Florida Senate President Jeff Atwater and House Speaker
Larry Cretul called a special lawmaking session to begin Thursday to dedicate
funds for Tri-Rail and advance plans for Central Florida's SunRail.
The proposal, which is still being drafted, calls for $15
million annually for South Florida's Tri-Rail system, would establish the
Florida Rail Enterprise to oversee all passenger rail, pay CSXT $1 billion for
tracks to build the 61-mile Orlando area SunRail system and spare taxpayers
from lawsuits should a freight accident occur on tracks shared with passenger
trains. Legislators hope that in passing the proposal it will show the state's
commitment to commuter rail and improve its chances of securing stimulus funds.
Currently, the Senate has 20 votes, one shy of the total
needed for the yet to be completed legislation to pass. The sticking point in
the proposal is that it currently has no legal protections for railroad
employees who would work on the SunRail commuter line once the state bought the
tracks from CSXT.
A final vote on the legislation will not occur until next
week, when legislators planned to be in Tallahassee for a week of committee
Construction has begun on a BNSF railroad bridge over the
Mississippi River in Burlington, Iowa.
The work began ahead of schedule to build a new lift-span
bridge that will more than double the navigation channel for barges up to 307
The Coast Guard has long wanted the bridge repaired because
barges frequently hit the span, which has happened 92 times between 1992 to
Congress allocated $55 million for the bridge work.
Officials still haven't decided the full extent of work on the 118-year-old
bridge beyond replacing the lift span.
Freight traffic on U.S. railroads reached its highest level
so far this year during the week ended November 21, the Association of American
U.S. railroads reported originating 287,087 carloads for the
week, down 6.8 percent compared with the same week in 2008 and down .7 percent
from the same week in 2007. Volume was up 2.1 percent from the previous week
this year. In order to offer a complete picture of the progress in rail traffic,
AAR will now be reporting 2009 weekly rail traffic with year over comparisons
for both 2008 and 2007. Note that the comparison weeks from both 2007 and 2008
included the Thanksgiving Holiday.
In the West, carloads were down 8.8 percent compared with
the same week last year, and 4.8 percent compared with 2007. In the East,
carloads were down 3.8 percent compared with 2008, but up 6 percent compared
with the same week in 2007.
Intermodal traffic totaled 213,382 trailers and containers,
down 3.1 percent from a year ago but up 11.5 percent from 2007. Compared with
the same week in 2008, container volume rose 3.4 and trailer volume dropped
26.8 percent. Compared with the same week in 2007, container volume rose 19.4
percent and trailer volume dropped 16.6 percent. Intermodal traffic was up 2.6
percent from the previous week this year.
While 13 of the 19 carload freight commodity groups were
down compared with the same week last year, increases were seen in nonmetallic
minerals (26.5 percent), grain (8.1 percent), chemicals (8.1 percent), waste
and scrap metal (6.5 percent), grain mill products (6.4 percent) and food and
kindred products (.4 percent). Declines in commodity groups ranged from .3
percent for petroleum products to 22.1 percent for crushed stone, sand and
Total volume on U.S. railroads for the week ending Nov. 21,
2009 was estimated at 32.1 billion ton-miles, down 6.1 percent compared with
the same week last year but up 4.9 percent from 2007.
For the first 46 weeks of 2009, U.S. railroads reported
cumulative volume of 12,325,563 carloads, down 17.3 percent from 2008 and 18
percent from 2007; 8,801,968 trailers or containers, down 15.6 percent from
2008 and 17.9 percent from 2007, and total volume of an estimated 1.32 trillion
ton-miles, down 16.4 percent from 2008 and 16.5 percent from 2007.