Fresno, Calif., rail consolidation plan halted

A new report on moving BNSF
tracks out of central Fresno to relieve traffic congestion says it would cost
at least $803 million, by far the highest such estimate yet, the Bee reports. As
a result, an organization formed 10 years ago to advocate shifting the BNSF
tracks to the Union Pacific corridor is giving up, its president said.

Cleveland’s Calabrese appointed to federal ITS advisory body

U.S. Secretary of
Transportation Ray LaHood has appointed Joe Calabrese to a two-year term on the
Intelligent Transportation Systems Program Advisory Committee. Since 2000,
Calabrese has been CEO and general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional
Transit Authority. He has more than 30 years experience in public transit.

Norfolk, Va., extends light rail construction hours

The city of Norfolk, Va.,
is extending light rail construction hours to try to prevent future delays with
the project. Right now crews primarily work from 7 a.m. until 4 or 5 p.m.,
according to Public Works Director John Keifer. The new agreement would allow
them to work until 2 am.

FRA fills key rail safety post

A civil engineer with an
extensive railroad engineering background is the Federal Railroad
Administration’s new deputy associate administrator for safety, regulatory and
legislative affairs. Dr. Magdy El-Sibaie succeeds Grady Cothen in the post,
following an extensive nationwide search to fill the position. Cothen announced
his retirement in late 2009, but is remaining at the FRA through March to
assist El-Sibaie in the transition.

Most recently, El-Sibaie
was acting associate administrator for hazardous materials safety at DOT’s
Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Until October 2009, he
was the FRA’s director of research and development, following a successful
tenure as the agency’s chief of track research, where he managed the FRA’s
track inspection technology development program that created improved systems
for measuring track geometry at high speeds.

El-Sibaie earned a
doctorate in engineering mechanics from the University of Delaware in 1986, and
was recruited by the Association of American Railroads as a researcher at the
industry’s Chicago Technical Center, where he is credited with pioneering new
methods of computer modeling to measure the dynamic behavior of track under
varying loads, speeds and conditions. For that work, the American Society of
Mechanical Engineers honored him in 1980 with its Rail Transportation Award.

In 1989, he was reassigned
by the AAR to its Transportation Test Center in Pueblo, Colo., where he worked
on vehicle/track interaction modeling and testing, in-train stability and
wheel-load dynamics. He returned to the Chicago Test Center in 1993 to lead the
AAR’s track assessment and test program.

El-Sibaie joined the FRA in
1995 as a senior program manager in the Office of Research and Development,
chairing a government-industry working group that formulated the first set of
safety standards for U.S. high-speed rail service. He also worked with rail
suppliers and Amtrak to establish standards for Amtrak’s high-speed Acela
trains operating on the Northeast Corridor.

As deputy associate
administrator for safety, regulatory and legislative affairs, El-Sibaie will
lead FRA initiatives that develop and implement industry safety regulatory
strategy. These efforts include leading the Rail Safety Advisory Committee in
studying emerging safety issues, including the incorporation of new technology
into the rail environment, as well as risk reduction strategies and close-call

Don’t judge rail report by its partisan cover

When it comes to
attention-grabbing covers, the title "Great Rail Disasters" with an
illustration of a train wreck is tough to beat for creating a sense of danger
and drama, Ted Jackovics wrote in the Tampa, Fla., Tribune website. Inside, the
44-page American Dream Coalition report focuses on "foolish
investments" and "pork barrel spending" in a critique of rail as
a passenger transportation alternative.

Work continues on West Virginia rail tunnels

When the workers laboring
to raise the roof of the old Cooper Tunnel on the Norfolk Southern main line in
Mercer County, W.Va., see daylight, it’s about time to call it a day, the
Bluefield Daily Telegraph reports. NS is on the home stretch of the Heartland
Corridor project that started in the fall of 2007 and is on track to be
finished later this summer. When it’s done, the Heartland Corridor will enable
NS to move double-stacked freight cars from Lambert’s Point (near Hampton Roads,
Va.) on the Atlantic coast all the way to Chicago on the Lake Michigan shore.

CTA installs security cameras at 24 Green Line stations

Mayor Richard M. Daley and
Chicago Transit Authority President Richard L. Rodriguez announced a
significant development in the agency’s ongoing effort to enhance safety and
security on its rail and bus system. With the installation of cameras at 24
Green Line stations, the CTA’s rail system now has 1,657 cameras at 73 rail

Bridge projects get back on track

Two bridge projects that
were put on hold about two months ago are back on track, The Medina County,
Ohio, Gazette
reports. Bob Sullivan, spokesman for CSX Transportation, said the
company is working to secure funding to proceed with work on the bridges over
the tracks at Rivers Corners Road in Homer Township and at Pawnee Road on the border
of Homer and Harrisville townships. The project includes rebuilding the bridge
at Rivers Corners to allow for taller, double-stack trains to pass underneath,
and demolishing the bridge at Pawnee and vacating the road with a detour at
Simcox Road.

Pittsburgh North Shore intersection to close

North Shore construction
work will cause much of the intersection of Allegheny Avenue and Reedsdale
Street in Pittsburgh to close starting Jan. 25. The closing is due to the
ongoing construction of the North Shore Connector light rail project. The
intersection is scheduled to remain partially closed through Feb. 10.

Caltrain construction, maintenance update, Jan. 23-29

Work on Caltrain’s Grade
Crossing Improvement Program, which will enhance safety at 25 grade crossings
in San Mateo County, will continue at the following locations: Main Street,
Redwood City, Jan. 24-25; Watkins Avenue, Atherton, Jan. 24-25; Fair Oaks
Avenue, Atherton, Jan. 25-28; and Oak Grove Avenue, Menlo Park, Jan. 24 – 25 Throughout
the project area, at least one lane of the impacted street will remain open.
Flagmen will direct traffic and pedestrians around the construction.

Axion begins construction on railroad bridges made from recycled plastic

International Holdings, Inc., a next-generation technology company utilizing
recycled plastic for high-load industrial products, said that demolition has
begun of the current structures at the Ft. Eustis Army Transportation Corp.
military base in Virginia in order to replace those spans with two new railroad
bridges made almost entirely from Axion’s 100-percent recycled plastic
structural products.

Village of Frankfort, Ill., works to quiet trains

Frankfort, Ill., trustees
this week hired an engineering firm to design safety devices at the village’s
Canadian National Railway crossings, the Chicago Tribune reports. The $14,000
contract was awarded to Hamilton Consulting Engineers to plan and supervise
construction of safety features, such as lights and crossing gates, at the
street-level railroad crossings in Frankfort, Trustee Dick Trevarthan said. Six
of the crossings are public and one is privately owned.

Work begins on new NS yard in Virginia

Norfolk Southern is
clearing land for a planned intermodal train terminal even as attorneys for
Montgomery County try to block the project’s state funding, the Roanoke Times
reports. A demolition contractor leveled a house Jan. 18 and a barn Jan. 19.
One more house, vacant like the first to go down, is scheduled to be razed, as
well. A silo visible from U.S. 460/11 will come down later this month,
according to heavy equipment operator Randy Dickenson.

BNSF West Coast employees battle mudslides as El Nino lashes out

BNSF employees in the
greater Seattle area have cleared at least five mudslides the week of Jan. 18
after El Niño showered heavy rains on the area, the railroad’s employee
newsletter reports. At one area, between Seattle and Everett, Wash., on the Scenic
Subdivision, crews were working to clear tracks after three separate mudslides
in the same area brought commuter traffic to a halt.

Big plans for Manitoba rail line

A group of farmers from Rathwell,
Man., Canada, and the surrounding area are hoping to purchase a shortline
railway to keep their grain shipments on track, the Central Plains Herald
reports. Harold Purkess, a retired farmer from Holland, who is interim
president of River Hills Railroad Inc., said the organization is made up of a
group of farmers and interested individuals who are investing in the project
and preserving their rail line.

BNSF announces $2.4-billion capital commitment program

Railway Company announced a planned 2010 capital commitment program of $2.4
billion, which is expected to be approximately $240 million lower than 2009 due
to fewer expected locomotive acquisitions in 2010. BNSF currently expects to
spend about $2.1 billion for track, signal systems, structures, and freight
cars, and to upgrade technologies, including the unfunded mandate for positive
train control. The Company also anticipates acquiring approximately 170
locomotives at a cost of about $320 million. 

Alaska Railroad Billion Slough Pedestrian Walkway update

An Alaska Railroad bridge
crew will complete a new pedestrian bridge connected to the outside of the new
bridge that was constructed in 2007/2008 over Billion Slough at Alaska Railroad
milepost 227.9. This federally funded project includes construction of a new
pedestrian walkway to replace the existing Chase Trail Bridge nearby.

LIRR installing bridges on Long Beach Branch

There will be no train
service along the Long Beach Branch January 23-24 and January 30-31 due to the
installation of two new MTA Long Island Rail Road bridges over Powell Creek and
Hog Island Channel. Buses will serve LIRR customers between Long Beach and Valley
Stream on both weekends. Regular weekday train service will not be affected by
the project.