Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

Michigan Railroad Club to Meet Wednesday

February 2, 2020

A program about the railroads of Toledo will be featured at the February meeting of The Michigan Railroad Club.

The club meeting begins at 7 p.m. on Feb. 5 at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave, in Dearborn, Club Room No. 1.

The program, titled, Toledo Railfanning will be presented by Mark Cowles and will take a look at railroads and boats.

The meeting is expected to end by 9 p.m. Visitors are welcome.

The club has program slot opening for 2021 and is soliciting presenters.

MDOT Awards $3M in Grade Crossing Project Funds

December 24, 2019

A total of $3 million has been awarded by the Michigan Department of Transportation for 41 grade crossing projects in the state.

In a news release MDOT said the Local Grade Crossing Surface Program providing for projects ranging from minor asphalt repairs to installation of new track and surface materials.

Projects receive 60 percent state funding with railroads responsible for the remaining 40 percent of the costs.

The work is to be performed by the railroads and their contractors, with cooperation of MDOT and local road departments for detour routes.

Scheduling of the projects is the responsibility of the railroads and local road agencies.

Eight-one applications for the grant money were received from 40 road agencies in partnership with 17 railroads and were evaluated on a competitive basis.

U.S. Steel to Idle Much of its Great Lakes Works

December 23, 2019

U.S. Steel plans to lay off more than 1,000 workers in the Detroit area as it begins idling next spring what it termed a significant portion of its Great Lakes Works in Ecorse and River Rouge.

By the end of 2020 the company said the hot strip mill rolling facility will be idled.

The Pittsburgh-based company said production now done at Great Lakes Works will shift to a plant in Gary, Indiana.

The idling will result in layoffs for 1,545 workers U.S. Steel said of the move, which it framed as a response to market demand.

In a news release, U.S. Steel said no employees at the Zug Island plant will lose their jobs before next April.

The news release said the final number of layoffs at Great Lakes Works might be lower than 1,545 because some operations will continue.

These include the pickle line, cold mill, sheet temper mill, continuous galvanizing line, annealing and warehouses.

“Transitioning production currently at Great Lakes Works to Gary Works will enable increased efficiency in the use of our assets, improve our ability to meet our customers’ needs for sustainable steel solutions and will help our company get to our future state faster,” said David Burritt, president and CEO of U.S. Steel, said in a statement.

The statement said the company took into account current market conditions and the long-term outlook for the Great Lakes Works.

The latest move is the second time that production at the Great Lakes Works has been curtailed.

Last August the company announced it was temporarily laying off 200 workers due to idling a furnace due to reduced consumer demand and market conditions.

Crain’s Detroit Business reported that the impact of tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration on Chinese steel imports two years ago may have contributed to the decision to idle the Great Lake Works.

The magazine said U.S. Steel ramped up production at a time when the global economy was cooling and that undercut demand and led to lower prices for steel.

Industry observers have noted that U.S. Steel has older production facilities that are less efficient than those of rival steel companies that use mini mill production.

U.S. Steel has had a series of different strategies in the past two years, leading some to “raise concerns that there’s no long-term, overriding execution capability to improve competitiveness,” wrote Richard Bourke, a senior credit analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, in a note to investors.  “Cash costs from layoffs will likely exceed savings from the cuts, in our view.”

Bloomberg reported that the price of domestic steel is down about 40 percent from its 2018 high, which it reached a few weeks after the tariffs were imposed.

U.S. Steel shares have fallen in value this year by a about a third, hitting their lowest levels since October 2016.

Bloomberg said the company expects to report a 98 percent drop in profits for 2019.

The idling of the Great Lakes Works has raised questions about how well U.S. Steel will be able to supply steel for automotive industry parts after it moves production from Detroit to Indiana.

“They just idled their main automotive mill,” said Dan DeMare, a regional sales manager for Heidtman Steel, a Toledo, Ohio-based steel distributor. “They have bet everything on their commercial ability to be viable and offer the cost to market that’s required, and they’re going to have facilities, equipment and a plan to execute. They’ve failed miserably at that so far.”

In an interview with Bloomberg Television, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross contended that the idling of the Great Lake Works plant doesn’t mean that the steel tariffs aren’t working.

Ross argued that U.S. Steel suffers from high costs and that many of those losing their jobs will be able to find work at nearby General Motors and Ford Motor plants.

Detroit Lawmakers Push Change to Benefit Transit

December 11, 2019

Detroit area lawmakers are pushing a plan in the Michigan legislature that would lift limitations imposed by the 2011 Michigan Municipal Partnership Act on ballot measure to fund public transportation.

The proposed legislation would lift property tax caps and change the ways proposals are placed on the ballot.

Backers of the change say it will lead to economic growth in the region.

But critics say it would create an “open line of credit” for Wayne County and lifting the property tax cap for transportation funding would create a “tool of foreclosure and taxing” those who can least afford it.

The proposed amendment to the 2011 law would allow local governments to offer more “efficient joint public services.”

The change has drawn some support from business leaders.

Jared Fleisher, vice president of government affairs for Quicken Loans, said the lack of reliable public transit options was a factor in Detroit being bypassed by retail giant Amazon during its second headquarters search.

Soo Line Steam Locomotive Moved to Michigan

August 27, 2019

A former Soo Line steam locomotive has been relocated to an upper peninsula Michigan short-line railroad.

No. 2425, a 2-8-0 built by Alco’s Schenectady Works in 1909 and retired in January 1955, is now at the Mineral Range Railroad in Ishpeming, Michigan.

It was most recently at the Ironhorse Railroad Park in Minnesota and before that had sat in a city park in Enderlin, North Dakota.

Mineral Range owner Clint Jones acquired the 2425 in 2018 but it took a year to arrange its move to Michigan.

The boiler and cab were transported on one truck while another carried the wheels and frame. The tender did did not make the move because of its poor condition.

Jones has said he plans to restore No. 2425 for occasional use on his railroad.

MDOT Seeking Comment on Transportation Plan

August 6, 2019

Public comment is being sought by the Michigan Department of Transportation on its draft 2020-2024 transportation program.

The draft calls for MDOT to invest $20 million to support three Amtrak routes in Michigan in 2020.

MDOT would also spend $45 million for maintenance and capital improvements on the state-owned Kalamazoo-Dearborn corridor used by Amtrak’s  Chicago-Pontiac (Detroit) Wolverine Service trains.

A portion of that route is also used by Amtrak’s Chicago-Port Huron Blue Water.

Other rail projects mentioned in the plan include safety projects to reduce risks at grade crossings, including warning device enhancements and crossing eliminations.

Comments are being accepted through Aug. 30 with the State Transportation Commission expected to approve the final plan in October.

Bluewater Michigan NRHS Chapter Disbanding

July 10, 2019

A crew member rides the rear of Global Star IV, a former Seaboard Air Line lounge-observation car that was on the rear of an Oct. 16, 2005, excursion in Michigan behind Pere Marquette 2-8-4 No. 1225.

A high-profile railroad group is calling it quits.

The Bluewater Michigan Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society said it will disband after holding a final banquet in November and conducting its last meeting in December.

The chapter, based in Royal Oak, Michigan, was formed in 1982 and at its peak had more than 900 members.

It was known for operating a fleet of passenger cars in excursion service throughout Michigan behind steam and diesel locomotives.

Some of its fleet operated throughout the United States and Canada.

But Bluewater hasn’t sponsored any excursions for several years and its membership has dwindled to 30.

Chapter President John C. Moore Jr. traced the start of the group’s troubles to the end of the end of the Norfolk Southern steam program in late 1994.

He also cited changes in railroad ownership that created a hostile environment for excursion trains and changes in insurance practices.

At one time Bluewater stored and maintained its fleet in a CSX yard in Sagniaw, Michigan, but it lost access to that and has since faced limited availability of storage space.

Most of the Bluewater fleet has since been disposed of with the chapter still owning two cars, a former Grand Trunk Western buffet-club and a former Seaboard Air Line round-end tavern-observation car.

Both of those cars are leased to outside parties and will be sole along with three boxcars of passenger car parts in Saginaw.

In a statement, Moore said any money remaining after the sale will be divided between the car owners and the NRHS Rail Camp program.

CN Derailment Blocks St. Clair Tunnel

June 28, 2019

Canadian National is diverting traffic that normally uses the St. Clair Tunnel in Michigan through Detroit after an early Friday morning derailment inside the tunnel linking the U.S. and Canada.

No injuries were reported in the derailment, which occurred around 6 a.m. and saw 40 cars of the westbound train jump the tracks in the middle of the tunnel.

CN officials said it could take days to repair the tunnel and its tracks.

The cleanup of the derailment is being undertaken by U.S. and Canadian workers because it occurred on the border between the two countries.

The tunnel connects Port Huron, Michigan, and Sarnia, Ontario, beneath the St. Clair River.

Michigan Lawmaker Proposes Diverting Amtrak Fund Toward Highway, Infrastructure Projects

June 7, 2019

A Michigan lawmaker has proposed ending state funding of Amtrak service in the state as a way to free up money for road and infrastructure repairs.

Rep. Matt Maddocks, a Republican from Oakland County near Detroit also has suggested raising money for roads by selling the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron that links the state with Canada.

Michigan funds Amtrak service on three routes that link Chicago with Grand Rapids, Port Huron and Pontiac (Detroit).

“Should we continue to subsidize passenger rail? It’s for Amtrak $186 per ticket and at the state level for Amtrak another $40-70 per ticket. Is that right?” he said.

Maddocks estimated that selling the Blue Water Bridge would yield between $500 million to $800 million.

“That can be used to repair the infrastructure, money into replacing lead pipes in our cities and repair our underground infrastructure in cities,” he said.

Maddocks also has proposed selling state-owned airports in Plymouth, Romeo, Linden and Houghton Lake.

He acknowledged that his ideas would be controversial and it is not clear if he could roundup enough votes in support of them.

Selling state assets has drawn disapproval from Rep. Jon Hoadley, the Democratic vice-chair of the House Budget Committee.

Hoadley said the sales would not raise the $2.5 billion a year needed over next 10 years to repair the roads.

“If you’re going to piecemeal a solution like the Republicans are proposing, that’s selling off assets one year and hoping that’s going to take care of our long term solution,” Hoadley said. “I’d say driver beware.”

Michigan RR Buys Soo Line 2-8-0

September 1, 2018

A Michigan railroad has acquired a former Soo Line steam locomotive and expects to restore it to operating condition.

The Mineral Range Railroad in Ishpeming, Michigan, picked up No. 2425 from the Ironhorse Railroad Park in Minnesota, which had had the 2-8-0 on outside static display.

Officials said the Consolidation-type locomotive is in good mechanical condition. It was built in October 1909 by the American Locomotive Company’s Schenectady Works for the Minneapolis, St. Paul & Sault Ste. Marie as No. 475.

It was renumbered when the Soo Line leased the Wisconsin Central, where it operated as No. 2425.

The Soo Line and Wisconsin Central both made extensive use of Consolidations for main line, yard and branch line service.

No. 2425 was retired in January 1955 and donated to the city of Enderlin, Wisconsin. Ironhorse Central bought the locomotive in 2008 to keep it from being scrapped.

The locomotive is expected to move to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan early this month.