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DRPA Board takes first step toward reopening Franklin Square Station

The Delaware River Port Authority Commissioners have approved spending up to $500,000 to hire a professional design consultant to begin work to reopen the PATCO Franklin Square Station in Philadelphia.

First opened in 1936 as one of two Philadelphia stations on the Camden Bridge Line, the station has opened and closed several times over the years. A refurbished Franklin Square Station opened to cater to bi-centennial traffic on May 14, 1976, and on July 4, 1976, 23,000 people exited the Franklin Square Station en route to bi-centennial events.

The Franklin Square Station was closed in 1979 because of low patronage and has remained closed since then.

DRPA Chairman John Estey says, “substantial economic and demographic changes near Franklin Square have increased the viability of the station. PATCO riders could use Franklin Square to visit the National Constitution Center and the African American Museum as well as the planned President’s House and National Museum of Jewish American History. In addition, further enhancements and amenities are being added within the park to make Franklin Square a destination in itself.”

According to DRPA Vice-Chair, Jeff Nash, “reopening the Franklin Square Station should increase ridership among intra-city and reverse commuting customers. The station is also expected to result in increased weekend ridership.”

Franklin Square itself now attracts 750,000 visitors a year.? ?An online survey on PATCO’S website, www.ridepatco.org, asked riders their thoughts about reopening the Franklin Square Station. 588 customers have responded so far. 455 people, or 77.3 percent, believe reopening Franklin Square is a good idea. In addition, 297 riders, or 50.5 percent, said if Franklin Square were to reopen they would use PATCO more frequently for recreational travel.

DRPA CEO & PATCO President John J. Matheussen says, “the design work should be done by the end of the year and then a decision will be made on how best to proceed with the project.”

Matheussen also points out a refurbished Franklin Square Station will keep with the Authority’s Green Initiative by incorporating low energy and very minimal maintenance L.E.D. decorative light fixtures. It’s expected the concourse areas will be similar to other PATCO concourse improvements slated to begin soon at the four subway stations in Philadelphia and two in Camden.

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NS preps new Memphis yard site

The land where Norfolk Southern wants to build an intermodal yard was annexed July 13 by the town of Rossville, Tenn., paving the way for the railroad’s proposed multimillion-dollar, multi-acre facility, the Memphis Daily News reports. Only one hurdle remains—getting the land rezoned industrial—before the Norfolk, Va.-based company receives the official green light to begin one of the largest economic investments in Fayette County’s history.

Although that final step won’t be resolved until next week, Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman is expected to confirm that the company has selected a site in South Fayette County for the new yard, dubbed the Memphis Regional Intermodal Terminal. At 2 p.m. July 16, at the Bank of Fayette County in Piperton, Moorman and other railroad representatives will be joined by a host of state officials, including Gov. Phil Bredesen, to announce the terminal will be built on about 500 acres in the newly annexed land in southwestern Rossville. Done deal

The city this week annexed nearly 1,600 acres in Rossville’s urban growth zone, stretching from just south of Tenn. 57 down to the state line. Much of the land is owned by former Direct General Insurance Co. owner William Adair, who sold that company and subsequently paid $28 million for 3,200 acres in Fayette County and Marshall County, Miss.

Adair bought the land with plans to develop it into a mixed-use subdivision called Piperton Hills. That project is still on the table, but Adair decided to sell a portion of his acreage to the railroad for the intermodal terminal in response to Norfolk Southern’s original site location, which county residents opposed.

The initial site was north of Tenn. 57 between Rossville and Moscow near the Wolf River. Locals reacted negatively to that site because of increased truck traffic along 57 and potential damage to the Wolf River.
Meanwhile, Norfolk Southern began looking at alternative sites.

State Rep. Barrett Rich, R-Somerville, said Norfolk Southern easily could have started building at that location (dubbed the Windyke site) because of the eminent domain that railroads possess.

“Instead, Norfolk Southern, when contacted by the South Fayette Alliance and the people in Fayette County, did what they could to be a good neighbor, come into our good graces and look for other property,” Rich said. “They knew (Windyke) was going to put an extraordinary amount of distress on Rossville and that the state would have to four-lane 57 highway. They listened to the concerns and they went out looking for another property.”

Norfolk Southern will now allow its option on the Windyke property to expire and will move forward with the land owned by Adair, who declined to disclose the terms of the deal.

Also, railroad officials declined comment prior to the event, but the intermodal yard is a key component of Norfolk Southern’s Crescent Corridor, a 2,500-mile rail network linking the southeastern and northeastern U.S. The Memphis yard, using a combination of trucks and trains to move goods into and out of the area, will serve as a critical western gateway for the corridor, whose $2.5 billion price tag is being funded by the railroad and the government.

The overall economic impact of the yard on Fayette County and the surrounding area, including Memphis, won’t be known for some time. First, the completion of the facility will take years. Second, the true benefit of the yard might come from ancillary businesses such as warehouses and distribution centers that tend to sprout near intermodal yards, and the development of those could be slow because of the sagging economy.

Rossville Mayor James Gaither said the development of the yard will provide some property tax base for the city and county, but beyond that he wasn’t sure of the direct impact for the economy or for jobs. All he knows is the annexation issue cleared the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Also, the first reading of the land’s rezoning is complete with the second scheduled for Monday. Once that is finished, the next step is for the railroad to submit a site plan before the lengthy construction process can begin.

He also knows that the Adair site is a much better choice than Windyke, which might have resulted in a groundswell of protests like the railroad is seeing with intermodal site selections in Alabama and East Tennessee.

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Denver RTD to buy BNSF property for FasTracks segment

The Denver Regional Transportation District has agreed to buy BNSF Railway property that’s to become part of the FasTracks system, including an initial southern segment of the Northwest Rail Corridor, according to the Longmont Times-Call. RTD expects to pay $93.7 million to buy BNSF right-of-way and other properties the railroad company owns between Denver’s Union Station and a point near 72nd Street in Westminster, under an agreement the transit agency announced July 16.

The RTD plans to use that real estate for commuter rail service on FasTracks’ Gold Line between Denver and Wheat Ridge, as well as for the southern segment of the Northwest Rail Corridor between Denver and Longmont.

The RTD’s agreement with BNSF also commits the transit agency to spending an estimated $32 million to relocate or realign several BNSF facilities between Union Station and Pecos Street, including work at BNSF’s 23rd Street yard.

The RTD board is still wrestling with how to cover a projected $2-billion shortfall to complete the entire $7-billion FasTracks system by the original 2017 target date. But FasTracks spokeswoman Karen Morales said that the money to buy the BNSF properties and pay for relocating BNSF facilities will be available under the transit agency’s current system-improvements budget.

Formal purchase agreements are to be carried out by January, when the RTD expects to take over ownership of the BNSF property.

Morales said the RTD still is negotiating with BNSF over terms of an operating agreement under which the RTD would pay the railroad company for “time slots” to operate Northwest Rail Corridor passenger service on the tracks north of Westminster — tracks BNSF would continue to own and use for its freight trains. Morales said the RTD expects to complete the agreement about shared use of those tracks sometime in 2010.

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KCS, WWL to establish Houston distribution center for Nissan

Kansas City Southern and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics have reached an agreement to establish a finished vehicle distribution center adjacent to the CenterPoint Intermodal Center-Houston Metro hub for regional automotive distribution services in Texas.

WWL, one of the world’s largest providers of logistics services for manufacturers of finished vehicles, has agreed to open a new vehicle distribution center at the KCS, CIC-HM hub located near Houston, Texas. This new facility will allow WWL to provide new vehicle distribution service to three states from a single site. Located on the new Victoria to Rosenberg KCS main line, CIC-HM provides direct access to the Nissan manufacturing facility at Aguascalientes, Mexico and the Port of Lazaro Cardenas.

"It is exciting to have a customer of WWL/Nissan’s caliber select CIC-HM to serve their customers in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma," said Brian Bowers, KCS senior vice president of intermodal and automotive. "The facility has the rail capacity, highway access and available land to serve Nissan as the demand for new vehicles returns."

CIC–HM is an 800-acre intermodal and automotive logistics park located 35 miles southwest of Houston. The facility is a joint development project of CenterPoint Properties and The Kansas City Southern Railway Company.

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New Jersey breaks ground on nation’s largest transit project

Building upon the region’s rich legacy of major public transportation assets, Governor Jon S. Corzine, Senators Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff and a group of other federal, state and local officials broke ground on the Mass Transit Tunnel project, the largest transit public works project in America.
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Baltimore subway maintenance will impact weekend schedule

The Maryland Transit Administration is advising Metro Subway customers of upcoming track maintenance that will affect the weekend service effective Saturday, June 13. Approximately one mile of the main line will be single-tracked throughout the four-month long maintenance project, scheduled for completion in October. As a result, the customer wait times for trains will be increased by an additional five minutes in each direction, to twenty minutes on Saturdays and Sundays only. Weekday operation is not expected to be impacted.
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ACC defends railroad crossing stop order in Flagstaff, Ariz.

Getting the go-ahead from the state utility regulators for a railroad safety project is a fairly straightforward process: Submit plans and then wait for their approval before starting work, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. But that is not what the city of Flagstaff, Ariz., did as it began construction work in Flagstaff related to the silencing of passing train horns, says Arizona Corporation Commission Chairwoman Kris Mayes.
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Fund diversion could doom Texas rail line

Plans to build a commuter rail line from southwest Fort Worth to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport would likely be mothballed if Fort Worth stops contributing $7.5 million a year to the project and instead uses the money on street repairs, officials told the Ft. Worth Star Telegram.
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Visiting motor cars mark Fairmont’s 100th anniversary

More than 40 railroad motor cars from all over the United States will be stopping in Albert Lea, Minn., during part of a 100th anniversary celebration of Fairmont Railway Motors Inc., now Harsco Track Technologies, the Albert Lea Tribune reports.

The celebration will include a display of about 45 North American Rail Car Operators Association motorcars during an open house at the Harsco facility in Fairmont. The 45 restored cars were originally built at the Fairmont plant and shipped to railroads around the United States and Canada.

Hanzelijn infrastructure contract is signed

THE Hanza Rail Team consortium of Alstom and Dutch partners
Volker Rail, Strukton Rail, and Arcadis, has signed a Euros 170 million
contract to install track, catenary, and signalling on the 50km Hanzelijn
between Lelystad and Zwolle, Netherlands.