weeks of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 829,412 carloads, containers and trailers, up 6.6 percent. Mexican railroads reported 15,611 carloads for the week, down 1.7 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,800 intermodal units, down 7.6 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 6 weeks of 2017 was 148,030 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 8.7 percent from the same point last year. (FRA - posted 2/15)

CP LAUNCHES AWARENESS CAMPAIGN FOR INWARD FACING CAMERAS: Canadian Pacific today launched an awareness campaign that highlights the safety benefits of the proactive use of inward-facing cameras, and continues to urge the Minister of Transport to pass new legislation that would maximize these benefits. The campaign's website, www.cprailsafe.ca, specifies how CP intends to use the technology to reduce risk, improve safety, and assist in preventing accidents. CP is prepared to further invest in and install inward-facing cameras, also known as locomotive video and voice recorders (LVVR), if they can be used to proactively improve safety. The use of this technology would immediately enhance a culture of safety and accountability in the rail sector. "We are proud to be running the safest railway in North America, but we can always do better and having the ability to use inward-facing cameras allows us to be even safer," said Keith Creel, CP's President and Chief Executive Officer. "This is a preventative, proactive, behaviour-changing tool the industry should have been allowed to use years ago." The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) has been calling on Transport Canada to mandate this technology since 2012. Current regulations allow inward-facing cameras to be used only by the TSB for post-incident investigation. "Having the ability to use this technology in a proactive manner as opposed to only after the fact would allow us to prevent incidents, instead of explaining them," said Creel. "This technology would be another tool in the broader package of rules, regulations and our safety management system suite – each of which protects the public, our employees and the goods we transport for our customers. We recognize the need to use this technology in a way that is respectful of our employees, and are committed to doing so." Our industry and regulators have an obligation to take all available measures that enhance the safety and security of the communities surrounding our railways. Effective use of inward-facing camera technology would include the ability for it to be used for investigation after an incident, as well as allowing railways and regulators the opportunity to proactively reduce unsafe behaviors such as tampering, cell phone use, sleeping and noncompliance with other safety-critical rules and regulations before incidents occur. CP uses inward-facing cameras in 49 of its locomotives in the U.S. The technology is also being used successfully by other transportation companies in the U.S. with studies showing a 40-percent reduction in collisions per million miles travelled. For 11 consecutive years, CP has been the safest Class 1 railroad in North America, measured by train-accident frequency. In 2016, CP celebrated its lowest-ever train accident frequency. "This government has made rail safety a focus," said Creel. "We implore the government to do what is right and legislate the proactive use of inward-facing locomotive cameras." CP has always prioritized the safe transportation of goods through the more than 1,100 communities in which it operates and will invest $1.25 billion on capital improvements in 2017. Opponents of taking this important step forward in rail safety are concerned about how railways would use the information. They say employees have a right to privacy while at work and recordings would be used for disciplinary purposes. CP is willing to sit down with regulators and stakeholders to determine how proactive use is defined given the understanding that the technology must be used to prevent incidents. In a recent omnibus survey conducted by Matchbox/MARU with 2,500 Canadians over the age of 18, CP found that almost all Canadians (97 percent) agree appropriate actions should be taken against employees that behave unsafely, while 89 percent agree that employees working in roles that could directly affect their own safety and the safety of others should expect to be monitored. Go to www.cprailsafe.ca and sign the Safety Pledge and show support for increased safety measures for railway operations across Canada. (CP, Randy Kotuby- posted 2/15)

FIRST ION TRAIN SHIPPING FROM THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO: The Region of Waterloo, Canada’s first ION light rail transit vehicle will be shipped from Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant tomorrow (2/15). Delivery is expected to take 10 to 12 days. “This is an important milestone for ION and the Region,” said Councillor Tom Galloway, Chair of the Planning and Works Committee. “Getting the trains into our community moves us one step closer to launching ION service next year. We still have a lot of work to do, with 13 more vehicles expected to arrive before the end of the year, but we’re pleased and will continue to monitor Bombardier closely as we move forward.” The first train will be delivered to the ION Operations, Maintenance and Storage Facility. Once onsite, it will be brought inside where Bombardier and GrandLinq staff will spend several weeks preparing the vehicle for a wide-range of tests. Testing of the first ION train is expected to begin sometime in the spring and will initially take place along the ION test track, which runs from the Northfield ION stop to north of the Caroline/Erb intersection in Waterloo.  “As ION moves people within the Region, it is shaping the community for the future,” said Regional Chair, Ken Seiling. “ION and an improved transit system will help us protect our farm and rural land and concentrate development in our urban areas. Daily, we’re seeing this transformation already taking place. It’s an exciting time for our community.” Residents will be able to see the first ION train at the Operations, Maintenance and Storage Facility in April, when it will be unveiled at a community event. Further details about this event will be released in March.   The second ION LRT vehicle will be shipped from Bombardier’s Kingston plant in June or July. To track the daily progress of the first ION train as it’s delivered to Waterloo Region, please visit: http://bit.ly/IONtracker  (Waterloo Canada, Alex Mayes - posted 2/14)

NORFOLK SOUTHERN OPENS NEW LOCOMOTIVE MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR SHOP IN CHICAGO: Norfolk Southern today opened a new locomotive maintenance and repair facility in Chicago to enhance operational efficiency for trains moving through the nation's largest rail hub. The company's $9.5 million investment expands Norfolk Southern's locomotive repair capabilities in the Chicago region. Previously, locomotives needing more extensive maintenance were transported to other repair shops on the rail system. In addition to the new facility, NS in Chicago operates a locomotive shop for minor repairs at its Calumet Yard intermodal facility and mobile rapid-response crews inspect and service outbound locomotives. "The new facility is strategically located on Norfolk Southern's primary rail line serving Chicago, and it will allow NS to rapidly make repairs to locomotives moving freight to our major terminals," said Don Graab, Norfolk Southern vice president mechanical. "The investment is part of NS' commitment to provide timely and reliable service and will enable us to move goods even more efficiently across the Chicago gateway and benefit intermodal customers shipping freight to East Coast markets." The 16,300-square-foot shop, located at the railroad's 47th Street intermodal facility, is equipped with a 125-ton drop table to inspect, repair, or replace locomotive traction motors; a mobile, 7.5–ton overhead gantry crane to hoist heavy engine components; and a 77-foot-long inspection pit to make repairs to the underside of locomotives. Four locomotives can be worked on indoors at one time. At full capacity, the shop will employ 25 craft workers around the clock. Across the greater Chicago area, NS employs about 600 people in all aspects of rail operations. As the nation's largest rail center, Chicago plays a vital role in Norfolk Southern's rail network. NS operates six rail yards in the city, moving more than 100 trains daily to connect Chicago and Illinois businesses to markets throughout the nation and world. In Illinois, Norfolk Southern employs 1,450 people and operates a network of 1,256 rail miles. (NS - posted 2/14)

GENESEE & WYOMING REPORTS TRAFFIC FOR JANUARY 2017: Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) today reported traffic volumes for January 2017. G&W’s traffic in January 2017 was 278,268 carloads, an increase of 59,837 carloads, or 27.4%, compared with January 2016. G&W’s same-railroad traffic in January 2017 was 240,801 carloads, an increase of 22,370 carloads, or 10.2%, compared with January 2016. January 2017 Highlights by Segment
  • North American Operations: Traffic in January 2017 was 138,551 carloads, an increase of 11.4% compared with January 2016, including carloads from the Providence and Worcester Railroad Company (P&W) acquisition, which closed on November 1, 2016. On a same-railroad basis, North American traffic increased 9.1%, primarily due to increased coal & coke, agricultural products and minerals & stone traffic.
  • Australian Operations: Traffic in January 2017 was 51,977 carloads, including carloads from the Glencore Rail (GRail) acquisition, which closed on December 1, 2016. On a same-railroad basis, Australian traffic increased 14.7%, primarily due to increased agricultural products and metallic ores traffic. Please note, simultaneous with the GRail acquisition, G&W issued a 48.9% equity stake in its Australian Operations to Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets. Carload information for the Australian Operations is presented on a 100% basis.
  • U.K./European Operations: Traffic in January 2017 was 87,740 carloads, an increase of 11.2% compared with January 2016, primarily due to increased intermodal traffic.
(G&W- posted 2/13)

NEW LOOK COMING SOON FOR NJ TRANSIT MOBILE APP: Capitalizing on its booming success, NJ TRANSIT showed off its updated, redesigned look for the mobile app during its monthly Board of Director’s meeting. The new interface will bring additional features and functionality to the home page and all bus customers will be able to use the app to purchase one-way, round-trip and discounted 10-trip tickets. “NJ TRANSIT continues to upgrade our technology in an effort to improve the features on the app, allowing for a more convenient process for our customers,’’ said NJ TRANSIT Executive Director Steven H. Santoro. “A clean, functional interface is critical for our mobile app users and this redesigned look provides for one tap access to each of the most popular features. We are proud to be an industry leader in mobile ticketing and we will continue to look for ways to put the latest technology in the hands of our customers.’’ Visually, the crisp look features a new home screen with a tile layout, for easier viewing of the options, larger buttons, and clearer colors. Tiles provide access to tickets, train schedules, DepartureVision and MyBus right from the home screen. A Quick Buy tile provides for one-tap purchases of favorite tickets. DepartureVision and MyBus will display and auto refresh right on the home screen. NJ TRANSIT bus customers can now purchase monthly passes, discounted 10-trips, roundtrip and one-way tickets for both interstate and intrastate travel. The NJ TRANSIT mobile app’s popularity has grown steadily since its introduction in 2013 as the MyTix program, and now has more than 1.2 million customer accounts. While the upgrades won’t be in operation just yet, the current version of the NJ TRANSIT MyTix mobile app is now available for free download on any web-enabled iOS or Android device and will soon also accept Apple Pay and Android Pay. To purchase tickets, customers simply install the app and create an account, which will securely save a customer’s profile information and purchase history. (NJ Transit - posted 2/10)

CN TARGETING C$2.5 BILLION IN 2017 CAPITAL INVESTMENTS: CN today announced its planned C$2.5 billion capital program in 2017 focused on hardening its core infrastructure. "We once again are investing with a focus on advancing safety, service and productivity through infrastructure maintenance, strategic growth initiatives and new technology," said Luc Jobin , CN's president and chief executive officer. "We remain committed to investing in our business as we continue to advance our agenda of operational and service excellence." CN plans to invest approximately C$1.6 billion , consistent with last year's investment, on track infrastructure to maintain a safe and efficient network. The planned work includes the replacement of 2.2 million rail ties and installation of more than 600 miles of new rail, plus work on bridges, branch line upgrades and other general track maintenance. The company plans to invest approximately C$400 million in 2017 to advance the implementation of PTC, the safety technology mandated by the United States Congress, along parts of its U.S. network. CN will install the hardware on approximately 3,500 route-miles and plans to invest a total of US$1.2 billion on the entire project by 2020. Approximately C$500 million is expected to be spent on equipment, expansion projects and information technology initiatives to serve growing business, improve service for customers and advance safety. This includes planned growth investments to capitalize on Canadian west coast port expansions and key customer projects, and safety technology investments such as wayside inspection systems and track testing vehicles. Jobin added: "Our 2017 capital program maintains a steady level of investment focused on the maintenance and integrity of our network. This allows us to meet the needs of our customers today and for the long run while pursuing our goal of being the safest railroad in North America ." (CN- posted 2/09)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING FEBRUARY 4, 2017: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending February 4, 2017. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 541,474 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.3 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending February 4 were 269,994 carloads, up 11.7 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 271,480 containers and trailers, up 3.3 percent compared to 2016. Seven of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They included coal, up 25.7 percent to 92,222 carloads; grain, up 15.7 percent to 25,741 carloads; and miscellaneous carloads, up 12.7 percent to 10,032 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 were petroleum and petroleum products, down 15.8 percent to 10,088 carloads; forest products, down 4.3 percent to 10,045 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, down 2.8 percent to 18,681 carloads. For the first 5 weeks of 2017, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 1,266,567 carloads, up 4.7 percent from the same point last year; and 1,292,548 intermodal units, down 0.8 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 5 weeks of 2017 was 2,559,115 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 1.9 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending February 4, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 362,517 carloads, up 10.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 346,049 intermodal units, up 3.5 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 708,566 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.1 percent. North American rail volume for the first 5 weeks of 2017 was 3,371,639 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.4 percent compared with 2016. Canadian railroads reported 80,535 carloads for the week, up 14.6 percent, and 65,563 intermodal units, up 6.3 percent compared with the same week in 2016. For the first 5 weeks of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 690,905 carloads, containers and trailers, up 6.9 percent. Mexican railroads reported 11,988 carloads for the week, down 21 percent compared with the same week last year, and 9,006 intermodal units, down 9 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 5 weeks of 2017 was 121,619 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 9.7 percent from the same point last year. (AAR- posted 2/08)

GENESEE & WYOMING AGREES TO ACQUIRE HEART OF GEORGE RAILROAD: Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) announced today that it has agreed to acquire the shares of Atlantic Western Transportation, Inc., parent company of Heart of Georgia Railroad, Inc. (HOG). Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of U.S. Surface Transportation Board approval, and is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2017 HOG was founded in 1999 and operates across the state of Georgia on 219 miles of track leased from the Georgia Department of Transportation. It connects with G&W’s Georgia Southwestern Railroad at Americus, Ga., and with G&W’s Georgia Central Railway at Vidalia, Ga. HOG serves an inland intermodal terminal at Cordele, Ga., providing five-day/week, direct rail service via the Georgia Central Railway to the Port of Savannah for auto, agricultural products and other merchandise customers. HOG has Class I railroad connections with CSX at Cordele and with Norfolk Southern at Americus and Helena, Ga. HOG transports approximately 10,000 annual carloads of agricultural products, feed, fertilizer, and lumber and forest products, of which approximately 2,000 carloads are interchanged with G&W’s Georgia Central Railway. Following the acquisition, HOG will be managed as one of G&W’s Coastal Region railroads, led by Senior Vice President Andy Chunko. “The Heart of Georgia is an excellent bolt-on acquisition that we expect will enhance economic development by providing an efficient lane across southern Georgia,” Mr. Chunko said. “Its proximity to other G&W railroads unlocks operational efficiencies, while enhancing the railroads’ abilities to serve customers and generate new commercial opportunities across the region. “We look forward to the 15 HOG employees joining those at our connecting railroads and working with our Class I partners to expand HOG’s recent success in driving more traffic onto rail in Georgia and Florida,” Mr. Chunko continued. “We also look forward to broadening our already strong relationship with the Georgia Department of Transportation and Georgia Ports Authority, in a state where we have established a significant long-term presence, operating 11 railroads over more than 600 track miles.” (G&W - posted 2/07)

PORT AUTHORITY SECOND PUBLIC MEETING ON PROPOSED $32.2 BILLION 10-YEAR CAPITAL PLAN TO BE HELD FEBRUARY 7: The Port Authority will host the second of its two public meetings on its largest ever $32.2 billion proposed 2017-2026 Capital Plan on Tuesday, February 7, at Port Authority offices at 2 Montgomery Street in Jersey City. The meeting, which will begin at 5 p.m. with the last speakers called at 7:45 p.m., will be attended by Board commissioners as well as the executive director and chief financial officer. The meeting location is one block from PATH’s Exchange Place Station in Jersey City. To speak at the meeting, members of the public can register in advance by clicking here: http://corpinfo.panynj.gov/pages/capital-plan-speaker-registration/. One site registrations also will be available at the door beginning at 4:30 p.m. The public meetings are just one component of the Port Authority’s month-long public review and comment period on the proposed 10-year plan. The plan is posted on the Port Authority’s web site and comments on the document can be submitted through February 15 to publiccomments@panynj.gov. The Board is scheduled to take action on the plan at its February 16 meeting. Prior to that action, the Board will consider public comments received in order to determine if any modifications to the proposed plan are warranted. The proposed plan outlines new major capital projects the agency will invest in over the next 10 years. All projects remain subject to Board authorization processes, and, before they proceed, are subject to a rigorous “gates” review process before they proceed that looks at agency revenue and the ability to finance them. The significant projects include:
  • A new Port Authority Bus Terminal.
  • The redevelopment of John F. Kennedy International Airport and a new AirTrain system to serve LaGuardia Airport.
  • The redevelopment of Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport.
  • The redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport’s Terminals C and D.
  • The extension of the PATH system to the rail link station at Newark Liberty International Airport.
The proposed plan also includes $8.8 billion – or 30 percent of the total 10-year spending – for critical renewal projects at the agency’s transportation facilities, including nearly $2 billion to restore the George Washington Bridge, $1.4 billion to replace the Lincoln Tunnel Helix and $550 million to replace wharves and piers. The proposed Capital Plan also follows the Special Panel’s recommendation to redeploy $600 million in regional development funds previously allocated to both states. The proposed Capital Plan includes a commitment to pay debt service on up to $2.7 billion of expected borrowing by the Gateway Program Development Corporation from low-interest federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loans for the critical trans-Hudson rail tunnel link between New York and New Jersey and Portal Bridge North projects. The plan also includes $7.6 billion to finish projects currently in construction, such as LaGuardia Airport’s ongoing Terminal B redevelopment project, the Bayonne Bridge, Goethals Bridge, PATH’s signal replacement program, upgrades to the Harrison and Grove Street PATH stations and the port and rail cargo facility at Greenville Yard. (PANYNJ - posted 2/06)

READING & NORTHERN RAILROAD PLAYS CUPID TO SHELTER PETS, SPONSORING FREE ADOPTION WEEKEND AT HSBC: Find “the one” just in time for Valentine’s Day! Adoption fees for all pets will be waived at the Humane Society of Berks County (HSBC) from February 10-12 during its Free Adoption Weekend, generously sponsored by the Reading & Northern Railroad (RBMN)! “The Reading & Northern Railroad is a family-oriented and animal friendly company,” says Crystal Arndt, human resources at RBMN. “We are happy to sponsor the Humane Society this weekend as they find adoptable animals their forever homes.” Let cupid be your guide! The HSBC has dozens of animals for adoption, including dogs, cats and even small companion pets like rabbits, guinea pigs, turtles and “love birds.” All pet adoptions include HSBC’s 30-Day Adoption Health Guarantee, spaying or neutering (prior to adoption), vaccinations, microchip, and more. Normal adoption policies apply. When you adopt during this weekend, RBMN will provide a printed snapshot of you with your furry Valentine, which can then be placed in a decorative frame crafted by children attending the event. Crystal exclaims, “Please join us for this Valentine’s Day themed event and come out and meet yourself a sweetheart!” To view many of the animals available for adoption at the HSBC, please visit www.humanepa.org/adoption. or stop by the shelter in person. The HSBC is located at 1801 N. 11th Street in Reading. Regular adoption hours are 10 AM to 4:30 PM on Tues/Wed/Thurs/Sat/Sun, and 10 AM to 6:30 PM on Mon/Fri. Call the shelter at 610-921-2348 for more information. (RBM&N - posted 2/06)

G&W ANNOUNCES RETIREMENT OF CHAIRMAN MORTIMER B. FULLER IN MAY 2017: BOARD TO APPOINT JACK HELLMANN AS CHAIRMAN: Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) today announced that Chairman of the Board of Directors Mortimer B. Fuller III has decided to retire following the Company’s annual stockholders’ meeting in May 2017. Mr. Fuller’s retirement will serve as the culmination of a remarkable 40 years of distinguished service to the Company, its stockholders and the short line railroad industry. Mr. Fuller became Chief Executive Officer, President and Chairman in 1977, when he purchased a controlling interest in the Company’s corporate predecessor, the original Genesee and Wyoming Railroad, which his great grandfather founded in 1899. He has since served as Chief Executive Officer for 30 years and Chairman for 40 years. Throughout his tenure, he demonstrated an unwavering focus on growth and laid the foundation for the Company’s Core Purpose – to be the safest and most respected rail service provider in the world. “I am proud of all that the G&W team has accomplished over the years,” Fuller said. “The commitment of our remarkable employees, exceptional, industry-leading safety performance and the strength and depth of the organization today is more than I ever imagined in 1977. The transition to a new generation of leadership has been a seamless process, and I’m confident G&W will continue to create value for all stockholders in the years to come,” said Mr. Fuller. Following the Staggers Act deregulation of the U.S. rail industry in 1980, Mr. Fuller led growth by acquisition, through an initial public offering in 1996 and expansion into the Australian and Canadian rail markets in 1997. The Company’s disciplined acquisitions continued in those three markets and recently expanded to the UK/Europe. Many of G&W’s executive leadership joined on Mr. Fuller’s watch. Turning 75 in mid-May, Mr. Fuller’s retirement is consistent with the Company and Governance Committee guidelines established by the Board of Directors. “Through the execution of Mort’s extraordinary vision for his family business, G&W has grown from a 14-mile short line railroad in upstate New York with 1977 revenues of $4.4 million to a portfolio of 122 freight railroads worldwide with 2015 revenues of $2 billion,” said Jack Hellmann, G&W’s Chief Executive Officer and Director. “On behalf of our railroads, employees around the world and our Board of Directors, I would like to express sincere gratitude for Mort’s lifelong commitment to the organization and its people. It is an honor to carry on the core values, entrepreneurial spirit and ethical business practices that were instilled by Mort and have distinguished G&W for the past four decades.” G&W’s CEO and Board Member, Jack Hellmann, will be appointed Chairman of the Board following Mr. Fuller’s retirement in May 2017. Upon Mr. Hellmann’s appointment, Oivind Lorentzen will be appointed as G&W’s Lead Independent Director. (G&W - posted 2/03)

PRIVATELY OWNED U.S. FREIGHT RAIL INDUSTRY TO SPEND MORE THAN $22 BILLION ON NETWORK IN 2017: U.S. freight railroads are projected to spend an estimated $22 billion to maintain and upgrade the nation's private rail network in 2017, sizeable investments the industry says will strengthen an essential transportation system. "This year's private network spending, a combination of capital expenditures and maintenance, is part of a continued trend of remarkable proportions, including more than $630 billion since the industry was partially deregulated," said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. "As the House of Representatives convenes today to discuss a '21st Century Infrastructure' and policymakers continue bipartisan discussions with the Trump administration, we hope these leaders realize how important America's private freight rail network is in moving raw and finished products, supporting the U.S. manufacturing sector, providing a foundation for commuter and passenger rail and lessening deterioration of this country's public infrastructure." The projected $22 billion in private spending in 2017 – or approximately $60 million a day – covers upgraded track and locomotives, as well as technological advancements needed to meet demand and make a safe network even safer. Freight railroads spend six times more of revenues on capital expenditures than the average U.S. manufacturer. The most recent statistics available also show freight railroads created nearly $274 billion in economic activity, generated nearly $33 billion in state and federal tax revenues and supported nearly 1.5 million jobs nationally in 2014 alone. "We pay so taxpayers do not, an undeniable benefit to the U.S. economy," Hamberger said. "Our role in moving the country's freight is critical and we look to be a productive part of a bipartisan infrastructure debate." While comparatively less than 2016 spending as the industry continues to retool around a changing customer market and shifting traffic patterns – most notably the massive decline of coal production – the investment figures are still quite significant. The freight rail industry attributes much of its ability to spend towards the smart regulatory framework enacted nearly 40 years ago allowing greater autonomy for business operations. "Unlike most other transportation modes, we do not have a hard 'ask' of policymakers other than to remain free to do what we do best: safely, affordably and efficiently move goods and earn the revenues needed to continue this massive investment," Hamberger concluded. (AAR - posted 2/02)

METRO-NORTH ANNOUONCES OPEN HOUSE FOR PROPOSED PORT JERVIS LINE INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS: MTA Metro-North Railroad today announced that it will hold an Open House in Goshen, N.Y., on February 15 to share details on a proposal for capital improvements that will enable enhanced train service on the Port Jervis Line. The Open House will be held at the Harness Racing Museum, 240 Main Street in Goshen, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Metro-North staff will be available to explain Metro-North’s proposal and answer questions. Staff will make presentations at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Each presentation will be followed by an opportunity for dialogue between the public and railroad officials, who will be seeking input on the proposal. After an extensive study to find ways to improve transit mobility and accessibility between Orange County and New York City, Metro-North identified locations along the Port Jervis Line to build passing sidings for trains as well as a new train yard mid-way along the line, and details of those proposed investments will be the subject of the Open House. The Port Jervis Line is primarily a single track railroad for 65 miles in New York State between Sloatsburg and Port Jervis. This means it operates primarily as a “one-way street,” with limited opportunity for trains to pass each other along the Line. The line’s sole passenger train yard is located in Port Jervis, 95 miles from the Hoboken Terminal in New Jersey, meaning Metro-North has no available yard between these points for storing and servicing trains. These constraints limit the number of trains Metro-North can operate during the peak, off-peak and reverse peak periods. The Port Jervis Line currently carries 10 trains to Hoboken between 3:50 a.m. and 1 p.m., but just two trains are able to operate in the reverse direction during this time. After 1 p.m., the reverse dynamic is in place, with 11 Orange County-bound trains operating between 1 p.m. and 3:10 a.m. and just three trains operating in the reverse direction. The addition of a mid-point yard and passing sidings is envisioned to allow for more frequent peak and off-peak service, and will also introduce reverse commute service. The capital improvements are expected to allow Orange and Rockland County residents to further benefit from longer term capital projects, such as a future trans-Hudson crossing, which could provide the opportunity for a future one-seat ride to New York City and improved transit connections to Stewart Airport. (MTA - posted 2/01)

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES RAPID GROWTH IN SECOND AVENUE SUBWAY RIDERSHIP SINCE OPENING DAY: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced initial ridership figures for the Second Avenue Subway, underscoring the new line’s immediate success in attracting customers and reduced ridership on the crowded Lexington Avenue Line. Since the line opened on January 1 with three new stations and a new entrance at 63rd Street, ridership has grown steadily by approximately 8,000 daily riders per week, hitting 155,000 daily riders on Friday, January 27th. “The Second Avenue Subway has already become an integral part of the Upper East Side and these ridership figures show just how important this expansion project is to the neighborhood and our economy,” Governor Cuomo said. “This project is proof that government can still get big things done and these early ridership numbers send a clear message that when we deliver on our promises New Yorkers respond.” The Second Avenue Subway expansion is part of the Governor Cuomo’s sweeping statewide initiative to redevelop and rebuild New York’s aging infrastructure from the ground up. The comprehensive plan includes a new LaGuardia Airport, a transformational renovation of JFK Airport, completely redesigned Penn Station, the LIRR 2nd and 3rd Track projects, the New New York Bridge, a major expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Center, as well as a complete overhaul and upgrades to the MTA's seven bridges and two tunnels in the metropolitan region. The ridership includes customers entering and leaving 72nd Street, 86th Street and 96th Street, and the new entrance at 3rd Ave and 63rd Street as well as customers transferring from the F Subway line to Q Subway line at 63rd Street. The MTA also released figures for the nearby Lexington Avenue Line, a notoriously crowded line in New York City, which has reduced weekday ridership in four key stations, 68th Street, 77th Street, 86th Street and 96th Street. According to new ridership figures, the number of daily riders entering and exiting the four Upper East Side Lexington Avenue Line Stations declined by an average of 27 percent on weekdays and as much as 46 percent during peak morning rush hours of 8 - 9 a.m., as compared to the same period last year. “The opening of the Second Avenue Subway was a singular event, and New Yorkers have been quick to embrace the new line, with ridership climbing quickly,” said Ronnie Hakim, MTA interim Executive Director. “The fact that so many daily riders are using the new line has also helped to ease crowding during the morning rush at key stations on the Lexington Avenue line, making commuting easier, faster and better for thousands of New Yorkers.” (MTA - posted 2/01)

DARRYK C IRICK NAMED ACTING PRESIDENT OF MTA NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT: Interim MTA Executive Director Ronnie Hakim has named Darryl C. Irick Acting President of MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) as a nationwide search is underway for a permanent MTA Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer. During the temporary post, Irick, the current NYCT Senior Vice President Department of Buses and President of MTA Bus Company, will oversee the MTA agency that operates subways, buses, and paratransit services. He will serve as Acting NYCT President while Ms. Hakim, the President of NYCT since 2015, serves as Interim MTA Executive Director. Current MTA Vice-Chairman Fernando Ferrer will serve as Acting Board Chairman. MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast retired yesterday after 25 years at the MTA. A 7-member committee is tasked with finding and recommending candidates for a permanent MTA Chairperson and CEO to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. “I rely daily on Darryl for his judgment, advice and incredible depth of knowledge and I know with Darryl leading Transit, I can focus on the broad mission at hand assuring the entire MTA network provides the service our customers deserve while we search for a permanent Chairperson,” Hakim said. Irick joined the MTA in 1986 as a bus operator at the Kingsbridge Depot in Manhattan, moving to progressively senior positions in operations and planning. His father also was a NYCT bus operator and maintainer. Irick was named NYCT Senior Vice President of Buses and President of MTA Bus Company in 2011. Irick views the delivery of services as a business model and has overseen improvements such as Select Bus Service, security cameras on buses and the rollout of MTA Bus Time and GPS tracking, which provides real-time bus location information. As part of the MTA’s ongoing commitment to improving safety across all agencies Irick is currently overseeing the installation and testing of pedestrian turn warning and collision avoidance systems and under his leadership, his team devised new approaches to winter storm response with the creation of an Incident Command Center resulting in a much improved, coordinated and efficient delivery of service and customer information during inclement weather. “It is a great honor to be asked to lead New York City Transit, an agency that has been part of my family and my life for as long as I can remember. I look forward to working with my colleagues at Transit to face the challenges ahead as we work together to provide our customers with safe, reliable service,” Irick said. (MTA - posted 2/01)

MTA ANNOUNCES APPOINTMENT OF OWEN MONAGHAN AS CHIEF OF MTA POLICE DEPARTMENT: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced that Owen J. Monaghan has been appointed as the new Chief of Police of the MTA Police Department. Chief Monaghan succeeds Chief Michael R. Coan, who led the MTA Police Department for eight and a half years, the longest serving police chief in department history. Chief Monaghan joined the MTA in March of 2015 as Vice President of Security for MTA-New York City Transit. His appointment was effective January 7. Prior to that he had a distinguished career spanning over three decades at the NYPD, holding several senior leadership roles there rising to the rank of Assistant Chief. He commanded the 13th precinct of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South before becoming Executive Officer of the Transit Bureau and held Commanding Officer positions at the 109th Precinct, Transit District’s 1 & 34. Chief Monaghan, 57, has a Master of Public Administration from Marist College and is a graduate of Columbia University’s Police Management Institute. Originally from Crown Heights, Brooklyn, he now resides in Suffolk County. The MTA Police Department is responsible for patrolling the stations, tracks, trains, railroad crossings, shops, and yards of the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad, and Staten Island Railway. Its jurisdiction spans a 5,000 square-mile territory across 14 counties in New York and Connecticut. (MTA - posted 2/01)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR JANUARY AND WEEK ENDING JANUARY 28, 2017: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported weekly U.S. rail traffic, as well as volumes for January 2017. Carload traffic in January totaled 996,573 carloads, up 2.9 percent or 28,341 carloads from January 2016. U.S. railroads also originated 1,021,068 containers and trailers in January 2017, down 1.8 percent or 18,553 units from the same month last year. For January 2017, combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations were 2,017,641, up 0.5 percent or 9,788 carloads and intermodal units from January 2016. In January 2017, 9 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with January 2016. These included: coal, up 11.9 percent or 35,798 carloads; grain, up 5.2 percent or 4,570 carloads; and waste and nonferrous scrap, up 20.9 percent or 2,546 carloads. Commodities that saw declines in January 2017 from January 2016 included: petroleum and petroleum products, down 19.5 percent or 9,751 carloads; chemicals, down 3.6 percent or 4,456 carloads; and stone, clay and glass products, down 10.9 percent or 2,904 carloads. Excluding coal, carloads were up down 1.1 percent or 7,457 carloads in January 2017 from January 2016. "January rail traffic paints a mixed picture, with some commodities exceeding expectations, while others remained flat or down," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. "For most of last year, coal carloads were down sharply, but for the past couple of months, including January, they've been the major force behind rail carload gains. We can probably expect continued uncertainty in energy markets going forward, but we're hopeful that improving macro-economic fundamentals will drive improvement in rail volumes for many commodity categories this year." Week Ending January 28, 2017 Total U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending January 28, 2017 was 529,696 carloads and intermodal units, up 3.3 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending January 28 were 259,708 carloads, up 4.3 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 269,988 containers and trailers, up 2.4 percent compared to 2016. Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They included coal, up 12.8 percent to 87,208 carloads; nonmetallic minerals, up 7.7 percent to 31,955 carloads; and metallic ores and metals, up 7.0 percent to 21,227 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 12.6 percent to 10,167 carloads; forest products, down 4.2 percent to 10,149 carloads; and chemicals, down 3.9 percent to 30,734 carloads. North American rail volume for the week ending January 28, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 356,206 carloads, up 5.9 percent compared with the same week last year, and 345,019 intermodal units, up 2.6 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 701,225 carloads and intermodal units, up 4.2 percent. North American rail volume for the first 4 weeks of 2017 was 2,663,073 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.2 percent compared with 2016. Canadian railroads reported 79,900 carloads for the week, up 14.0 percent, and 64,152 intermodal units, up 3.6 percent compared with the same week in 2016. For the first 4 weeks of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 544,807 carloads, containers and trailers, up 6.0 percent. Mexican railroads reported 16,598 carloads for the week, down 3.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,879 intermodal units, up 2.8 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 4 weeks of 2017 was 100,625 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 8.2 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 2/01)

AMTRAK WELCOMES ABOARD U.S. SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION ELAINE CHAO: Amtrak Board Chairman Tony Coscia and President and CEO Wick Moorman issued the following statements: “Amtrak congratulates Elaine Chao on her confirmation as U.S. Secretary of Transportation. We also welcome Secretary Chao to the Amtrak Board of Directors where we look forward to working with her as we continue to strengthen Amtrak,” said Amtrak Board Chairman Tony Coscia. “As a former deputy secretary of transportation, Secretary Chao understands the importance of mobility and high-quality infrastructure to the American people and our economy. We are eager to work with Secretary Chao and the department on ways to advance these goals,” said Amtrak President & CEO Wick Moorman. (Amtrak - posted 1/31)

KEITH CREEL BECOMES CEO OF CANADIAN PACIFIC: Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (CP) (CP) today announced that Keith Creel has assumed his new role as president and chief executive officer, becoming the 17th person to lead the company since 1881. "I am humbled, honoured and blessed to be leading CP," Creel said. "I look forward to working closely with employees, customers, shareholders, government and community leaders, and other key stakeholders as we continue to build the iconic CP brand – a brand built on service, safety and doing what we say we will do." Creel was appointed president and chief operating officer in February, 2013 and joined the CP Board of Directors in May of 2015. Creel previously served as the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Canadian National Railway Company. "This transition has been planned since Keith's arrival back in 2013 and we are confident in his abilities to lead the company," said Andrew F. Reardon, Chairman of the Board. "Under Hunter Harrison's leadership, CP built a strong foundation for future success; that foundation, together with Keith's passion for railroading, operational expertise and commitment to customer service and safety, positions the company well for many years to come." For 11 consecutive years, CP has been the safest Class 1 railroad in North America, measured by train-accident frequency. "As a result of our dedication to safety, in 2016 we celebrated our lowest train accident frequency ever," Creel said. "Still, we acknowledge that one incident is too many and we will continue to hold ourselves and others accountable when it comes to safety." Under Creel's leadership, CP will continue to find safer, more efficient ways to connect customers to domestic and global markets, and will continue to play a prominent role in connecting communities in both Canada and the U.S. "To be leading such an iconic company as Canada celebrates its 150 anniversary, is truly special," Creel said. "CP has a proud history and I am privileged to stand alongside today's railroaders to build an even brighter future. I am excited to connect with employees, customers and communities across the continent as we continue to safely move the North American economy." (Randy Kotuby, CP - posted 1/31)

AMTRAK OFFERS UPGRADED HIGH-SPEED WI-FI AT BALTIMORE PENN STATION: Travelers at Baltimore Penn Station can now enjoy improved high-speed broadband Wi-Fi, with enhanced connectivity and reliability. The newly-implemented Wi-Fi solution involves the replacement of technology that has been in service since 2010. Baltimore Penn Station is one of two stations across Amtrak’s national network, including Chicago Union Station, chosen to pilot these upgrades. “These improvements are a much-anticipated boost for our customers as the wireless connectivity in-station should be similar to what customers experience on their home networks, and will ensure they stay connected throughout their journey,” said Jason Molfetas, Executive Vice President of Marketing and Business Development. “Baltimore Penn is the eighth busiest station in our national network so it was a natural fit to pilot the Wi-Fi improvements to the city’s thousands of daily commuters and local students.” Launch of the upgraded in-station Wi-Fi also includes two new high-top work space tables in the station’s main hall. The 30-inch tables include charging outlets and will allow Penn Station customers to work with greater ease while waiting for their trains and connections. In addition, customers will see a custom AmtrakConnect website featuring relevant Baltimore Penn Station content such as real-time arrivals and departures and information on local transit connections and parking. The site will also provide customers with information about neighboring restaurants and tourism opportunities. Accessing In-Station Wi-Fi To access the complimentary service, customers simply select AmtrakConnect from the list of options on their smartphones, tablets or laptop computers. Once selected, customers must agree to the terms and conditions to gain access to the service. To see a full list of wireless-enabled stations and train routes across the Amtrak national network, please visit: https://www.amtrak.com/journey-with-wi-fi-train-station. (Amtrak - posted 1/31)

IOWA PACIFIC HOOSIER STATE TRAINS 850 AND 851 WILL TRANSITION TO AMTRAK EQUIPMENT: The Hoosier State, which operates four days per week between Indianapolis and Chicago, will transition to railcars, locomotives and on-board services supplied by Amtrak beginning Wednesday, March 1, 2017. No action is required from ticketed customers. The Indiana Department of Transportation and communities along the route will continue to fund the service, which will include Wi-Fi and Business Class seating. Once contracts with Amtrak are amended, Amtrak will advise booked customers of available on-board services prior to their travel date. Indiana is one of 18 states that contract with Amtrak to provide short-distance, intercity passenger rail services. Under the amended agreements, Amtrak will continue to provide train crews, ticketing and reservation services, and also coordinate with the private freight railroads that own the tracks over which the Hoosier State operates. Intermediate stops will continue to be Crawfordsville, Dyer, Lafayette and Rensselaer. Train 851 will continue to run north on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, with Train 850 operating south on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. On the other days, the communities along the route will be served by the Cardinal (Trains 50 and 51), which operates between New York City and Chicago. Together, the Hoosier State and the Cardinal provide daily Amtrak service between the important Midwestern cities of Indianapolis and Chicago.(Amtrak - posted 1/30)

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES VERONIQUE HAKIM WILL SERVE AS INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE MTA: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced today that Veronique Hakim will serve as the interim Executive Director of the MTA while a seven-person committee conducts a nationwide search for a permanent Chair and Chief Executive Officer. Hakim is a lifelong transportation professional who has spent more than 24 years at the MTA, including serving as President of New York City Transit since December 2015. MTA Vice Chairman Fernando Ferrer will serve as Acting Chairman during the search for a permanent replacement. Current MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast is retiring from public service tomorrow after a 25-year career at the MTA. The members of the search committee will be reviewing and recommending candidates to the Governor in the coming weeks. The search committee is comprised of:
  • Tom Prendergast, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Joseph Lhota, Senior Vice President and Vice Dean, Chief of Staff of NYU Langone Medical Center and Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority
  • Fernando Ferrer, Vice Chairman of the MTA Board
  • Kathryn Wylde, President and Chief Executive Officer of Partnership for NYC
  • Scott Rechler, Chairman, Regional Planning Association and former Vice Chairman of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey
  • John Samuelsen, Executive Vice President of the Transport Workers Union
  • Rodney Slater, Former United States Secretary of Transportation
“Ronnie Hakim is ready to embrace the challenge of running the nation’s largest transportation network during this transition. She is a true transportation professional who has dedicated her life to improving the commute for millions of New Yorkers and I am confident that in this new role she will continue doing that as we reimagine and modernize the MTA for the 21st century,” Governor Cuomo said. “Under the leadership of Tom Prendergast, the MTA has made dramatic progress - most recently with the successful opening of the long-awaited Second Avenue Subway – and I have directed the search committee to identify candidates who will build on his record of accomplishments. I look forward to receiving their recommendations.” “Governor Cuomo rightly recognizes that the MTA will be in good hands with Ronnie Hakim,” said Tom Prendergast. “Ronnie has a deep understanding of our regional transportation network from her exemplary stewardship of New York City Transit to her time leading regional commuter rail and highway agencies. I wish her the best of luck and I look forward to serving on the search committee that will choose the next permanent leader of this agency.” “I want to thank Governor Cuomo for entrusting me with this incredible responsibility and Tom Prendergast for the fine example he set during his years leading the MTA,” said Veronique Hakim. "The MTA has been my professional home for more than two decades. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve as interim Executive Director leading the dedicated men and women who keep this region moving day in and day out.” "The MTA is vital to the functioning of New York and it is the economic engine behind this region’s incredible growth,” said Fernando Ferrer. “Tom Prendergast set a high bar for leadership during his distinguished career at the MTA and it has been an honor to work with him. I am looking forward to assuming the Acting Chairman role and partnering with Ronnie Hakim while we conduct this search." Hakim has served as President of New York City Transit since December 2015. Prior to that she served as the Executive Director of NJ TRANSIT for a year and a half, which operates 12 commuter rail lines, three light rail lines, 261 bus routes and Access Link paratransit service across the state of New Jersey. She previously served nearly four years as Executive Director of the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (MTA - 1/30)

CANADIAN PACIFIC AND PARKS CANADA SIGN PLAN TO HELP PROTECT GRIZZLY BEARS NEAR THE RAILROAD: Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Minister responsible for Parks Canada, and Mr. Glen Wilson, Assistant Vice-President Environmental Risk, Canadian Pacific (CP), announced the completion of the joint Parks Canada-CP Grizzly Bear Research Initiative to help reduce railway related risk to grizzly bears. In 2010, CP and Parks Canada signed a five-year Joint Action Plan aimed at reducing grizzly bear mortality on the rail line in Banff and Yoho national parks. While a reduction in grizzly mortalities within Banff and Yoho national parks has been observed since the start of this joint research initiative, this research shows there is no simple solution to this issue. By working collaboratively since the launch of this initiative, Parks Canada, CP, and research teams from the Universities of Alberta and Calgary learned about the complex factors that influence grizzly bear behaviour along the rail line in Banff and Yoho national parks. Between 2010 and 2015, at any given time, a minimum of 11-13 grizzly bears with GPS radio-collars were being tracked by researchers. The data collected showed specialists where, when and sometimes why bears were using the railway. Based on the recommendations from the research initiative and in keeping with the Canada National Parks Act and Banff and Yoho Park Management Plans, Parks Canada and CP will implement measures on and off the railway to help reduce the risk of grizzly bear train collisions including the use of prescribed fire, development of alternative travel routes for bears, targeted vegetation management, and a pilot exclusion fencing program near railway greasing stations. The results of the research and subsequent action from CP and Parks Canada will reduce the likelihood of bear-train collisions and further protect this iconic species for present and future generations. (CP- 1/30)

KEOLIS ENDS 2016 WITH IMPROVED MBTA COMMUTER RAIL PERFORMANCE AS 91% OF TRAINS ARRIVE ON TIME IN DECEMBER; 89% FOR YEAR: Performance on the MBTA Commuter Rail system continues to show improvement with on-time-performance at 92% over the last 30 days, Keolis Commuter Services General Manager David Scorey told the MBTA’s Fiscal Management Control Board yesterday. MBTA Commuter Rail finished 2016 with an 89% OTP across all lines. When adjusted for delay factors beyond Keolis’ control, such as trespassers or police activity, OTP was at nearly 94% for 2016, its best annual performance since Keolis began operating the network in July 2014, and a significant improvement over 2015 when a series of snow storms impacted the transit system for several days. Keolis officials said the performance improvements were due in part to the addition of new staff on the mechanical and transportation teams and adjustments made to the new schedules. Keolis also created specialized Rapid Action Teams that have been focused on resolving issues that were causing certain sections of the system to underperform, including the Fitchburg, Haverhill and Worcester lines. “We know that our passengers are counting on us to provide a safe and reliable commuter rail service each and every day,” said Keolis Commuter Services General Manager David Scorey. “While we are pleased that our performance strengthened in 2016, leading to higher customer satisfaction, we remain focused on proactively tackling issues and finding innovative ways to ensure that we continue to deliver a superior passenger experience on a consistent basis.” The improving performance had a favorable impact on commuter rail passenger satisfaction which, according to an MBTA survey, rose in December to their highest levels in six months, exceeding satisfaction rates reported for the rest of the MBTA system. “The on-time performance rates have been trending in the right direction, but work remains to be done,” said Acting MBTA General Manager Brian Shortsleeve.  “We’ll continue to work closely with our Commuter Rail partner to improve reliability, and deliver the consistent levels of service our customers expect and deserve.” December 2016 OTP was 91% (unadjusted) and 94% (adjusted), marking the network’s best monthly performance since April 2016, when OTP was at 92.37% (unadjusted) and 95.57% (adjusted). Between May and November 2016, network performance had been adversely impacted by several factors, including the largest schedule change in system history, tie replacement work on the Worcester Line, rolling stock equipment shortages due to inspection backlogs, and seasonal slippery rail conditions. (Keolis- posted 1/27)

SEPTA BOARD APPROVES SECOND-GENERATION SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM: SEPTA has reaffirmed its commitment to a sustainable future, with the Board's approval today of a second-generation Sustainability Program Plan for Fiscal Years 2017-2020. Entitled "SEP-TAINABLE 2020", the plan is a core part of SEPTA's Five-Year Strategic Business Plan. It implements a triple-bottom line approach - economic, social and environmental - to all of SEPTA's efforts. The plan establishes a goal of "budget neutrality," requiring projects to meet a rigorous financial standard of paying for themselves through grants, revenue, or cost savings. "SEPTA's Sustainability Program has helped the Authority save millions of dollars in operating costs," said SEPTA Board Chairman Pasquale T. Deon. "It has also been extremely valuable in positioning SEPTA to be competitive in grant programs for new initiatives, and we expect that will continue in the coming years." "Sustainability is a core principle for SEPTA in our everyday operations, and as we continue efforts to rebuild our system and grow it for future generations," said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. "SEP-TAINABLE 2020 will play a key role as we continue to advance critical improvements throughout the SEPTA system." The first-generation Sustainability Program Plan, "SEP-TAINABLE", was adopted in January 2011. Notable achievements include:
  • An Energy Action Plan, published in 2012, which has charted a course to implement innovative energy projects such as facility retrofits, wayside energy storage, and battery-electric buses.
  • A Climate Adaptation Plan, published in 2013, which served as the foundation for an $87 million grant award from the Federal Transit Administration to implement an "Infrastructure Resiliency Program".
  • A Cycle-Transit Plan, published in 2015, which has been used as a framework for installation of strategic bike infrastructure at rail stations to encourage ridership growth.
  • An Environmental & Sustainability Management System (ESMS) for the Berridge Shop, which was certified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) under its globally recognized standard for environmental management.
The proposed second-generation Sustainability Program, SEP-TAINABLE 2020, aims to build on these successes, and adopts aggressive performance targets. Plans include:
  • A Recycling Program refresh, in which SEPTA has begun to strategically install recycling receptacles at employee facilities and passenger stations to increase waste diversion rates and reduce costs associated with a multi-year hauling contract.
  • A Renewable Energy Plan, building off an existing solar proposal to explore budget-neutral opportunities for adoption of renewable energy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
  • A Stormwater Management Plan, which would seek cost-effective opportunities to reduce fees associated with impervious surfaces through a partnership with the Philadelphia Water Department and strategic implementation of green infrastructure.
  • An expanded ISO-Certified ESMS program to include the Wayne Shop as well as implementation of an "ISO Lite" program to introduce environmental management best practices at all SEPTA facilities.
As with the first-generation plan, the SEP-TAINABLE 2020 program plan has been developed through extensive input, including stakeholder roundtables, a public open house, peer agency benchmarking through APTA, and collaboration with key regional planning partners from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, City of Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties. (SEPTA - posted 1/27)

LIVE STEAM COMES TO THE AMHERST TRAIN SHOW THIS WEEKEND: For 2017, the Boothbay Railway Village will be bringing a live steam engine to the Amherst Railway Society's annual train show, being held this weekend in West Springfield, Massachusetts . The locomotive was built by the H K Porter Company in Pittsburgh in 1925 for the Raritan Copper Company in New Jersey. H K Porter specialized in industrial locomotives, and the Boothbay locomotive was one of eleven owned by Raritan Copper. The 2-foot gauge engine will be set up outdoors at the Railroad Hobby Show, operating on approximately 100 feet of track under its own steam power. Boothbay Railway Village operates a fully certified boiler shop and completed restoration of the H K Porter locomotive in 2014. For more information about the train show, visit http://www.amherstrail.org/ARS/news-BoothbaySteam.php. (Amherst Railway Society - posted 1/26)

READING & NORHTHERN ENJOYS RECORD-BREAKING YEAR: At the close of 2016 Reading & Northern Railroad (R&N) had more employees, more track, more locomotives, more freight cars, more facilities and more customers than at any point in its history. Fueling this unprecedented period of growth was yet another excellent year of both freight and passenger traffic. R&N grew its merchandise traffic by 16 percent in 2016 with almost 20,000 carloads. Its tourist operations handled well over 100,000 visitors, the second time in its history that it reached the 100,000 passengers mark. Owner/CEO Andy Muller, Jr. noted that it has always been his strategy to reinvest in the company. “Business has been very good the last few years and in order to keep growing we invest in the railroad ahead of the demand. That is why this year we bought more locomotives and freight cars and did an unprecedented amount of trackwork.” The facts are:
  • R&N added 10 miles of new track to its system in 2016, which includes the acquisition of the Humboldt Industrial Park in Hazleton, PA and over 3 miles of new track construction.
  • R&N forces and contractors installed over 15,000 ties, replaced over 20,000 linear feet of rail and built a dozen new switches.
  • R&N acquired 6 4-axle locomotives, which was a 20% increase to the locomotive fleet.
  • R&N acquired 162 additional freight cars (a 16% growth) increasing the fleet to 1179 railcars.
  • R&N began or completed construction of six additional facilities
  • R&N added over a dozen new customers, most with the Humboldt acquisition, and
  • R&N added 21 new employees.
“It takes well-trained employees operating well-powered trains over well-maintained tracks to deliver the high quality service that our customers have learned to expect from Reading & Northern.” said Wayne Michel, President of R&N. “We offer our customers guaranteed service windows and provide additional service at no cost to help them with their demands. Taking care of the customers is Job 1 at the Reading & Northern.” Muller remarked that the past growth is merely a precursor to an exciting future. “I expect our railroad to grow. I expect our superior service will help our customers grow and as they grow we will benefit. I expect our reputation to encourage more businesses to locate along our lines. We will always take care of our customers and our employees. That is the cornerstone of our success.” said Muller. (Reading & Northern Railroad - posted 1/26)

NORFOLK SOUTHERN FACILITATED $4.0 BILLION IN INDUSTRIAL INVESTMENT ALONG RAIL LINES IN 2016: Norfolk Southern assisted 71 industries in locating or expanding their businesses along its rail lines in 2016. The 58 new and 13 expanded industries represent an investment of $4.0 billion by Norfolk Southern customers and are expected to create more than 4,600 new jobs in the railroad's service area, generating more than 50,000 carloads of new rail traffic annually. “We were pleased to see a steady stream of manufacturing projects and a markedly stronger portfolio overall near the end of the year, and that is an encouraging indicator for activity in the coming year,” said Jason Reiner, assistant vice president industrial development. “Sixteen manufacturing-related projects contributed nearly $2 billion in new investment by customers and 3,000 new jobs during 2016.” Norfolk Southern works with state and local economic development authorities on projects involving site location and development of infrastructure to connect customers to its rail system and provides free and confidential facility location services, including industrial park planning, site layout, track design, and supply chain analysis. During the past 10 years, NS’ Industrial Development Department has participated in the location or expansion of 945 facilities representing an investment of over $60 billion and creating more than 43,000 direct new customer jobs in the territory served by the railroad. (Norfolk Southern, Randy Kotuby - posted 1/26)

NORFOLK SOUTHERN REPORTS FOURTH-QUARTER AND FULL YEAR 2016 RESULTS: Norfolk Southern Corporation today reported fourth-quarter and 2016 financial results. Net income for the quarter was $416 million, a 15 percent increase compared with $361 million during the same period of 2015. Diluted earnings per share were $1.42, up 18 percent compared with $1.20 diluted earnings per share in the fourth quarter last year. Norfolk Southern announced Tuesday that it increased its quarterly dividend to $0.61 per share, reflecting a 2 cent, or 3 percent, increase over the previous quarter’s dividend. For 2016, net income was $1.7 billion, up 7 percent compared with $1.6 billion in 2015. Diluted earnings per share increased 10 percent to $5.62 compared with $5.10 per diluted share in the prior year. Results for 2015 included restructuring expenses that reduced fourth-quarter 2015 net income by $31 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, and lowered 2015 net income by $58 million, or $0.19 per diluted share for the full year. “2016 was a pivotal year as Norfolk Southern began implementing its new Strategic Plan. We delivered $250 million of productivity savings and recorded our best ever operating ratio, notwithstanding challenging business conditions,” said James A. Squires, Norfolk Southern chairman, president and CEO. “With the dedication and support of Norfolk Southern’s talented employees, we improved service for customers while positioning the company for further growth in 2017 and beyond. We are poised to continue building on our success and deliver an additional $100 million of productivity savings in 2017 on the way to our goal of $650 million of annual savings by 2020. We remain steadfast in our commitment to delivering superior shareholder value through the execution of our Strategic Plan.” FOURTH-QUARTER SUMMARY
  • Railway operating revenues of $2.5 billion declined 1 percent compared with fourth-quarter 2015, reflecting lower merchandise and coal traffic volume, as well as reduced fuel surcharges. These declines were offset in part by intermodal volume growth that eclipsed the effects of the 2015 Triple Crown restructuring.
  • General merchandise revenues were $1.5 billion, 1 percent lower than the same period last year. Volume was 3% lower overall, as growth in steel and agriculture was offset by declines in energy markets, vehicles, and paper and forest products. Norfolk Southern’s five merchandise commodity groups reported the following year-over-year revenue results: Agriculture: $399 million, up 4 percent; Chemicals: $395 million, down 7 percent; Metals/Construction: $296 million, up 6 percent; Automotive: $237 million, down 5 percent; Paper/Forest: $177 million, down 5 percent
  • Intermodal revenues increased to $583 million, a 4 percent gain compared with fourth-quarter 2015. Volumes increased 7 percent, with growth in domestic and international traffic offsetting the Triple Crown restructuring.
  • Coal revenues declined 7 percent to $403 million compared with fourth-quarter 2015. Volume fell 4 percent with an increase in export coal softening the decline in the utility market.
  • Railway operating expenses declined $147 million, or 8 percent, to $1.7 billion compared with same period last year due to targeted expense reductions and the absence of last year’s restructuring costs.
  • Income from railway operations was $761 million, an increase of 19 percent compared with fourth-quarter 2015.
  • The composite service metric, which measures train performance, terminal operations, and operating plan adherence, was 80 percent, a 200 basis point improvement compared with 78 percent in the same quarter last year.
  • The railway operating ratio, or operating expenses as a percentage of revenues, was 69.4 percent, a 510 basis point improvement compared with 74.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.
2016 SUMMARY
  • Railway operating revenues were $9.9 billion, 6 percent lower compared with 2015. The decrease was driven by a 3 percent volume decline due to reductions in energy-related markets and the Triple Crown restructuring, as well as reduced fuel surcharges.
  • General merchandise revenues were $6.2 billion, a 2 percent decrease compared with the prior year. Volume declined 2 percent, primarily due to reduced demand in energy markets, and fuel surcharges were lower.
  • Intermodal revenues totaled $2.2 billion, 8 percent lower compared with 2015, reflecting the Triple Crown restructuring, as well as reduced fuel surcharges. International and domestic growth more than offset the volume decline from the Triple Crown restructuring.
  • Coal revenues were $1.5 billion, down 18 percent year-over-year. Reduced utility volumes combined with a weak global export market lowered total volume by 16 percent.
  • Railway operating expenses declined $813 million, or 11 percent, to $6.8 billion primarily due to targeted expense reduction initiatives, lower fuel expenses, the absence of last year’s restructuring cost, and service improvements.
  • Income from railway operations was $3.1 billion, a 7 percent increase compared with the previous year.
  • The composite service metric was 80 percent, an 800 basis point improvement compared with 72 percent last year.
  • The operating ratio for the year was a record 68.9 percent, a 370 basis point improvement compared with 72.6 percent in the prior year.
For 2017, Norfolk Southern plans to invest $1.9 billion to maintain the safety of its rail network, enhance service, improve operational efficiency, and support growth opportunities, which is consistent with Norfolk Southern’s total capital investment of $1.9 billion in 2016. (Norfolk Southern, Randy Kotuby - posted 1/25)

MTA BOARD KEEPS BASE FARE FLAT: APPROVES LOWEST FARE, TOLL INCREASES SINCE 2009: New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board today voted to keep the base fare flat for another two years in approving the lowest fare and toll increase since 2009, when the MTA committed to a biennial schedule for regular increases. The plan approved today increased fares and tolls over the next two years by 4 percent – or less than 2 percent annually and less than the rate of inflation. The MTA was able to hold the necessary increases below inflation as a result of the agency’s continued discipline in keeping costs down. The new fares, which take effect March 19, will allow the MTA to continue to provide safe and reliable service. “The MTA is focused on keeping our fares affordable for low-income riders and frequent riders, and on how we can keep necessary scheduled increases as small and as predictable as possible,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said. “Keeping fares and tolls down was possible because of the continued operational efficiencies and ways we have reduced costs while adding service and capacity along our busiest corridors, most recently with the opening of the new Second Avenue subway.” The MTA Board approved increases that keep the base fare for subways and buses at $2.75 and to keep a pay-per-ride bonus, making the effective fare with the bonus $2.62. The 7-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard, which is heavily used by lower-income and frequent riders, will increase by only a dollar to $32; the 30-day Unlimited Ride MetroCard will increase from $116.50 to $121. Both of these options were the same under the two proposals presented to the MTA Board. The Single Ride Ticket remains at $3. The cash fare for Express Buses remains at $6.50, making the effective fare with the bonus $6.19. (MTA - posted 1/25)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING JANUARY 21, 2017: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending January 21, 2017. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 530,299 carloads and intermodal units, up 8.1 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending January 21 were 262,496 carloads, up 10.7 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 267,803 containers and trailers, up 5.8 percent compared to 2016. Eight of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They included coal, up 22.4 percent to 90,786 carloads; grain, up 16.3 percent to 24,485 carloads; and miscellaneous carloads, up 12.7 percent to 10,052 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 were petroleum and petroleum products, down 17.7 percent to 10,217 carloads; and forest products, down 5 percent to 9,726 carloads. For the first 3 weeks of 2017, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 736,865 carloads, up 2.5 percent from the same point last year; and 751,080 intermodal units, down 3.2 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 3 weeks of 2017 was 1,487,945 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 0.5 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending January 21, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 359,088 carloads, up 11 percent compared with the same week last year, and 342,843 intermodal units, up 5.8 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 701,931 carloads and intermodal units, up 8.4 percent. North American rail volume for the first 3 weeks of 2017 was 1,961,848 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.2 percent compared with 2016. Canadian railroads reported 79,951 carloads for the week, up 16.2 percent, and 63,635 intermodal units, up 7.2 percent compared with the same week in 2016. For the first 3 weeks of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 400,755 carloads, containers and trailers, up 4.9 percent. Mexican railroads reported 16,641 carloads for the week, down 4.5 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,405 intermodal units, down 0.9 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 3 weeks of 2017 was 73,148 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 10.5 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 1/25)

FMCB APPROVES BLUE HILL AVENUE STATION ON THE FAIRMOUNT LINE: The MBTA's Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) today approved a recommendation of MBTA managers to execute a contract for construction of the brand new Blue Hill Avenue Commuter Rail Station between Blue Hill Avenue (Route 28) and Cummins Highway on the Fairmount Line. The contract will be executed with McCourt Construction Company for $16.97 million. Placed in a primarily residential community, Blue Hill Avenue Station will be constructed as the ninth station for the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line and provide a direct ride to downtown Boston in 20 minutes with no transfers needed. The station will be located approximately six-and-a-half miles from South Station and a quarter mile from Mattapan Square, connecting the community to other neighborhoods along the corridor. The station design includes one center-island platform between Blue Hill Avenue and Cummins Highway located below the street level measuring approximately 768 feet as well as two covered, fully accessible pedestrian ramps from both Cummins Highway and Blue Hill Avenue. The station will also include canopies, warning strips, benches/windscreens, closed circuit television (CCTV) security cameras, new lighting, new messaging signs, train approach warning systems, and historical graphic panels. The MassDOT Board of Directors and FMCB previously authorized funding for the project on September 2, 2015, in the amount of $26.55 million. The project was advertised in December 2016 with seven bids received. After completion of a bid analysis, the lowest bid of $16.97 million from McCourt Construction Company was chosen. Blue Hill Avenue Station is expected to be open along the Fairmount Line for boarding and disembarking in 2019 after a two-year construction period. On a daily basis, approximately 1,300 customers use the Fairmount Commuter Rail Line. Wachusett Station on the Fitchburg Commuter Rail Line was the last station to open in September 2016 with Boston Landing Station on the Framingham/Worcester Line scheduled to be open to passengers in April 2017. (MASSDOT - posted 1/24)

NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAISES QUARTERLY DIVIDEND: Norfolk Southern Corporation announced that its Board of Directors today voted to increase the regular quarterly dividend on the company's common stock by 3 percent, or 2 cents per share, from 59 to 61 cents per share. "The dividend increase reflects our board's confidence in the company's strategic plan and demonstrates our commitment to deliver long-term value for our shareholders," said Norfolk Southern Chairman, President and CEO James A. Squires. The increased dividend is payable on March 10 to stockholders of record on Feb. 3. Since its inception in 1982, Norfolk Southern has paid dividends on its common stock for 138 consecutive quarters. (Randy Kotuby, NS - posted 1/24)

CANADIAN NATIONAL REPORTS FOURTH QUARTER EARNINGS: Luc Jobin, president and chief executive officer, said: "Despite facing difficult winter conditions in December, CN delivered very strong fourth-quarter results and throughout 2016 demonstrated once again its ability to perform well in a mixed economic environment. "We saw weaker volumes during the year, but quickly adjusted as our dedicated team of railroaders maintained its focus on operational efficiency, while continuing to provide quality service to our customers and improve our safety performance."
  • 2017 outlook, increased dividend: Jobin said: "Overall, the economy remains challenging, but we remain optimistic and expect to see moderate volume growth in 2017." CN expects to deliver EPS growth in the mid-single-digit range in 2017 over adjusted diluted EPS of C$4.59 in 2016. (1) CN will continue to invest in the safety and efficiency of its network, with a 2017 capital investment program of approximately C$2.5 billion, which includes increased spending for Positive Train Control technology in the United States. The Company's Board of Directors today approved a 10 per cent increase to CN's 2017 quarterly cash dividend.
  • Fourth-quarter 2016 revenues, traffic volumes and expenses: Revenues for the quarter increased by two per cent to C$3,217 million. Revenues increased for grain and fertilizers (14 per cent), automotive (four per cent), and intermodal (one per cent). Revenues declined for metals and minerals (six per cent), coal (six per cent), petroleum and chemicals (five per cent), while revenues for forest products remained flat. The revenue increase was mainly attributable to higher volumes of Canadian grains and U.S. soybeans, refined petroleum products, finished vehicles, and petroleum coke; as well as freight rate increases. These factors were partly offset by lower volumes of crude oil, U.S. thermal coal, and drilling pipe; and lower applicable fuel surcharge rates. Carloadings for the quarter increased three per cent to 1,369 thousand. Revenue ton-miles (RTMs), measuring the relative weight and distance of rail freight transported by CN, increased by four per cent, while rail freight revenue per RTM, a measurement of yield defined as revenue earned on the movement of a ton of freight over one mile, decreased by three per cent. Operating expenses for the quarter increased by one per cent to C$1,822 million. The increase was primarily due to higher casualty and other expenses, and higher depreciation and amortization expense, partly offset by lower pension expense and lower costs resulting from operating productivity gains, including cost-management initiatives.
  • Full-year 2016 revenues, traffic volumes and expenses: Revenues for 2016 decreased by five per cent to C$12,037 million. Revenues increased for automotive (six per cent), forest products (four per cent), and grain and fertilizers (one per cent), but were more than offset by revenue declines for coal (29 per cent), metals and minerals (15 per cent), petroleum and chemicals (11 per cent), and intermodal (two per cent). The decrease in total revenues was mainly attributable to lower volumes of crude oil, coal and frac sand; as well as lower applicable fuel surcharge rates. These factors were partly offset by the positive translation impact of the weaker Canadian dollar and freight rate increases. Carloadings declined five per cent to 5,205 thousand. RTMs decreased by five per cent. Rail freight revenue per RTM remained flat compared to 2015, driven by lower applicable fuel surcharge rates and an increase in the average length of haul; offset by the positive translation impact of a weaker Canadian dollar and freight rate increases. Operating expenses for 2016 decreased by eight per cent to C$6,725 million. The decrease was mainly due to lower costs resulting from operating productivity gains, including cost-management initiatives and decreased volumes of traffic; lower pension expense; and lower fuel prices, partly offset by the negative translation impact of a weaker Canadian dollar on U.S.-dollar-denominated expenses. The operating ratio was 55.9 per cent in 2016, an improvement of 2.3 points over the 2015 operating ratio of 58.2 per cent.
  • Foreign currency impact on results: Although CN reports its earnings in Canadian dollars, a large portion of its revenues and expenses is denominated in U.S. dollars. As such, the Company's results are affected by exchange-rate fluctuations. On a constant currency basis (1) that excludes the impact of fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates, CN's net income for the three months and year ended December 31, 2016 would have been lower by C$3 million (unchanged per diluted share) and C$85 million (C$0.11 per diluted share), respectively
(Randy Kotuby, CN posted 1/24)

MTA ANNOUNCES FIRST NEW STATION ISLAND RAILWAY STATION TO OPEN IN MORE THAN 20 YEARS: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced that Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroads are seeing record ridership numbers, with LIRR carrying 89.3 million customers in 2016, a 1.9% increase over last year and the highest ridership since 1949. Metro-North Railroad carried approximately 86.5 million in 2016, the highest ridership in Metro-North’s history. The LIRR’s growth continues recent trends in which the LIRR has registered a 1.97% average growth per year over the past 5 years. The railroad’s ridership has grown 10.2% over five years, from 81.0 million in 2011. Metro-North’s ridership for 2016 surpasses the previous record of 86.3 million, set last year. Metro-North’s total ridership has more than doubled since the railroad was founded in 1983. The ridership figures come at a time when Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has proposed a major capacity increase to the LIRR by expanding the Main Line from two tracks to three between Floral Park and Hicksville and as the LIRR is building a second track from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma. Governor Cuomo has also announced the re-envisioning of Penn Station, which is expected to host some Metro-North New Haven Line service, via four new stations in the Bronx to be built in the coming years. “The ridership figures underscore the importance of the LIRR and Metro-North capacity expansion projects that are underway or proposed,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast.
  • Changing Economic Patterns Point to Further Growth for LIRR: Underlying economic and demographic trends portend ridership growth continuing into the future, as a generation now entering the workforce shows a greater reliance on the railroad than older generations. A detailed demographic and travel analysis of LIRR customers shows an increasing reliance on the LIRR on the part of younger generations, and the beginnings of a reverse-travel market segment that the MTA expects would be expanded if Governor Cuomo’s proposed Main Line Expansion project is built as expected. The study showed that millennials, defined as those born between 1981 and 1997, have lower levels of access to automobiles than older New Yorkers, and are more likely to reach their local station by walking, bus, or being dropped off by others. “Our data reinforces what we’ve seen elsewhere that millennials are more likely to opt for the railroad as matter of choice, and to embrace a lifestyle built around downtown activities and living than previous generations,” said William Wheeler, MTA Director of Planning. “We know that habits that are developed early in one’s adult life tend to stick with them through their entire working lives. So the trend bodes well as a long-term positive for LIRR ridership.” The survey of LIRR customers found that for weekday travel via LIRR, 65% of trips were made to Manhattan for work, 14% were for westbound work travel elsewhere, 9% were for non-work travel to Manhattan, and 11% were for eastbound travel for work or non-work. “These results will be very valuable to the railroad as we make decisions regarding service planning, capital program expenditures and marketing in the years ahead,” said LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski. “There is an intrinsic demand for reverse-peak travel to the Island that today is very difficult for the LIRR to accommodate as a two-track railroad. This data shows that if and when the Main Line is expanded to a third track, our reverse-commute service would fill an immediate unmet need.”
  • Ridership Records on Metro-North’s Harlem, Hudson and New Haven Lines: All three of Metro-North’s East of Hudson Lines surpassed records. The Harlem Line and the Hudson Line beat last year’s record by over 125,000 each, with 27.7 on the Harlem Line and 16.6 million rides on the Hudson Line. The New Haven Line, Metro-North’s busiest, had another exceptional year, with 40.5 million annual rides, surpassing last’s year’s record by approximately 20,000. East of Hudson ridership numbers are strong for both customers commuting to and from work and non-commuters. Annual commutation ridership is 0.6% above 2015. Non-commutation ridership for 2016 remains consistent with 2015’s increase of 2.3% West of Hudson annual ridership, which was negatively impacted by September’s Hoboken Terminal train accident, dipped to 1.7 million, down 61,368 from last year. More customers took advantage of Metro-North’s connecting services in 2016. Combined ridership on the Railroad’s three connecting services – the Hudson Rail Link, Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry and the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry – grew by about 577,000, up 3.8% from 2015. Ridership increased by 10.8% on the Haverstraw-Ossining Ferry, by 4.3% on the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry, and by 1.5% on the Hudson Rail Link. “We’ve worked diligently to improve service for our customers by providing more frequent train service and enhancing service reliability, and we’ve accomplished these goals while maintaining the highest safety standards,” said Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti. “We’ve delivered technological advancements that make service even more convenient, including eTix and the expanding availability of real-time information. We’re pleased and grateful that customers are responding to our efforts. But this record isn’t an end point for Metro-North, and we’ll continue to strive to improve service for our customers.”
(MTA - posted 1/23)

SEPTA TO HOLD OPEN HOUSE ON FISCAL YEAR 2018 CAPITAL BUDGE & 12 YEAR CAPITAL PROGRAM: PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTA is inviting riders, residents and stakeholders to learn about the Authority's Capital Program during two open house sessions on Tuesday, Jan. 24. The open house sessions, which will focus on the development of the Fiscal Year 2018 Capital Budget and 12-Year Capital Program, will include two sessions, from noon to 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Both sessions will be held in the SEPTA Board Room on the mezzanine level at SEPTA Headquarters, 1234 Market Street. SEPTA officials will also provide a progress update on work related to the "Rebuilding the System" Capital Program. Presentations will start at 12:30 p.m. during the first session, and 5 p.m. during the second session. SEPTA embarked on its "Rebuilding the System" plan following the November 2013 passage of Act 89, the state's comprehensive solution for transportation capital funding. SEPTA has launched a number of projects to catch up on its $5 billion backlog of critical capital projects, such as bridge replacements, station improvements, power substation overhauls and new vehicle purchases. For more information on Rebuilding the System, visit hhttp://www.septa.org/rebuilding/index.html. Public comments on the development of the Fiscal Year 2018 Capital Budget and 12-Year Capital Program can be given during the open house, or submitted in writing. Written comments should be sent to SEPTA's Capital Budget and Grant Development Department, 1234 Market Street, 9th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107, or submitted online at http://www.septa.org/notice/fy2017-capital-budget-open-house.html SEPTA will hold public hearings on the capital budget and program plan in April, after the proposal is drafted. (SEPTA- posted 1/23)

MTA ANNOUNCES FIRST NEW STATION ISLAND RAILWAY STATION TO OPEN IN MORE THAN 20 YEARS: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced the upcoming opening of the new Arthur Kill station, the first new Staten Island Railway (SIR) station built by the MTA since the private rail line was incorporated into the MTA network in 1971, which opens Saturday morning. The Arthur Kill station and its new parking lot, located on Arthur Kill Road between Lion Street and Barnard Avenue in the Tottenville area, replaces the Nassau and Atlantic SIR stations that will be demolished. The Nassau station primarily served the Nassau Smelting factory, which closed in the 1980s. The two older stations were small, with short platforms that did not adequately accommodate the railway’s modern fleet. The MTA 2015-2019 Capital Program includes $386 million of investments and improvements to Staten Island Railway. They include replacement of the car fleet and three new power substations to increase supply to the line, allowing for service flexibility and reliability. Capital investments also include rolling out countdown clocks at all SIR stations, track replacement, radio system enhancements, and station repairs. More than 16,000 customers ride the Staten Island Railway on an average weekday, which has 29 miles of tracks linking 22 communities on the borough, from the southern shore in Tottenville to the northern terminus at St. George that connects to the Staten Island Ferry. “The new Arthur Kill station offers more transportation options to Staten Island residents by giving motorists the choice to leave the driving to us and take Staten Island Railway,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “This station reinforces the Governor’s commitment to all parts of our transportation network. We know our customers here want more choices, and we are working hard to improve their options.” The new station is compliant with the American Disabilities Act and serves as a park-and-ride stop for customers who can leave their vehicles in a new 150-spot parking lot across the street or as a transfer point for connections to the S78 bus route. The station platforms accommodate SIR’s fleet of four-car trains and allow boarding at all doors, as compared to single-door boarding at the Nassau and Atlantic stations. In addition to the new parking lot, the Arthur Kill station has customer amenities such as benches, surveillance cameras, Customer Assistance Intercoms, and bicycle racks. “This new station has been a long time coming but it well worth the wait,” NYC Transit President Ronnie Hakim said. “The new station allows us to move Staten Island transportation another step into the future along with other major projects like the rehabilitation of the St. George Terminal, the recent reopening of the improved Grasmere station, new rail cars and bringing real-time train arrival information to all stations.” The station’s design maintains the historic feel of the neighborhood yet incorporates the color scheme and architecture of the Staten Island Railway. The overall design emphasizes use of resilient materials and simple structural forms. The northbound and southbound platforms are connected by an overhead structure that is accessible via platform staircases and ramps and both towers of the structure and the connecting overpass are covered by canopies and enclosed with windscreens, providing shade and protection from inclement weather. New LED fixtures provide brighter and environmentally friendly lighting to supplement natural lighting through transparent windscreens. The artwork in the windscreens at the top of both towers and in the overpass was designed by artist Jenna Lucente and commissioned by MTA Arts & Design. “Tottenville Sun, Tottenville Sky,” consists of 28 large-scale laminated glass panels featuring a mix of wildlife and landscape scenes that are unique to the area’s geography and community. The towers’ glass panels are laminated blue with foreground images of indigenous wildlife and framed with an intricate design that pays homage to neighborhood architecture. The background of each panel features a landscape, either natural or urban, of the neighborhood. These narrative scenes include the southern shoreline of Staten Island, the Outerbridge Crossing and historic area buildings. The blue color represents the sky and the evening commute. The glass panels that line the overpass form four sets of triptychs laminated in yellow, which represents sunlight and the morning commute. One set forms a view of the Outerbridge Crossing from Arthur Kill Road with egrets in the foreground; another features the historic Conference House. Altogether, the panels represent the past, present and future of Tottenville and all that call it home. “Staten Island’s first new train station in two decades deserves a delightful piece of art that elevates it beyond a station stop, and Jenna’s artwork is a thoughtful interpretation of the area’s natural beauty and a study of its historic significance, ” said Sandra Bloodworth, Director of MTA Arts & Design. “A commuter waiting for his train can look up at the towers or the overpass, and depending on the time or the angle of the sun, see something that he may not have seen the day or an hour before. Each scene in each panel is a reminder of the nature around us and also what we are capable of creating.” Designing the station artwork was particularly poignant for Lucente, an artist and educator who grew up in the Castleton Corners section of Staten Island. Lucente earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Syracuse University (N.Y.) and a master of fine arts degree from Queens College, City University of New York. She was born in Brooklyn and currently lives in Delaware. “Staten Island will always be home to me, and the artwork at the new Arthur Kill Station has great personal significance. My understanding, interpretation and connection with Staten Island will always be here through this artwork. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to share this vision with the public, and my fellow Staten Islanders,” Lucente said. In preparation for the station, New York City Transit relocated eastbound and westbound stops on the S78 bus route to locations directly in front of the station and the parking lot, allowing for quicker and better access for transferring customers. New bus pullouts at the curbs were also created for easier and safer loading. Funding for the $27.4 million project was provided in the 2010-2014 MTA Capital Program. Lessons learned after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 resulted in design changes to improve storm resiliency that added to the construction timeline. Resiliency-related infrastructure enhancements include raising and improving the tracks, storm-proofing storage facilities and the electrical distribution and communications systems, and installing a heavier-duty drain system with underground detention tanks and perforated drain pipes for controlling water runoff and limiting soil displacement. The landscaping included native plants such as grasses, trees and shrubs, and permeable features to reduce storm runoff. Fencing, concrete curbs and gravel berms were installed to control soil erosion. (MTA - posted 1/20)

PATH UPDATES ON POSITIVE TRAIN CONTROL (PTC) AND SLEEP APNEA PROGRAMS: PATH is continuing to implement a series of critical safety protocols for riders and agency staff in addition to its on-track signal system replacement program, which has PATH on pace to complete installation of Positive Train Control, the federally mandated safety enhancement, by the end of 2018. PATH is using rigorous industry-leading sleep apnea screening and evaluation programs for train engineers entrusted with customer safety. The Port Authority's Office of Medical Services has been at the forefront in devising evaluation programs and in testing current and prospective employees for sleep disorders that may compromise train safety and affect job performance. There are currently no specific regulations or laws in effect relative to train engineers. The agency screens all PATH engineers for potential sleep apnea during the pre-employment process, and annually during regular physical exams. Engineers believed to be at risk for sleep apnea are referred for evaluation, and if confirmed are held out of service until cleared by medical professionals following in-depth, overnight sleep analysis. These employees must undergo treatment and are regularly monitored for compliance. "PATH's number one priority remains the safety of our passengers and employees," said PATH Director/General Manager Michael Marino. "While we perform rigorous safety checkpoints on a regular basis throughout the system, given recent events we're going the extra mile to enhance our safety programs as an added precaution." PATH has been a leader in the installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) and is on target to meet a federal deadline to have PTC in place and operational by the end of 2018. About 91 percent of PATH employees have been trained in PTC. As part of PATH's overall Communications-based Train Control (CBTC) program, CBTC equipment has been installed on 216 of 230 passenger cars through the end of December. These efforts to mitigate sleep disorders and provide PATH personnel with the latest in safety training are just some of the elements of the agency is applying to ensure rider and employee safety. PATH also is increasing the number of inspections it conducts under an existing rule that mandates engineers approaching bumping blocks should be traveling 8 miles per hour or less. In 2016, PATH examiners conducted nearly 140 observational tests through the rule, with 100-percent compliance. In 2017, PATH will use data recorded in the cars to gauge compliance with this safety requirement, while relying on additional observational techniques to help measure compliance. (The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey- posted 1/19)

MTA TESTING PROTOYPE PORTABLE VACUUM SYSTEMS IN ORDER TO KEEP TRACKS CLEAN: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today announced that it is testing two prototypes of powerful – but portable – track vacuum systems that can be quickly deployed, operated from platforms, and moved easily from one station to the next. The new units are part of the MTA’s ongoing Track Sweep initiative, which is a multi-pronged plan to dramatically reduce the amount of trash on subway tracks, in the process improving the station environment, and reducing track fires and train delays. “Testing these new technologies is a key part in our plan to get the tracks cleaner, and keep them cleaner over the long haul,” said MTA New York City Transit President Veronique Hakim. “Once we’re sure that these units are effective we’ll be ordering additional units to deploy across the system.” The first unit is currently being tested, while the second will be deployed within the next two weeks. The prototype units are both powered by lithium iron phosphate batteries with a battery management system that protects the batteries and load from over current, and both can be moved from station to station on a conventional revenue train. The tests are scheduled to last approximately 30 to 45 days. Assuming the successful completion of the tests, the MTA will move aggressively to acquire and deploy additional units. (MTA - posted 1/19)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING JANUARY 14, 2017: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending January 14, 2017. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 516,229 carloads and intermodal units, up 2 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending January 14 were 253,223 carloads, up 4.4 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 263,006 containers and trailers, down 0.3 percent compared to 2016. Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They included metallic ores and metals, up 17.6 percent to 21,979 carloads; miscellaneous carloads, up 17.3 percent to 9,895 carloads; and coal, up 13.3 percent to 85,133 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 14.7 percent to 10,960 carloads; forest products, down 5.8 percent to 9,492 carloads; and chemicals, down 5.8 percent to 29,864 carloads. For the first two weeks of 2017, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 474,369 carloads, down 1.6 percent from the same point last year; and 483,277 intermodal units, down 7.5 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first two weeks of 2017 was 957,646 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 4.7 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending January 14, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 343,773 carloads, up 4.8 percent compared with the same week last year, and 334,207 intermodal units, up 0.5 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 677,980 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.6 percent. North American rail volume for the first two weeks of 2017 was 1,259,917 carloads and intermodal units, down 3.9 percent compared with 2016. Canadian railroads reported 75,862 carloads for the week, up 10.5 percent, and 60,227 intermodal units, up 3.6 percent compared with the same week in 2016. For the first two weeks of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 257,169 carloads, containers and trailers, up 1.3 percent. Mexican railroads reported 14,688 carloads for the week, down 13.5 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,974 intermodal units, up 2.6 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first two weeks of 2017 was 45,102 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 14.6 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 1/18)

CSX CORPORATION ANNOUNCES FOURTH QUARTER EARNINGS AND FULL YEAR 2016 EARNINGS: CSX Corporation today announced fourth quarter 2016 net earnings of $458 million, or $0.49 per share, versus $466 million, or $0.48 per share, in the same period of last year. The fourth quarter of 2016 included an operating property sale and a debt refinancing charge, both of which were $0.08 per share and offset each other in the quarter. In addition, the fourth quarter included an extra accounting week resulting from the company’s 52/53 week fiscal reporting calendar, which benefitted earnings per share by $0.03 per share. Including the extra week, fourth quarter revenue increased 9 percent and expenses increased 2 percent. Operating income for the quarter was $1 billion, which included the $115 million gain from the property sale and the $62 million benefit from the extra week. For the full year 2016, the industry continued to face headwinds from low global commodity prices and strength of the U.S. dollar. In this environment, CSX generated $11.1 billion in revenue as volume declined 5 percent overall with a 21 percent decline in the company’s coal business. Even with these ongoing challenges, CSX delivered earnings per share of $1.81, operating income of $3.4 billion and an operating ratio of 69.4 percent. “In an environment where the company lost almost $470 million of coal revenue and experienced weakness across most of its markets, CSX delivered nearly $430 million of productivity savings in 2016, while improving customer service,” said Michael J. Ward, chairman and chief executive officer. “With business conditions gradually improving and the ongoing transformation into the CSX of Tomorrow, we will continue to deliver sustainable shareholder value.” The CSX of Tomorrow strategy drives profitable growth in its merchandise and intermodal markets as the company progresses towards a mid-60s operating ratio longer-term. (CSX - posted 1/17)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION CELEBRATES GROUNDBREAKING OF GOLD LINE PHASE II STREETCAR SERVICE IN CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA: On January 14 U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx participated in a groundbreaking for the Charlotte Area Transit System’s (CATS) second phase of the CityLYNX Gold Line Streetcar system that will improve transit options in the greater Charlotte area and offer faster, more convenient access to downtown. Secretary Foxx was joined by Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles, and other state and local officials. “The Charlotte Streetcar investment comes at a critical time for Charlotte,” said Secretary Foxx. “As the community seeks to reconnect areas of the city, expand job creation into historically underserved areas and bring the entire city together, this project has the potential to do so. This project can be more than a transportation asset; it can be a community builder.” The second phase of the 2.5-mile expansion will improve circulation and transit connections; support economic revitalization; provide access from economically diverse neighborhoods to Uptown Charlotte; provide more efficient transit options; and connect key activity centers and facilities including Johnson C. Smith University, Johnson and Wales University and the Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center. When completed, the CityLYNX Gold Line streetcar project will extend to four miles, from the original 1.5-mile phase I section that opened for service in July 2015. “The Federal Transit Administration is proud to partner with CATS to expand streetcar service in Charlotte, which is an important part of the region’s commitment to expand and modernize public transportation for hard-working families,” said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers. “When completed, the newly expanded streetcar line will make a huge difference for thousands of commuters who need and deserve reliable transit service.” The CityLYNX Gold Line Phase II project will include 11 new stops, modifications to six existing stops, and the purchase of six modern streetcars. FTA is contributing $75 million in funding to CATS through a Small Start grant under the FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Program. FTA’s Small Starts grant comprises approximately 50 percent of the project’s total cost of $150 million. The remaining cost is being covered by the city of Charlotte, NC. The extension is expected to be completed by summer 2020. (USDOT - posted 1/17)

SUPREME COURT DENIES REVIEW OF BLET VICTORY ON TOW PERSON TRAIN CREWS: The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) has secured another significant victory for rail workers — this time from the highest court in the United States — in the Union's ongoing campaign to protect two-person train crews. On January 9, the United States Supreme Court denied a petition filed by the Wheeling and Lake Erie (W&LE) asking that the nation's highest court review and set aside the 2015 finding by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that the railroad's use of managers in place of union conductors was a major dispute under the Railway Labor Act. In September 2013, BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce authorized a strike by W&LE conductors over the W&LE's repudiation of collective bargaining agreements that cover the locomotive engineer and trainmen operating crafts. Specifically, the carrier ignored longstanding crew consist agreements and operated single-person operations, refusing to assign available conductors, in an effort to eliminate trainmen. When W&LE challenged the strike, a federal district judge issued an injunction on the ground that the dispute was "minor" and had to be arbitrated. BLET never wavered in its position that the refusal to call conductors was an outright contract abrogation warranting a strike, and appealed that ruling. In April 2015, a unanimous three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit agreed with BLET and reversed the lower court. The panel found that W&LE's "claim that the trainmen agreement allowed it to man trains without union conductors is frivolous or obviously insubstantial, and the dispute is major." The Court of Appeals vacated the injunction and remanded the case back to the District Court with instructions to dismiss W&LE's complaint. The carrier then tried unsuccessfully to get the entire Court of Appeals to vacate that decision. Most recently, and in a last ditch effort to gain the right to ignore its agreements with BLET, W&LE petitioned the Supreme Court to take the case. BLET filed a brief in opposition, supporting the decision of the Court of Appeals, and on January 9th, the Supreme Court rejected W&LE's petition. Consequently, the "major dispute" holding stands, vindicating the Union's position that if W&LE wants to change the rule, it must accomplish the change at the bargaining table, not by unilateral action. "I must first thank our members on the W&LE for helping us fight to preserve the conductor's job and for standing strong against the carrier's attempts to implement one-person trains," President Dennis Pierce said. "When the decision was made to strike the W&LE, our members were united in their resolve and stood shoulder to shoulder on the picket line," he continued. "This final decision by the highest court in the land reminds us all of the importance of strong contract language, followed by strong union activism to protect our contracts. The now unimpeachable decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is not only important for our W&LE members, but for all operating employees and rail labor in general. The nationwide fight over operating crew size is far from over, but this victory helps to ensure that union contracts requiring two crew members are enforceable by the union, even to the point of a strike. "I also want to thank General Counsel Mike Wolly and his team for preserving this critical court victory on behalf of our members," President Pierce added. (BLET, Randy Kotuby - posted 1/17)

SIX PUBLIC HEARING THIS WEEK FOR THE LIRR THIRD TRACK EXPANSION PROJECT: There will be six public hearings this week on the LIRR Expansion Project, a new proposal to improve service options and reliability for hundreds of thousands of customers, reduce automobile traffic congestion, and improve safety and quality of life for people in the project corridor. Experts will be on hand to outline the benefits of the project and the public is invited to give their feedback. The proposed project is completely different from prior proposals to expand track capacity on the LIRR’s Main Line. This project will include:
  • No residential property acquisitions
  • Eliminating all grade crossings within the 9.8 mile project corridor
  • Building sound walls to reduce noise
  • Station upgrades
  • Additional parking
  • Increased reliance on private construction industry expertise to minimize construction duration, impacts and cost
  • Unprecedented level of public outreach to engage local officials, homeowners and other stakeholders and use their input while the project is being planned
“When Governor Cuomo first announced this much-needed new project to enhance LIRR service, he promised an unprecedented level of public engagement to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the community and riders,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said. “We have kept that promise and have also made numerous other significant commitments in response to public input - all to minimize impacts to local neighbors. We are continuing to listen to the public and I encourage regional commuters and local residents alike to come out to our hearings.” This is the second round of public hearings for this project and an opportunity for the public to learn more about and comment on the project’s draft environmental study, which was published in November 2016 and is available on the project website at www.aModernLI.com. The hearing schedule is as follows:
  • Jan. 17, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Yes We Can Community Center 141 Garden Street, Westbury
  • Jan. 18, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. Mack Student Center at Hofstra University
  • Jan. 19, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. The Inn at New Hyde Park
At these hearings, the public can speak to experts from the LIRR and New York State Department of Transportation, and enter their spoken or written comments about the project and its draft environmental study. ADA-accessible shuttle buses to the hearing sites will be provided on a continuous loop between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. from Hicksville Station (south side of station building) on Jan. 17, and Mineola Station (near eastbound waiting room) on Jan. 18 and 19. About the LIRR Expansion Project? The LIRR Expansion Project will add a third track to 9.8 miles along the congested Main Line of the LIRR between Floral Park and Hicksville, and eliminate all seven street-level train crossings within the project corridor, among other customer and community benefits. With up to 40 percent of the LIRR’s 308,000 daily passengers going through the Main Line, which serves as the main corridor through which many branches of the LIRR travel, the proposed project will improve service for more than half a million passengers per week. The elimination and modification of all seven train crossings within the project area will reduce road traffic and pollution from automobiles idling at crossing gates; will eliminate noise from train horns, crossing bells and honking cars; and will greatly improve safety by removing areas where vehicles and pedestrians can collide with trains. Right now, trains are required to blow their horns as they pass through grade crossings, and additional noise comes from bells that alert nearby drivers, who idle in long lines as they wait for trains to pass and honk their horns when gates open. The Department of Transportation will oversee the grade crossing component of the project. The project will also result in significant noise reduction throughout sections of the project corridor from proposed retaining walls and sound attenuation walls along the railroad’s right-of-way. While these structures will reduce noise from existing train traffic, they will have an even greater impact after the significant service increases from the future East Side Access Project go into effect in a few years. The project also includes major track infrastructure upgrades like new switches, signals and power equipment, as well as station upgrades like new, longer platforms to accommodate full-length trains, removing delays and safety issues associated with passengers needing to move between cars on shorter platforms. The project also proposes more than 2,000 additional parking spots to address future ridership growth. These and other proposed components of the project are the result of months of direct consultation with local elected officials and community members, as well as analysis by experienced transportation engineers. Other environmental benefits from the project, such as reduced greenhouse gas emissions, derive from reduced automobile trips as a result of additional and more reliable rail service. The LIRR Expansion Project is part of a broader, ongoing effort by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to improve transit and transportation throughout New York State. On Long Island, projects like the Double Track Project between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, the Jamaica Capacity Improvements Project, and the East Side Access Project to bring LIRR to Grand Central Terminal, will all bring better service to LIRR customers and help ease congestion on clogged local streets and highways such as the Long Island Expressway, Northern and Southern State Parkways, and Grand Central and Belt Parkways. Other Ways to Comment on the Project: Those who cannot attend the hearings have numerous other ways to learn about and comment on the project and its draft environmental study: Visit the project website, http://www.aModernLI.com Email info@aModernLI.com Visit the Project Information Center at Mineola Station. The Center is staffed five days a week (hours at http://www.aModernLI.com ) Write to:? Edward M. Dumas, Vice President Market Development & Public Affairs ?Long Island Rail Road Expansion Project? MTA Long Island Rail Road? MC 1131 Jamaica Station Building? Jamaica, NY 11435 The deadline to submit comments on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement is Feb. 15, 2017 at 5 p.m. The deadline was originally Jan. 31, but was recently extended by Governor Andrew Cuomo in response to public requests for more time. Even before the extension, the comment period for this document was longer than those for much larger recent projects, such as the 2nd Avenue Subway and new Tappan Zee Bridge. All comments received by the deadline will be considered before the completion and publication of the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement. The Project Information Center, website, and email address will continue to be available to the public who wish to engage with project officials after the deadline. (MTA - posted 1/16)

30TH STREET STATION DISTRICT PLAN WINS PRESTIGIOUS NATIONAL AWARD: The 30th Street Station District Plan has been honored with the architecture industry’s most prestigious award – a 2017 Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design from the American Institute of Architects.  The District Plan was selected from more than 500 submissions from around the world. The award underscores the importance of the collaboration among the project Principals (Amtrak, Brandywine Realty Trust, Drexel University, PennDOT and SEPTA) in developing the Plan, with guidance from a coordinating committee and input from members of the public. “On behalf of the 30th Street Station District Plan partners, we gladly accept this award and appreciate the endorsement it represents of the hard work that went into developing the Plan,” said Natalie Shieh, Project Director.  “We are enthusiastically moving forward on implementation, to take this inspiring vision and realize its great promise to transform the 30th Street Station District into Philadelphia’s next great neighborhood.” “The District Plan beautifully reimagines one of Philadelphia’s greatest assets at the center of a world-class urban district,” said Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Director Kristopher Takács, AIA. “SOM is honored to have led an extraordinary team of professionals, future-leaning institutions, and committed citizens to envision a pivotal transformation.” The District Plan is a comprehensive vision for the future of the area surrounding 30th Street Station in the year 2050 and beyond. In the near term, Amtrak and its partners are strategically advancing key projects to activate all four sides of the station and build a foundation for future growth and development.  In November 2016, Amtrak issued a Request for Proposals to lease and develop a roughly 32,500 square foot tract of land and associated air rights adjacent to 30th Street Station. The Plan ultimately envisions 40 new acres of open space and 18 million square feet of new development, including an entirely new mixed-use neighborhood anchoring the District atop 88 acres of rail yards along the western bank of the Schuylkill River.  With a proposed $2 billion investment in roads, utilities, parks, bridges, and extension of transit services, the Plan has the potential to unlock $4.5 billion in private real estate investment with robust and widespread economic benefits.  An estimated $3.8 billion in City and State taxes and 40,000 new jobs would be created. This is the second of Amtrak’s major development projects to receive recognition from the American Institute of Architects in the past several years.  In 2014, the Washington Union Station Master Plan received honorable mention in Urban Design/Master Planning from the AIA Washington Chapter. (Amtrak - posted 1/13)

AAR SUMBITS REPLY COMMENTS TO SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD OVER PROPOSED FORCED ACCESS REGULATION: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today responded to comments filed by a group of shippers pushing the Surface Transportation Board (STB) for a new regulation that would force railroads to turn their traffic over to competitor railroads. In its reply comments , the AAR outlined to the STB how the shipper comments "…do nothing to contradict the conclusion that the Board's proposed reciprocal switching rules are unlawful…" and "…the shippers are using the proposed rule as a means of circumventing existing rate regulation standards." The filing also states: "…The narrow self-interest of certain shippers in a revenue transfer in their favor – based on government intervention that they would never tolerate in their own industries – cannot offset the multiple flaws in the Board's proposal." The AAR contends the shipper comments underscore the need for the STB to terminate the proceeding and withdraw its forced access proposal because it violates the STB's governing statute, principles of sound economics, and longstanding policy without any coherent rationale. AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger said forced access is an ill-conceived approach that compromises the efficiency of the entire network: "This proposed regulation represents a sweeping reversal of the market-based approach favored by Congress over the last three-plus decades," he said. Hamberger pointed out railroads are capital intensive, and they must spend massive amounts of money on rail infrastructure and equipment so that taxpayers do not have to – a huge public benefit considering the crumbling state of many taxpayer-funded transportation enterprises. "The impact of the STB's proposed changes would be far reaching, touching consumers, businesses and passenger rail lines from coast to coast," said Hamberger. "The government intervention into railroads' business and operations will inhibit their ability to invest sufficient funds back into the nation's rail networks to expand capacity, while they also meet the needs of a growing economy or further improving safety." Hamberger again noted existing STB regulations already protect rail shippers as railroads voluntarily switch traffic under the current system, and by law, if freight can get from its origin to final destination only if it is carried by two or more railroads, railroads must cooperate to move the shipments. (AAR - posted 1/13)

U.S. DOT LAUNCHES NEW RAILROAD CROSSING SAFETY AD: The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) today launched the “Stop! Trains Can’t” ad targeting young male motorists and encouraging them to act cautiously at railroad crossings. The campaign is the latest in a two-year effort by DOT to reduce accidents and fatalities at railroad crossings around the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have partnered in the nationwide effort. Watch the ad: https://youtu.be/szaQ3hXvzfw “The message is simple: Ignoring railroad crossing signs or attempting to race or beat a train can have deadly consequences,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Hundreds of lives could be saved each year by simply following the rules.” Although rail incidents have declined over the last 10 years, railroad crossing fatalities spiked in 2014. Last year alone, 232 people died in railroad crossing accidents, and approximately every three hours, a person or vehicle is hit by a train in the United States. The $7 million media buy will target male populations aged 18 to 49 years old in states with the nation’s 15 most dangerous crossings, as well as in states where 75 percent of the crossing accidents occurred in 2015. Male drivers are involved in nearly 75 percent of all railroad crossing accidents. The ad will run heavily in the following states: California, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Mississippi, New Jersey, Arkansas and Arizona. “Your life is worth more than a few saved minutes, and trying to outrun a train isn’t worth the risk,” said NHTSA Administrator Dr. Mark Rosekind. “When a train is coming, the only choice is to stop. Trains can’t.” By law, trains always have the right of way because they cannot swerve, stop quickly or change directions to avert collisions. A freight train travelling at 55 miles per hour takes a mile – the length of 18 football fields or more – to come to a stop once the emergency brakes are applied. “Education is key here – sometimes a driver is distracted, or in an unfamiliar area. Other times, the state highway department has not done enough to warn drivers they are approaching a crossing,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “We must do everything we can to give drivers the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe – and this ad helps us do just that.” For more information on the “Stop! Trains Can’t” campaign, visit . www.transportation.gov/stop-trains-cant (FRA - posted 1/13)

MAYOR EMANUEL, AMTRAK AND OTHER UNION STATION PARTNERS ANNOUNCE REDEVELOPMENT PLAN DESIGNATED AS USDOT EMERGING PROJECT: The City of Chicago’s ambitious plans to modernize and transform Chicago Union Station and the surrounding West Loop area received a major boost today with the announcement by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Amtrak, Metra and the RTA that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Build America Bureau and the City of Chicago are entering into an Emerging Projects Agreement (EmPA), under which Chicago can work closely with USDOT with the ultimate goal of seeking up to $1 billion in federal funding for the project. “Today marks a major step forward both in the future of Union Station, and in the economic life of our city,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This modernization effort will improve the experience for everyone who travels through Union Station and tap the potential that the station has to serve as an anchor for further economic development of the West Loop and surrounding neighborhoods. I want to thank Secretary Foxx and the Build America Bureau for acknowledging the significance of this project and for all of our partners who have been working for the past several years to help get us to this point today.” “The Build America Bureau makes it easier for big multimodal projects like Chicago’s Union Station to move forward. This project will serve as a vital hub for rail and transit and connect the entire region,” said Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. “I’m confident that the Bureau will continue to be a great partner for Chicago and cities across the country to build seamless, modern transportation networks in the years ahead.” “Union Station is a key transportation hub and vital economic driver for the City of Chicago and region. Yet, for too long the station has been operating at or near capacity, threatening its ability to sustain ridership and economic growth,” U.S. Senator Dick Durbin said. “The Emerging Project Agreement announced today moves us closer to a 21st century Union Station – one with an improved passenger experience and less congestion. I’m pleased to see Chicago, Amtrak, and Metra working together to ensure this project succeeds, and I will continue to provide federal support for improvements that will impact commuters and visitors for decades to come.” “Union Station’s master plan and surrounding commercial development will play a critical role in increasing capacity, efficiency, and accessibility, while reinforcing Chicago’s place as an important regional and national crossroads,” said Rep. Quigley, who serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development. “I applaud today’s announcement that confirms the Department of Transportation’s commitment to the rehabilitation of Union Station, and I look forward to working in Congress to ensure DOT has the resources it needs to properly assist in the planning of the Redevelopment project, which will spur increased economic activity in the region.” “This is another milestone in all of our efforts to improve Union Station to make it a world-class transportation facility for a world-class city,” said Ray Lang, Amtrak Senior Director, National State Relations. “All of this is happening because all of us are working together as partners.” The EmPA allows USDOT to offer enhanced technical assistance on complex, large scale projects seeking low-cost federal credit through the Build America Bureau’s innovative programs, including TIFIA (Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act) Program and RRIF (Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing). TIFIA has provided more than $26 billion in credit assistance around the country, including loans for the CTA and Chicago’s acclaimed Riverwalk; RRIF has provided $5 billion in loans for projects around the country. The EmPA announcement comes as the City and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) are working with Amtrak, Metra, the RTA and the Illinois Department of Transportation on the design of near term improvements that will upgrade passenger capacity by renovating and expanding the concourse and platforms. Also addressed in a Master Plan process are service, safety/environmental, accessibility and mobility issues around the station. Amtrak is also in the final stages of evaluating proposals for a Master Developer to lead the redevelopment of Union Station and surrounding Amtrak-owned property and air rights. The Union Station Redevelopment plans envision a public-private partnership to implement both transportation-related improvements as well as transit-oriented developments surrounding the station. The three main goals are:
  • To expand and renovate the station to be an architecturally significant transportation terminal that both preserves and builds upon its existing architectural heritage.
  • To allow a growing number of passengers and other visitors to use the station facilities in the most efficient, safe, and pleasant manner possible.
  • To create a vibrant commercial center and civic asset that welcomes and serves travelers, neighborhood residents, and downtown workers alike, while further enhancing the economic vitality of the City of Chicago and the region.
Among the improvements that could be funded under the agreement are the following:
  • Renovation of the Canal Street Union Station Lobby.
  • Rehabilitation of the Great Hall skylight and dome structure.
  • Renovation and expansion of the Adams Street and Jackson Street entrances.
  • Expansion of the Union Station Concourse.
  • Widening of platforms.
  • Improvement of ADA accessibility throughout the station, including installation of an elevator at the Canal Street Headhouse.
  • Reconstruction of the Canal Street and Harrison Street viaducts.
  • Construction of pedestrian tunnels connecting Union Station to Metra’s Ogilvie Station and to the CTA Blue Line stop at Clinton Street.
Transit-oriented development, including commercial/residential development of the air rights over the Headhouse and commercial/office/retail uses surrounding Union Station. “CDOT is looking forward to working with USDOT to line up financing for this critically important project,” CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said. “The EmPA Agreement is another example of how the administration of Mayor Emanuel is using all the means at our disposal to fund the type of infrastructure improvements that are needed to keep Chicago’s economy moving AND thriving in the 21st Century.” “Metra is excited by this important step in the redevelopment of Chicago Union Station,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “This Emerging Project Agreement puts the redevelopment of the station in position for financing opportunities that could allow the work to proceed more quickly and at a lower cost. These improvements will provide relief to the 55,000 Metra riders who use Union Station each weekday and allow the station to accommodate growth in the future.” “I understand the critical nature of work on Union Station as both RTA Chairman and as a rider,” said RTA Chairman Kirk Dillard. “I take Metra in and out of Union Station daily so I understand its importance as a key transit site for regional riders. We are pleased this agreement will help restore this iconic building to its former glory and to assure the safety and comfort of our customers and tourists. Chicago is the nation’s transportation center and Union Station is a vital, major and symbolic piece of America’s infrastructure”. Chicago Union Station (CUS) handles more than 300 trains per weekday carrying approximately 120,000 arriving and departing passengers, a level of passenger traffic that would rank it among the busiest airports in the nation. CUS is a hub of the Amtrak national network, handling most of its long-distance trains, and more than 30 regional trains sponsored by state transportation departments. In addition to Amtrak service, Metra operates six commuter rail routes with 271 weekday arrivals or departures from Chicago Union Station. The station operates at or near capacity during peak periods, threatening its ability to sustain ridership and economic growth. (Amtrak - posted 1/12)

BRIGHTLINE REVEALS FIRST COMPLETED TRAINSET, FULL OF INNOVATONS SET TO REINVENT TRAIN TRAVEL IN THE U.S.: Brightline, the only privately-funded express passenger rail system in the country, today showcased its first trainset, BrightBlue. Comprised of two locomotives and four coaches, the trainset is housed at its new railroad operations facility, Workshop b, in West Palm Beach, Florida. Today provided the first opportunity to see the many innovations throughout this first trainset that was manufactured by Siemens in their Sacramento, California facility and is 100 percent Buy America compliant, using components from more than 40 suppliers across more than 20 states. "We are excited to welcome our first Brightline trainset to Florida and provide a preview of the entire train," said Mike Reininger, president of Brightline. "Our trains are among the most innovative in the United States and the world, with every detail having been designed and built from the guest's perspective, making it easy, convenient and comfortable to ride. We are looking forward to the launch our new express, inter-city service this summer. South Florida is very close to experiencing the future of train travel, a new travel alternative as an option to private cars on crowded roads."
  • Innovation in Action: Innovations abound with Brightline, beginning with boarding. Brightline is the first fully accessible train, exceeding ADA compliance standards and providing effortless access from end-to-end. To do this, Brightline trains feature level boarding and utilize automated retractable platforms that are integrated into the train car door systems. Prior to the doors' opening, the platforms extend up to 12 inches from the train and pivot to create a flush surface for passengers to cross from platform to train, making it easy for those with mobility challenges, pushing strollers or rolling luggage to board. Brightline's interior aisles are 32 inches, wider than any other train, providing ample space for wheelchairs and strollers to easily glide throughout the coach with access to all areas, including the restrooms. Interior vestibule doors also slide open and close automatically, so guests can seamlessly move between coaches. On each trainset, there is one Select and three Smart coaches. With both options, riders can reserve specific seats when booking tickets through Brightline's mobile application, website or station kiosks. Each product will offer a range of amenities and pricing. Riders will also be able to add additional items, such as parking and ground transportation to their booking to further complete their travel experience, making it connected from door to destination. In the Select coach, the custom-designed ergonomic leather seats are 21 inches wide and, in the Smart coach, the seats are 19 inches wide, both wider than most other transit seats, with in-seat recline, sliding down and back so not to compromise legroom of fellow passengers. The Select coach features 49 seats in a configuration of two seats across the aisle from a single. There are two quad seating groups and two single groups with a table in the middle for those who wish to converse or work together during the trip. In each of the Smart coaches, there are 66 seats (except for the end car that has 58), with double seats across the aisle from each other and eight quad configurations with a table. Single and double seats feature a drop-down multi-task tray that serves a dual purpose. An inner small table can be used alone for a smartphone or glasses and a larger table can be added for items such as laptops, books and food. Brightline is offering complimentary, powerful Wi-Fi, powered by multiple antennas on every train, so guests can bring their own devices and have instant connectivity. To power those devices, there are numerous built-in power outlets and USB connections (under the armrests, in the seat pedestals), and in pop-up style table units, so that guests have easy access. Large windows have been designed and aligned with all seats to offer unobstructed scenic views. High ceilings and open luggage shelves create a welcoming and inviting ambiance. Every aisle seat has an ergonomic metal grip handle for guests that are walking through the train or placing bags in the overhead space. For checked baggage, there is a compartment at the end of the last Smart coach. There are luggage towers in each coach for larger carry-on bags, as well as overhead luggage racks and under-seat storage for small personal items. To encourage more car-free transportation, Brightline also welcomes bikes. There are bike racks on every train, so guests can ride their bike to the station and bring it onboard with them. For those that can't leave home without their pets, Brightline is pet-friendly. Small pets can be placed in carriers under the seat and special carriers will be available for larger animals. Each coach includes a spacious restroom that is ADA accessible and features a touchless environment. The toilet has a touchless flush, guests just wave their hand to flush it. For those who forget to flush, it will automatically take care of that when the door is opened. The sink is integrated into the vanity area that also includes a large back-lit mirror. Each restroom also includes a Dyson faucet that both dispenses water and dries hands from the same fixture, eliminating water dripping onto the floor.
  • Workshop b: Workshop b is Brightline's new 12-acre railroad operations facility in West Palm Beach that serves to repair, maintain, clean and store Brightline's trains. There are four tracks within the facility, two of which are covered by an 800-foot long canopy. The easternmost inside track has a 500-foot long maintenance pit, located underneath the train tracks, where required inspections and service will be conducted daily. A 15,000 square foot building features offices for train personnel, a multipurpose training room and crew facilities; additional warehouse facilities will house spare parts and supplies, along with a custom fueling station that is being constructed. Once Brightline service begins, this facility will serve as the on-duty location for Brightline's train crews. A total of approximately 120 employees will work from this facility. Siemens will also be providing the full service and maintenance for the Brightline trainsets, supporting full-time employment for approximately 70 Siemens employees. These positions will be highly-skilled roles that require a deep knowledge base in order to keep the advanced locomotives and coaches running smoothly. Siemens is also planning to create training and workforce development programs locally to ensure these employees have the most advanced skill sets in the rail maintenance and service industry.
  • Additional Trainsets: Four additional trainsets are being built by nearly 1,000 employees at Siemens 60-acre rail manufacturing hub in Sacramento. Brightline expects delivery of these trainsets by spring in four hues: BrightPink, BrightRed, BrightOrange and BrightGreen. The first trainset is expected to begin testing on a 10-mile test track south of Workshop b next week. Construction of Brightline's train stations in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami is rushing toward completion. Brightline is scheduled to begin express inter-city service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach this summer.
(Brightline, Randy Kotuby - posted 1/11)

CSX CUSTOMERS ANNOUNCE $9.5 BILLION IN 2016 INVESTMENTS: CSX worked with its customers in 2016 to announce 114 new or expanded facilities to be located on the company’s rail network or connecting short lines. These new projects represent $9.5 billion in customer investments that are expected to generate approximately 8,100 new jobs in areas served by CSX. “The substantial capital investments announced by our customers last year included a new automotive plant and an ethane cracker facility to further leverage abundant domestic natural gas supplies,” said Derrick Smith, vice president-strategic business development. “We also saw strong activity that generated other energy projects as well as facility construction or expansion to support agriculture and intermodal markets. These projects rely heavily on the teamwork among CSX and the local, county and state economic development professionals who ensure these projects are completed successfully. We thank them for that collaboration.” Once these facilities are fully operational, they are projected to generate more than 136,000 new annual carloads for CSX. In addition to these projects that will be built over the next several years, more than 100 customer facilities on CSX began operations in 2016. Since 2000, CSX customers have invested more than $51 billion in rail-served facilities, creating more than 70,000 jobs at those plants, distribution centers and other enterprises across the company’s 23-state network. To support rail-oriented industrial development, CSX’s Select Site program pre-certifies properties that are suitable for manufacturing use. These sites meet rigorous criteria to increase development probability and reduce time and costs for CSX customers. Customers considering a new or expanded facility can learn more about CSX Select Sites at http://www.csxselectsite.com or at www.csxindustrialdevelopment.com. CSX provides service via an extensive network that connects to nearly two-thirds of the nation’s population and serves more than 70 ocean, river and lake ports. CSX can move a ton of freight an average of nearly 450 miles on a single gallon of fuel, and one train can carry the equivalent load of 280 trucks, reducing carbon emissions and wear and tear on public roads. (CSX - posted 1/11)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING JANUARY 7, 2017: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending January 7, 2017. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 441,417 carloads and intermodal units, down 11.4 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending January 7 were 221,146 carloads, down 7.7 percent compared with the same week in 2016, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 220,271 containers and trailers, down 14.9 percent compared to 2016. Two of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2016. They were metallic ores and metals, up 5.4 percent to 20,403 carloads; and grain, up 0.9 percent to 21,476 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2016 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 32.1 percent to 8,903 carloads; farm products excl. grain, and food, down 18.4 percent to 13,802 carloads; and forest products, down 15.3 percent to 9,034 carloads. For the first week of 2017, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 221,146 carloads, down 7.7 percent from the same point last year; and 220,271 intermodal units, down 14.9 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first week of 2017 was 441,417 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 11.4 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending January 7, 2017, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 302,333 carloads, down 6.5 percent compared with the same week last year, and 279,604 intermodal units, down 14.6 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 581,937 carloads and intermodal units, down 10.6 percent. North American rail volume for the first week of 2017 was 581,937 carloads and intermodal units, down 10.6 percent compared with 2016. Canadian railroads reported 69,926 carloads for the week, up 1.9 percent, and 51,154 intermodal units, down 12.6 percent compared with the same week in 2016. For the first week of 2017, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 121,080 carloads, containers and trailers, down 4.8 percent. Mexican railroads reported 11,261 carloads for the week, down 26.5 percent compared with the same week last year, and 8,179 intermodal units, down 16.5 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first week of 2017 was 19,440 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 22.6 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 1/11)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION ANNOUNCES FEDERAL FUNDING TO IMPROVE RAIL TRANSIT IN CHICAGO: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today announced approximately $1.07 billion in federal grant funds to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for the first phase of the Red and Purple Modernization Project. The project will reconstruct a section of the rail lines on the north side of Chicago in order to expand capacity on one of the busiest corridors of the CTA system. “For the past eight years, the Obama Administration has been committed to investing in transportation infrastructure projects that will help more Americans access jobs and new opportunities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “That’s why we are proud to support the Red and Purple Modernization Project, which will bring better transit service to thousands of Chicagoans who take the train to work, school and other destinations throughout the region.” The project involves construction of track improvements north of the Belmont Station to relieve a bottleneck at the junction of the Red, Purple and Brown lines; reconstruction and expansion of four stations to better accommodate current and projected demand; upgrades to the power, track and signal systems; and the purchase of 32 new railcars. “FTA is awarding highly competitive grant funds for this project because there is a clear need for transit improvements in this busy, crowded corridor,” said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers. “When completed, this project will make a big difference for CTA riders with increased service, less crowding aboard trains, and better waiting conditions at larger reconstructed stations.” FTA Acting Administrator Flowers made the announcement to commit the funds during a ceremony today with Senator Dick Durbin, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, representatives from CTA, and other local officials. DOT is contributing approximately $1.07 billion toward the $2.067 billion project. Federal funds include a core capacity construction grant agreement for $956.61 million through FTA’s Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Program, and approximately $116 million through the Department’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. The CIG funds will be provided over the course of nine years on an annual payment schedule, subject to Congressional approval during the annual appropriations process. The CIG Program is the nation’s primary grant program for funding major transit capital investments. (USDOT - posted 1/10)

FMCB AWARDS CONTRACT FOR MBTA WAREHOUSE OPERATIONS: The Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) today unanimously approved a five-year contract with Management Consulting, Inc., (Mancon) to manage the MBTA's warehouse operations with a projection of $64.2 million in total savings and avoided costs. The shift is estimated to allow a 34 percent increase in the MBTA’s inventory accuracy and improve mechanic productivity, service, and efficiency. A 24/7, 10-hour delivery guarantee of standard requests to maintenance facilities is projected to reduce the MBTA’s current response times by 58 hours, or 2.5 days, compared to the current eight-hours-a-day and weekday-only service. “The MBTA should and will continue to be in the business of moving our customers more efficiently, and modernized warehouse and logistics operations will both reduce costs and wait times for servicing our fleets,” said MBTA Acting General Manager Brian Shortsleeve. “This contract will allow us to increase the productivity of our maintenance operations and management of our inventory, improving response and repair times and the reliability of our vehicles for the riders who depend on the MBTA each day.” The total warehousing and logistics operating budget for Fiscal Year 2017 (FY ’17) is allocated at $8 million with the totally loaded budget (including warehousing costs, cost of mechanic labor, cost of retiree healthcare, and pension costs) exceeding $12 million annually. The estimated annual cost based on a five-year contract with Mancon (including the current scope of services, an expanded scope of services, and MBTA administration costs) is $7.4 million. The Mancon contract is anticipated to help ease a forecasted FY ’17 $80 million operating budget deficit and reduce wait times for disabled vehicles, which accounted for more than one in every five dropped trips in FY ’17 to date. The MBTA is projected to avoid $16 million in capital costs to improve its current warehouse facilities and recover $39 million by better managing and divesting of unneeded inventory. Mancon, which contracts with transit agencies in Ohio, Virginia, and London, was chosen for its extensive and superior performance in managing spare parts operations for public sector entities, including bus and train operations. Mancon proposed a dedicated Operations Manager and team working exclusively with the MBTA as well as the best Transition Plan, fixing the Central Warehouse’s issues sooner than other proposed vendors with modern techniques and industry-best practices. Mancon will use its own facilities, labor, vehicles, software, management systems, and equipment in managing the MBTA’s warehousing operations. The MBTA’s contract management team will also closely monitor the contract with performance-based, industry-standard penalties and bonuses with daily, weekly, and monthly reviews. Current MBTA warehouse employees will have the opportunity to apply for other jobs at the MBTA due to “bump back” rights. Today’s action is the second effort by the MBTA to contract out and streamline service reliability, following the awarding of a contract to Brinks Incorporated last year to privately manage cash-collecting operations. Analyses by warehousing and supply chain experts found major systemic operational and financial inefficiencies with the MBTA’s main warehouse facility, including warehouse inventory inaccuracies (~61 percent), a delivery time of 68+ hours from warehouse to base locations (compared to the industry standard of 12 hours), and poor productivity of parts collections at 90 percent below the industry standard, resulting in delays servicing disabled vehicles in need of repair. (MBTA - posted 1/09)

MBTA WILL NOT RENEW CONTRACT WITH KEOLIS COMMUTER SERVICES: Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack has confirmed that the MBTA does not plan to extend its contract with Keolis Commuter Services. Keolis currently has the contract to operate MBTA's commuter railroad system. The current commuter rail contract with Keolis will expire on June 30, 2022. MassDOT stated that it will work with Keolis to provide excellent service to its commuters for the duration of the contract. (posted 1/08)

GOVERNOR ANDREW M. CUOMO ANNOUNCES CELLULAR CONNECTIVITY IN UNDERGROUND SUBWAY STATIONS ONE YEAR AHEAD OF SCHEDULE" Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that cell phone coverage in underground subway stations will be available a full year ahead of schedule, with all four carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, present across underground stations as of Monday, January 9th. In addition, Wi-Fi has been installed in underground stations a full two years ahead of schedule. The MTA’s early delivery was in response to the Governor’s directive at the beginning of 2016 to accelerate the project. Today’s announcement represents another important step in the Governor’s ongoing campaign to modernize the MTA, and comes shortly after he presided over the on-time opening of the new Second Avenue Subway, which includes three new, state-of-the-art stations, as well as a new entrance at the existing Lexington and 63rd Street Station. “By bringing Wi-Fi and cell service underground ahead of schedule, we are reimagining our subway stations to meet the needs of the next generation,” Governor Cuomo said. “This will better connect New Yorkers who are on-the-go and build on our vision to reimagine the country’s busiest transportation network for the future. I thank all of our partners.” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said, "With the on-time opening of the Second Avenue Subway, we already had a lot to celebrate. And now, after working closely with the Governor’s office and our partners at all four major carriers, we’ve been able to fulfill Governor Cuomo’s mandate to dramatically increase connectivity at underground stations, delivering cell service from the major carriers a year early, while at the same time giving our customers Wi-Fi two years ahead of the deadline. Connectivity is a big deal for our customers, and we're thrilled to be delivering these vital services so far ahead of schedule.” Transit Wireless has a long term agreement with the MTA to design, build, operate and maintain cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity in the underground subway stations. The company has invested well over $300 million into this infrastructure project and is sharing revenues derived through the network’s services with the MTA. The project was being built at no cost to taxpayers or subway riders.
  • MTA Partnership with Transit Wireless: Transit Wireless has a 27-year partnership agreement with the MTA to design, build, operate and maintain cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity in the underground subway stations. The company is investing well over $300 million into this infrastructure project and is sharing revenues derived through the services with the MTA. The project is being built at no cost to taxpayers or subway customers. Within this project, MTA and Transit Wireless are working together on the deployment of specific communications technologies to enhance public safety, including a dedicated 4.9 GHz public safety broadband network and the highly visible Help Point Intercoms. These instant communication kiosks offer immediate access to E911 assistance and information with the touch of a button. To date, Transit Wireless has built the infrastructure for more than 3,000 Help Point Intercoms in 175 underground MTA stations. This network now provides thousands of MTA employees, contractors, and first responders connected capability as never before.
  • Underground Connectivity: Almost every underground station has already been completed and the final station, Clark Street on the 2, 3 line in Brooklyn, will go live on Monday, January 9. Four stations which are either under renovation (South Ferry) or about to start a renovation (Prospect Ave., 53rd Street and Bay Ridge) will come online immediately upon conclusion of their renovation. The construction of the wireless, Wi-Fi and public safety network began in 2011 with the connection of six underground stations in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, and was slated for completion in 2018. However, at the direction of Governor Cuomo, the process was accelerated, with Wi-Fi connectivity in underground stations scheduled for the end of 2016, almost two years ahead of the original schedule.
New York City Transit President Veronique Hakim said, "As of Monday our customers can text or call from our underground stations, staying in touch with their families, keeping up with work, and staying connected. That’s a major step forward for the MTA, and for our customers, and we thank the Governor and the major carriers for moving this project along at such a rapid pace.” William A. Bayne, Jr., CEO of Transit Wireless said, “To accomplish such a complex endeavor, it took almost unprecedented cooperation between Government agencies, public companies, and private companies to make it happen. Specifically, teams from the MTA/NYCT, the Governor's office, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and several NYC agencies joined forces to expedite these critical communication services nearly two years early. It has been an exciting challenge to build a modern technology infrastructure within a subway system that is over 100 years old, on behalf of the Transit Wireless organization, we are proud be part of such a unique accomplishment. Marissa Shorenstein, New York State president of AT&T said, "When the MTA and Governor Cuomo came to AT&T back in 2011 with the idea of providing free, 24/7 wireless service to subway riders, we were thrilled to immediately sign on - and we were one of the first two wireless carriers to do so. Since then, we have watched as demand for this service has grown, which is why it is so exciting to see it fully implemented in every underground station in New York City today. AT&T looks forward to continuing to collaborate with the MTA on using the latest technological tools to improve the lives of New Yorkers.” Mark Walker, Sprint Regional Vice President, Network said, “Providing wireless consumers with end-to-end network coverage while traveling through the city’s underground subway stations every day is part of Sprint’s commitment to our customers in New York. Provisioning this type of uninterrupted wireless service throughout 281 underground stations so quickly is both a huge accomplishment and investment that will significantly benefit the public.” Tom Ellefson, Senior Vice President of Engineering at T-Mobile said, “New Yorkers spend a lot of time on the subway and we’re delighted that T-Mobile customers are now connected with America's fastest LTE network in underground subway stations. We’re excited to complete this major project ahead of schedule to benefit our customers.” Leecia Eve, Verizon Wireless, Vice President, State Government Affairs said, “Providing wireless service in subway stations is just one example of our continuous efforts to provide our customers with New York City and the Tri-State Area’s #1 Network. We continue to lead the industry with network enhancements like LTE Advanced, which provides 50% faster peak speeds to our customers here in New York and in over 460 markets around the country, covering 90% of the population.” (MTA - posted 1/06)

UNION PACIFIC ACQUIRES RAILEX LLC ASSETS: Union Pacific announced acquisition of Railex LLC's refrigerated and cold storage distribution assets in Delano, California; Wallula, Washington; and Rotterdam, New York. Acquisition does not include Railex Wine Services LLC. Railex, a refrigerated rail service and third-party logistics leader, plays a key role in Union Pacific's Food Network transporting fruits, vegetables and other temperature-sensitive cargo across the United States. "The Railex team developed a fantastic business changing how fresh food arrives on America's tables, offering food shippers fast, reliable door-to-door rail based transportation solutions," said Brad Thrasher, vice president and general manager – Agricultural Products. "The integration of their highly efficient cross dock facilities and logistics capabilities into Union Pacific's broader Food Network allows us to offer our customers increased access to a wider range of capacity and service solutions in a rail-centric cold chain." Union Pacific Food Trains directly serve Railex's Delano and Wallula facilities, located in the heart of major agricultural production regions. The Food Train network provides a fast and reliable service from these growing regions to the Midwest consumer base via Chicago and further into the heart of the Northeast region via the CSX. Railex will continue managing facilities during the transition and integration of its operations with Union Pacific. More about Union Pacific's Food Train network and services are available at up.com/customers (Union Pacific- posted 1/05)

READING & NORTHERN RAISES TRACK SPEED ON PORTIONS OF MAIN TO FORTY MPH: In its ever increased attempt to make the railroad more efficient, and to better serve its customers, the Reading & Northern Railroad today announced for first time in twenty five years, a major efficiency improvement raising track speed on its Main Line to forty mph. From Reading to Port Clinton, the speed will cut travel time by about seven minutes. This does not sound like much, but as we continue to upgrade over the entire 115 mile Main Line, this will result in substantial productivity increases. Raising speeds requires quality track, annual X-ray of rail, and many other things to be done to achieve this milestone. The MOW (Maintenance of Way) Department is very proud of this, as the Reading & Northern is one of very few smaller railroads to achieve this goal of high quality track that allows this speed. (R&N - posted 1/05)

LONG ISLAND RAIL ROAD TRAIN CRASHES INTO BUMPER IN BROOKLYN: Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and MTA Chairman Thomas F. Prendergast provided media with an update on this morning’s LIRR derailment at Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn. At approximately 8:15 a.m., LIRR Train No. 2817, scheduled to depart from Far Rockaway at 7:18 a.m. and due into Atlantic Terminal, Brooklyn, at 8:11 a.m., made contact with the bumping block at Track 6 at Atlantic Terminal. The train was six cars long and carrying approximately 430 passengers. As a result of the impact, the lead wheel assembly derailed as did one additional axle. There were a number of customers injured; none of the injuries were life-threatening. The cause of the incident is under investigation. The MTA has been in contact with the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board is en route. Atlantic Terminal has six tracks and three platforms. There have been no delays this morning as result of the incident, and no delays are expected during p.m. rush hour service. (MTA - posted 1/04)

AMTRAK SEEKS STRATEGIC PARTNERS TO LEVERAGE NATIONWIDE RIGHT-OF-WAY PORTFOLIO: To increase organizational effectiveness, improve service to its 31 million customers and position itself for an even more competitive future, Amtrak today announced several management and organizational changes. Effective immediately, Amtrak President and CEO Wick Moorman reduced by half the senior management team into six direct reports:
  • Operations – Scot Naparstek, Chief Operating Officer
  • Marketing and Business Development – Jason Molfetas, Executive Vice President
  • Finance – Jerry Sokol, Chief Financial Officer
  • Law – Eldie Acheson, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
  • Administration – DJ Stadtler, Chief Administrative Officer
  • Planning, Technology and Public Affairs – Stephen Gardner, Executive Vice President
“Since joining the Amtrak team in September, I’ve been impressed by the dedication and passion of our employees and leadership team,” said Moorman. “This new structure aligns with our focus on improving the way we do business, modernizing and enhancing the customer experience, and investing in the future.” To strengthen focus on safety and service delivery, train operations will be managed regionally through three general managers and supported by Mechanical, Engineering, Network Support, Police and Security organizations. The Marketing and Business Development group will be expanded beyond its traditional role to include product development, planning, and contract management functions of the current business lines. A new Administration group will serve to efficiently manage key administrative and support functions including Human Resources, Labor Relations, Procurement and Enterprise Project Management. Certain corporate planning, IT and station and facility functions, as well as the Government Affairs and Corporate Communications division, will be transferred to the new Planning, Technology, and Public Affairs group. The changes will also allow Amtrak more organizational flexibility to fully comply with the new account structure created in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), and will provide greater transparency to Amtrak’s customers and stakeholders.  Congress included Amtrak reauthorization for the first time ever in the 2015 surface transportation bill, affirming the importance of Amtrak’s network of service that connects more than 500 rural and urban communities in 46 states

(Amtrak - posted 1/04)

AMTRAK SEEKS STRATEGIC PARTNERS TO LEVERAGE NATIONWIDE RIGHT-OF-WAY PORTFOLIO: Amtrak issued a Request for Proposals (“RFP”) in December seeking partnership opportunities to leverage up to 725 miles of track right-of-way and other real estate across the country for telecommunications, energy distribution, and associated activities considered appropriate by Amtrak. The RFP follows other recent efforts to unlock the commercial value of Amtrak’s nationwide portfolio of assets, including two million square feet of industrial station properties, six million square feet of maintenance facilities, and active right-of-way. Much of Amtrak’s portfolio is concentrated along the Northeast Corridor (NEC) where Amtrak owns 363 miles of the 457-mile route between Washington and Boston. The NEC is among the nation’s most vital transportation assets, carrying 750,000 people every day and supporting a $2.6 trillion economy. “Finding the right partner to utilize our extensive right-of-way portfolio exemplifies Amtrak’s approach to strengthening our business,” said Bart Bush, Vice President, Asset and Real Estate Development. “Proceeds generated from these partnership opportunities can be reinvested back into the vital service Amtrak provides as the nation’s intercity passenger rail operator and the steward of some of the most valued transportation infrastructure in this nation.” Other recent examples to leverage Amtrak assets include:
  • Efforts to modernize Amtrak-owned major station facilities for improved operations and an enhanced customer experience. Amtrak has plans to double customer space at Washington Union Station; unveiled the Philadelphia 30th Street Station District Plan; and initiated master development efforts for Baltimore Penn Station and Chicago Union Station.
  • Selecting a preferred partner to deliver a trackside wireless network along the NEC. Amtrak’s customers require internet connectivity during their travels and providing reliable Wi Fi is critical to remain competitive as a preferred transportation choice. Amtrak issued a notice-to-proceed in December to BAI.
  • Releasing an RFP to gauge market demand for third party occupancy (telephone, gas, power, and utility companies), underground occupancy (gas, water, sewer, or cable in conduit), and aerial agreements (cable, telephone, electrical power). Amtrak has over 2,300 of these existing “pipe and wire” agreements.
(Amtrak - posted 1/04)

AMTRAK SEEKS STRATEGIC PARTNERS TO LEVERAGE NATIONWIDE RIGHT-OF-WAY PORTFOLIO: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported weekly U.S. rail traffic, as well as volumes for December 2016 and all of 2016. Carload traffic in December totaled 973,642 carloads, up 2.8 percent or 26,147 carloads from December 2015. U.S. railroads also originated 1,011,870 containers and trailers in December 2016, up 11.2 percent or 102,215 units from the same month last year. For December 2016, combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations were 1,985,512, up 6.9 percent or 128,362 carloads and intermodal units from December 2015. In December 2016, 13 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with December 2015. These included: coal, up 4.2 percent or 13,360 carloads; grain, up 10.5 percent or 8,663 carloads; and chemicals, up 3.9 percent or 4,599 carloads. Commodities that saw declines in December 2016 from December 2015 included: petroleum and petroleum products, down 17.4 percent or 8,568 carloads; crushed stone, gravel and sand, down 4.1 percent or 2,889 carloads; and miscellaneous carloads, down 5.9 percent or 1,265 carloads. Excluding coal, carloads were up 2 percent or 12,787 carloads in December 2016 from December 2015. Total U.S. carload traffic for 2016 was 13,096,860 carloads, down 8.2 percent or 1,169,152 carloads, while intermodal containers and trailers were 13,490,491 units, down 1.6 percent or 220,171 containers and trailers when compared to 2015. In 2016, total rail traffic volume in the United States was 26,587,351 carloads and intermodal units, down 5 percent or 1,389,323 carloads and intermodal units from the same point last year. "Last year was challenging for freight railroads," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. "Rail carloads were down for the second consecutive year, due mainly to a weak manufacturing economy and turmoil in energy markets, while intermodal failed to set its fourth straight annual record. That said, there are signs that the economy may be gradually returning to a period of growth."
  • Week Ending December 31, 2016: Total U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending December 31, 2016 was 425,998 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.7 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending December 31 were 215,967 carloads, up 4 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 210,031 containers and trailers, up 11.8 percent compared to 2015. North American rail volume for the week ending December 31, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 295,755 carloads, up 5.3 percent compared with the same week last year, and 263,659 intermodal units, up 9.9 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 559,414 carloads and intermodal units, up 7.4 percent. North American rail volume for the first 52 weeks of 2016 was 34,820,886 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.5 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 68,387 carloads for the week, up 10.5 percent, and 46,048 intermodal units, up 8.4 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 52 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 6,845,205 carloads, containers and trailers, down 3.1 percent. Mexican railroads reported 11,401 carloads for the week, up 2.4 percent compared with the same week last year, and 7,580 intermodal units, down 20.7 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 52 weeks of 2016 was 1,388,330 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 1.9 percent from the same point last year.
  • 2017 Outlook: As previously mentioned, market shifts in the U.S. economy have led to challenges in the freight rail industry, especially as it relates to rail traffic. Freight railroads, therefore, have outlined a series of policy recommendations designed to help preserve and enhance the industry's positive impact on the nation's economy, while allowing for continued safe, efficient and reliable freight transportation service. "We remain focused on providing the best possible rail network for our customers and all Americans," said Edward R. Hamberger, President and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, "and as a result, the freight rail industry will advocate for a simpler and fairer tax code to enhance U.S economic development, promote growth and reduce debt. Freight railroads will also push for a sustainable funding source that provides for aggressive investment in public infrastructure." Hamberger also addressed the industry's ongoing concern with a series of proposed regulations before the Surface Transportation Board (STB). "The freight rail industry is capital intensive and must spend massive amounts of its money to maintain infrastructure and equipment. Current STB proposals would inhibit railroads' ability to continually invest the amount of capital needed to make the 140,000-mile network work for Americans. The Board should be cognizant of the economic impact our industry and promote regulations that enhance job growth and development," Hamberger added.
(AAR - posted 1/04)

GOVERNOR CUOMO DEBUTS NEW 86TH STREET SUBWAY STATION AND NEW ENTRANCE AT 63RD STREET SUBWAY STATION: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast will retire from public service in early 2017. Tom’s career with the MTA has spanned more than 25 years. He previously served as president of NYC Transit, president of the Long Island Railroad, and as MTA Chairman and CEO since June of 2013.
  • Statement from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo: "Tom Prendergast has overseen the reimagining and modernization of the MTA and will be remembered for improving the commute, and the lives, of millions of New Yorkers who depend on our mass transit system. "The on-time completion of the Second Avenue Subway would have been impossible without Tom's leadership and relentless commitment to meeting the goal and is an incredible way to end his long and successful career. "Tom has been an incredibly effective chairman and CEO and among the finest public servants I have had the privilege of working with. I thank him for his hard work and dedication to the people of New York, and wish him and his family the best on this exciting new chapter."
  • Statement From MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast: “It has truly been a privilege to have a hands-on Governor who is so invested in the MTA – both in supporting the largest Capital Program this agency has ever seen and by working so closely with us not only to fund it, but to implement that investment wisely. “Opening the Second Avenue Subway this weekend was a crowning achievement for the MTA and I'm proud to have been a part of such a historic moment. It has not only changed the daily commute for hundreds of thousands of customers, it has helped change the face of the MTA – showing the public we can meet the deadlines we set for ourselves. “I'm also proud of the work we have done to integrate new technology into all aspects of our system to keep up with the growing needs of our riding public and of the way we recovered and fortified our assets from the devastating damage left behind by Hurricane Sandy. “It's never easy to leave an organization after 25 years of service, but I do so knowing that the MTA will continue to serve the public so well and that our Governor will ensure New York continues to have the most robust transportation system in the country.”
(MTA - posted 1/03)

SECRETARY FOXX ANNOUNCES THE FIRST EXECUTVIE DIRECTOR OF HTE BUILD AMERICA BUREAU: U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that Martin Klepper will join the USDOT Build America Bureau (Bureau) as the initial executive director. The Bureau is a newly created entity within the USDOT that streamlines access to federal credit and grant opportunities while providing technical assistance to project planning, financing, delivery, and monitoring. The Bureau will also help state and local governments develop and finance public-private partnership transactions (P3’s) for transportation facilities. Klepper is a senior partner in the Energy and Infrastructure Projects Group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, LLP, where he is known for developing, financing, acquiring and selling transportation, energy, and other large infrastructure projects in the United States and abroad. Over his career, he has closed more than 100 major transactions totaling more than $20 billion. Klepper has worked with both federal and state governments on energy and infrastructure financing matters, as well as with banks, underwriters, equity investors, multilateral lenders, and export credit agencies in various capacities. "We are pleased to have someone with Martin’s significant experience and expertise at the helm of the Bureau,” said Secretary Foxx. “Under his leadership, the Bureau will be a driving force in financing transportation projects across the country.” The Build America Bureau combines the following DOT programs: the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF), the private activity bond (PAB) program, the Outreach and Project Development functions of the BATIC, and the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grant program. Since the beginning of the Build America series of initiatives in 2014, DOT’s Credit Programs have closed nearly $13 billion in financing for 24 projects with $31 billion in total project costs. (USDOT - posted 1/03)

GOVERNOR CUOMO DEBUTS NEW 86TH STREET SUBWAY STATION AND NEW ENTRANCE AT 63RD STREET SUBWAY STATION: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today debuted the new Second Avenue Subway station at 86th Street, and kicked off an open house in the station that will last from 4:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. today. The Governor also announced that a new entrance to the subway has opened at 63rd Street and 3rd Avenue, enabling MTA customers to begin accessing the F Subway line immediately, and the Second Avenue Subway Q Subway Train when service begins at Noon on Sunday, and unveiled the new artwork at the station. During the event at the 86th Street station, the Governor invited New Yorkers to preview the station, whose features include high ceilings, column-free design, vibrant lighting, and world-class contemporary artwork. Today’s open house follows last week’s at the new 96th Street Station, which marked the first time the public had access to the Second Avenue Subway since the start of construction. As with 96th Street, the words "Excelsior" and "E Pluribus Unum" – New York’s message to people who ride the subways in New York – are displayed on the beams inside of the new stations. Photos of the 86th Street station are available here and of the 63rd Street station here. "The new stations are magnificent in both their form and their function, from the innovative design to the world-class artwork that adorns the walls, and we are excited to welcome New Yorkers to see the new stations that will become part of their daily lives," Governor Cuomo said. "The on-time opening of the Second Avenue Subway is concrete proof of the grit and determination of New Yorkers, and will provide much-needed relief to a congested system. I encourage all New Yorkers to come check out the stations and take advantage of this new, vital subway line." The open house follows the Governor’s recent presentation of the largest public art installation in state history that will be featured in the new state-of-the-art Second Avenue Subway stations. The inaugural Second Avenue Subway ride will be on New Year’s Eve and revenue service will begin at noon on January 1. MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said, "We’re thrilled to start the new year with a new Subway line and to invite all New Yorkers to come get a preview today. Launching the new Second Avenue Subway is a great moment in MTA history and we’re eager to make even more history by starting work on the subway’s second phase to 125th Street. It’s what the MTA must do every day—run the systems that are at the heart of the region’s economy but improve and expand those systems to keep the region growing even stronger. Governor Cuomo has our thanks for helping with both.” (MTA - posted 12/30)

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES START OF SECOND AVENUE SUBWAY SERVICE: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority today announced the details for the start of the Second Avenue Subway’s first regular service train New Year’s Day, January 1st, 2017.
  • The Second Avenue Subway will begin operation at noon, Jan. 1, with stations opening at 11:45 a.m. Service will run from 96th Street, 86th Street, 72nd Street, and 63rd Street.
  • From Jan. 2 until Jan. 8 service on the Second Avenue Subway will begin at 6 a.m. and run until 10 p.m. Then, starting on Jan. 9, service will operate around-the-clock.
"New Year's Day marks a great New York moment and a significant milestone with the debut of the Second Avenue Subway," Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "What was once thought to be the impossible, the on-time completion of this transformative project will increase the capacity of the nation’s busiest subway system and positively impact the lives of millions of New Yorkers now and for years to come." "Ringing in 2017 with the start of service demonstrates that the MTA is living up to its promise to deliver the Second Avenue Subway on-time," MTA Chairman and CEO Tom F. Prendergast said. "We are making improvements across our system to better serve riders and we are especially proud to introduce a new line for the first time in more than 50 years." The MTA is also announcing that trains and buses will operate on special schedules during the upcoming New Year’s Eve holiday weekend. (MTA - posted 12/30)

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES LED LIGHTING INSTALLED ON PERSHING SQUARE VIADUCT AT GRAND CENTRAL: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the illumination of Pershing Square viaduct in front of Grand Central Terminal with color-changing LED lighting. The lighting, which is intended to complement the grandeur of Grand Central Terminal, will enhance the ability of nighttime pedestrians anywhere along 42nd Street to find their way to Grand Central at a glance. "Grand Central Terminal is one of our great public landmarks, and this new lighting on the Pershing Square Viaduct further enhances the beauty and grandeur of this New York icon," Governor Cuomo said. "This is one of the many infrastructure improvements this administration is making to New York’s transportation network in order to improve its form, function and reliability in order to meet the needs of current and future generations of New Yorkers." MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said, “With these new LED lights, the Pershing Square Viaduct will serve as a beacon to Grand Central Terminal—one of the most beautiful buildings in the world and also one of the busiest, serving 750,000 people every day. Not only will it help customers find their way to Grand Central, it can foster a sense of shared pride and community through stunning light displays that celebrate holidays and special occasions.” MTA Metro-North Railroad will maintain the lighting and manage the color choice as part of its duties to operate Grand Central Terminal. The lighting was installed in a joint effort between Metro-North, the Grand Central Partnership, a business improvement district covering east Midtown, and the New York City Department of Transportation, which owns the viaduct. Grand Central Partnership Chairman of the Board Peter S. Kalikow said, "GCP was excited to partner with Metro-North Railroad and the New York City Department of Transportation to transform the Pershing Square Viaduct into a grand illuminated gateway to iconic Grand Central Terminal. GCP was pleased to coordinate the completion of this project with the recent installation of new energy efficient LED stadium lights on roofs and setbacks of adjoining properties to brilliantly light the grand façade of this landmark structure." The viaduct carries two lanes of Park Avenue over East 42nd Street. It was named a national historic landmark in 1983, and has been featured prominently in many films, including Men In Black, I Am Legend, and The Avengers. As part of the project to install the lighting, the words “Grand Central Terminal” and “Pershing Square Plaza” were added in capital letters on both its east and west facades using Garamond 3, the font used for signs throughout Grand Central. The bridge over 42nd Street is the most visibly prominent part of a viaduct that extends from 40th to 46th Streets and was built from 1912 to 1919, shortly after the completion of Grand Central Terminal in 1913. It restored north-south travel in the lower 40s along Park Avenue, which had been decommissioned in the 1860s to make way for Grand Central’s predecessor facilities and their accompanying train yards. Today, the viaduct hugs the east and west sides of Grand Central and the MetLife Building at 200 Park Avenue, and cutting diagonally through the lower floors of the Helmsley Building at 230 Park Avenue. (MTA - posted 12/29)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING DECEMBER 24, 2016: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending December 24, 2016. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 496,633 carloads and intermodal units, up 27 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending December 24 were 243,917 carloads, up 17.9 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 252,716 containers and trailers, up 37.2 percent compared to 2015. Please note: Christmas Day is not included in the current week this year, but is included in the comparable week in 2015. Therefore, this week's traffic volume is somewhat overstated compared to 2015. Nine of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2015. They included miscellaneous carloads, up 30.6 percent to 8,186 carloads; motor vehicles and parts, up 24.6 percent to 16,491 carloads; and grain, up 24 percent to 22,582 carloads. One commodity group posted a decrease compared with the same week in 2015: petroleum and petroleum products, down 5.4 percent to 9,972 carloads. For the first 51 weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,880,893 carloads, down 8.4 percent from the same point last year; and 13,280,460 intermodal units, down 1.8 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 51 weeks of 2016 was 26,161,353 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 5.1 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending December 24, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 335,522 carloads, up 19.2 percent compared with the same week last year, and 318,376 intermodal units, up 35.5 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 653,898 carloads and intermodal units, up 26.7 percent. North American rail volume for the first 51 weeks of 2016 was 34,261,472 carloads and intermodal units, down 4.7 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 76,744 carloads for the week, up 25 percent, and 55,859 intermodal units, up 31.1 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 51 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 6,730,770 carloads, containers and trailers, down 3.3 percent. Mexican railroads reported 14,861 carloads for the week, up 13.6 percent compared with the same week last year, and 9,801 intermodal units, up 21.8 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 51 weeks of 2016 was 1,369,349 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 1.8 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 12/28)

CP APPOINTS GORDON TRAFTON TO ITS BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Canadian Pacific Railway Limited announced that Gordon Trafton has been appointed to its Board of Directors effective January 1, 2017. "Gordon brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the board," said Andrew F. Reardon, Chairman of the Board. "His knowledge of the railroading industry and his familiarity with our leadership team positions CP well for the future. We look forward to working closely with him as we continue our journey to railroading excellence." In 2010, Mr. Trafton retired from his position of Special Advisor to the Canadian National (CN) leadership team. From 2003 to 2009, he successively served as CN's Senior Vice President Strategic Acquisitions and Integration and as Senior Vice President Southern Region. Before joining CN, he held a number of leadership positions with Illinois Central Railroad and Burlington Northern Railroad. Mr. Trafton holds a Bachelor of Science, Transportation Management from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder and now serves as Chairman of the Leeds School of Business Board of Alumni and Friends, and as a board member for the nonprofit City Year in Denver. Over the past six years, he has served on three additional nonprofit education boards. "Hunter and Keith have always been committed to railroading excellence and I look forward to working closely with them once again," said Trafton. "It is with great pride that I join this iconic Canadian company and I stand ready to contribute to the next chapter of this incredible transformation." (CP, Randy Kotuby - posted 12/27)

' FIRST TRAIN RUNS THROUGH NEW VIRGINIA AVENUE TUNNEL: CSX today announced the on-time completion of the first phase of the new Virginia Avenue Tunnel project in Washington, D.C., clearing the way for trains to transport double-stacked intermodal freight between Mid-Atlantic seaports and the Midwest on CSX’s railroad network. The Virginia Avenue Tunnel is the last of 61 clearance projects that comprise the $850 million National Gateway Initiative, an innovative public-private partnership announced in 2008 to create more-efficient pathways for rail freight between key U.S. markets through investment in critical transportation infrastructure. The first CSX freight train passed through the new southern tunnel of the two-tunnel project at 8 a.m. today, carrying double-stacked intermodal freight containers between Portsmouth, Va., and North Baltimore, Ohio. Work on the northern tunnel has already begun, and the entire project is expected to be completed on schedule in mid-2018. “Clearing the National Gateway for double-stack freight creates more efficient, more environmentally friendly routes to move the essential goods that fuel today’s economy,” said Michael J. Ward, CSX chairman and chief executive officer. “Thanks to the support of our federal and state partners over the past eight years and the commitment of CSX’s shareholders to invest in the company’s future, the double-stack-cleared National Gateway will allow CSX to better meet the needs of consumers and businesses throughout the eastern U.S. for decades to come.” When both tunnels are complete, the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project will relieve a significant Mid-Atlantic rail bottleneck that impacts freight and passenger service in the region as the growing volume of rail traffic has consumed the capacity of the existing infrastructure. In addition, truck traffic, carbon emissions and wear-and-tear on the region’s highways will be reduced as shippers take advantage of the more-efficient and environmentally friendly rail service made possible by the project. The project is replacing an existing tunnel, portions of which were first constructed in 1870, that does not provide sufficient vertical clearance for double-stack intermodal containers and is not wide enough to allow a two-track rail configuration. Nationally, the award-winning National Gateway Initiative is expected to create more than 50,000 jobs and deliver a host of benefits including reduced fuel consumption, lower emissions, improved safety, lower highway maintenance costs and reduced shipping costs. The project is expected to deliver more than $10 billion in public benefits in its first 30 years of operations – a return of $36 in public benefits for every $1 of public money invested. The National Gateway Initiative has been supported by the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as a diverse group of 336 public and private-sector organizations and individuals, including Big Lots!, UPS and The Limited. On December 15, Maryland submitted an application for a U.S. Department of Transportation FASTLANE grant to double-stack clear the Howard Street Tunnel and ten highway/rail crossings in Baltimore, which would remove the final impediments to a fully double-stack cleared rail corridor between Florida and New York. The Howard Street Tunnel project, if funded, will generate competitive advantages for the Port of Baltimore, remove additional trucks from the nation’s highways and create more than $640 million in benefits to 25 eastern states. CSX has committed to contribute $145 million of the funding required to complete the project. (CSX - posted 12/23)

' FEDERAL RAILROAD ADMINISTRATION HIGHEST-EVER PENALTY RATE: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced that its enforcement of federal rail safety rules has led to the highest-ever civil penalty collection rate in the agency’s 50-year history, surpassing last year’s record-breaking rate. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2016, the agency expects to collect 79 percent of the civil penalties it issued to railroads, hazardous materials shippers and others for violating federal safety regulations, a 4-percent increase over FY2015, and the largest percentage rate ever closed by the agency. The total amount of civil penalties in FY2016 hit $15.75 million, more than a half-million more than the previous year. “The Department of Transportation will continue to take aggressive action against railroads for not following safety rules,” said U.S Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This strong enforcement program helps prevent needless accidents and deaths.” FRA’s closure rate is the highest in the agency’s history and significantly higher than previous years. Last year, more than 6,268 railroad company violations resulted in civil penalties. “The country continues to rely on rail more and more to transport materials and people, and that must happen each day without an incident. A strong enforcement program is a critical element to achieve that goal,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. (FRA - posted 12/23)

18TH EDITION OF THE CANADIAN PACIFIC HOLIDAY TRIAN ON TRACK TO RAISE $1.2 MILLION AND 250,000 POUNDS OF FOOD: The 18th annual Canadian Pacific (CP) Holiday Train raised more than spirits across North America this holiday season, with donations of $1.2 million and 250,000 pounds of food counted to this point. As food banks continue to count the money raised and weigh the food donated at each stop this year, the program is on track to have raised more than C$13 million and four million pounds of food since its inception in 1999. "With the need for food banks continually increasing in both Canada and the U.S., the importance of the CP Holiday Train program in the community is also increasing," said E. Hunter Harrison, CP's Chief Executive Officer. "Beyond food and monetary donations the CP Holiday Train generates goodwill, raises spirits and helps people start the holidays off on the right foot. We thank the communities across our network for supporting the program and giving back to their neighbours." The 2016 CP Holiday Train was proud to feature a full Canadian musical line-up with multiple Canadian Country Music Award and Juno Award winners. The Canadian train featured Dallas Smith and Odds. On board the U.S. train, Kelly Prescott partnered with Doc Walker between Montreal and Windsor, Ont., and Colin James through the U.S. Midwest and Great Plains. Jonathan Roy anchored the Quebec shows. The CP Holiday Train program is not the only way that CP gives back to food banks. CP also provides Food Banks Canada $250,000 worth of in-kind transportation services to support its National Food Sharing Service program. Since 2011 CP's contribution has helped transport more than 16 million pounds of food and household goods to food organizations across Canada. "We are grateful for the in-kind support that CP provides to Food Banks Canada through transportation resources and the direct monetary donations it gives to communities through the Holiday Train program," said Katharine Schmidt, Executive Director, Food Banks Canada. "CP's history as a Food Banks Canada partner is a long and collaborative one and we look forward to the future." The Capture the Spirit photo contest is now closed and winners have been chosen. Six winners will each be awarded a CP prize pack including a ride on the 2017 CP Holiday Train and a $1,000 donation to the food bank of their choice. Winners will be announced on the CP Holiday Train social media profiles. (CP - posted 12/22)

GOVERNOR CUOMO DEBUTS NEW SUBWAY STATION AT 96TH STREET AND INVITES NEW YORKERS TO OPEN HOUSE AHEAD OF THE ON-TIME OPENING OF THE SECOND AVENUE SUBWAY: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today debuted the new station at 96th Street in advance of the historic, on-time opening of the Second Avenue Subway. At the event, the Governor invited New Yorkers to an open house for a preview tour of the station, which features high ceilings, column-free design, vibrant lighting, and world-class contemporary artwork. The open house marks the first time the public will have access to the Second Avenue Subway since the start of construction. The words "Excelsior" and "E Pluribus Unum" – New York’s message to people who ride the subways in New York – are displayed on the beams inside of the station. Photos of the new 96th Street station are available here. Today’s event follows the Governor’s recent presentation of the largest public art installation in state history that will be featured in the new state-of-the-art Second Avenue Subway stations, including Sarah Sze’s “Blueprint for a Landscape” installation at the new 96th Street station. The inaugural Second Avenue Subway ride will be on December 31 and revenue service will begin at noon on January 1. "With unparalleled architecture and newly installed artwork along the Second Avenue line, we are transforming these stations into underground galleries that encompass the spirit and cultural charm of New York," Governor Cuomo said. "This open house offers a unique opportunity for us to share this important project milestone with New Yorkers, and marks the progress we have made in delivering a new, vital artery to one of the nation’s busiest transit lines. I encourage all New Yorkers to come for a tour and see this new state-of-the-art station for themselves." "Governor Cuomo challenged the MTA to work aggressively to open the Second Avenue Subway on time, and we have been working around the clock to meet this challenge," MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said. "We’re thrilled to start the new year with a new Subway line and invite all New Yorkers to come get a preview this week."(AAR - (MTA - posted 12/22)

AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING DECEMBER 17, 2016: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending December 17, 2016. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 523,949 carloads and intermodal units, down 0.3 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending December 17 were 254,700 carloads, down 2.8 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 269,249 containers and trailers, up 2.2 percent compared to 2015. Three of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2015. They were grain, up 5.3 percent to 24,193 carloads; coal, up 2.5 percent to 87,219 carloads; and metallic ores and metals, up 1.5 percent to 20,955 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2015 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 15.6 percent to 11,089 carloads; nonmetallic minerals, down 12.5 percent to 27,842 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, down 10.8 percent to 17,640 carloads. For the first 50 weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,636,976 carloads, down 8.8 percent from the same point last year; and 13,027,744 intermodal units, down 2.3 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 50 weeks of 2016 was 25,664,720 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 5.6 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending December 17, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 342,890 carloads, down 3 percent compared with the same week last year, and 337,068 intermodal units, up 2.1 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 679,958 carloads and intermodal units, down 0.5 percent. North American rail volume for the first 50 weeks of 2016 was 33,607,574 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.1 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 73,342 carloads for the week, down 1.3 percent, and 57,428 intermodal units, which was flat compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 50 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 6,598,167 carloads, containers and trailers, down 3.8 percent. Mexican railroads reported 14,848 carloads for the week, down 13.3 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,391 intermodal units, up 12.9 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 50 weeks of 2016 was 1,344,687 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 2.1 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - - posted 12/21)

NORFOLK SOUTHERN CHANGE IN HOLIDAY OPERATING PLAN: Due to recent winter weather affecting the Norfolk Southern system, the holiday operations plan is revised as follows:
  • Saturday, December 24th: NS road, local and yard operations will cease at 3:00pm. NS will not accept interchange trains after 7:00am.
  • Sunday, December 25th: Interchange, road, local and yard operations idled.
  • Monday, December 26th: Limited road and interchange operations. Yard and local operations remain idled.
  • Tuesday, December 27th: Normal operation schedules resume at 7:00am.
(NS - - posted 12/21)

READING & NORTHERN 2017 CALENDARS: The Reading & Northern 2017 Calendars have arrived! If you would like to purchase a calendar, you can stop by our Port Clinton Corporate Headquarters, or mail a check for $9.95 per calendar along with your mailing address to the Reading & Northern Railroad c/o Jolene Fay, 1 Railroad Blvd., PO Box 218, Port Clinton, Pennsylvania 19549. For any questions regarding the availability of our calendars, please call us at 610-562-2100. (R&N- - posted 12/21)

PAN AM SERVES DEFAULT AND DISPUTE NOTICES CONCERNING IMPORTANT OPERATION SAFETY AGREEMENTS WITH THE MBTA: Pan Am Southern LLC (PAS) and Pan Am Railways (PAR) today served default and dispute notices concerning important operational safety agreements with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA). A 2014 agreement between the two railroads and MBTA (copy available upon request) was intended to enable a Positive Train Control (PTC) system to be in place by the federal deadline of Dec. 31, 2018. This safety system would be compliant with federal law and appropriate to the joint passenger and freight rail services conducted over the eastern Massachusetts area. In today's notices, PAS and PAR report that MBTA has disavowed the 2014 agreement, raising questions about the three railroads' ability to implement PTC on Boston-area rail lines by the federal deadline. This throws into doubt the continuation of commuter service on those lines beyond that date. In 2008, Congress passed a law requiring freight and passenger railroads that meet certain criteria to finance, develop, install, test, and implement PTC systems across 60,000 miles of the nation's rail network by Dec. 31, 2015, which later was extended to Dec. 31, 2018. PTC uses communication-based/processor-based train control technology to prevent train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zone limits, and train movement through a main line switch in the improper position. In addition to providing service across its own lines, MBTA performs commuter service over properties owned by PAS. The 2014 PTC agreement governs the installation of PTC over all of the jointly-operated MBTA, PAS, and PAR lines. The agreement was the result of several years of cooperative discussions, plans, and submissions by MBTA to federal agencies (both for regulatory compliance and financial support purposes). The 2014 agreement also covers installation of locomotive equipment that would be necessary for operations for PAS and PAR freight rail service in the Commonwealth. Since execution of the 2014 agreement, PAS and PAR have acted in reliance on the agreement to ensure safe and compliant passenger services. MBTA repeatedly has progressed and affirmed plans for PTC installation in accordance with the agreement, including in its 2016 Annual PTC Implementation Progress Report submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration. PAS and PAR are concerned that MBTA's recent disavowal could set back design and implementation of an integrated PTC system by several years, creating uncertainty about compliance with the federal mandate and the continuation of passenger services. PAS and PAR strongly believe the best path forward lies in reaffirmation of the 2014 PTC agreement and building on the efforts PAS, PAR, and MBTA have taken since PTC was mandated. PAS and PAR pledge to work cooperatively with MBTA to implement a joint freight/passenger PTC system as soon as possible. (Pan Am Southern/Pan Am Railways - - posted 12/20)

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES SYSTEMWIDE INSTALLATION OF SUBWAY MAPS FEATURING NEW SECOND AVENUE SUBWAY: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the installation of more than 12,600 new in-car subway maps and approximately 1,000 large station maps featuring the new Second Avenue Subway line. In preparation for the on-time arrival of the Second Avenue Subway on December 31, installation of the new maps featuring the route on the system’s 6,300 cars began over the weekend. The inaugural ride on the Second Avenue Subway will be on December 31 and revenue service will begin at noon on January 1. "On every subway car, in every station, and throughout New York, installing these maps means that the Second Avenue Subway is finally here and will be open on time," Governor Cuomo said. "This significant expansion of the subway system, which was more than 50 years in the making, will benefit millions of New Yorkers and is a major step forward toward our goal of modern and reimagined MTA." The station maps featuring the new line were delivered Monday and will be posted beginning tomorrow. All stations will have the maps in time for revenue service including in:
  • 1,496 Customer Information Centers
  • 627 free-standing frames on island platforms
  • 292 On-the-Go screens at 61 stations
Maps will also be installed at major hubs throughout Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road territory. In addition, one million folding pocket maps are currently being printed for distribution to customers riding the subway system and the map will also be available on the MTA’s website at www.MTA.info/maps . The MTA is also printing a total of approximately 150,000 new multilingual maps in languages including Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Korean, Italian, Japanese and Chinese. Revenue service will begin at noon on January 1, when the first uptown Q Subway train to Second Avenue departs from the 57th-7th Avenue station. Trains will run every six minutes during peak hours and will run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the rest of the first week. Overnight service will begin on Monday, January 9. Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway marks the most significant changes to New York City subway service in recent decades, and will be built in four phases. Phase I will provide service from 96th Street to 63rd Street and will serve more than 200,000 people per day, reducing overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue Line and restoring a transit link to a neighborhood that lost the Second Avenue Elevated in 1940. MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said, “The Second Avenue Subway is the most significant addition to our system in 50 years and will significantly reduce crowding on the Lexington Avenue line. Opening the line on time could not happened without the support of Governor Cuomo and the round-the-clock hard work and dedication of the thousands of men and women on this project who made this opening possible.” (MTA- posted 12/20)

GCT USA, PORT AUTHORITY BREAK GROUND FOR NEW EXPRESSRAIL PORT JERSEY FACILITY: GCT USA and the Port Authority today broke ground for the ExpressRail Port Jersey facility ("Greenville Yard"). The facility will be a major ship-to-rail port project located directly adjacent to the recently expanded, state-of-the-art GCT Bayonne container terminal. This project will complete the agency’s more than $600 million initiative that establishes direct access to on-dock or near-dock rail service for all of its major marine terminals. Designed to complement the terminal’s big ship handling capabilities and quick transaction time, the intermodal yard will have an annual capacity of 250,000 container lifts, or 430,000 TEUs. The intermodal facility – scheduled for completion in mid-2018 – will connect the Port of New York and New Jersey’s GCT Bayonne terminal to CSX and Norfolk Southern’s extensive rail network, reaching key inland markets. The facility will support the port’s continuously increasing number of rail lifts and higher percentage of East Coast market share. In line with GCT Bayonne’s Green Marine certification, the purpose-built ExpressRail Port Jersey facility will feature 9,600 feet (2,926 meters) of track serviced by high-efficiency, electric cantilevered rail mounted gantry cranes featuring LED lighting. Every container lifted to a rail car displaces the need for 1.5 truck trips. Emission reductions resulting from the switch from truck to rail transport, over the life of the intermodal facility, are expected to total 415 tons of nitrogen oxide and 108 tons of particulate matter. It also will eliminate 375,000 trucks from crowded highways annually and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 18,300 tons annually. Construction costs for the GCT Bayonne near-dock intermodal facility are supported by a $56 million investment from the Port Authority. The funding will come from monies collected through the Cargo Facility Charge, a per-container fee assessed on cargo shipped through the Port of New York and New Jersey to cover the costs of critical road, rail and security infrastructure projects. "As the port business continues to grow with the arrival of new, lower emissions, larger ships, it’s critical that we invest in projects to deal with the increase in cargo in a sustainable way, maintaining our quality of life," said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. "This project will not only expedite the movement of cargo through the region, but will take hundreds of thousands of truck trips off the road annually, providing a significant environmental benefit to the region." "Given the highly competitive nature of the port business, shippers must be assured that the goods they bring here are smoothly and cost effectively delivered to market," said Port Department Director Molly Campbell. "This project further enhances GCT Bayonne’s high-efficiency, ensuring that this terminal, and the Port of New York and New Jersey as a whole, maintain the competitive edge to attract new business for years to come." "Building on our proven experience as a world-class developer of marine and rail facilities, this partnership with the Port Authority will ensure that the most advanced terminal on the East Coast is complemented with an effective and efficient rail facility, increasing our big ship surge capacity and decreasing overall cargo dwell times," said John Atkins, President of GCT USA. "GCT is committed to growing our business in a responsible way," said Stephen Edwards, President & CEO of GCT Global Container Terminals Inc. "By decoupling our growth from carbon emissions and reducing road traffic, the new rail yard will ensure our customers continue to enjoy best-in-class service with an improved footprint." (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey - 12/20)

MBTA AND CARMEN'S UNION REACH MILESTONE AGREEMENT: After months of negotiations, the MBTA and Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 have agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that will save the MBTA $80 million over the next four years and more than $750 million over the next 25 years while also fundamentally reforming overtime and other long-standing work rules to lower MBTA costs and improve productivity. The agreement was ratified at a Local 589 membership meeting Sunday and approved by the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board today. The agreement, which runs from January 1, 2017 through June 30, 2021, protects certain elements of core work currently performed by Local 589 members, such as operating buses and subway vehicles. The MBTA retains the right to reduce costs and innovate through flexible contracting in other areas, including possible new late night bus service and new bus routes, in-station customer service delivery, and the adoption of lifecycle maintenance programs for new vehicles. “Change is never easy, but this agreement marks a new day in the relationship between T management and its largest union,” said MBTA Acting GM Brian Shortsleeve, noted that this is the first time in more than a half century that a contract between the MBTA and the Carmen’s Union has been opened early. “We are pleased that the MBTA and Local 589 were able to find common ground on a game plan that will improve the MBTA’s cost structure by altering the status quo in a way that will improve service for riders, fiscal accountability for taxpayers, and provide stability to our employees.” While the agreement will significantly lower the projected rate of annual wage growth over the next four years for existing employees, it does not reduce their current wage rates. New bus and rail operators will start at lower wage rates but will still be able to achieve the top wage rates in their classifications though over a longer period of time. Work rule changes in the agreement mean Local 589 members will be eligible for overtime pay only after completing 40 hours of regularly scheduled weekly work. This will encourage employees to adhere to their regular work schedules, which will further build upon the T’s recent progress in reducing overtime costs and unscheduled absences, which lead to dropped trips and inconvenience for riders. In addition, Local 589 and the MBTA have agreed to a pilot program for a four-day work week for bus and rail operators, which will offer some operators an option to work their scheduled 40-hour week through four 10-hour days, rather than five eight-hour days. This pilot program, which is already in effect at several locations, will help improve the quality of life for these operators while saving the T millions of dollars over the life of the contract due to more efficient work scheduling. Local 589 also agreed to adopt the use of modern software for the electronic scheduling of operator routes, replacing the current paper-based system. Under the agreement, bereavement leave for Local 589 members expands from three to five days. And the T will increase its contributions to the Health and Welfare Trust by $400 per year, per subscriber beginning in July 2017 while eliminating Medicare Part B supplemental payments to upper income earners. “This agreement is the result of a commitment by both parties to work together to bring greater value to our riders while creating a better and more productive environment for our employees,” said FMCB Chairman Joseph Aiello. (MBTA- posted 12/20)

GOVERNOR CUOMO ANNOUNCES ON-TIME OPENING OF SECOND AVENUE SUBWAY: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the schedule for the on-time opening of the new Second Avenue Subway. Keeping his promise to modernize the MTA and open the subway line on time, the inaugural ride will take place on December 31st and revenue service will begin at noon on January 1 and start at 6 a.m. each day for the rest of the first week. "New Yorkers have waited nearly a century to see the promise of the Second Avenue Subway realized, and after unrelenting dedication from thousands of hardworking men and women, the wait is over and the subway will open on December 31," Governor Cuomo said. "The on-time completion of this major, transformative project reaffirms confidence in government competence, increasing capacity on the nation’s busiest subway system, and delivering a new, vital transportation artery to millions of New Yorkers." Phase 1 of Second Avenue Subway marks the most significant changes to New York City subway service in recent decades, and will be built in four phases. Phase I will provide service from 96th Street to 63rd Street and will serve more than 200,000 people per day, reducing overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue Line and restoring a transit link to a neighborhood that lost the Second Avenue Elevated in 1940. Revenue service will begin at noon on January 1, when the first uptown Q train to Second Avenue departs from the 57th-7th Avenue station. Trains will run every six minutes during peak hours and will run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. for the rest of the first week. Overnight service will begin on Monday, January 9. MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said, “The Second Avenue Subway is the most significant addition to our system in 50 years and will significantly reduce crowding on the Lexington Avenue line which currently serves more riders than the Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Boston transit systems combined. Opening the line on time could not happened without the support of Governor Cuomo and the round-the-clock hard work and dedication of the thousands of men and women on this project who made this opening possible.” (MTA- posted 12/19)

WEEKEND SERVICE ON PATH'S 33RD STREET LINE RESTORED FOLLOWING INSTALLATION OF FEDERALLY MANDATED SAFETY AND SIGNAL UPGRADES: PATH's 33rd Street line once again will be fully operational on weekends, starting Christmas Eve, following the installation of new safety and signalization upgrades. Weekend closures began in early August to enable crews to install state-of-the-art communications equipment and cables, as well as perform additional repair and repainting work. "We are very pleased to be able to complete this phase of the project on time, and we thank our riders for making the best of what was an inconvenience for many of them," said PATH Director/General Manager Michael Marino. The project included installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) to provide additional safety upgrades for riders. "This project is vitally important for PATH, as we transition to a state-of-the-art system to allow PATH to increase throughput safety. I applaud the work of Mike Marino and the entire PATH team," said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. During the weekend closures, PATH had been running direct trains between Hoboken and the World Trade Center, and providing shuttle bus service for riders from the WTC to West 29th Street. Those alternative services will be discontinued on weekends starting Dec. 24. (PANYNJ- posted 12/19)

CSX HOLIDAY OPERATING PLAN:
  • Christmas Holiday: Curtailment of train operations will begin at 1500 hours on Christmas Eve – Saturday, December 24th through 0700 hours on Monday, December 26th. This includes road trains, yards, terminals and local trains serving customers. If service is needed during the Christmas holiday schedule, please contact CSX Customer Service in advance to make any appropriate arrangements.
  • New Year Holiday: Trains will operate on a normal schedule with the exception of limited yard and local curtailments where appropriate. If service is needed during the New Year schedule, please contact CSX Customer Service in advance to make any appropriate arrangements.
  • Winter Weather: As the first wave of significant snow events of the winter season occurs, the team will continuously monitor building winter weather conditions in the Midwest, Great Lakes regions and Northeast. Minor delays associated with frozen switches and bitter cold temperatures can be expected as CSX crews manage through this current bout of winter weather. CSX Transportation operations will activate the Winter Action Plan in the event major winter weather delays become anticipated on the network to mitigate any impact to customer shipments. As always, the company’s priorities are the safety of employees and meeting the needs of customers.
(CSX - posted 12/19)

AMTRAK OFFERS INCREASED SERVICE AND CONVENIENT TRANSPORTATION TO INAUGURATION ACTIVITIES: Amtrak is making it easier for people to travel to the Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20 and surrounding activities by offering additional trains and seating capacity in the days before and after the event. Amtrak has already expanded its operating plan to include:
  • Added capacity for Amtrak Northeast Regional service Jan. 20-23.
  • Additional round-trips on Acela Express and Northeast Regional services on Jan. 21.
Amtrak will continue to closely monitor the needs of its customers for the inauguration, and adjust its operating plan as needed. All Amtrak trains in the Northeast require reservations and ticket purchases prior to boarding. Tickets for all Amtrak trains are available but customers are advised to book as early as possible to ensure availability. Customers can purchase tickets on www.Amtrak.com , Amtrak mobile apps, or by calling 800-USA-RAIL. “We’re proud to be able to provide a vital transportation service to this historic event,” said Jason Molfetas, Amtrak EVP/Chief Marketing and Sales Officer. “Our customers who have traveled with us in the past know that there is no better way to get into and out of D.C. during Inauguration week than with Amtrak. Many of the streets into the city will be closed in the days leading up to the Inauguration, and Amtrak takes you right into the heart of the activities. Many of the Inauguration events and festivities are just blocks away from Union Station.” Large crowds are expected in and around Washington, D.C., so Amtrak is working with local, state and federal officials to ensure a safe and memorable weekend. (CSX - posted 12/19)

RAILROAD EXECUTIVES INVITE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION TO WORK WITH THEM TO MODERNIZE FREIGHT RAIL POLICIES: More than 50 top executives sent a letter to Vice President-elect Pence inviting the Trump administration to work with them to help fill vacancies at the Surface Transportation Board (STB) and select candidates that are "committed to eliminating outdated rules and overly bureaucratic procedures." The signatories to the letter represent some of the nation's largest customers of freight rail service and come from a variety of industries, including manufacturing, refining and agriculture. In their letter, the companies stress the importance of STB policies on investment decisions in the United States and future economic growth – "In order to fully realize the benefits of a manufacturing renaissance, we must be sure that the STB is comprised of members that will make decisions that are based on current economic realities and founded on free market solutions." The STB is charged with resolving freight rail problems and since it was created, the rail industry has changed dramatically. Following massive consolidation, only seven railroads are currently in operation and the four largest railroads are in control of 90 percent of the rail traffic in the U.S. Outdated regulatory protections and overly bureaucratic STB procedures have failed to keep pace with these changes. As a result, freight rail rates have doubled—more than three times the rate of inflation over the past decade—even though the volume of freight carried by the railroads has barely increased. During that same period, rail customers have not seen an improvement in service. The request comes at an important juncture for the future of the STB as the Board has proven to be ineffective in addressing these long-standing freight rail problems, and the current Commissioners have acknowledged that Board procedures are overly complex and burdensome. Eliminating regulatory barriers to commerce and improving how the STB operates is in line with the Trump administration's pro-growth goals and promise to change how Washington operates. The companies stress the only way for this to happen is to ensure that "Board members must be committed to moving the STB forward instead of preserving the status quo." (Rail Customer Coalition, Randy Kotuby - posted 12/19)

NORTHEAST CORRIDOR UPGRADES WOULD ALLOW FOR MORE FREQUENT, RELIABLE, AND FASTER TRAIN SERVICE: After four years of working with the Northeast states, federal and state partner agencies and dozens and dozens of public meetings, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today recommended a vision to build a better and stronger Northeast Corridor (NEC) over the next 30 years. View a video outlining the new vision: https://youtu.be/44nB1tkPYRI. “The Department of Transportation believes that investing in this vision for the Northeast Corridor must happen—because rail does more than take us places; it provides us with opportunities and connects us to the future,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “While building this recommendation would require significant investment, the cost of doing nothing is much greater. The communities and the economies of the Northeast cannot grow and flourish without significant, new investment.” In 2012, at the urging of Congress, all Northeast states and the Federal Railroad Administration began working together to develop a vision that would help guide and coordinate planning and investments. For more than four years, and including numerous agency and public meetings, the Northeast states and FRA have engaged stakeholders about their ideas, hopes, recommendations and concerns about the future of the NEC. The extensive outreach has included broad stakeholder engagement from individuals, elected leaders, civic organizations in small townships and business leaders. What quickly became clear, and was universally agreed, is that the corridor’s current capacity is vastly inadequate. Today’s NEC simply cannot meet the demands of today—or tomorrow. The recommendation announced today by the FRA would increase reliability and provide more options by:
  • Adding new tracks to increase the Northeast Corridor to four tracks in most locations, which would allow for more frequent and faster service. Additional tracks would be added to areas with greater demand.
  • Providing intercity access to Philadelphia Airport so that passengers do not have to change trains at 30th Street.
  • Adding direct and frequent service to Hartford, Conn., and Springfield, Mass.
  • Increasing, and in some cases doubling, the number of regional trains and providing up to five times more intercity trains.
The recommendation would improve travel times:
  • Travel from Boston to New York City would be 45 minutes faster (total time of 2 hours, 45 minutes).
  • Travel from New York City to Washington, D.C., would be 35 minutes faster (total time of 2 hours, 10 minutes).
While the recommendation made today would grow the role of rail along the Northeast Corridor, it prioritizes bringing the current corridor back to good condition, or a state of good repair, first. With the corridor returned to good condition, the recommendation includes projects that will allow for even faster and more reliable service, along with more options for commuters and travelers. The recommendation is also projected to create 47,000 jobs each year, for 30 years. The recommendation FRA released today is just that – a recommendation for what FRA believes the Northeast Corridor could be in the future. In fact, it will now be up to states, cities and railroads to take next steps and decide whether to move forward with any specific projects. Each individual project, just like any other infrastructure project in this country, will require more review and more environmental studies, as well as significant funding. “In order to keep moving forward, we need a new vision for the Northeast Corridor – a corridor that can move an ever-increasing population safer, faster and more reliably than before,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “We need a corridor that provides more options and more trains for commuters. One that allows for seamless travel between the nation’s capital and New York, and New York and Providence and Boston. A corridor that provides streamlined connections between a city’s airports and its city center. And a corridor that can efficiently and reliably serve a population that is growing quickly.” FRA believes that today’s recommendation is a strong one and should move forward. To do that, it will require the business community, railroads, states, Congress and the millions of people who use the NEC every day to make it clear that this is a necessary and worthy investment. For more information, visit www.necfuture.com (FRA - posted 12/16)

MBTA COMMUTER RAIL SKI TRAIN FROM BOSTON TO WACHUSETT STATION: The MBTA is pleased to announce that again this year a weekend ski train will operate from North Station in Boston to take skiers to Wachusett Mountain Ski Area. The special train began running on Saturday, December 10. Passenger board at North Station, disembark at the new Wachusett Station on the Fitchburg Line, and travel on a free shuttle to Wachusett Mountain. The fully accessible Wachusett Station opened in September 2016. Ski trains are specially equipped with ski and snowboard racks, making the commute to the slopes easy and comfortable. Roundtrip fare for the service is $23 and children under the age of twelve ride for free. Schedules for the Ski Train are: Service operates on Saturday and Sunday only. To Wachusett Station from Boston on train #1401/2401. Train departs North Station at 8:35 a.m. and arrives at Wachusett at 10:11 a.m. To Boston from Wachusett Station on train #1410/2410 Train departs Wachusett at 6:10 p.m. and arrives at North Station at 7:40PM (MBTA posted 12/16)

FIRST BRIGHTLINE TRAINSET: The first Siemens-built Brightline trainset, comprised of two locomotives and four coaches adorned in Brightline Blue, is complete and has left the company's manufacturing hub in Sacramento, California. Prior to its departure, hundreds of Siemens employees who worked on the trainset gathered alongside to commemorate the completion and say "bon voyage." "Having our first Brightline trainset completed and on its way to Florida is a major accomplishment and brings us one step closer to the introduction of our innovative new train service," said Michael Reininger, president of Brightline. "Once in Florida, we will begin the required testing as we ready to launch Brightline between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach next summer." The first trainset is approximately 489 feet long and is being transported across the country via rail, journeying 3,052 miles from Sacramento to Florida. Construction on the first car shell began in July 2015. Four additional trainsets for Brightline's first phase are being built at Siemens. Brightline expects delivery of these additional trainsets in four additional bright hues: pink, red, orange and green by the end of March. "Building the first full trainset for Brightline is an extremely exciting milestone both for future riders in Florida and also for the many professionals who worked hard at our Sacramento manufacturing hub," said Michael Cahill, president of Siemens Rolling Stock. "Building these trainsets utilized the latest in modern manufacturing techniques, a vast supply chain and leveraged the best in Siemens engineering and manufacturing know-how. We are all extremely proud to see the first one come to life and make it one step closer to ushering in a new era of modern transportation in Florida." Brightline's trains are built as integrated trainsets, comprised of two diesel-electric locomotives and four high quality stainless steel coaches. These clean diesel-electric locomotives will meet the highest emissions standards set by the federal government. The integration improves ride quality and makes for a much quieter ride. There is a bright yellow locomotive on each end, for high reliability and redundancy. The trains are being built by 1,000 employees at Siemens 60-acre rail manufacturing hub. Siemens has also developed a robust and diverse base of U.S. rail suppliers to support the next-generation of rail manufacturing for Brightline including components from more than 40 suppliers across 20+ states with additional suppliers still being added. The company will also be providing maintenance for the Brightline trains when they are in operation in Florida, supporting full-time employment for approximately 70 Siemens and 40 Brightline employees. Brightline is scheduled to begin express inter-city service between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach in mid-2017. For more information, visit www.gobrightline.com. (Brightline, Randy Kotuby- posted 12/15)

SECOND ANNUAL FMCB REPORT CITES FISCAL AND OTHER IMPROVEMENTS AT MBTA: In its second annual report to the Massachusetts Legislature, the MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) details progress on improving T finances, management, and operations but says both the Board and the T must "accelerate progress" so that system users actually experience a better T. "FMCB members are well aware that the sometimes invisible efforts underway to rebuild the MBTA's organization and infrastructure matter little to customers if commutes are not getting better or if buses and trains are overcrowded, slow, late, or even canceled," the Board wrote in the 70-page report delivered to Beacon Hill today. The five-member FMCB cited the need to implement "immediate improvements for riders" as one of its top priorities in the year ahead, along with developing a long-term MBTA Strategic Plan and further improving "how much, how quickly, and how effectively the T spends its capital dollars." "We believe our efforts to date have helped to lay the foundation for a much more reliable and efficient MBTA," said FMCB Board Chair Joseph Aiello, who praised "the hard work and dedication" of both his fellow Board directors and MBTA employees. "The FMCB has operated as transparently as possible and has sought to be candid with taxpayers, riders, and others about the depth of the challenges we face. That has sometimes meant some very difficult decisions, but the public that depends upon the T deserves nothing less from us." The FMCB was created by the Legislature in the wake of the MBTA's collapse during the winter of 2015. Since its first formal meeting on July 21, 2015, the Board has conducted more than 70 public sessions, most of which have opened with a public comment period, and heard hundreds of presentations about MBTA budgetary, operational, performance, and other issues. Among other points, the FMCB annual report finds:
  • The MBTA's operating budget structural deficit was cut in half during the last fiscal year, due mainly to internal cost controls and better-than-expected revenues, mainly from advertising, parking, and real estate, as well as savings in debt service costs. Though the MBTA's annual growth rate in operating expenses was the lowest in at least 15 years, "The operating budget still faces a structural deficit because MBTA revenues alone continue to be insufficient to cover operating costs, even with the recent fare increase," said the report. "Serious challenges face the T as it moves toward the mandate of balancing its operating budget."
  • While on-time performance of the T's main subway lines was about the same as the previous year and somewhat better on the Green Line, "performance for bus and commuter rail service has declined." The T is taking both short-term and long-term actions to improve the core system and is working "closely with Keolis to address and improve on-time performance."
  • The T must accelerate the delivery of MBTA capital projects, especially state of good repair investments that increase system performance and reliability. "Over the last decade, the MBTA has spent less than 70 percent of the money it's had available for capital projects," the report notes. While "it will be a challenge" for the T to achieve its FY2017 capital spending target of $850 million to $950 million, "the FMCB is confident that the reforms and new procedures now in place will more fully bear fruit in subsequent years."
  • MBTA workforce productivity has improved, with both overtime and absenteeism, which can lead to dropped bus trips and inconvenience for customers, down. It also now takes the T less time to hire new employees. However, looking ahead, the MBTA "needs to establish a compensation structure to attract and retain leadership talent to sustain and continue to deliver the transformation agenda."
  • "The Board can report significantly more progress in how the MBTA procures goods and services as well as how these contracts with hundreds of public and private sector partners are managed and enforced," the report finds. "Better monitoring of current contracts has already produced significant revenues and cost savings."
  • The MBTA's new policy for accepting unsolicited bids for innovative approaches "has led to innovative ideas coming to the T about, for example, proposals to offer late-night service."
  • The FMCB and management team continue to analyze the total savings opportunity that could be realized through leveraging flexible contracting. "The Board will do this while simultaneously working with management and labor forces to seek significant productivity gains," said the report. The challenge facing the FMCB now is to translate the foundation it has laid into better service for riders. "Better performance, in turn, will hopefully help restore public confidence that the transformation of the MBTA is not only possible - it is in fact underway," the FMCB writes in the report. To read the complete Second Annual Report, please visit MBTA.com (MBTA - posted 12/15)

    AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING DECEMBER 10, 2016: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending December 10, 2016. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 538,932 carloads and intermodal units, down 1.1 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending December 10 were 259,058 carloads, down 4.3 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 279,874 containers and trailers, up 2.1 percent compared to 2015. One of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2015. It was grain, up 8.4 percent to 24,618 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2015 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 25.3 percent to 10,026 carloads; miscellaneous carloads, down 13.1 percent to 9,350 carloads; and coal, down 5.4 percent to 87,929 carloads. For the first 49 weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 12,382,276 carloads, down 8.9 percent from the same point last year; and 12,758,495 intermodal units, down 2.4 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 49 weeks of 2016 was 25,140,771 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 5.7 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending December 10, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 348,491 carloads, down 3.3 percent compared with the same week last year, and 351,126 intermodal units, up 2.9 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 699,617 carloads and intermodal units, down 0.3 percent. North American rail volume for the first 49 weeks of 2016 was 32,927,616 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.2 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 74,123 carloads for the week, up 0.9 percent, and 60,006 intermodal units, up 4.5 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 49 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 6,467,397 carloads, containers and trailers, down 3.8 percent. Mexican railroads reported 15,310 carloads for the week, down 6 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,246 intermodal units, up 13.4 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 49 weeks of 2016 was 1,319,448 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 2.1 percent from the same point last year. (AAR- posted 12/14)

    AAR PRESIDENT AND CEO STATEMENT ON CONFIRMATION OF ANN BEGEMAN TO SURFACE TRANSPORTATION BOARD: Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), statement on the confirmation today of Ann Begeman to another term as Surface Transportation Board (STB) Board Member. "Since joining the STB in 2011, Ms. Begeman has brought a thoughtful approach along with years of transportation policy experience to many complex issues. At a time of uncertainty for the rail industry and the entire economy, Board Member Begeman's true appreciation of the importance of empirical data in the decision-making process is more critical than ever for the STB going forward. The freight rail industry welcomes her reappointment." (AAR- posted 12/14)

    U.S. SUGAR WELCOMES HOME HISTORIC STEAM LOCOMOTIVE: U.S. Sugar today welcomed home the return of Engine No. 148, a steam locomotive it used in the 1950s to haul sugarcane from the fields to its mill. U.S. Sugar re-acquired the steam engine from a private owner and plans to spend the next year or more restoring the retired Florida East Coast engine. Eventually, U.S. Sugar hopes to make the engine operational and add vintage passenger cars for offering public train rides. “This steam locomotive is part of our history, and we wanted to bring it home,’’ said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar, during a welcoming home celebration in Clewiston. “We intend to restore Engine No. 148 to its former glory.’’ The engine was shipped via rail from Colorado to Clewiston, where a team of about two dozen U.S. Sugar mechanics and others will inspect the engine and perform an engineering study. U.S. Sugar plans to return the 97-year-old engine to operating condition after its decades-long retirement. “These engines helped fuel Florida and its growth. To be able to save such an important piece of our past is an incredible opportunity that will benefit generations to come,’’ said Seth Bramson, company historian for the Florida East Coast Railway, the only rail system along the east coast of Florida, which dates back to Henry M. Flagler. “This is an indication of the caring and interest of this company in honoring its past and the state’s great history.’’ Founded in 1931, U.S. Sugar has long used railroad as an efficient means for transporting goods throughout the region and beyond. It’s the only sugarcane farming company in the continental United States that transports all of its cane to a sugar factory by railroad, which saves on fuel and reduces truck traffic and fossil fuel emissions. Its South Central Florida Express transports sugar, citrus products, fertilizer, farm equipment and other agricultural freight year-round. Its Sugarcane Train hauls sugarcane from the fields to the mills during harvest season. In all, the company operates a dozen locomotives and 800 rail cars over 300 miles of track. To monitor the progress of Engine No. 148, check out #148Homecoming and #USSugar on social media or visit USSugar.com for updates. (U.S. Sugar- posted 12/13)

    !-- BEGINNING A NEWS BLOCK --> NORFOLK SOUTHERN HALTS TRAIN SERVICE DURING CHRISTMAS DAY: NS operations will cease at 3:00 PM, Saturday, December 24th through 7:00 AM, Tuesday, December 27th. This includes road trains, yard switchers, and local trains servicing customers. NS road operations will run as regularly scheduled over the New Year’s holiday. Yard/local operations will be curtailed where appropriate. (NS- posted 12/13)

    MBTA PURCHASES AN ADDITIONAL 120 NEW RED LINE CARS: In a move that will result in an entirely new fleet of Red Line cars, the Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) today voted to order 120 additional Red Line cars from the CRRC MA Corporation. Having an entire fleet comprised of the same make and model has multiple operational and maintenance benefits, and customers will be provided with more trains that run more frequently and reliably. “This decision represents a new day for the MBTA, one that that the Fiscal and Management Control Board has been working so hard to build as they take the lead on improving service for customers,” said Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack. “The new approach with this decision was to ask the question, ‘What are the actual needs of the customer and of the fleet for Red Line service.’ The answer came back that one standardized fleet would increase the number of customers transported per hour by 30,000 and would make for more efficient maintenance. With this decision, the T is now on track to have a new Red Line fleet with sufficient capacity to run about 50 percent more trains at rush hour and to reduce the time customers have to wait for a Red Line train to only about three minutes.” Currently on order from the CRRC MA Corporation, 132 Red Line cars will already replace the oldest cars in the Red Line fleet by 2022. This leaves eighty-four cars in need of extensive overhauls and upgrades in order to maintain reliable service levels. Instead of overhauling and upgrading these eighty-four cars, the FMCB approved the MBTA's proposed recommendation to replace them with new cars, increasing the current order by 120 with an option to purchase an additional fourteen. The MBTA estimates this replacement along with minor speed code changes will boost capacity by fifty percent, raising the current number of trains per hour from thirteen to twenty. The new cars also have the latest propulsion and braking systems, allowing the achievement of a three-minute headway target, reducing customer wait times. With a larger standardized fleet comprised entirely of new cars, the MBTA will also be able to implement a life-cycle maintenance program, resulting in better maintained vehicles, fewer disabled trains and breakdowns causing service interruptions, and an extended service life of at least thirty years. “This is a historic day for the MBTA, certainly for our Red Line riders,” said MBTA Chief Operating Officer Jeff Gonneville. “The MBTA will have 120 new cars good for thirty years instead of getting no more than ten years of extra life out of a fleet of eighty-four cars that are already nearly twenty-five years old. The new cars will cost $310,000 less per car than overhauling the old cars currently in use… Replacing these vehicles will give us the ability to be able to move faster for longer and allow us to increase our capacity on the Red Line… Right now, we run about a four-and-a-half minute headway on the Red Line. This would get us down to a three-minute headway. That equates to twenty trains per hour, which also equates to about 30,000 passengers per hour increase of what we would be able to carry… In order to run a three-minute headway, we will be operating about 210 trains per hour. (There will be a) total of 252 standard Red Line cars at the Authority.” “The MBTA will have 120 new cars good for thirty years instead of getting no more than ten years of extra life out of a fleet of eighty-four cars that are already nearly twenty-five years old,” said Gonneville. “The new cars will cost $310,000 less per car than overhauling the old cars currently in use.” As part of the 2014 contract, CRRC continues to build a new plant for the final assembly of the new Red Line cars. Completion of the facility is expected in September 2017 with manufacturing to begin in April 2018. CRRC has estimated that the plant will create at least 150 new permanent jobs in Springfield. The MBTA noted that increasing the number of Red Line cars purchased from CRRC adds more job opportunities at the Springfield production facility. “This means that the employees working out of the factory in Springfield, instead of wrapping up, will continue to have jobs even longer, producing cars into the year 2023,” said Secretary Pollack. “It’s Massachusetts jobs, Massachusetts workers, a Massachusetts supply chain.” In today’s unanimous vote, the FMCB authorized MBTA management to spend up to $277 million for the procurement of the 120 cars, with an option to acquire an additional fourteen cars, along with associated capital spare parts and an extension of the technical support period. (MBTA - posted 12/12)

    SEPTA JOINS FRA's CONFIDENTIAL CLOSE CALL REPORTING SYSTEM (C3RS): SEPTA, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), SMART United Transportation Union-Local 61 (SMART-UTU) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today signed an Implementing Memorandum of Understanding (IMOU) for the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS). As a C3RS site, SEPTA's railroad conductors and engineers will be able to anonymously report near misses and unsafe conditions without fear of repercussion. SEPTA joins Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, Metra (Chicago), MBTA/Keolis (Boston), Long Island Railroad, Metro North and Strasburg Railroad (Strasburg, Pa) as carriers with C3RS IMOUs. "Building a strong safety culture is a key organizational goal for SEPTA. We are always exploring ways to expand and enhance our programs," said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel. "As a C3RS site, we will be made aware of situations that we might not have been previously alerted to so that we can take action to prevent accidents and protect our employees and passengers." Under the C3RS system, SEPTA's engineers and conductors will be able to submit a safety problem or close call online or through U.S. mail to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA, acting as an independent third party federal agency, gathers and analyzes all data for C3RS, removes employees' names and contact information (these are required for the NASA portion of the investigation) and then returns the reports to a peer review team comprised of SEPTA managers, the unions and FRA for review and action. "We are looking for conditions or close calls other than accidents or injuries that might not otherwise be reported to the FRA," said SEPTA Assistant General Manager of System Safety Scott Sauer. "We are asking employees to report events that we might not otherwise know about, the warning signs and precursors that could lead to major safety risks and accidents." "C3RS, along with PTC [Positive Train Control] implementation, which is nearly complete on SEPTA territory, will greatly improve the safety of our system," Knueppel said. "Previously, employees may have been hesitant to report a close call, fearing disciplinary action for themselves or colleagues," said Sauer. "When NASA returns the report to the peer review team, it is completely scrubbed of any employee information. We never know who submitted the information to NASA." (SEPTA - posted 12/12)

    FTA RELEASES WMATA TRACTION POWER ELECTRIFICATION SYSTEM REPORT AND ISSUES SPECIAL DIRECTIVE TO CORRECT SYSTEMATIC SAFETY PROBLEMS: The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today issued Special Directive 17-1 to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) requiring the transit agency to complete 47 actions to correct deficiencies in its traction power electrification (TPE) system, which is used to electrify Metrorail trains. The special directive is based on 22 findings from an FTA investigation report into the condition and safety performance of the Metrorail TPE system, also released today. “The safe operation of Metrorail service is directly dependent on WMATA implementing corrective actions to reduce and eliminate electrical arcing events that have too often resulted in smoke and fire, which can endanger passenger safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “WMATA has already started to address these issues, and the FTA report and special directive will help WMATA prioritize what it must do to improve its traction power system to keep the trains running safely.” The investigation report finds that while the traction power system continues to be a concern, FTA safety oversight leadership has driven WMATA to create a safer environment for both workers and passengers. In May 2016, FTA directed WMATA to complete repairs to its TPE system on segments of the Red Line where a large number of electrical arcing events resulted in smoke and fire. As a result of WMATA’s subsequent maintenance activity, the number and severity of these events has been reduced. WMATA experienced 18 electrical arcing events in these areas from March 1 to June 14 of this year, including four major events at the end of April and early May. Since June 15, there have been only eight relatively minor events. “WMATA, like many legacy systems, is struggling to manage the safety consequences of aging traction power systems that have suffered from deferred maintenance,” said FTA Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers. “Under FTA oversight, WMATA is addressing the issue, and must provide sufficient staffing and resources to ensure lasting safety improvements are made.” Since the FTA assumed temporary safety oversight of the Metrorail system in October 2015, WMATA has reported more than 70 safety events resulting from electrical arcing in its traction power system. Each of these events required an emergency response, and many resulted in the partial or full shutdown of a station or off-loading of a passenger train. Given the sharp increase in the number of TPE system-related failures and events over the last year, this FTA investigation focused on four categories of safety critical concerns: (1) TPE System Roles, Responsibilities, and Resources; (2) TPE Infrastructure, (3) Testing and Inspection Programs; and (4) Capital Projects. The FTA investigation confirmed that the safety performance of WMATA’s traction power system has deteriorated with age, deferred maintenance, and increased exposure to water and other contaminating materials. The FTA report also finds that key components of the TPE system have been compromised and are no longer performing as originally specified, and that programs to replace and upgrade critical TPE-related infrastructure have not been sufficient for the age of the system or the demand placed on it. In addition, the FTA report finds that in response to changing budgetary and staffing conditions, WMATA eliminated preventive maintenance programs to test key traction power components to predict failures, eliminated or cut back cleaning programs in tunnels, and limited its corrosion control testing program. Over the last year, WMATA has already taken a number of critical steps to address deficiencies within its traction power system. For example, WMATA has nearly completed a program to ensure that its power cable connector assemblies are properly constructed and installed, enhanced its visual and thermal cable inspection program, eliminated third rail expansion joints in tunnels, and reinstated its tunnel and insulator cleaning programs. WMATA is also reviewing roles and responsibilities for inspecting, testing, and maintaining system elements, and created a new department with exclusive responsibility for high voltage TPE system maintenance. Building on this progress, and as directed by Special Directive 17-1, WMATA must develop corrective action plans to address the findings of the report and related required actions. WMATA’s proposed corrective action plans are subject to FTA approval, and the FTA will monitor the agency’s progress to implement the safety improvements. The traction power report, along with other FTA-issued investigation reports, demonstrates how the FTA is exercising the authority and enforcement tools provided by Congress to aid WMATA in addressing systemic safety deficiencies and building a strong safety culture. It is important to note that the FTA’s reports do not amount to a finding that the Metrorail system is “unsafe.” In each investigation and report, and with each step taken, the FTA assessed the risk associated with the flaws found in the Metrorail system and determined that those risks are not so great that they place passengers and workers at substantial risk of death or injury. (USDOT - posted 12/09)

    PORT AUTHORITY BOARD ADOPTS 2017 BUDGET: Following a month-long public comment period, the Port Authority Board of Commissioners today approved the agency’s 2017 Budget consisting of $3.1 billion for operating expenses and $2.9 billion for capital projects including state-of-good repair work and new construction at its bridges, tunnels, terminals, airports, seaport and PATH system. The $3.1 billion Operating Budget approved by the Board represents an increase of 1.3 percent in expenses over the prior year budget before consideration of the costs of operating and maintaining new facilities at the World Trade Center and the contractual five-year step increases in rents for certain Port Authority facilities. After consideration of these costs, the budget represents an increase of 3.1 percent. The Capital Budget funds major ongoing investments in key transportation facilities, including the Bayonne Bridge project, the replacement of the Goethals Bridge, redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport, continued installation of Positive Train Control on the PATH system and the redevelopment of Greenville Yard to support a new ship-to-rail facility. Funds also are included to begin formal planning work for a new Port Authority Bus Terminal, the ongoing planning for a new Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport, and to continue planning projects designed to upgrade the George Washington Bridge. “This fiscally responsible budget followed a painstaking review of the agency’s resources to make sure every dollar was wisely invested in projects that will benefit the traveling public,” said Port Authority Chairman John Degnan. “The budget continues our trend to return to the Port Authorities core mission of rebuilding critical aging infrastructure while keeping all of our transportation facilities in a state of good repair.” “As stewards of the region’s major transportation facilities, this budget strikes the appropriate balance between being fiscally responsible while continuing our ongoing investment of billions of dollars in the region’s bridges, tunnels, airports, seaport and PATH,” said Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye. Highlights of the 2017 Operating Budget:
    • $1.549 billion to operate and maintain our facilities in an efficient and effective manner, facilitating the movement of people and goods in the region.
    • $706 million to ensure safe and secure facilities for our customers through police and security resources , investing in new technology and infrastructure and employing best practices for security.
    • $385 million in rents and payments in lieu of taxes for Port Authority facilities.
    Highlights of the 2017 Capital Budget:
    • $887 million for investment in tunnel, bridge and terminal facilities, including the ongoing Bayonne Bridge project, the new Goethals Bridge, planning funds to begin the process of building a new Port Authority Bus Terminal, and major state-of-good repair projects at the George Washington Bridge.
    • $989 million for Aviation projects, including the ongoing redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport and ongoing planning for a new Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport.
    • $532 million to continue the WTC rebuilding effort with the completion of the Vehicular Safety Center and Bus Parking Facility.
    • $217 million for PATH projects, including the continued installation of a new signal system including Positive Train Control on the rail system.
    • $153 million for Port Department projects, including the construction of a new ship-to-rail facility at Greenville Yard to enhance the movement of cargo on and off the port.
    (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey posted 12/08)

    GE ACQUIRES IDERS INCORPORATED TO ACCELERATE VISION OF SELF-AWARE TRAINS: GE) GE Transportation, the world’s leading producer of rail and transportation-related products and offerings, announced today its acquisition of Iders Incorporated, an electronic product design and manufacturing company for the rail industry. Iders Inc., the manufacturer of GoLINC – the onboard processing, storage, networking, and communications platform that essentially turns a locomotive into a mobile data center - has been a valued partner for more than five years. GoLINC boasts an install base of over 8,500 locomotives globally, and is the platform on which GE – and others – can write applications to help a train, and the entire system, perform more effectively. “This strategic acquisition marks another milestone for GE Transportation in creating an efficient, self-aware rail ecosystem that helps customers achieve smarter outcomes made possible by sensor data and analytics,” said Jamie Miller, GE Transportation President and CEO. “This acquisition puts GE in the driver’s seat, allowing for faster innovation and scale, digital breakthroughs and future enhancements by in-house talent.” As part of the acquisition, customers will now have access to a more extensive portfolio of cost-competitive digital solutions. GE will also inherit ongoing product development projects that aim to improve productivity and other customer outcomes. “We’re proud to bring Iders’ history of innovation and advanced technical expertise to GE Transportation and look forward to the next chapter. GE and Iders have developed a successful relationship over the years built on complementary strengths, and we are excited to deepen this alignment,” said Brad Brown, President of Iders Incorporated. (GE Transportation posted 12/08)

    STEAMTOWN NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE TO OFFER ENTRANCE FREE ADMISSION FOR 10 DAYS IN 2017: There are 10 more reasons to enjoy Steamtown National Historic Site in 2017! The park will offer free entrance admission to all on 10 days in 2017.   The 10 entrance fee-free days for 2017 will be:
    • January 16 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
    • February 20 – Presidents Day
    • April 15-16 and 22-23 – National Park Week
    • August 25 – National Park Service Birthday
    • September 30 – National Public Lands Day
    • November 11-12 – Veterans Day Weekend
      “Fee-free days are a great way for folks to explore Steamtown NHS whether for first-time or repeat visitors. We hope many area residents will take advantage of these free entrance dates and explore all that Steamtown has to offer.” said Superintendent Debbie Conway.   Usually, Steamtown NHS has an entrance fee of $7 per person; children 16 and under, with adults, are admitted free. The entrance fee waiver does not cover train rides or excursions, but includes the park visitor center and museum complex, which features History, Roundhouse and Technology museums, plus our state-of-the-art digital Theater, which presents the park’s 18-minute movie, “Steel and Steam.” The entrance fee-free days also include all staff and/or volunteer led walking tours.   Last year, Steamtown National Historic Site had more than 89,592 visitors. Those visitors spent $4,754,800 in our local communities which helped to support 77 jobs.   Located in downtown Scranton, Pa., Steamtown NHS is open daily from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; our winter hours, from January 8 through April 1, are 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.   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) 340-5204 during regular business hours, or by visiting the Park website anytime at www.nps.gov/stea. (Steamtown National Historic Site- posted 12/07)

    AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR NOVEMBER AND WEEK ENDING DECEMBER 3, 2016: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported weekly U.S. rail traffic, as well as volumes for November 2016. Carload traffic in November totaled 1,319,008 carloads, up 0.4 percent or 5,406 carloads from November 2015. U.S. railroads also originated 1,319,189 containers and trailers in November 2016, up 1.9 percent or 24,329 units from the same month last year. For November 2016, combined U.S. carload and intermodal originations were 2,638,197, up 1.1 percent or 29,735 carloads and intermodal units from November 2015. In November 2016, 11 of the 20 carload commodity categories tracked by the AAR each month saw carload gains compared with November 2015. These included: grain, up 18.6 percent or 20,209 carloads; chemicals, up 1.9 percent or 2,829 carloads; and crushed stone, gravel, and sand, up 2.5 percent or 2,714 carloads. Commodities that saw declines in November 2016 from November 2015 included: petroleum and petroleum products, down 15.4 percent or 9,813 carloads; coal, down 2 percent or 9,282 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts, down 3.5 percent or 3,134 carloads. Excluding coal, carloads were up 1.7 percent or 14,688 carloads in November 2016 from November 2015. Total U.S. carload traffic for the first 48 weeks of 2016 was 12,123,218 carloads, down 9 percent or 1,195,299 carloads, while intermodal containers and trailers were 12,478,621 units, down 2.5 percent or 322,386 containers and trailers when compared to the same period in 2015. For the first eleven months of 2016, total rail traffic volume in the United States was 24,601,839 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.8 percent or 1,517,685 carloads and intermodal units from the same point last year. "There are glimmers of hope in rail traffic data in November, with carloads and intermodal totals both up over last year — something that hasn't happened for carloads in 22 months and for intermodal in nine months," said AAR Senior Vice President of Policy and Economics John T. Gray. "Hopefully, these results are indicators of continuing future growth for the manufacturing economy, for trade, and for rail traffic. It appears that economic fundamentals are trending toward more positive results than have been seen in the recent past."
    • Week Ending December 3, 2016: Total U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending December 3, 2016 53,130 carloads and intermodal units, up 2 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending December 3 were 274,329 carloads, up 0.9 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 278,801 containers and trailers, up 3.2 percent compared to 2015. North American rail volume for the week ending December 3, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 370,061 carloads, up 1.7 percent compared with the same week last year, and 351,814 intermodal units, up 3.5 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 721,875 carloads and intermodal units, up 2.6 percent. North American rail volume for the first 48 weeks of 2016 was 32,227,999 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.3 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 79,650 carloads for the week, up 4.9 percent, and 61,743 intermodal units, up 5.6 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 48 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 6,333,268 carloads, containers and trailers, down 4 percent. Mexican railroads reported 16,082 carloads for the week, down 1.6 percent compared with the same week last year, and 11,270 intermodal units, up 2 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 48 weeks of 2016 was 1,292,892 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 2.2 percent from the same point last year.
    • Crude Oil Carload Update: The AAR also reported U.S. Class I railroads originated 48,978 carloads of crude oil in the third quarter of 2016, down 7,476 carloads or 13.2 percent from the second quarter of 2016 and down 52,189 carloads or 51.6 percent from the third quarter of 2015.
    (AAR- posted 12/07)

    FREIGHT RAIL INDUSTRY JOINS IN PUSH FOR SWIFT CONSIDERATION OF REGULATORY REFORM LEGISLATION: The Association of American Railroads this week joined associations and chambers of commerce from across the country in a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to make consideration of the "Regulatory Accountability Act" an early priority for the 115th Congress. The letter secured 380 association signatories from 47 states and the District of Columbia, representing various sectors including agriculture, energy, manufacturing and transportation. The letter says to Speaker Ryan, "We believe that federal regulations should be narrowly tailored, supported by strong and credible data and evidence, and impose the least burden possible, while still implementing Congressional intent." It goes on to explain, "The Regulatory Accountability Act builds on established principles of fair regulatory process and review that have been embodied in bipartisan executive orders dating to at least the Clinton administration." The full letter is available here. Participation in the coalition effort follows recent calls from the AAR to fix America's broken regulatory system, including in an open letter to Vice President Elect Mike Pence that outlined the essentials of sound regulation. "Regulatory improvement should be rooted in common-sense principles," said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, "and the bipartisan efforts of the Regulatory Accountability Act would be a significant first step in reform. In addressing the regulatory system, we believe policymakers should ensure that rules are based on current and complete data and sound science; regulations are enacted only if benefits outweigh costs and agencies analyze the cumulative effects of proposed regulations; and "guidance" and "emergency orders" are limited as regulatory tools." The "Regulatory Accountability Act" would improve the transparency of regulations by requiring agencies to invest more effort earlier in the rulemaking process to gather data, evaluate alternatives and receive public input about the costs and benefits of its rules. (AAR- posted 12/07)

    MTA ARTS & DESIGN DEBUTS NEW DIGITAL ARTWORK AT FULTON CENTER: MTA Arts & Design has installed a new digital artwork at Fulton Center by Brooklyn-based digital mixed media artist Anne Spalter as Arts & Design expands its audience by presenting new, innovative digital work to MTA customers. Titled New York Dreaming, the new digital artwork is a meditation on the city and the constant self-realization of its physical and psychic existence. New York is a city like no other, a combination of man-made and natural formations, perpetually evolving and reinventing itself--turning from one year to the next, unfolding. Its citizens, similarly, are dreamers, driven to bring their visions to life. Filmed and transformed high-resolution footage of iconic New York skyline imagery into psychedelic, algorithmic kaleidoscopes digitally developed using custom software, New York Dreaming will bring to commuters' daily journeys a sense of meditative wonder deriving from the sky-high perspective of the work's source footage. With a longstanding incorporation of transportation and the Modern Landscape in Spalter’s artistic process, Fulton Center is an apt backdrop for New York Dreaming. The mesmerizing video loops air simultaneously for two minutes at the top of each hour on a large-scale 52-channel video installation in the Fulton Center (2 Subway,3 Subway, 4 Subway, 5 Subway, A Subway, C Subway, J Subway, Z Subway )station complex and in the Dey Street pedestrian tunnel that connects to the R Subway and W Subway lines, where it will be displayed during the holiday season and into the beginning of 2017. “Anne’s kaleidoscopic digital work featuring the skyline of New York City shown in the dynamic canvas of Fulton Center complements the geometry and volume of this great public space,” said Sandra Bloodworth, Director of MTA Arts & Design. “The juxtaposition of light, color and pattern is mesmerizing.” The work is presented by MTA Arts & Design with technical support from Westfield Properties and ANC Sports. (MTA - posted 12/06)

    NEW DINER "ANNAPOLIS" MAKES INAUGURAL RUN ON SILVER METEOR: New Diner “Annapolis” Makes Inaugural Run on Silver Meteor: Viewliner Diner #68001 Annapolis was cut into the consist of Silver Meteor #98 at Miami on December 5. The new car is staffed and serving meals. This is the first of 25 Viewliner II diners to make a revenue run. The order for the diners, part of a 130-car order, was placed with CAF USA on July 23, 2010. (Andy Kirk - posted 12/05)

    AMTRAK PETS PROGRAM EXPANDS ON THE VERMONTER: Amtrak announced today the expansion of its pets program on the Vermonter, allowing more options for customers to travel with their pets just in time for the holidays. Small dogs and cats can now join their owners on the entire Vermonter route from Washington D.C. to St. Albans, VT, as long as the trip duration is no more than seven hours (see requirements). Previously, pets were not able to travel on the Connecticut portions of the route. Pet reservations will be accepted starting Monday, Dec. 5, for travel beginning Monday, Dec. 12. More than 15,000 pets and their human companions have traveled around the country since the program launched on the Northeast Corridor in October 2015. Record ridership was achieved for the month of July with more than 2,000 pets and owners traveling onboard. The program has also generated more than $1 million in revenue since its inception. “VTrans is pleased that Amtrak riders will now be allowed to bring carry on pets along the entire Vermonter route,” said VTrans Rail Director, Dan Delabruere. “Our customers were asking for this and VTrans agrees that this will make it a much more enjoyable trip for the entire family.” Dogs and cats travel requirements include:
    • Pet reservations are available for Coach Class accommodations for trips up to seven hours.
    • The maximum weight of pet including the carrier is 20 pounds.
    • Owners can reserve a space for their pet for $25; one pet per passenger.
    • Pets must remain in a carrier at all times and carriers should remain under their seat.
    • Five pet spots are allotted per train and are booked on a first-come, first-served basis. Pets are not allowed on trips to/from Canada at this time.
    Amtrak continues to welcome service animals on board at no charge. For more information about Amtrak’s Pet policy, visit Amtrak.com. (Amtrak - posted 12/05)

    FRA COMPLETES ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW FOR THE NEW B&P TUNNEL: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today finished the environmental review (final environmental impact statement, or FEIS) to replace the Civil War-era Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel. The FEIS includes review of the route (Alternative 3B) for a new tunnel and incorporates changes sought by communities and neighborhoods in Baltimore during more than two dozen meetings held over the last two years. “Rebuilding the B&P Tunnel is a significant undertaking along the Northeast Corridor,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “I am encouraged by the input provided by the communities, and that much of that input led to changes to make this project better for everyone involved. This is a great example of the value that public engagement and community involvement bring to the transportation planning process.” In response to the input provided by communities and leaders in Baltimore, FRA relocated the ventilation plant location to West North Avenue to preserve a community garden, reduced the number of land parcels and historic properties impacted, decreased proposed relocations, and maintained the proposal to rebuild a larger and ADA-compliant West Baltimore MARC station. The review includes proposed mitigation measures to address the impacts created by the route. These measures include establishing several grant funds to support community development and recreation facilities, providing project-related job training and hiring preferences for local workers of social and economic disadvantage, implementing construction noise and vibration mitigation plans, and establishing a grant fund for historic preservation. The new tunnel would be about 100 feet underground, compared to the existing tunnel’s 20-foot depth. The deeper placement would nearly eliminate any noticeable vibrations from passing trains. “This project is better because communities provided input on how a new tunnel could be built with as little impact as possible, and where there was an impact, how we can reduce it,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “The new tunnel will keep trains moving along the Northeast Corridor and create jobs in Baltimore.” The federal government has invested $60 million for the preliminary design and environmental review for this project. The state of Maryland estimates the project could create or support 7,000 jobs a year, over seven years, with more than 50 percent of those jobs in construction. The new route will smooth out existing curves, enabling trains to double their speeds. About 140 Amtrak and MARC passenger trains and several Norfolk Southern freight trains currently travel through the existing tunnel daily, which is part of the Northeast Corridor, the nation’s busiest rail corridor. The new route will allow 388 trains to use the new tunnel daily. In December 2015, the FRA presented three proposals for replacing the Civil War-era tunnel in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). This past April, FRA revised those options following further feedback from Baltimore residents during public hearings held in February. While Amtrak owns the B&P Tunnel, FRA leads the environmental review process in cooperation with Maryland’s Department of Transportation. Compared to Alternative 3A and Alternative 3C, Alternative 3B (the Preferred Alternative/new route) best meets the project’s purpose and need while minimizing environmental impacts. It provides high-level platforms for a newly rebuilt West Baltimore MARC Station, involves only minor impacts to the P. Flanigan & Sons asphalt plant (a major local employer), preserves two historic buildings that would be demolished by Alternative 3C, and improves average train travel time. To read the FEIS, visit www.bptunnel.com. (FRA - posted 12/02)

    FEC RAILWAY CHRISTMAS TRAIN IS COMING TO TOWN: Santa is coming to a town near you this month. This year marks the seventh annual Christmas Train operated by Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) in coordination with the U.S. Marine Corps Toys For Tots Foundation. The train will depart Saturday, December 10 and will run along the railroad's 351-mile mainline on the east coast of Florida, from Jacksonville to Miami. The 2016 FECR Christmas Train will make eight stops during the journey. Along the way Santa Claus will be spreading holiday cheer to all who come out to see him. A local Toys For Tots coordinator -- a U.S. Marine Corps service member, will be present at each stop to accept the FECR Christmas Train donations, and distribute throughout the community. The FECR Christmas Train is a 501c3, so anyone who would like to make a donation to the organization can receive a tax deduction. All donations will go toward children and teens in need in the local community. Since FECR President and CEO Jim Hertwig started the program six years ago, it has continued to see growth, donating close to 270,000 toys. "Last year alone over 1,000 children attended our event, and 16,000 toys were donated," said Jim Hertwig. "This event is, and will continue to be a favored tradition for the FECR family. We are proud to be able to once again work alongside the Toys For Tots Foundation to contribute to those in need during the holiday season," he said. The FECR Christmas Train will stop at the eight railroad crossings listed below for approximately 30 minutes, during which strict procedures will be in place for the safety and enjoyment of everyone in attendance: City RR Crossing Location Times (approximate)
    • Jacksonville Mussel Acres Road - West 7:10 AM
    • St. Augustine San Sebastian View - East 8:10 AM
    • New Smyrna Beach Canal Street - East 10:05 AM
    • Cocoa Dixon Boulevard - West 11:45 AM
    • Fort Pierce Orange Avenue - West 1:30 PM
    • West Palm Beach 36th Street - East 3:00 PM
    • Fort Lauderdale SW 17th Street - West 4:25 PM
    • Miami NE 87th Street - West 5:15 PM
    (Florida East Coast Railway - posted 12/01)

    FREIGHT RAIL INDUSTRY IMPROVES TRAIN MANAGEMENT IN CHICAGO REGION: Freight railroads operating in Chicago are better prepared to manage rail traffic going to, from and through the Chicago region, thanks to the Chicago Integrated Rail Operations Center (CIROC). Opened in December 2015, the railroads that make up the Chicago Planning Group and the Chicago Transportation Coordination Office established CIROC to monitor and facilitate efficient rail operations within Chicago. CIROC, a facility that operates around-the-clock, includes direct connections to each carrier and track views that assist employees with resolving operational issues and identifying and addressing congestion issues in order to reduce train delays. The operation of the CIROC continues the ongoing railroad efforts to improve freight mobility in the region, including the completion of many railroad capital construction projects designed to reduce chokepoints and increase capacity. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the volume of imported and exported goods transported via rail in Chicago is forecast to increase nearly 150 percent between 2010 and 2040. "Chicago is the epicenter of the nation's freight and passenger rail system with about 25 percent of all U.S. freight rail traffic going through the region," said Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR). "Freight railroads have long taken steps to identify critical factors impacting rail operations in the area. Coordination between Chicago railroads is key to achieving the benefits of the extensive planning, particularly during challenging winter weather." The establishment of CIROC improves Chicago-specific visibility, metrics and measurements that work as early warnings for potential problems. This equips railroads to better communicate on an ongoing basis, review train schedules and routing protocols and improve the ability to have the necessary equipment, materials and personnel in place to keep trains moving. "Operational planning and plan execution are extremely important for all railroads across the nation's 140,000-mile rail network," Hamberger said. "Under the new system, rail traffic issues will be better pinpointed through the CIROC's monitoring process." (AAR - posted 12/01)

    AAR REPORTS WEEKLY RAIL TRAFFIC FOR THE WEEK ENDING NOVEMBER 26, 2016: The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported U.S. rail traffic for the week ending November 26, 2016. For this week, total U.S. weekly rail traffic was 452,759 carloads and intermodal units, up 0.6 percent compared with the same week last year. Total carloads for the week ending November 26 were 229,866 carloads, down 0.4 percent compared with the same week in 2015, while U.S. weekly intermodal volume was 222,893 containers and trailers, up 1.6 percent compared to 2015. Five of the 10 carload commodity groups posted an increase compared with the same week in 2015. They included grain, up 20.2 percent to 22,438 carloads; metallic ores and metals, up 8.5 percent to 18,206 carloads; and miscellaneous carloads, up 7.8 percent to 7,461 carloads. Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2015 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 23.2 percent to 9,150 carloads; motor vehicles and parts, down 15.3 percent to 12,773 carloads; and forest products, down 8.4 percent to 8,511 carloads. For the first 47 weeks of 2016, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 11,848,889 carloads, down 9.2 percent from the same point last year; and 12,199,820 intermodal units, down 2.6 percent from last year. Total combined U.S. traffic for the first 47 weeks of 2016 was 24,048,709 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 6 percent compared to last year. North American rail volume for the week ending November 26, 2016, on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads totaled 323,439 carloads, up 1.1 percent compared with the same week last year, and 294,263 intermodal units, up 1.5 percent compared with last year. Total combined weekly rail traffic in North America was 617,702 carloads and intermodal units, up 1.3 percent. North American rail volume for the first 47 weeks of 2016 was 31,506,124 carloads and intermodal units, down 5.5 percent compared with 2015. Canadian railroads reported 77,955 carloads for the week, up 7.5 percent, and 60,401 intermodal units, up 3.3 percent compared with the same week in 2015. For the first 47 weeks of 2016, Canadian railroads reported cumulative rail traffic volume of 6,191,875 carloads, containers and trailers, down 4.2 percent. Mexican railroads reported 15,618 carloads for the week, down 6.5 percent compared with the same week last year, and 10,969 intermodal units, down 9 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican railroads for the first 47 weeks of 2016 was 1,265,540 carloads and intermodal containers and trailers, down 2.2 percent from the same point last year. (AAR - posted 11/30)



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