APTA, Oberstar call for transit funds






If the American Public Transportation Association and House
Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar are correct, the answer to the
nation’s jobless rate and economic woes is funding for transit. APTA wants $15
billion for public transportation, while Oberstar wants $69 billion for highway
and transit projects.

APTA called on Congress to invest at least $15 billion in
public transportation citing it’s recently completed survey of public transit
systems nationwide, which identified more than $15 billion in public
transportation capital projects that can be started in 90 days. It is estimated
that this investment in public transportation would support and create more
than 450,000 jobs. The vast majority of public transit systems also identified
additional needs beyond $15 billion for federal assistance to avoid employee
layoffs and service cuts.

According to APTA, research has shown that new jobs in
public transportation provide jobs to American workers in industries, which
have been hit hardest by the economic downturn, particularly construction and
manufacturing.

Meanwhile, Mr. Oberstar (D., Minn.) called for a second
stimulus bill to provide at least $69 billion for highway and transit projects.
About $48 billion was secured for highway, transit and rail projects in this
year’s economic stimulus package. According to a report in the Wall Street
Journal
, Mr. Oberstar said stimulus spending on transportation has directly
sustained 21,000 jobs and supported an additional 130,000 indirectly.

 

CSXT officially opens Alabama facility

The Central Alabama Intermodal Container Transfer Facility
in Bessemer, Ala., has been operating since September, but had its official
opening on Dec. 1. The $6 million hub operates on 25 acres, with an option to
develop 25 additional acres, has 5,000 feet of working track, parking for 1,000
stacked 40-foot containers and 307 40-foot containers on truck chassis. The
facility can move more up to 40,000 containers annually.

According to CSXT, initial demand should be
about 10,000 to 15,000 containers per year, but the railroad is pursuing
additional business.

Chester Branch rail line gets green light from feds

The Federal Highway
Administration has issued its authorization for the Chester Branch
Rehabilitation project, enabling Morris County to seek bids to improve the
four-mile active freight line in Roxbury, NJ.

In February, the county applied
to the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority for $5.8 million in
federal stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for
this project, contingent upon federal authorization being received.

The freight line was donated to
the county by Chester Branch, LLC, and the Morristown & Erie Railway has a
management agreement with the county to continue to operate on the Chester
Branch, as well as two other county-owned rail lines.

Advocates for the plan say efficient use of
the rail line has the potential to reduce truck traffic along major roads
including, Route 10, Sussex Turnpike, Route 46, Interstate 80 and other
arterial roads throughout Morris County.

UP increasing train speed on Wisconsin rail line

Approximately $9 million in track improvements will allow UP
to increase the speed limit of its trains to 50 mph on nearly 26 miles of its
rail line between Eau Claire and Fairchild, Wis.

The train speed limit will be increased 10 miles per hour
starting December 11, 2009, and another 10 miles per hour starting December 18,
2009, to reach the new maximum speed limit.  Trains currently operate through the area at 30 mph because
of track and operating constraints. Recent track improvements are permitting
the higher speeds.

Union Pacific invested $9 million this year on track
improvements between Eau Claire and Fairchild. Crews replaced the rail,
installed seven switches, replaced the road surfaces at 37 crossings, replaced
25,000 ties and spread 15,600 tons of ballast. Work was completed at the end of
October.

Mississippi funds rail spur

The city of Horn Lake will receive $520,000 to construct a
railroad spur to service the plant expansion of Newly Weds Foods, a
Chicago-based company that produces food coatings, seasonings, breading and
other food processing products.

The money was given by the Mississippi
Freight Rail Revolving Loan/Grant Program, which is administered by the
Mississippi Development Authority. The project already received $1.1 million
from the federal Economic Development Administration in September and will
create 20 jobs in addition to saving 300 other jobs in DeSoto County. 

U.S. DOT: $280 million for street cars

The federal government will make $280 million available for
urban circulator projects such as streetcars, buses and bus facilities to
support communities, expand business opportunities and improve people’s quality
of life while also creating jobs.

The money represents the first batch of funding by the Obama
Administration for its Livability Initiative, a joint venture of the U.S.
Department of Transportation (DOT), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development (HUD) and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

A maximum amount of $25 million per project will be made
available from approximately $130 million in unallocated discretionary New
Starts/Small Starts Program funds. Eligible projects include streetcars and
other urban circulator systems. Priority will be given to projects that connect
destinations and foster the redevelopment of communities into walkable, mixed
use, high-density environments.

A second pot of money totaling $150 million in unallocated
discretionary Bus and Bus Facility funds will be available for projects that
will foster the preservation and enhancement of urban and rural communities by
providing new mobility options which provide access to jobs, healthcare, and
education, and/or contribute to the redevelopment of neighborhoods into
pedestrian-friendly vibrant environments.

The Federal Transit Administration plans to announce grants
early in 2010. 

Florida special session on rail set for Thursday






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
hearings.

 

Toronto-York Spadina subway extension underway

 

Construction is now underway on a new link that will connect the future Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension mainline to the existing Wilson Subway Yard and expand yard storage facilities.

The Government of Canada is contributing $5.5 million to this portion of the project. This contribution is part of the federal government’s overall $697-million federal commitment to the subway extension and is also a major component of FLOW, the Government of Canada’s transportation action plan for the Greater Toronto Area.

The Province of Ontario has provided approximately one-third of the funding for this component of the project. This contribution is part of the province’s $870 million for the subway extension through the Move Ontario Trust. Through the 2009 Ontario budget, the province is investing $32.5 billion in infrastructure over the next two years, creating 50,000 jobs.

The City of Toronto and The Regional Municipality of York have committed to funding one-third of the total project costs, of which Toronto will contribute $526 million and York Region will contribute $352 million.

CSXT: Brown to replace Ingram as EVP/COO

David Brown will be named executive vice president and chief operating officer when Tony Ingram retires at the end of the month. Cindy Sanborn will succeed Brown as vice president and chief transportation officer.

BNSF’s Rose named Railroader of the Year

Matthew K. Rose, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation, has been named 2010 Railroader of the Year by Railway Age.

Matt Rose is Railway Age’s 47th Railroader of the Year.
Modern Railroads magazine founded the award, one of the most
prestigious in the railroad industry, in 1964 as the “Man of the Year.”
Railway Age acquired Modern Railroads in 1991 and has presented
the award annually since then. Rose will be honored on March 16, 2010,
at Chicago’s Union League Club. He is the first BNSF recipient since
1996, when Santa Fe’s Robert D. Krebs and Burlington Northern’s Gerald
Grinstein were selected for their role in bringing the two western
Class I railroads together.

Railway Age will tell the story of Matt Rose and the remarkable
organization he leads at BNSF with a cover story in the magazine’s
January 2010 issue.

For more information, visit www.railwayage.com.

CN engineers strike, government may force back to work

All 1,700 of CN’s Canada-based locomotive engineers began a strike Saturday, Nov. 28, after contract talks ended without an agreement. The strike does not involve CN engineers employed in its U.S. operations and should not affect passenger train service provided by VIA Rail Canada.

If the two sides can’t come to an agreement, the federal government will force striking rail workers to return by introducing back-to-work legislation.

Wages and the number of kilometers engineers can drive each month are believed to be among the issues dividing the two sides. The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference union said it was willing to let binding arbitration settle a dispute over wages, once the two sides settle the other outstanding issues. CN officials rejected the offer because it would not immediately end the strike.

Minnesota report says $5 billion needed for freight rail upgrades

The nearly completed Minnesota Comprehensive Statewide
Freight and Passenger Rail Plan reports that more than $5 billion will be
needed to maintain the state’s freight rail system at an average level.
However, the report says the maintenance is not optional because the rail
system "supports economic development, enhances environmental sustainability,
helps to preserve the publicly-owned roadway infrastructure and increases the
business marketability of the state."

The plan looks at big and small railroad lines and evaluated
the condition of their track, trestles, signal system and more.

The report’s goals include all lines operating at speeds of
at least 25 mph, with rail and bridges capable of handling 286,000-pound cars,
which brings the total bill to $5.1 billion. If all lines were capable of
meeting freight needs and high-priority passenger service, the total raises to
$11.3 billion.

One large project is the 23-mile branch line connecting
Montgomery and New Prague to UP’s Mankato line, which has 13 bridges that are
not capable of handling the weight of modern rail cars and needs $10.4 million
in upgrades.

The UP line between Mankato and the Twin Cities needs an
estimated $450 million including a new $44 million bridge over the Mississippi
River at Mendota Heights and $163 million for a Shakopee bypass in improve
train speeds.

Also included in the report are upgrades that
are underway, such as the more than $77 million in upgrades on the DM&E to
bridges and track along a 98-mile section in the south-central part of the
state.

Work begins on BNSF bridge connecting Iowa to Illinois






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
feet.

The Coast Guard has long wanted the bridge repaired because
barges frequently hit the span, which has happened 92 times between 1992 to
2001.

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.

About 30 trains a day cross the bridge and
the span opens about 300 times a month for river traffic.

CSXT, Massachusetts submit rail pact for review

The state of Massachusetts submitted a comprehensive
multiyear rail transportation agreement with CSX Transportation for federal
review with the Surface Transportation Board.

CSXT has also reached an initial agreement with the
Massachusetts Coastal Railroad to take over freight rail activities on the
former CSXT South Coast Lines, which is being purchased by the state. The
agreement is a step is an important process toward bringing rail service to the
South Coast and will enhance local freight rail service to that region.

The deal with CSXT was announced in September and could mean
more passenger trains on the Worcester line. In the deal, CSXT agreed to help
defray the MBTA’s liability insurance cost and pay the deductible on liability
insurance if a collision occurs involving a freight train and CSXT is found at
fault because of willful misconduct.

Florida considering dedicated funds for Tri-Rail

In an effort to secure billions of dollars in federal
stimulus money, Florida state legislators are trying to call a special session
to demonstrate the state’s commitment to Tri-Rail and SunRail, the proposed
commuter rail system in Orlando. Legislators want to dedicate more money to
Tri-Rail, as well as reduce taxpayers’ exposure to potential SunRail lawsuits
should CSX be at fault in an accident. If a tentative deal is reached on both
issues, leaders hope federal officials will view the state’s request for
stimulus money with a kinder eye.

The Florida Department of Transportation has applied for
more than $2.6 billion in stimulus funds and an additional $268 million to add
passenger service on Florida East Coast Railway, which does not run passenger
service in South Florida.

SunRail lost labor backing from the AFL-CIO, which said the
bill being drafted for the potential special session doesn’t protect railroad
workers’ rights.

Tri-Rail serves more than 13,000 passengers a day and has
seen it’s budget drop from $61.6 million in fiscal year 2008 to $57 million in
the current fiscal year.

Rail freight traffic reaches highest level this year






Freight traffic on U.S. railroads reached its highest level
so far this year during the week ended November 21, the Association of American
Railroads reports.

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
gravel.

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.

MTA Chairman to re-open R/W Cortlandt Street Station






Years after it was closed for what was supposed to
be a six-month project, the Cortlandt Street subway station is partially
reopening Nov. 25, local media report. Northbound R and W trains will resume
service beginning around 3 p.m. that day. Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and
Chief Executive Officer Jay Walder and other elected officials will be on hand
for the station’s opening.


NCTD’S SPRINTER Rail Line wins national “Project of the Year” Award






North
County Transit District’s SPRINTER rail line in he San Diego area, Calif., area
has won the 2009 "Project of the Year" from the American Public Works
Association, an international professional association of public agencies and
private companies. APWA cited the SPRINTER as the Transportation Project of the
Year for projects valued over $75 million.

Chesapeake seeks to study joining light-rail line






The Chesapeake, Va., City
Council is curious about light rail and whether it could connect to Chesapeake,
the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reports. So on Nov. 24, the council voted 8-0 to
pursue a federally funded study on the possibility of extending light-rail
service to the city.

the
governing body of HRT, take necessary steps towards getting the study approved
and funded.