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Wabtec Providing PTC Equipment to TRRA

May 31st, 2016

Wabtec Corporation has signed a contract worth approximately $21 million to design, install, test and commission Positive Train Control (PTC) for the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA), which owns and operates approximately 155 miles of track.

Wabtec will provide TRRA with its Interoperable Electronic Train Management System (I-ETMS®) equipment for 17 locomotives along with wayside and communications design, construction and training. The company will also provide system integration.

TRRA’s PTC system will be fully interoperable with the PTC system being implemented by its Class I partners and Amtrak.

Several Wabtec divisions are involved in the project, including Wabtec Integrated Systems, Xorail, Wabtec Railway Electronics, Railroad Controls and Wabtec Global Services.

“The scope of our work on this project demonstrates the wide-ranging and increasing roles that Wabtec can play in the implementation of PTC for our customers.  We plan to continue to invest in this important segment of our business, in the U.S. and internationally,” said Raymond T. Betler, Wabtec’s president and chief executive officer.

The contract is expected to be completed in 2018.

MTA Awards Engineering Contracts for Two Rail Stations

May 31st, 2016

The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has awarded $7.5 million in contracts for preliminary engineering work to ease the way for major enhancements to two stations at Willets Point, Queens. The work, which is expected to be completed within a year, also allows the MTA to collaborate with the Port Authority on planning for the future AirTrain at LaGuardia.

“The preliminary engineering work we’re doing at the two Willets Point stations is the first step in a plan to dramatically enhance both stations,” said Thomas F. Prendergast, MTA chairman and CEO. “It will also enable us to be ready to work with the Port Authority as planning for the LaGuardia AirTrain moves forward, which we see as critically important.”

The first contract, valued at $4.6 million and awarded to STV, Inc., is for work at the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) Mets-Willets Point Station. The contract includes plans for lengthening the LIRR station’s platform to accommodate 12-car-long trains and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility.

The second contract is valued at $2.9 million and deals with the Willets Point Station for New York City Transit’s No. 7 train station. It has been awarded to HDR Architecture and Engineering, PC, who will design new mezzanines with state-of-the-art electronics and communications, full ADA-compliant accessibility, and improved passenger flow for both events and normal service.

SEPTA Lauches PTC on Fox Chase Line

May 31st, 2016

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has launched its Positive Train Control (PTC) signal system on the Fox Chase Line.

PTC is a federally mandated signal system. With PTC, SEPTA will be able to regulate train separation and grade crossings that are out of service, avoid train-to-train collisions at track crossover locations, and prevent a train from running over a mainline switch set in the wrong position.

In addition, SEPTA will be able to enforce line speed, including temporary speed restrictions, and protect rail worker wayside safety zones.

SEPTA will notify the public when PTC is next launched on the Lansdale/Doylestown Regional Rail Line between Doylestown Station and Glenside or Jenkintown.

FASTLANE Grant Applications Total Nearly $9.8 Billion

May 27th, 2016

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced that the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) received 212 applications totaling nearly $9.8 billion for grants through the newly created Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grant program. States and localities requested more than 13 times the available funding, underscoring the need for infrastructure investment across the country.

Of the applications received, 136 represent projects in urban areas and 76 would support rural projects.

“Transportation creates jobs and makes jobs of the future possible. We know there is pent up demand for projects that will speed up the delivery of goods and make America even more competitive. Today, we have even more evidence,” said Secretary Foxx. “We’re going to do our best to support high impact transportation projects that will lay a new foundation for job creation and exporting American made goods throughout the world.”

Established in December 2015 as part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, FASTLANE grants provide dedicated funding for projects that address major issues facing the nation’s highways and bridges.

The grants will address many of the challenges outlined in the USDOT report Beyond Traffic, including the need for a strong multimodal transportation system to support the expected growth in freight movement both by ton and value.

The deadline for submitting applications was April 14, 2016, and the USDOT is currently reviewing all eligible applications.

U.S. Weekly Rail Traffic Drops 8.5 Percent

May 27th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending May 21, 2016, totaled 506,983 carloads and intermodal units, an 8.5 percent decrease compared to the same week in 2015.

U.S. carloads, which totaled 244,290 for the week, were down by 10.6 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 262,693 units, a decrease of 6.5 percent compared to 2015.

Four of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending May 21, 2016, when compared with the same week in 2015. Miscellaneous carloads increased 20.7 percent to 10,071 carloads, nonmetallic minerals were up 4.7 percent to 37,326 carloads, and motor vehicles and parts were up by 2.1 percent to 19,067 carloads.

Coal showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 28.8 percent to 66,709 carloads. Petroleum and petroleum products declined by 21.5 percent to 11,593 carloads, and forest products dropped 8.3 percent to 10,341 carloads.

For the first 20 weeks of 2016, U.S. rail volume totaled 9,954,037 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 8.1 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 4,803,310, were down by 14 percent, and intermodal, with a total of 5,150,727, dropped by 1.7 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending May 21, 2016, was 665,243 carloads and intermodal units, down 7.7 percent.

For the first 20 weeks of 2016, North American rail volume was down 7.6 percent, with a total of 13,055,579 carloads and intermodal units.

Funding Agreement Amended for California High-Speed Rail

May 27th, 2016

Following the recent approval of the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s (Authority) new 2016 Business Plan, the Authority and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have updated an existing 2010 ARRA grant agreement.

The amended agreement makes a number of adjustments, primarily to reflect the changed circumstances around the program and progress the Authority has made since it was originally executed in 2010. The amendments will ensure that ARRA funds are expended by the mandated deadline of September 30, 2017.

Key amendments to the agreement include:

  • Modification of the overall project schedule from 2018 to 2022, to incorporate the Central Valley segment into the operating segment.
  • Establishment of a working capital account for right-of-way which streamlines the payment process.
  • Allows for the expenditure of federal funds first, followed by the use of state funds.
  • Includes the Construction Package 1 northern extension to Madera and the purchase of Radio Spectrum to support train communications and safety measures.
  • Increases the amount of ARRA funding that can be expended on project development.

“High-speed rail construction is underway in California and this agreement is consistent with our efforts to connect Silicon Valley and the Central Valley by 2024, and then move forward with connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles,” said Authority CEO Jeff Morales. “This amendment to the existing agreement makes a number of technical fixes and updates the document to reflect the Board’s recent approval of the 2016 Business Plan and the Legislature’s commitment of Cap and Trade proceeds to the project.”

With the commitment of Cap and Trade proceeds, the Authority has been able to expand the scope of the project funded with the original grant – using state funds – to go beyond the basic infrastructure and all the way into an operable segment. This is the first amendment to the grant agreement since December 2012.

California’s OCTA Advances Bridge Projects

May 26th, 2016

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) has advanced two more projects in the O.C. Bridges program, which is separating car and pedestrian traffic from the freight rail line that now travels underneath the new bridges.

Representatives from the OCTA joined city officials at a recent completion ceremony for the new Orangethorpe Avenue overpass. Earlier this year, finishing touches, including landscaping and final striping, were put on the Tustin/Rose overpass project.

“There is good reason to celebrate each of these new bridges along the rail line, which help improve the quality of life for the people who travel through the area with enhanced safety and quicker commutes,” said OCTA Chair Lori Donchak. “We appreciate people’s patience through the construction and we’re excited to have them experience the results.”

The Orangethorpe overpass is nearing completion with OCTA and the cities of Anaheim and Placentia working together to open the lanes to traffic within the next 30 days. The total cost for the Orangethorpe project is estimated at $110.5 million, while the Tustin/Rose project is approximately $94.3 million. Both projects, as with each of the seven O.C. Bridges projects, are significantly funded by Measure M, the county’s half-cent sales tax for transportation improvements.

Underpasses have already opened at Placentia Avenue and at Kraemer Boulevard. Construction on the final three projects in the O.C. Bridges program – at State College Boulevard, Raymond Avenue and Lakeview Avenue – are underway and expected to be open by 2018.

At least 70 trains travel the BNSF rail line each day, with the number of trains projected to increase to 130 trains each day by 2030. Without the bridges and underpasses, a train would block one of the intersections every 10 minutes.

Metra Applys for Grant to Fund PTC Recovery System

May 26th, 2016

Metra, the Northeast Illinois commuter rail system, has applied for a federal grant to help fund a $3.7 million disaster recovery system for its federally mandated Positive Train Control (PTC) safety system. The disaster recovery system would activate automatically if the primary back-office server system fails due to a power failure, natural disaster, routine maintenance or an unforeseen event.

Without the disaster recovery system, any failure to the primary system controlling Metra’s PTC would severely disrupt rail operations for passenger and freight railroads, forcing trains to operate at greatly reduced speeds throughout the Chicago region.

“Nationally, the cost to carry out the PTC mandate is estimated to exceed $10 billion, including $3.48 billion for commuter railroads,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “We will continue to look for new revenue sources to help pay for this complex system as we plan for full implementation of PTC by 2019 or sooner.”

Metra plans to house its disaster recovery system, which will run simultaneously with the primary PTC server system, at its Kensington Yard facility on Chicago’s south side. The project will also lay the groundwork for Metra to eventually establish a second, fully redundant dispatching center.

The grant is being sought through the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Railroad Safety Technology grant program, which is limited this year to PTC system implementation. Projects receiving grants will have up to 80 percent of costs covered and require a 20 percent local funding match. Metra is requesting $3 million in grant funding and has identified $750,000 in local matching funds for the project.

Amtrak Adds Saturday Night Service on Milwaukee-Chicago Line

May 26th, 2016

Amtrak has announced that it is adding late night trips on its Hiawatha Service, which travels between Milwaukee and Chicago, for Saturday nights from May 21 through September 3, 2016. Train 343, which departs from Chicago at 11:10 p.m., and Train 344, which departs from Milwaukee at 10:40 p.m., will be added to the line for the summer months.

The Hiawatha Service is one of the top six Amtrak routes, with approximately 800,000 passengers riding on it in the past year, including intermediate stops at Glenview, Ill., and in Wisconsin at Sturtevant and Milwaukee Airport. The trains are jointly sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

This is the third improvement in Hiawatha Service since April, following trainside checked bicycles and a carriage for passengers with small pets.

CSX Makes Senior Leadership Changes

May 25th, 2016

CSX Chairman and CEO Michael J. Ward has announced several senior management changes, including the July 1 retirement of Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Lisa Mancini.

Mancini, who joined CSX in 2003, is a member of the chairman’s executive management team and responsible for people functions, procurement and real estate.

“We thank Lisa for her many contributions to CSX’s people and success. We wish her the very best in her retirement,” Ward said.

Also effective July 1, Cressie Brown will move from vice president labor relations to senior vice president and chief administrative officer, and Kathleen Brandt will move from CSX’s information technology subsidiary to senior vice president and chief information officer. Both Brown and Brandt will join the executive management team and report to Ward.

Brown, who joined CSX in 1988, held leadership roles in critical operational and support functions, including technology, finance, service design, and customer service before being appointed vice president labor relations.

Brandt, who joined CSX in 1985, served in organizational strategy and capital planning roles and rose through the information technology organization to become its leader. She will now lead CSX teams in accelerating deployment of automation, analytics and systems to contribute to next-generation safety, service and efficiency.

Zachery M. Jones will succeed Brown as vice president labor relations. Jones, who joined CSX in 2010, is currently assistant vice president employee services and involved in addressing workforce issues and improving employee engagement. Prior to joining CSX, he was with the National Mediation Board in Washington, D.C.

“These promotions underscore the importance of continuing to develop our highly skilled and committed employees, while accelerating CSX’s next-generation technologies and performance in safety, service and efficiency,” Ward said.