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BLET president arrested on bribe charge

Edward W. Rodzwicz, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, was arrested at his Ohio home on a federal complaint charging him with bribery. Rodzwicz is accused of soliciting and accepting $20,000 in bribes from a St. Louis lawyer, who in exchange would remain on a list of attorneys approved to handle injury cases for union members, according to prosecutors.

A press release issued by the U.S. Justice Department’s U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis says, "According to the affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, the BLET maintains a list of designated legal counsel, who are recommended to their membership to handle injury cases under the Federal Employers Liability Act. Designation as a DLC generates very lucrative business for designated attorneys.

"The national president of the BLET has final authority over the designation of FELA attorneys.

 "In February 2009, an internal compliance committee recommended that a particular DLC attorney for the BLET should lose his designation, due to alleged violations of DLC Rules of Conduct.

"On March 10, 2009, Rodzwicz approached that attorney in Little Rock, Ark., and solicited a payment from that attorney in exchange for allowing him to retain his DLC designation. The DLC attorney contacted the Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General.

"In subsequent meetings at the attorney’s office in St. Louis, and at Harrah’s Casino, Las Vegas, Rodzwicz solicited and agreed to accept a cash payment of $10,000 from the attorney, plus the promise of an additional cash payment of $10,000 after Rodzwicz allowed him to retain his designation.

"Rodzwicz accepted a cash payment from the attorney on April 28, 2009, in Las Vegas, and he sent a letter allowing the attorney to retain his designation on May 1, 2009.

"He accepted a second cash payment of $10,000 from the attorney on Sept. 16, 2009, in Kansas City, Mo."

If convicted, Rodzwicz, 63, faces up to 15 years in prison and possible fines up to $500,000.

Rodzwicz became president of the BLET, a division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in March 2008. The railroad union has 55,000 members nationwide.

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BNSF puts finishing touches on Memphis yard

BNSF’s Memphis Intermodal Facility is set to completely open next month and the railroad is putting the final touches on the multiyear, multimillion-dollar renovation.

Planning for what would be a $200 million renovation began in 2002, BNSF began buying additional land in 2004 for the terminal’s expanded 185-acre footprint and construction began in 2005.  

The railroad will be able to perform 600,000 lifts a year with an option for one million more if the demand warrants a full buildout of the yard. Five production cranes, at 90-feet tall, twice the height of the old production cranes, and three stacking cranes will do the lifting. In addition to the new electric cranes, which reduce the terminal’s carbon footprint, the yard will also have 7,400 feet of track, 2,000 truck parking spaces, the ability to stack more than 6,000 40-foot containers, four new buildings for administration, truck maintenance and other facilities and 110 intermodal employees.

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States ask $300 for rail improvements along I-81 corridor

A coalition of states is seeking $300 million in federal stimulus funds to improve rail lines and terminals in an effort to reduce truck traffic on congested Interstate 81, The Associated Press reports.

Transportation Secretary Pierce Homer told a conference dealing with the I-81 corridor that increased movement of freight by rail is the key to reducing congestion on the 855-mile highway that runs north to south through six states.

The federal grant, if approved, would go toward $2.1 billion in needed improvements to the existing network of intermodal terminals where freight is transferred between trucks and rail cars. Virginia needs to spend $500 million, Homer said, and has invested about $110 million.

Completion of these improvements could result in a 15 percent reduction in the number of trucks on I-81, according to documents the transportation secretary provided. Truck traffic currently accounts for 23 percent of the traffic on the 325 miles of the interstate that pass through Virginia.

Other members of the coalition seeking the grant are New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, though I-81 does not run through the latter three states.

The relationship among the states is tricky, Homer said. The intermodal terminals are appealing because they would create jobs.

"We’ve got rare consensus among competing states," Homer said.

He said he’d like to see the federal government have a role in the initiative to maintain a competitive balance between the states.

The coalition seeking the grant is one of several that Virginia has joined in an effort to address I-81 congestion.

The state, as well as Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, have formed a public-private partnership with Norfolk Southern Railway to improve the rail network. The states along I-81 have agreed to coordinate planning for highway and rail improvements.

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Deluge of high-speed rail grant requests push awards back

The Transportation Department had hoped to award some of the $8 billion in grants for high-speed rail investment from February’s $787 billion economic stimulus package this month, but officials have pushed the timetable back until winter due to the flood of applications.

So far, 24 states have submitted 45 applications totaling close to $50 billion. Nationally, there are 10 corridors of at least 100 miles where infrastructure is being built to allow trains to surpass 110 mph. In addition, The Transportation Department also received applications from states to develop high-speed rail projects individually.

No future date has been announced for when the grants will be given.

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Officials dedicate Kansas $105 million grade separation project

Local leaders, as well as representatives of BNSF and UP dedicated the Central Railroad Corridor grade separation project, touted as one of the biggest engineering and time-saving projects in Wichita, Kan., history. The dedication took place on the elevated platform adjacent to the railroad tracks southwest of Union Station.

The $105 million central rail corridor project began in April 2005 and was designed to elevate train traffic above street traffic to reduce accidents. Elements include eight miles of new track, a centralized traffic control system, six new bridges at 1st, 2nd, Central, Murdock, 13th Street and Chisholm Creek Bridge, as well as a widened Douglas Avenue Bridge.

The project frees up routes for emergency vehicles and will save drivers an estimated 2 million hours a year of waiting at the tracks at the Central, Murdock and 13th Street crossings.

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N.Y. MTA receives $2M to reduce energy costs

Saving energy and keeping the subway going in icy conditions have seen a stimulus injection of $2 million into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, The Epoch Times reports.

The cash injection is to go toward a wireless heating control system on the third rail that should result in a saving of $1.6 million per year for the MTA. The system is slated to be in operation in 2012.

To date, manual activation of approximately 1,000 subway heaters has been required each year in order to prevent icing of the rail exposed at ground level. These heaters remain turned on from fall through early spring regardless of whether icing is expected, thereby generating significant energy waste.

The allocated funds will be used to install approximately 350 wireless control points that will provide New York City Transit with the ability to monitor, power on and shut off third rail heaters in response to actual weather conditions. The heaters will be regulated through remote control at a central location, leading to an estimated saving of 23,000 megawatt hours of energy.

The grant was allocated through the federal Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TIGGER) program, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption of public transportation systems. The project will cost $8.32 million, with the TIGGER funds used to cover part of the labor costs.

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BMWED/IBT, Midwest System Federation ratify agreement with Iowa Interstate Railroad

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes/IBT, Midwest System Federation membership finalized ratification of its Tentative Agreement with the Iowa Interstate Railroad by an overwhelming margin.

The five-year contract provides for annual wage increases and a number of improvements in work rules. The agreement also requires that Iowa Interstate Railroad enroll its BMWED employees in GA – 2300 and GA – 4600, the National Health and Welfare Plan.

"It’s been a struggle to get to this point.Our members recognized the value in this contract and illustrated that with their vote," said Midwest System Federation General Chairman Mark Wimmer. "The patience and support of our members at Iowa Interstate has finally paid off."

The Midwest System Federation represents approximately 700 members of the BMWED who build, construct, inspect and maintain railroad tracks, bridges, buildings and equipment.

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FTA approves Honolulu application for rail engineering plan

The Federal Transit Administration approved Honolulu’s request for the city to begin preliminary engineering on a proposed $5.3 billion rail transit project. The 20-mile route would run from East Kapolei to Ala Moana Center.

During the preliminary engineering phase, the city will create a more precise construction schedule and updated financial plan. The estimated cost of the project at $5.29 billion, about $117 million more than the city administration’s most recent cost estimate of $5.17 billion derived in the past year.

Honolulu’s Mayor Hannermann remains hopeful the city can break ground on the project in December. He said the city is awaiting final state approval of an environmental impact statement and then a federal record of decision before ground can be broken.

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UP investing $26 million in central Nebraska track

Trains will operate more
efficiently as a result of more than $26 million in track improvements made by
Union Pacific to its line between Schuyler, Neb., and Duncan, Neb. When the
project is complete, crews will have removed and replaced more than 77,000
concrete ties and 30 miles of rail, spread more than 100,000 tons of rock
ballast and replaced the road surfaces at 17 crossings. The project began
October 2 and is scheduled to be completed by mid November.

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ADA work begins at Fulton Street Transit Center

MTA NYC Transit said that
work on the Fulton Street Transit Center has entered the next phase with the
start of construction work on the AC mezzanine at Broadway-Nassau and the new
ADA accessible station entrance at William and Fulton Streets.