February Cover Story: 2020 CapEx forecast

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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CSX says it is doing everything it can to prevent debris from building up at a bridge site in New York.

The Pacific Ocean comes with a high tide and a low tide. The cycle happened like clock work every day during the NRC annual meeting in San Diego, Calif., in early January, massaging the nerves of every Class 1 operator in attendance. After what happened during the spring and fall seasons of 2019, water at a safe distance was needed.

Several Class 1 railroad companies presented their capital expense plans for 2020, but not without reliving the disaster that followed a number of floods over the last 12 months.

“It’s safe to say that 2019 presented the entire industry with a variety of challenges,” said David Becker, chief engineer, Design and Construction, with Norfolk Southern, “but from Norfolk Southern’s perspective Mother Nature seemed particularly fond of our railroad.

“2019 started hard and never seemed to let up.”

“We were not immune to the weather events earlier last year,” said Union Pacific’s Vice President of Engineering Eric Gehringer. “We had a March blizzard and then we literally had a hurricane in the Midwest.”

The year 2020 is not promising to be any easier on railroad companies from a weather standpoint, but capital spending appears to be on a slight upswing. The following are highlights from some of the presentations at NRC. Please note that Canadian National did not want to go on the record for its presentation and BNSF did not want to commit to any 2020 numbers or projects. Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern did not present.

After dealing with flooding for much of 2019, most railroad companies are looking to increase spending slightly in 2020.

Norfolk Southern

Norfolk Southern rolled out its Reimagining program and a new operating plan, TOP21, in 2019. The Class 1 adapted three region organizational structures with three divisions for each region (northern, central and southern). According to Becker, “Norfolk Southern as a whole is now functioning as one united team that is focused on execution.”

2019 renewal work

430 track miles of rail;

2.25 MM of wood crossties;

2,500 miles of surfacing;

400 turnouts;

30,000 bridge ties.

Key capacity projects started in 2019 and carrying over to 2020

Leighton siding, Leighton, Ala.;

Turnout upgrades, Cincinnati, Ohio;

Mazda-Toyota Support Yard, Huntsville,


Calumet Yard IMF expansion,


Landers Yard IMF improvements,


47th Street IMF improvements,


63rd Street IMF expansion, Chicago.

Union Pacific

Union Pacific was dealing from a $1.92 billion plan in 2019. This year the Class 1 will make heavy investments in its southern region (Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas). Union Pacific wants to continue work on the Sunset Route. The Santa Teresa facility, on the Sunset Route just west of El Paso, Texas, will allow longer trains to come in from Los Angeles, which will be broken into blocks, reassembled and sent to Chicago and other eastern carriers. Siding extensions on the Golden State, T&P and Del Rio routes will produce clearances of 14,000 and 15,000 ft. Union Pacific also tested a plate placement machine and an autonomous wood tie unloading machine, which according to the Class 1 railroad saved the company 9,000 and 16,000 curfew hours, respectively.

2019 work

3.5 million ties;

3,700 track miles.

2020 work

New rail covering 450 track miles;

Work covering 3.6 bridge miles and

3.2 deck miles

Genesee & Wyoming

Genesee & Wyoming has invested more than $1.5 billion in its operations over the last five years, including $348 million in 2019. 2020 capital spend allocation

40 percent—ties;

17 percent—rail;

9 percent—surfacing;

8 percent—bridges;

7 percent—signals;

7 percent—mechanical;

4 percent—crossings;

3 percent—switches;

3 percent—vehicles;

2 percent—Positive Train Control.

2020 capital and grant scope

1 million ties;

200 linear miles of rail;

2,000 track miles of surfacing;

75 switches;

$29 million on bridge work;

125 grade-crossing rehabs;

Over 100 signals;

8,450 track ft of new track.

Genesee & Wyoming’s 2020 engineering grants will be more than $85 million in total funding and will include work in the following areas: Southern Region, Tennessee DOT (14,000 ties, 25 track miles of surfacing, $800,000 in bridge rehab); Southern Region, Georgia DOT CRISI Grant (14,000 ties, 17.5 track miles of surfacing); Southern Region, Georgia DOT (41,000 linear ft of rail, five turnouts, $1.5 million in bridge upgrades); Southern Region, Georgia DOT Lynn to Cuthbert (41,000 linear ft of rail, 14,000 ties, eight turnouts, 17.5 track miles of surfacing); Southern Region, Georgia DOT CRISI Grant (60,000 linear ft of rail, 8,000 ties, 10 track miles of surfacing); Coastal Region, Georgia DOT CRISI Grant (42,000 linear ft of rail, 35,000 ties, 100 track miles of surfacing, three crossing rehabs, $700,000 in bridge upgrades); Northeast Region, Build America MassDOT Grant (45 linear miles of rail, 30,000 ties, 55 track miles of surfacing, 30 turnouts, 16 bridge rehabs); Northeast Region, CRISI Amtrak Grant (18,000 ties, 23 track miles of surfacing, rockslide remediation); Northeast Region, CRISI Brookville Grant (15,500 ties, 23 track miles of surfacing, seven crossing rehabs, 14 structure rehabs); and Midwest Region, Delta Grant (40,000 linear ft of rail, 15,000 ties, 10 track miles of surfacing, 10 turnouts, 7,450 ft of new siding expansion).


This year is going to look similar to 2019 for CSX. Last year CSX converted 975 ft of open deck to ballasted rock; replaced 3,750 linear ft of timber bridges; installed 2,400 linear ft of 48-in.-diam. drainage culvert; repaired four major bridges and upgraded eight movable bridges; and one through pin truss span was replaced.

In terms of projects it will be working on in 2020, CSX was far more descriptive than the other Class 1 railroad companies. Three projects are part of the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program: the 75th Street corridor, the Forest Hill f lyover and the Dolton Interlocking. The 75th Street endeavor is the largest group of projects in the CREATE Program and includes two on CSX lines. The Forest Hill flyover involves constructing 6,500 linear ft of double track structure to carry north-south CSX tracks over east-west tracks at 75th Street and over a roadway at  71st Street. It will eliminate eight diamonds at two crossings with BRC, Norfolk Southern and Chicago Metra. Dolton Interlocking includes updating and reconfiguring interlocking for increased speed and operational flexibility, constructing 9,300 linear ft of track and 24 turnouts.

Other 2020 CSX projects: Moncks Corner mainline extension (7,200 ft of track, new superstructure for a double track bridge, two turnouts and one crossover); MARC Jessup Yard extension (5,700 ft of track, 46-ft single track bridge, seven turnouts, three crossovers, retaining walls); Howard Street Tunnel; North Avenue bridge modifications; Guilford Avenue bridge modifications; Harford Road bridge modifications; Bayview North clearance obstructions; CCX; Syracuse Inland Port; Avon, Ind. (5,150 ft of track, two No. 10 turnouts, 9,600 sq yd of ramp pavement, increasing processing track capacity from 2,400 track feet to 4,400 track feet); and intermodal terminal track work.


OmniTRAX’s capital plan for 2020 includes the replacement of ties, with projects varying from 1,500 to 20,000 ties, surfacing projects, rail projects, new track construction and signal warning device projects. Some of the projects this year: Alabama Tennessee River Railway (7,000 linear ft of rail relay, replacement of 6,000 ties and surfacing 28 miles); Brownsville and Rio Grande International Railway (crossing rehab and 10,000 ft of siding or alternate track expansion, which is pending); Ohio railroads (7,600 ties); Georgia and Florida Railway (tie and surface, yard lead rehabilitation and yard rehabilitation); Great Western Railway of Colorado (5,000 linear ft of rail and 2,000 crossties); Illinois Railway (slope remediation, siding expansion, siding construction, crossing signal installation, 8,300 linear ft of rail relay, 20,000 ties and 270,000 track ft of surfacing); Nebraska, Kansas & Colorado Railway (installation of more than 3,500 ties and 45,000 track feet of surfacing); Panhandle Northern Railroad (13,500 ties, 180,000 track feet of surfacing, and more than 30 grade crossings); San Springs Railway Co. (20,000 linear ft of rail relay, 2,000 ties and surfacing, four turnouts, and two grade crossings); Winchester and Western Railroad Co. (20,000 linear ft of rail relay, 3,000 ties, surfacing and proposed siding construction); and Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub (earthwork, 40,000 track feet, 22 turnouts, multiple surfaces).

Categories: Bridge/Retaining Walls/Tunnels, Class 1, Freight, OFF Track Maintenance, ON Track Maintenance, Rail News, Railroad News, Shortline/Regional, Track Construction, Track Maintenance, Track Structure
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