Second NJ Transit tunnel contract awarded

NJ Transit awarded a $271.7 million contract to PTP Constructors of Secaucas, a joint venture of Schiavone Construction, J.F. Shea Construction and Skanska USA Civil Northeast. The contract is for the design and construction of a mile-long tunnel between North Bergen and Hoboken, roughly 185 feet beneath the Palisades.

In December, the first contract was awarded for the Midtown segment of the project. The $583 million contract was awarded to a consortium of Barnard of New Jersey and Judlau Contracting of College Point, N.Y. The third, and last, contract for the Hudson River segment is expected to be awarded next year.

The entire Access to the Region’s Core project, or ARC, will double the amount of trains that travel to Midtown and eliminate transfers to thousands of NJ Transit riders.

Contract extension granted to Boston’s MBTA commuter rail firm

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority approved a two-year contract extension for Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., the firm that operates the T. This is the second contract extension granted to the firm and allows operation of the T until July 2013 at a combined cost of $559.7 for the final two years.

The contract extension also came with promises from the firm’s officials to build on service improvements made over the past year. In addition to improved performance and additional money for maintenance of the commuter fleet, passengers can expect to see a new system offering real-time information on train arrivals and wireless Internet access on every train.

Texas port breaks ground on $10.5 million rail improvement project

Community leaders broke ground on The Port of Beaumont’s rail improvement project that will add close to 40,000 feet of track to the port. The project is expected to take 18 months to complete and should reduce traffic congestion as well as greenhouse gasses in the city, increase rail velocity and improve port security and safety.

The existing interchange yard, which is small and narrow, will be retired and a new turnout will lead directly to new interchange facilities within the terminal. In addition to the new track being installed, close to 4,000 feet of track will be upgraded and modernized.

Beaumont is served by BNSF, UP and KCS and handles around 25,000 rail cars annually. The new configuration will allow the port to receive and dispatch trains as a unit.

Riverside, Calif., commits $4.45 million to grade separation project

The City Council of Riverside, Calif., pledged $4.45 million of federal grants toward buying land for the $32 million Iowa Avenue railroad grade separation project.

Iowa Avenue is one of more than two dozen crossings within the city without overpasses or underpasses leading to severe traffic congestion. Grade separations have become a priority in recent years and the city is either designing, constructing or just completed five grade separation projects.

Design and land purchases for the Iowa Avenue project are expected to be completed late this year with construction to begin in early 2011.

Washington state port to build rail spur

The Port of Everett’s commission authorized bids for a $3 million, 2,500 foot-long rail spur that would connect the port’s piers and other facilities to BNSF’s main line. Work could begin as early as April and be completed by September.

The port will be responsible for 25 percent of the project’s funds through low- and no-interest loans from the state DOT, but much of the money will come from $1.2 million in federal funds for rail recovery, secured by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Brooklyn’s Atlantic Terminal Pavilion opens

Brooklyn’s transit hub at Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues – where MTA Long Island Rail Road customers can transfer for connections with 10 subway lines – has a new, $108 million home with the opening of the Atlantic Terminal Pavilion.

The three-story limestone, granite and glass structure features a soaring atrium that allows natural light to reach the below ground LIRR concourse and subway station. Two sweeping staircases provide direct access from the street to the concourse below. The Terminal building is linked internally to an office building and retail complex.

The renewed facility serves approximately 25,500 LIRR customers each day as well as approximately 31,650 NYC Transit subway customers. Work on the project, begun in 2002, was done in two phases in order to coordinate improvements with MTA New York City Transit work on their subway facilities and a private developer, Forest City Ratner.

The new Atlantic Terminal building marks an early milestone in the overall effort to transform this area of Brooklyn. A recent court decision cleared the way for a new sports center that is to be the new home of the Nets basketball team. Additional residential and commercial buildings also are planned nearby.

Service to NS’ Lamberts Point terminal restored

Norfolk Southern rescinded its "force majeure" declaration on its Lamberts Point terminal in Virginia on Jan. 5. According to the NS website, "operations at Lambert’s Point were restored but unloading remained hampered by weather conditions. With operation restored, Norfolk Southern is working to clear the current backlog of shipments."

The force majeure was enacted on Dec. 18 as a result of record snowfalls and was extended when a series of conveyor belts problems shut down service. One belt was fixed and the conveyor was placed back in operation by Dec. 31, but the second took longer than expected to fix. Lamberts Point terminal is North America’s largest facility for transloading coal from trains to ships for export.

Reading & Northern buys portion of Towanda Monroeton line

The Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad has purchased the northernmost 1.5-mile section of the Towanda Monroeton Shippers Lifeline Railroad, a six-mile rail line between Towanda Borough and Monroeton, Penn. Reading plans to aggressively market the local rail line for use by companies involved in the natural gas industry, according to a report in the Daily Review.

The remaining 4.5-miles of the Towanda Monroeton rail line is owned by Shaffer’s Feed Service Inc. However, Reading will operate on the entire Towanda Monroeton Shippers Lifeline rail line, including the section of the track owned by Shaffer’s Feed Service.

According to the report, Reading hopes to develop a facility for transferring frac sand to trucks in the Towanda area, although it would probably be a smaller operation than the one in the railroad’s Pittston yard.

IANA elect BNSF’s Branscum as head

The Board of Directors of the Intermodal Association of
North America (IANA) elected Stephen G. Branscum, group vice president,
consumer products at BNSF as its Chairman for 2010. Branscum, who succeeds Greg
Stefflre, chief executive officer at Rail Delivery Services, Inc., has held
numerous key intermodal positions for BNSF and its predecessor, Santa Fe. David
L. Howland, vice president, Optimodal, LLC, was elected IANA’s Vice Chairman
and Steve Rubin, president, Seacastle Chassis, Inc. was named the Association’s

Boardman to head Amtrak for another year

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman had been given a one-year
interim contract extension. Although Boardman is a voting member of the Amtrak
board, he did not vote on his own contract extension.

Boardman rallied rail labor and Amtrak
supporters to lobby Congress for a transportation appropriations bill that
passed in December. The bill provides $1.58 billion to Amtrak through September
2010, an increase of $90 million from fiscal year 2009. The money includes $1
billion for capital grants, $560 million for operating subsidies and $20
million to fund Amtrak’s inspector general’s efforts to eradicate waste, fraud
and abuse.

Gov. Quinn nominates Flores for Illinois regulator position

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn nominated Chicago Alderman Manual
Flores to head the five-member Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates
state railroad crossing, track and rail-yard safety, as well as intrastate bus
operations. The nomination requires state senate confirmation. If confirmed,
Flores would succeed Charles Box, whose term expired.

AAR: Mixed report for U.S. rail freight during Christmas week

The Association of American
Railroads issued the following on December 30, 2009

Intermodal volume was up but
both carload freight and total volume as measured in ton-miles slipped from
year-ago levels during the week ended December 26, the Association of American
Railroads reported today.

The AAR also reported that
volume during the most recent week remained sharply below levels reported
during the comparable 2007 week. 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 year comparisons for both 2008 and 2007. Comparison weeks from
all three years included the Christmas holiday.

Intermodal traffic totaled
141,699 trailers and containers, up 14.2 percent from a year ago but down 10.7
percent from 2007. Compared with the same week in 2008, container volume rose
21.6 percent and trailer volume dropped 14.5 percent. Compared with the same
week in 2007, container volume fell 4.5 percent and trailer volume dropped 34.4

Carload freight totaled
197,754 cars, down 1.1 percent from 2008 and 22.3 percent from 2007. In the
Eastern U.S., carloads were up 1.3 percent compared with the same week last
year, but off 25.2 percent compared with 2007. In the West, carloads were down
2.3 percent compared with 2008, and 20.7 percent compared with the same week in

Carload volume was down
largely because of a more-than 21,000 carload (19.1 percent) drop in coal
loadings. Seventeen of the other 18 carload freight commodity groups were up
compared with the same week last year, with fourteen reporting double digit
increases, including motor vehicles (52.1 percent); lumber and wood products
(44.8 percent); grain (31.1 percent); metals (31.7 percent) and chemicals (18.7

Total volume was estimated
at 22.1 billion ton-miles, down 0.9 percent from the comparable 2008 week, and
down 17.5 percent from the comparable 2007 week.

For the first 51 weeks of
2009, U.S. railroads reported cumulative volume of 13,585,290 carloads, down
16.3 percent from 2008 and 18.2 percent from 2007; 9,731,474 trailers or
containers, down 14.3 percent from 2008 and 17.8 percent from 2007, and total
volume of an estimated 1.47 trillion ton-miles, down 15.4 percent from 2008 and
16.3 percent from 2007.

Canadian railroads reported
volume of 55,572 cars for the week, up 33.5 percent from last year, and 30,653
trailers or containers, up 49 percent from 2008. For the first 51 weeks of
2009, Canadian railroads reported cumulative volume of 3,192,327 carloads, down
18.2 percent from last year, and 2,084,051 trailers or containers, down 14.2
percent from last year.

Mexican railroads reported
originated volume of 10,718 cars, up 37.7 percent from the same week last year,
and 5,462 trailers or containers, up 53.3 percent. Cumulative volume on Mexican
railroads for the first 51 weeks of 2009 was reported as 594,083 carloads, down
9.5 percent from last year; and 284,211 trailers or containers, down 12.9

Combined North American rail
volume for the first 51 weeks of 2009 on 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and
Mexican railroads totaled 17,371,700 carloads, down 16.4 percent from last
year, and 12,099,736 trailers and containers, down 14.2 percent from last year.

WMATA implements $7.5 million station enhancement program

While it’s not an extreme
makeover, over the next year-and-a-half, 42 Metrorail stations will receive a
thorough cleaning as part of the agency’s station enhancement program.

The station enhancement
program, initiated in April 1991, was designed to restore the appearance of
Metrorail stations. The $7.5 million program sees each station restored about
every four years.

The work is being organized
into "mini" and "major" enhancements.

A mini enhancement includes
the cleaning of masonry surfaces, painting interior surfaces, repairing
interior masonry surfaces, painting exterior surfaces, fabricating, installing
or repairing signs, refinishing bus and station platform shelter benches and
spot finishing bronze surfaces such as railings. A major station enhancement
includes all responsibilities under a mini enhancement but also includes
pressure washing the ceilings and walls, and painting interior surfaces.

A major station enhancement
takes three months, which is approximately 25 percent longer than the

For a list of stations
slated to receive a mini or major cleaning enhancement through June 2011, visit
WMATA’s website by clicking here .

RIDOT purchases land for station, parking garage

Rhode Island’s planned
extension of commuter rail service from Boston and Providence to Warwick and
North Kingstown is on track.

The Rhode Island Department
of Transportation (RIDOT), with approval from the State Properties Committee,
completed the purchase of property needed for the Wickford Junction train
station and parking garage. The purchase price for the land and easements
located on Route 102 in North Kingstown, near its intersection with Route 4, was
$3.2 million, of which 80 percent came from federal funds.

The Wickford project, along
with the Warwick Intermodal Facility currently under construction, will provide
the infrastructure necessary to support the initial start-up phase of the South
County Commuter Rail Service. This service will extend existing Massachusetts
Bay Transit Authority trains through Providence an additional 20 miles with
stops at T.F. Green Airport and Wickford Junction. The new service is intended
to provide an alternative mode of travel to the already congested I-95 and
Route 4 corridor, which is the State’s fastest growing region, and provide
access to major employment, retail and recreational centers in Providence and
Boston. MBTA is expected to add commuter rail stops at T.F. Green Airport in
2010 and at Wickford Junction in 2011.

Once built, Wickford
Junction Station, with an estimated construction cost of $30 million, will
feature a train station and platform along with a 1,100-space parking garage.
It is expected that once construction begins it will take approximately 16
months to build the station and garage. Commuter rail service would start
shortly after that. Daily ridership is projected to be approximately 1,750
passengers, with eight weekday round trips planned.

New North Dakota rail facility sends oil to Oklahoma

A new rail shipping terminal in northwestern North Dakota is
moving oil from the state’s oil patch to Oklahoma.

Houston-based EOG Resources Inc. expects the
first shipment from the terminal near Stanley, N.D., on Jan. 4, following a
four-day trip. The new terminal is capable of loading 60,000 barrels of oil
onto a 100-car unit train each day and unloads in Stroud, Okla., where it is
then sent through a 17-mile pipeline to a terminal in Cushing, Okla.

Tony Chambers joins Encore Rail Systems, Inc.

Encore Rail Systems,
Inc., named Tony Chambers Eastern Region Sales Manager based in Ravenswood, W.Va.
Chambers brings to this position many years of railroad sales experience from
his career with Burke-Parsons-Bowlby Corporation.


NJ TRANSIT cuts ribbon at new parking lot at Edison Station

Senator Robert Menendez
and Congressman Frank Pallone joined NJTRANSIT Executive Director Richard
Sarles and other officials at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new 477-space
parking lot that more than doubles parking capacity at Edison Station on the
Northeast Corridor rail line. The lot opens to customers January 1.

Strategic investments allow CTA to Improve fleet, facilities

With the onset of the
recession this year, government agencies, private businesses and individual
households all faced budget challenges and the Chicago Transit Authority was no
exception. Due to the significant consequences presented by the slowing
economy, as the CTA developed its 2009 Budget, staff sharpened their pencils
and looked for ways to streamline operations and reduce costs without impacting
the quality or level of service provided. Despite financial constraints, the
CTA continued to innovate in 2009 and apply the best solutions to keep Chicago

Amtrak to begin serving renovated Castleton, Vt., depot

As the result of growing
and anticipated demand for passenger rail service to Castleton State College
and Lake Bomoseen, Amtrak and the Vermont Agency of Transportation said that
state-supported Ethan Allen Express trains will make twice daily stops at the
recently renovated Castleton, Vt., station beginning January 2, 2010. The
southbound Ethan Allen Express, train #292 scheduled to arrive Saturday at
11:02 a.m., will be the first train to officially stop at the station.

Port buys rail line, city prepares for train service

After a decade, a train may
be returning to Snohomish, Wash., by next summer, the Snohomish County Tribune
reports. The Port of Seattle purchased the Eastside rail corridor Dec. 21 from BNSF
in a deal totaling $81 million. The purchase covers 42 miles of rail line from
Renton to Snohomish.