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Senators Wyden and Crapo Introduce Bill Extending Short Line Tax Credit

March 5th, 2015

On March 3, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced the Short Line Railroad Rehabilitation and Investment Act of 2015, which extends the short line railroad track maintenance tax credit by two years. The senators were joined by Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), John Boozman, (R-Ark.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) as the bipartisan legislation was introduced.

The track maintenance credit, which expired at the end of 2014, provides short line and regional railroads a 50 percent tax credit for railroad track maintenance expenses, up to $3,500 per mile of track owned or leased by the railroad. The credit has been crucial in helping to rehabilitate short line and regional railroads around the country, which serve as a lifeline to many manufacturers, ensuring that their products can get to market in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

“Small railroads provide a critical service to communities and businesses across Oregon, and this bill means continued investment in important infrastructure,” said Senator Wyden. “The short line rail credit empowers railroads to make investments in the first and last mile of what is often a transcontinental journey for goods destined for factories, grain elevators, mills, and other vital parts of the economy in Oregon and across the country.”

Oregon is home to 15 short line and regional railroads that together total 1,292 miles of freight track, which is more than half of all Oregon freight rail lines. The track maintenance credit was used to help rehabilitate the state’s Port of Coos Bay Rail Link.

Senator Crapo stated, “This measure will allow small businesses in Idaho to reinvest more of the revenue they earn and allows these railroads to provide customers such as potato growers and timber producers in Idaho with safe, customized and competitive local rail service.“

“Short lines provide a critical economic link to thousands of railroad customers in Idaho and 48 other states, and this bill will help spur job creation and improve the link between our communities and the national freight railroad network,” added Senator Crapo.

Linda Bauer Darr, president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), remarked on the need for the bill’s passage.

“Section 45G drives private sector infrastructure expenditures on American-made cross ties and track materials,” said Bauer Darr. “Because these investments cannot be moved off shore this bill improves the competitiveness of thousands of railroad customers across America. America’s 550 small freight railroads thank Senators Crapo, Wyden, Moran, Casey, Isakson, Schumer, Boozman, and Blumenthal for their leadership in support of railroad customers and small railroads.”

Jerry Vest, senior vice president of government and industry affairs for Genesee & Wyoming Railroad Services, Inc. and chairman of the ASLRRA Legislative Policy Committee, stated, “The economic potential and business opportunities in our service areas are tremendous. That potential is best developed by continuing to invest in our railroads and that is how we help attract new industries to rail and build upon our already safe operations.”

“The Short Line Tax Credit is a very important part of how we undertake these improvements, and these eight Senators are to be complimented for their leadership to help short line railroads reinvest more of their own funds back into transportation infrastructure,” continued Vest.

“Our team members come to work every day to focus on the needs of all of our rail customers, big and small,” said Ed McKechnie, CCO of Watco Companies, LLC and chairman of ASLRRA. “Over the last two years Senators Crapo and Wyden have worked to secure large coalitions in the Senate in support of rural transportation. We appreciate their leadership and the leadership of their colleagues. We will continue to put our customers first and invest in rural rail infrastructure with the support of this important bill.”

The ASLRRA also pointed out that Congress must act quickly in 2015 to maximize the capital and maintenance investments that small railroads and their customers can make this year. Identical House companion legislation was introduced by Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Rodney Davis (R-IL), and Dan Lipinski (D-IL) on February 4, 2015, and is already cosponsored by 67 U.S. Representatives from 31 states.


Squires to Succeed Moorman as NS CEO

March 5th, 2015
James Squires Norfolk Southern CEO

James Squires

The board of directors of Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS) has announced that President James A. Squires will succeed Chief Executive Officer Charles W. “Wick” Moorman, effective June 1, 2015, as part of its planned succession process. Both will continue in their current rolls until June to ensure a smooth transition in leadership.

“Jim has the right experience and vision to advance Norfolk Southern’s traditions of safety and service,” said Steven F. Leer, NS lead independent director. “NS is well-positioned to continue leading and innovating, and the board of directors is confident in the ability of the entire Thoroughbred team to deliver for our customers, shareholders, and communities.”

Squires joined Norfolk Southern in 1992 where he held several law positions before being named vice president law in 2003. He served as senior vice president law, senior vice president financial planning, executive vice president finance and executive vice president administration. He was appointed president of NS in 2013.

Squires earned a bachelor of arts from Amherst College and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Chicago Law School. He was chairman of Virginia’s Transportation Accountability Commission under Governor Tim Kaine. In 2011, he was recognized by Virginia Business magazine with its CFO Award for Publicly Traded Companies in Virginia. Squires served in the U.S. Army from 1985 to 1989.

“Leading NS is an incredible honor,” Squires said. “I join our 30,000 employees in pledging that we will do everything possible to exceed the expectations of our shareholders and the people and businesses who depend on us. We welcome that opportunity, and we will meet that challenge.”

“Building on our record results in 2014, we are entering a great new time of performance and possibilities,” Moorman said. “Thanks to the dedication of Norfolk Southern people, the support of our customers and business partners, and the outstanding leadership team in place at Norfolk Southern – led by Jim Squires – I am confident that the company is poised for continued growth, success, and shareholder value creation.”

Moorman joined NS predecessor Southern Railway in 1970 as a coop student. He was named chairman, president and CEO in 2006, succeeding David R. Goode. In 2011, Railway Age magazine named Moorman “Railroader of the Year.”

Moorman has championed public-private partnerships, led NS’ efforts to improve its environmental footprint and was among the earliest freight railroaders to seek more cooperation with the long-distance passenger and commuter railroads that use freight tracks. He is an advocate of balanced regulation to best serve the interests of railroads and their customers.

“On behalf of the entire board of Norfolk Southern, I thank Wick for his innumerable contributions as CEO,” stated Leer. “Wick raises the bar for an entire industry. His gift is to see where railroads need to go, find workable ways to get there, and generate the optimism that makes everyone want to get on the train. We will continue to benefit from that with Wick as board chair.”

Koppers Reports 2014 Fourth Quarter Results

March 5th, 2015

Koppers Holdings Inc., a producer of treated wood and other products and services for industries including rail, has reported 2014 fourth quarter consolidated sales of $426.7 million, an increase of 25 percent, or $84.9 million, from sales of $341.8 million for the same quarter in 2013.

“Our North American railroad business and our new Performance Chemicals business both continue to perform well,” said Leroy Ball, Kopper’s president and CEO. “We are seeing significant improvements in hardwood lumber availability resulting in higher sales and profits for the railroad business, while Performance Chemicals profit from operations was reduced by integration costs as well as a seasonally low quarter.”

“However, our fourth quarter results were significantly affected by industry headwinds facing our global CMC business that now include the impact of lower oil prices on product pricing as well as lower product demand in certain regions,” continued Ball. “Our focus in the near-term is going to be on generating cash to de-lever the balance sheet, deemphasizing the CMC growth strategy in the low-margin emerging markets, and restructuring the CMC business to allow it to reach an acceptable range of profitability through the economic cycle.”

“As we work through these changes, I’m confident that Koppers will begin to look like a different company from a risk, business mix, and profitability standpoint,” he added.

The 2014 fourth quarter had a net loss of $(33.5) million, or $(1.67) per diluted share compared to a net loss of $(4.1) million, or $(0.20) per diluted share in 2013. Adjusted net (loss) income and adjusted (loss) earnings per share were $(5.6) million and $(0.27) per share compared to $9 million and $0.44 per share in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Commenting on the company’s outlook for 2015, Ball said, “Assuming oil prices of $50, our outlook calls for sales of $1.7 billion, adjusted EBITDA of $165-$175 million, and adjusted EPS of $1.60-$1.90. This significant improvement is driven mainly by a full year contribution from the Osmose businesses, organic improvements in sales and profitability in Railroad and Utility Products and Services and Performance Chemicals, synergies from the Osmose acquisition, and the avoidance of due diligence and integration costs.”

Seattle’s Sound Transit Ridership Grows

March 4th, 2015

Seattle area’s Sound Transit set all-time annual records in 2014 for boardings on its trains and buses, with the latest numbers, reported at a recent Sound Transit Board meeting, reflecting an increase of more than 8 percent over 2013. Average weekday boardings were more than 109,000 for 2014, and total boardings were an estimated 33 million.

“Each year more and more people hop aboard Sound Transit’s trains and express buses,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “These gains mean not only happier and more productive commuters, but fewer cars on our congested roads.”

Double-digit growth was seen in Link light rail ridership for the sixth consecutive year since operations began in 2009, with average weekday ridership on Central Link light rail increasing 13.7 percent over 2013. Average weekday ridership increased 9.6 percent on Sounder commuter rail.

Annual boardings on Central Link light rail were 10.9 million, a 13 percent increase from 2013. Average boardings on Sounder commuter rail were 3.4 million, an 11 percent increase from 2012.

Harsco Acquires Protran Technology

March 4th, 2015

Harsco Corporation has announced the acquisition of New Jersey-based Protran Technology, which designs and produces safety systems for transportation and other industries. Protran will operate as a unit of Harsco Rail. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

“This investment aligns perfectly with our stated strategy to further grow and diversify our Rail division,” said Nick Grasberger, Harsco president and CEO. “We see numerous opportunities to leverage our global market presence and expand the reach of these important, life-saving products.”

Protran is known for its railway track worker and train operator safety systems that help protect railway personnel from potential collisions and other hazardous situations. The company’s equipment is also used for turn alerts on transit buses, and its voltage awareness units provide safety warnings during the testing of third rail and overhead catenary systems.

Scott Jacoby, president of Harsco Rail stated, “Bringing Protran into Harsco culminates a year-long relationship where we have served as their exclusive product distributor. During that time, we have become increasingly enthusiastic about the caliber of their offerings and the potential for supporting greater safety awareness and injury prevention throughout our markets.”

Harsco Corporation is an industrial company serving major industries, including steel, metals and energy, and also provides railway track maintenance equipment and services.

Cortese to Lead San Francisco’s MTC

March 4th, 2015
Dave Cortese appointed as Chair of MTC. Photo:courtesy of MTC.

MTC Chair Dave Cortese.

The San Francisco Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) unanimously elected Dave Cortese as chair of the Commission through February 2017. Cortese currently holds the position of president of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. He has served on the board since 2008.

Cortese was first appointed to MTC as the Association of Bay Area Governments’ (ABAG) representative in 2007, later transitioning to Santa Clara County’s seat on the Commission. In February 2015, he started his third four-year term as an MTC commissioner. Cortese has served on the MTC for 8 years and served as the Commission’s vice chair for two of those years.

“I am honored to be steering MTC during this time of tremendous challenge and opportunity for the agency and the region,” said Cortese. “On the one hand, the Bay Area is blessed with renewed economic growth, but on the other, we must contend with the transportation impacts of this growth, and work to ensure that people at all income levels have access and mobility options.”

Trained as a lawyer, Cortese has experience in both transportation and environmental stewardship. As an MTC commissioner, he fought to bring federal stimulus funds to the region and helped to adopt the Plan Bay Area, a long-range plan linking transportation investments with sustainable development. As a member of the Valley Transportation Authority Board of Directors, he pushed to ensure BART’s expansion into Santa Clara County.

Cortese also serves as chair of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors’ Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee, where he has worked on pedestrian safety, environmental issues and renewable energy. In 2009, he launched the “Cortese Kids Climate Club,” a program where students agree to certain practices in order to protect the environment.

Prior to his county service, Cortese served eight years on the San Jose City Council, two years as San Jose’s vice mayor and has served as president of ABAG.

Cortese pointed out that he is the first Santa Clara County representative to lead MTC since Jim Beall, who served as chair of MTC from 1999 to 2001 and as an MTC commissioner from 1987 to 2006. Beall has recently assumed the role of chair of the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee.

“I feel fortunate to be stepping into the MTC chair role at a time when the Senate Transportation Committee is being chaired by someone as knowledgeable about transportation and the Bay Area as Jim Beall,” Cortese said. “The close working relationship we’ve developed over our many years in government will be helpful as the region partners with the state to implement the Cap and Trade Program and address other urgent issues.”

The MTC Commission is charged with planning, financing and coordinating transportation for the nine counties comprising the San Francisco Bay Area. It also serves as the governing board overseeing the work of two affiliated agencies, the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) and the Service Authority for Freeways and Expressways (SAFE). Commissioner Cortese will chair those agencies as part of his new position.

BNSF Announces More Improvement Projects

March 3rd, 2015

BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) has reported rail capacity improvement projects and maintenance programs for its operations in Missouri, Montana and Wisconsin as part of the company’s 2015 capital program.

Capital projects for operations in Missouri in 2015 include constructing two new sidings between Elsberry and Ashburn and milepost marker 94 as well as extending the siding in Gibbs, which will improve train capacity along the Hannibal subdivision.

BNSF’s 2015 capital projects in Montana include starting the grading for four miles of double track along the Glasgow subdivision, which will be completed in 2016, and improving the tracks from Crane to Snowden Junction.

Projects for the Wisconsin network include the construction of 4 miles of double track through La Crosse and the installation of centralized traffic control (CTC) in several locations along the Aurora subdivision.

The maintenance program for 2015 in Missouri will include 1,303 miles of track surfacing and undercutting work, and the replacement of more than 60 miles of rail and close to 184,500 ties. The maintenance program in Montana includes 1,227 miles of track surfacing and undercutting work, and the replacement of 52 miles of rail and approximately 345,000 ties. The program in Wisconsin includes 220 miles of track surfacing and undercutting work, and the replacement of nearly 25 miles of rail and approximately 800 ties. All three states will receive signal upgrades for federally mandated positive train control.

MBTA Names DePaola Interim GM

March 3rd, 2015

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Board of Directors voted unanimously to appoint Highway Administrator and MassDOT’s Chief Operating Officer Frank DePaola as interim general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

MassDOT Secretary Stephanie Pollack also announced that Thomas Tinlin, MassDOT’s chief of highway operations and maintenance, will serve as acting highway administrator. The appointments are effective March 4, 2015.

The announcement follows the resignation earlier this month of general manager Beverly Scott.

“I am pleased to announce that the Board of Directors has unanimously agreed to appoint Frank DePaola interim general manager as we undergo a period of transition with the MBTA,” said Pollack. “With the depth and breadth of Frank’s experience as an engineer, a manager, and a problem-solver, I have full confidence that he has the skill sets and capabilities to serve as interim general manager. I also want to thank Dr. Scott for her years of service and for her strong commitment to public transportation. We wish her the very best of luck in her next endeavor.”

MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott stated, “I cannot think of a better, more qualified person to take the reins immediately, and provide the necessary leadership to move our transit system in the right direction. I can leave this job I’ve loved, knowing that MBTA customers as well as employees are in very capable hands and I look forward to working with Frank during the transition process.”

Starting in the field of engineering nearly 38 years ago, DePaola was appointed MBTA assistant general manager for design and construction in May 2009, where he directed and managed construction projects, had oversight of the capital spending, and worked to ensure projects were completed in a timely and cost-effective manner.

In April 2011, DePaola was named MassDOT’s highway administrator, responsible for the operations, maintenance, and capital investments on the State Highway System. From November 2014 to January 2015 he served as acting secretary of MassDOT until the appointment of Stephanie Pollack as MassDOT secretary and CEO.

“I want to thank the Board of Directors for their trust in my abilities, and I am excited to take on this critical role at the MBTA,” DePaola said. “I also look forward to assisting with the Special Panel’s search to get to the root cause of the issues our transit system faces. Once the issues are diagnosed, I look forward to helping implement a strategy to restore our system to full strength, and restoring our customers’ faith in our ability to provide safe, reliable, efficient transit service.”

Tinlin served as Boston’s commissioner of transportation for more than 10 years before joining MassDOT as chief of highway operations and maintenance in December 2013. In his role at MassDOT, Tinlin’s responsibilities include managing the Highway Division’s day-to-day operations.

Tinlin was MassDOT’s lead on the South Boston Waterfront Study, which developed a plan to meet existing and future transportation needs of the area. Tinlin now serves as the group’s chair seeking to implement the plan. Most recently, he was the leader in coordinating the Highway Division’s response to record-breaking snowfall and providing resources to assist Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the MBTA, and cities and towns with storm recovery efforts.

“I want to thank Secretary Pollack for her confidence in me and my priority of focusing on the daily operations of the Highway Division, always with the goal of having the safest, most efficient highway network possible,” said Tinlin. “Additionally, I am eager to continue our progress in advancing our organization ever closer toward one, unified Department of Transportation.”

U.S. Weekly Rail Traffic Decreases

March 3rd, 2015

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported a drop in U.S. rail traffic in both carloads and intermodal units for the week ending February 21, 2015.

There was a decrease of 11.5 percent in total U.S. rail traffic when compared to the same week in 2014. Carloads and intermodal units totaled 473,161 for the week.

U.S. carloads, with a total of 259,544 for the week, dropped by 7.8 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume also declined, with a total of 213,617 units, a drop of 15.7 percent compared to 2014.

Of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR, only grain, up 4 percent with 22,877 carloads, posted an increase when compared with the same week in 2014. Some of the commodity groups that decreased compared to 2014 included motor vehicles and parts, down 12.2 percent, with 14,980 carloads; coal, down 12 percent, with 96,096 carloads; and metallic ores and metals, down 9.2 percent, with 20,235 carloads.

For the first seven weeks of 2015, U.S. rail volume totaled 3,675,857 carloads and intermodal units, an increase of 0.8 percent compared to the first seven weeks of 2014. Carloads, with a total of 1,982,993, were up by 3.7 percent, and intermodal dropped 2.3 percent to 1,692,864 units.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending February 21, 2015, was 619,880 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 9.5 percent.

For the first seven weeks of 2015, North American rail volume increased by 2.4 percent, with a total of 4,800,591 carloads and intermodal units.

NY MTA Revitalizing LIRR Hicksville Station

March 2nd, 2015

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the final design for a new Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station in Hicksville, part of a $120 million project to revitalize the region’s transit hub and downtown area and upgrade the area’s rail infrastructure for faster service.

Hicksville Station is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) LIRR’s busiest line station, with 22,000 customer trips per weekday. Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and selected Montauk Branch trains pass through Hicksville daily. The station also serves major NICE commuter bus routes.

“By renovating the Hicksville station, we’re moving ahead with much-needed upgrades at one of the LIRR’s busiest outlets and breathing new economic life into the community,” said Governor Cuomo. “This rehabilitation is designed to fundamentally improve riders’ experiences at Hicksville while also setting the stage for expanded service through the East Side Access project, and I am pleased to see it moving forward.”

At a recent community meeting, LIRR officials showed local residents and civic leaders the architectural renderings of a project that will transform the deteriorating train station into a modern commuter-friendly facility.

“This is a tremendous investment that will benefit both the Hicksville community and Long Island as a whole. The Hicksville station is a transit hub that serves millions of riders each year,” stated N.Y. Senator Jack M. Martins. “Overhauling and upgrading the infrastructure at Long Island’s busiest train station will improve service, create jobs, and enhance the quality of life for commuters. I’m pleased to see this important project moving forward.”

The current Hicksville station, built in 1961, will be renovated at a cost of approximately $68.7 million. The project includes the installation of new platforms, lighting, canopy roof, stairways, elevators and escalators, a new street-level plaza and entrance and fully heated, glass-enclosed waiting rooms. A new video security system, audio and digital communications systems and new signage will also be installed. LIRR expects the project to be completed in 2019.

The MTA is also investing $52.3 million on the construction of the Hicksville North Track Siding, which will support faster and more frequent service when the LIRR East Side Access Project is completed in 2022. East Side Access will carry LIRR riders to Grand Central Terminal on the East Side of Manhattan. The siding will also improve the railroad’s ability to reroute trains.

The North Track Siding Project includes the installation of over three thousand feet of new track, power and signal work, connecting Track 1 at Hicksville to an existing track siding situated about one-half mile west of the station platform. The LIRR is also updating the signal system at Divide Tower, just east of Hicksville Station.

LIRR President Patrick A. Nowakowski noted that the agency will work closely with the Town of Oyster Bay to accommodate weekend work that is necessary to carry out the construction. Construction is not expected to impact weekday service.

“I am thrilled that the Long Island Rail Road station in Hicksville will finally receive the renovations that it has desperately needed for many years. This comprehensive project will greatly enhance services for all travelers – daily commuters and visitors alike,” commented N.Y. Assemblyman Michael Montesano. “From its new modern design to its state-of-the-art technology, the station will be transformed into a more safe and efficient stop on the LIRR line. I thank the MTA and the LIRR for working together on this project and look forward to all the benefits its completion will bring to our community.”

The design for the Hicksville Station revitalization was done by AECOM, a global provider of professional technical and management support services.