Archive for the ‘Railroad News’ Category

Amtrak Seeking Developers for CUS Plan

May 25, 2016

Amtrak has taken the next step in redevelopment of Chicago Union Station by asking for responses to a Request For Qualification for a Master Developer for commercial elements

The plan covers the station and adjacent land, a total of 613,075 square feet of property and 1.33 million total square feet of building area.

Amtrak 4“Any development solution envisioned by the selected proposer will need to align with Amtrak operational goals as well as integrate successfully with the surrounding West Loop neighborhood,” Amtrak said in a statement. “It is critical that the Master Developer successfully engage the community and incorporate feedback from West Loop stakeholders into any development plan.”

Amtrak is seeking companies that can provide design, construction, financing and maintenance of non-rail assets.

The company will be expected to identify expansion opportunities and commercial development in the surrounding West Loop neighborhood

“The plan must also harmonize with growing passenger volumes at CUS,” Amtrak said in its statement.

“Amtrak believes that bringing in private equity through a Master Developer can best achieve the desired outcome that optimizes CUS as an asset that serves more than 33 million travelers and commuters per year,” said Executive Vice President Infrastructure Development Stephen Gardner. “We look forward to continued communication with the development community to find a talented partner to assist us in transforming Chicago Union Station into a world-class transportation facility that is further woven into the fabric of the great city in which it resides.”

The Chicago Union Station complex includes the concourse, mezzanine, head house, Amtrak parking garage, and the north and south train sheds.

Ongoing investments made by Amtrak include upgrades to the station’s head house building that included asbestos abatement, sprinkler systems, and installation of air conditioning.

CSX Make Changes to Top Management

May 24, 2016

CSX has announced a realignment of its top management ranks that will take effect on July 1.

Cressie Brown, currently vice president of labor relations, will become senior vice president and chief administrative officer. After joining CSX in 1988, Brown held leadership roles in operational and support functions, including technology, finance, service design and customer service.

CSX logo 3 Kathleen Brandt, currently head of the company’s information technology subsidiary, will become senior vice president and chief information officer. She joined CSX in 1985 in information technology.

Zachery Jones has been appointed vice president of labor relations to succeed Brown. He worked at the National Mediation Board before joining CSX in 2010 where he rose to the position of assistant vice president of employee services.

CSX also announced that Lisa Mancinia, the current vice president and chief administrative officer, will retire on July 1.

She joined CSX in 2003 and is a member of CEO Michael Ward’s executive team. Mancinia is responsible for people functions, procurement and real estate.

Both Brown and Brandt will join the executive management team and report directly to Ward.

“These promotions underscore the importance of continuing to develop our highly skilled and committed employees, while accelerating CSX’s next-generation technologies and performance in safety, service and efficiency,” Ward said in a statement.

In other management changes that are effective on June 1, Mike Smith will assume a new role of vice president-PTC and strategic implementation. He is currently vice president-network operations and in his new position will oversee implementation of positive train control and other network-wide initiatives.

Bob Frulla will become vice president-network operations for the northern region. His experience includes time as division manager in several locations and as general manager-network operations.

Smith and Frulla will report to Executive Vice President and chief operating officer Cindy Sanborn.

Jermaine Swafford, who has been managing the southern region, will become vice president-northern region. John Bradley, currently Chicago division manager, will become vice president-southern region. Both will report to Mike Pendergrass, vice president and chief transportation officer. Robert Holtz, assistant division manager in Chicago, will become division manager.

FTA Approves Preliminary South Shore Study

May 24, 2016

The Federal Transit Administration has approved preliminary engineering and environmental studies on a proposed 25-mile double-track segment of the South Shore commuter line in Indiana.

The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation district plans to install a second track between Gary and Michigan City, which the agency said will reduce travel times to Chicago from 90 minutes to 67 minutes from Michigan City.

South Shore logoThe travel time from South Bend to Chicago could be cut from 2.5 hours to 1 hour, 45 minutes. The cost of the project is expected to exceed $200 million.

“We can increase performance with the same fleet that we have,” says Michael Noland, general manager of the agency. “We’ve got this expensive rail equipment, but we can’t use it to its potential because I can’t send it back upstream in the morning because it’s a one-way street.”

NITCD projects that faster trains could attract an additional 5,000 to 8,000 commuters.

Detroit-Ann Arbor Commuter Rail Service Getting Boost From Southeast Michigan RTA Master Plan

May 23, 2016

A Detroit-based public transportation agency is trying to jump start the long dormant idea of instituting commuter rail service between downtown Detroit and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Southeast Michigan Regional Transit Authority is proposing linking the Detroit-Ann Arbor service with the currently under construction Detroit streetcar network.

SE Michigan RTAThe RTA board is proposing to include the Ann Arbor service as well as bus rapid transit in its Michigan Avenue corridor study.

Lack of funding has stalled development of the 38-mile Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter service, which would use the same tracks used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service trains.

Those rails are now mostly owned by the state of Michigan, which several years ago leased passenger cars for use in the service.

To fund the Ann Arbor commuter service, RTA is proposing to include that cost into its November millage request.

If the millage request is approved, RTA officials say the service could begin around 2022 and have an operating cost of $11 million to $19 million.

The service would required $130 million in capital costs to get started, which would include building a maintenance facility.

“It’s a significant connector between Ann Arbor and Detroit,” said Paul Hillegonds, the RTA’s board chairman. “One of the criticisms of rail always is it’s much more expensive than bus rapid transit, but in this case, the existing infrastructure is in place. It makes sense from a cost-effective standpoint, and I think will be very attractive to riders, and I think a very significant economic development tool for the region.”

RTA will present its commuter rail line proposal on May 31 as part of its master plan

The Detroit-Ann Arbor commuter service would operate eight times a day with trips spread out to include morning and afternoon rush hour service as well as afternoon and evening trains.

Intermediate stops would include Ypsilanti, Wayne and Dearborn. Trains would terminate in Detroit in the New Center area.

The Michigan Department of Transportation has spent $7.6 million to overhaul 23 former Chicago Metra bi-level commuter cars, but stopped paying the lease payments on them last year.

RTA estimates it would cost $4,000 per month per car to lease them from current owner Great Lakes Central Railroad. The agency has proposed leasing nine of the cars, which are currently sitting in Owosso, Michigan.

Saying that development of rail, bus rapid transit and other transit options is needed to create an “integrated system” to help people get where they want to go, RTA CEO Michael Ford said that Ann Arbor and Detroit are major hubs for jobs.

“People being able to get back and forth conveniently and quickly,” Ford said. “I think it’s a game-changer in a lot of ways. I know it’s been tried many times before, but having that kind of frequency of service, it’s very important to the region and getting people where they want to go.”

Pittsburgh Group Pushing Added Amtrak Service

May 23, 2016

The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership is supporting efforts to increase the level of Amtrak service between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Lucinda Beattie, vice president of transportation for the group, plans to meet with Gov. Tom Wolf to push the service expansion, which she said would cost $10 million to $13 million a year.

“This is a very affordable transportation project,” Beattie said. “This is not an extravagant project. It’s very doable.”

Amtrak logoPittsburgh officials are seeking to increase service from one roundtrip a day to three roundtrips.

Currently, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation underwrites most of the costs of the Pittsburgh-New York Pennsylvanian.

PennDOT spokesman Rich Kirkpatrick said the agency has asked Amtrak how much it would cost to add one train a day and whether it has the needed equipment and track access.

Under a law approved in 2013, the state has about $8 million a year earmarked for rail service but Kirkpatrick said those funds are already allocated.

Amtrak spokesman Mike Tolbert said the passenger carrier is working on a comprehensive study for the state but he wouldn’t discuss any specifics.

“We are working as fast as we can to put together the information,” Tolbert said. “At this point, I do not have a time frame for when that will be done.”

Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Downtown Partnership, said additional Amtrak service would also benefit such communities as Greensburg, Latrobe, Johnstown, Altoona, Tyrone, Huntingdon and Lewistown because they have few public transportation options.

Beattie said that the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg route has the second highest percentage of filled seats among Amtrak’s top 17 routes with patronage having increased every year since 2005 when the service fell from two roundstrips to one with the discontinuance of the Three Rivers.

“We think there’s an unmet demand for more service,” she said. “It can only grow so far with one train.”

Beattie also noted that Pennsylvania helps to fund 14 daily trips on the Harrisburg-to-Philadelphia segment of the Pittsburgh-Philadelphia route.

“I’m really looking forward to hearing what the governor has to say about rail, especially service to the western part of the state. [Additional service] would connect parts of the state that aren’t connected now,” she said.

Watco to Acquire W.Va. Secondary From NS

May 21, 2016

Watco will acquire more than 300 miles of the West Virginia Secondary from Norfolk Southern and expects to begin operating it by late July.

The short line operator said it will hire 29 employees, including 25 positions in train service, mechanical, and track.

The track in question extends from milepost RR 7.0 in Refugee, Ohio, to milepost RR 116.5 at Hobson Yard near Middleport, Ohio, and from milepost WV 125.6 at Conco, Ohio, to milepost WV 253.4 in Cornelia, West Virginia.

The transaction does not include a 9-mile segment owned by CSX in southeast Ohio.

WatcoAs part of the acquisition, Watco will acquire a portion of the Princeton-Deepwater District on the former Virginian Railway between milepost V435 in Alloy, West Virginia, and milepost V382 in Maban, West Virginia.

The newly acquired properties will operate as the Kanawha River Railroad. Watco will have the use of supporting facilities owned by NS.

Watco plans to focus initially on re-opening the West Virginia Secondary to Columbus.

Until NS idled the route in February, it had handled chemical traffic and served some local industries.

Watco will assign nine of its own locomotives to the West Virginia Secondary.

The operating plan calls for a scheduled Monday, Wednesday, and Friday manifest freight to operate between Columbus and Dickinson Yard, south of Charleston, West Virginia. That train will operate northward the following day.

Two local jobs will operate out of Dickinson Yard on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday to serve nearby industries.
Under an agreement with NS, Watco will forward coal from mines near Charleston over the former Virginian to NS, which will then take the trains to customers in Virginia and the Carolinas.

These trains will have Watco crews and NS run-through equipment.

Watco is eyeing returning coal traffic to the north end of the West Virginia Secondary via Columbus, but expects that 70 percent of the outbound coal that it handles will move via the former Virginia route.

Amtrak Excursion to Allentown Won’t Run

May 21, 2016

A planned Amtrak excursion train between New York and Allentown, Pennsylvania, won’t be operating due to lack of action by Norfolk Southern.

The train also was to inspect the route for the prospect of possible regular service between the two cities, although officials said that service is years away from happening.

Amtrak logoNS owns the portion of the route not used by New Jersey Transit and the freight hauler apparently had not made any plans to host the passenger special.

NS spokesman Rudy Husband said NS hasn’t ruled out hosting an excursion, but it would require “a lot more planning.” Husband indicated that for now the train won’t be operating.

Amtrak Vice President for Government Affairs and Corporate Communications Joseph McHugh said the passenger carrier will continue to work with officials in the Lehigh Valley toward instituting the service, but indicated it is at least a decade away.

Allentown has been without passenger service since the late 1960s. A route via the Reading and Central Railroad of New Jersey that connected Jersey City, New Jersey, ended in 1966.

Two years later the Reading ended service from Allentown to Philadelphia.

NS To Take Delivery of Tier 4 Locomotives

May 20, 2016

General Electric Transportation expects to deliver Tier-4 compliant locomotives to Norfolk Southern this spring, making it the fifth Class I railroad to receive ET44ACs.

The units are being built  in Fort Worth, Texas, and are part of a 47-unit order.

NS logo 2Tier 4 emission standards were issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and took effect last year.

The first of the locomotives, No. 3600, will be tested by the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio before being delivered to NS. The units will have roster numbers 3600-3646.

NS also has on order three ES44AC locomotives that meet Tier 3 emission standards, but are permitted under existing regulations by having the builder apply emission credits already banked toward the locomotives.

Those credits were earned by applying energy-saving design technologies to locomotives already built and in operation.

Carrying roster numbers 8166-8168, those units are being built in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern are the only North American Class I railroads that have yet to buy Tier 4-compliant locomotives.

Indiana, Pennsylvania Short Line Honored

May 20, 2016

Short line railroads in Indiana and Pennsylvania were recently honored by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association for their efforts to design and enact innovative and successful marketing initiatives.

The Indiana Rail Road was cited for its partnership with Canadian National to provide direct intermodal service from the West Coast, extending its intermodal markets into southern Indiana and the Ohio Valley.

Indiana Rail Road 2INRD invested $2.5 million to upgrade facilities, including construction of a two-track intermodal pad and a five-acre container yard at its Senate Avenue Terminal.

The facility is open six days a week and is within a day’s drive of 80 percent of U.S. consumers.

Containers move from Shanghai, China, to Indianapolis via the Port of Prince Rupert, British Columbia, in 21.5 days on average, which is the fastest overall transit time in the industry.

The service handled 12,563 containers in 2014 and 17,233 containers in 2015. CN and INRD expect to move 18,000 containers in 2016.

The Nittany & Bald Eagle, and the Buffalo & Pittsburgh teamed up with Norfolk Southern to move lime pellets from Graymont Lime at Pleasant Gap, Pennsylvania, to the Homer City Generating Station at Homer City, Pennsylvania.

The lime has transformed the plant from one of the nation’s dirtiest coal-fired power plants to a model of how such power plants can economically reduce pollution.

The three railroads cover the 190-mile haul with 45-car trains operating on a three-and-a-half day schedule.

The service is expected to deliver more than 3,000 cars annually of lime.

Reading & Northern’s latest “Rapid Response” example is its rehabilitation of the Old Forge Warehouse near Scranton, Pennsylvania.

The facility is used to move wood pulp to a large paper mill. The warehouse needed to be located where the wood pulp could be delivered on a next-day basis.

More than 350 carloads were handled during the first six months of operation.

“The four railroads we honored for the 2015 work are risk takers in the very best sense of the word. They work daily to bring new customers to their lines with reliable connections, creative use of real estate assets and flexible service offerings. And in the end, they keep small towns and small shippers connected to the national railroad system,” said Linda Bauer Darr, president of the ASLRRA. “Their success is the result of a commitment to never standing still and never fearing change.”

Moody’s Downgrades Railroad Outlook

May 19, 2016

Falling freight traffic has prompted Moody’s Investor’s Service to downgrade its outlook for North American railroads from “stable” to “negative.

train image2Moody’s said in a news release that railroads are facing deep and long-lasting declines in freight volume that will likely continue at least through the third quarter.

“Volumes of coal, the second-largest freight group in the North American railroad industry, plunged by an unprecedented 37 percent in April amid persistently low natural gas prices and high stockpiles at utilities after a warm winter,” said Vice President and Senior Analyst Rene Lipsch.

Moody’s expects revenue growth to fall below zero, the firm’s minimum for a stable outlook, Lipsch said.

Total freight volume is projected to decline 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent this year, driven in particular by an expected 20 percent to 25 percent decline in coal shipments.


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