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Boston’s Ruggles Station Receives TIGER Grant for Improvements

September 19th, 2014
Secretary Foxx with officials at Ruggles Station. Photo: courtesy of MBTA.

Secretary Foxx with officials at Ruggles Station. Photo: courtesy of MBTA.

US Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx was joined by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and other officials to announce a $20 million federal TIGER grant for Boston’s Ruggles Station Commuter Rail Platform Project. The Transportation Improvement Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant will be used to design and construct a new platform for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) commuter rail station. The current two platforms limit the number of trains that can utilize the stop.

“As uncertainty about the future of long-term federal funding continues, this round of TIGER will be a shot in the arm for these innovative, job-creating and quality of life-enhancing projects,” said Secretary Foxx. “Ruggles Station’s capacity is so squeezed – and so few trains can enter – that some commuters have to overshoot the station and double back to find a train that gets them home or to work or to school and TIGER is going to fix that problem.”

“The vision set forth by President Obama for the TIGER grant program called for smart investment in transportation that will lead to expanded growth and opportunity,” Governor Patrick stated. “The improvements that will be made to Ruggles encapsulate that vision – shortening commutes, increasing transit access and catalyzing growth for this neighborhood and the city.”

The Ruggles Station Commuter Rail Platform Project includes the construction of a new 800-foot commuter rail platform, replacement of existing elevators and needed repairs both inside and outside the 27-year old transit facility. The multimodal station is served by 14 MBTA bus routes, seven private bus shuttles, Orange Line and commuter rail trains.

“The City of Boston has invested considerable resources in the revitalization of Dudley Square, and this addition is a further catalyst for Roxbury’s success,” said Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “And the surrounding neighborhoods share a common need for improved transportation options that connect people to jobs, housing, and community resources. This TIGER grant is a major federal investment that will make a significant contribution to the growth and revitalization of not only our neighborhoods, but to the entire region. I thank all of our state and federal partners for making this project possible.”

Because of limited platform capacity, more than half of inbound commuter rail trains travel directly through Ruggles Station without stopping, causing hundreds of daily commuters to return to Ruggles Station via the Orange Line. Ruggles Station ranks as the fourth busiest destination station in the MBTA Commuter Rail system.

MBTA General Manager Beverly Scott was present at the announcement along with Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Secretary & CEO Richard A. Davey.

“The proximity of the station to Northeastern University and major health care institutions makes this station a vital transportation hub,” said Scott. “The new train platform and other upgrades will improve and increase access to educational opportunities and jobs in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area.”

“Recognizing the importance of Ruggles to the community and local economy, MassDOT prioritized this project when working with our federal partners in the TIGER program,” said Secretary Davey. “Today’s award signifies the important role cooperation between federal and state agencies plays in making effective investments in our transportation future.”

As part of the design of the second Commuter Rail platform, Northeastern University is coordinating its own campus construction efforts with the Ruggles Station project team. Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun said the school is prepared to contribute up to $6.3 million to provide public access to the new platform and refurbish Ruggles Station.

“At Northeastern, partnering with the community is who we are,” remarked Aoun. “We want to be the catalyst for a Columbus Avenue renaissance that benefits the community, the university and the region as a whole. We have made multimillion dollar investments in the Columbus Avenue corridor and we plan to invest even more.”

After completing the project’s design work next spring, the MBTA will solicit bids from construction contractors, with the two-year construction period beginning in the fall of 2015.

Ansaldo STS & Stadler Pankow to Construct New LRT Line in Denmark

September 19th, 2014

Aarhus Letbane I/S has awarded a €292 million contract to the ASAL Consortium, consisting of Ansaldo STS and Stadler Pankow, for the construction of a new Light Rail Transit (LRT) line in Aarhus, Denmark.

Under the contract, Ansaldo STS will supply the transport system and Stadler Pankow will design, supply and maintain the rolling stock for a 6-year period. The contract calls for an infrastructure construction period of 34 months.

The new LRT line will be approximately 14 km long and include 24 stations, a depot, a control center and two interconnections with the existing regional railway lines. The project also involves the electrification and signaling of 100 km of existing regional lines, with a total of 29 stations, which will assist in managing the trams and tram-trains through a system comprising 6 routes.

This new contract is the fourth turnkey contract in mass transit for Ansaldo STS through the Aarhus Light Rail Transit System.

Alstom Joint Venture Awarded Traction Systems Contract for Nanjing Metro

September 19th, 2014
Alstom wins Nanjing Metro Contract. Photo: courtesy of Alstom.

Alstom wins Nanjing Metro Contract. Photo: courtesy of Alstom.

Alstom and its local joint venture, Shanghai Alstom Transport Electrical Equipment Co. Ltd. (SATEE), have been awarded a €21 million contract by Nanjing Metro Group to provide traction systems and services to Nanjing Metro Line 12.

Alstom and SATEE will provide traction systems for 144 metro cars equipped with Optonix, which was designed and developed by Alstom for the Chinese metro market. SATEE will provide the propulsion inverter, auxiliary convertor, brake resistor, master controller and traction motor with key components provided by Alstom.

“With the strong engineering and manufacturing capabilities of our SATEE JV Traction site, Alstom will continue to play an important role in the booming Chinese metro market,” said Dominique Pouliquen, senior vice president of Alstom Transport Asia Pacific. “Our successful cooperation with Nanjing Metro dates back more than a decade and since then Alstom has been a key contributor to Nanjing’s sustainable urban development.”

The Nanjing Metro Line 12, known as Ninghe Intercity Rail Line, is expected to enter commercial operation by the end of 2015. It will run 36 kilometers and include 19 stations, connecting the city of Nanjing to Hexian County in Anhui Province.

Alstom is involved in seven of the nine lines of Nanjing Metro.

Rails, Shippers Weigh in on STB Bill

September 18th, 2014

Freight railroads and shippers, not surprisingly, have opposite views on new legislation in the Senate dealing with the Surface Transportation Board.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is concerned that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) Reauthorization Bill (S.2777) will harm the railroads’ ability to move what the economy demands and deliver the service shippers expect. The AAR also believes that the proposed legislation, if allowed to proceed in its current form, would have a negative effect on the industry’s continued reinvestment of record amounts of private capital into the freight rail system and on future hiring. The Senate Commerce Committee held a mark-up and passed the bill on Sept. 17.

AAR President Edward R. Hamberger said railroads have several serious concerns with the bill, beginning with the legislation directing the STB to pursue regulations that could cap rates and require railroads to turn over traffic to competitors. “The rail industry believes this legislation will harm the ability of the nation’s railroads to invest in the network and improve service for our shippers,” he said,  noting that railroads are moving the most freight in the last seven years and that some commodities are up double digits over last year. “These new restrictive regulations would be imposed on the nation’s railroads at a time when investments in capacity, new equipment and new hires are needed.”

According to the AAR, several other sections of the STB reauthorization bill could also harm the rail industry. These include directing the STB to prevent railroads from using the common approach of railroads and shippers alike in contract negotiations to “bundle” offers, but allowing shippers to continue to do so. The AAR says the STB has no authority over rail contracts and should not be directed to interfere in agreements that are arms-length transactions freely entered into by both parties. The AAR also believes that the STB already has broad regulatory oversight over the railroads. The legislation, however, would give the STB expanded authority to launch investigations of a railroad even where no complaint against the railroad has been lodged.

“On the one hand, everyone wants to see capacity grow and traffic flow unimpeded, and on the other hand there are those that want to undercut our very ability to get the capital necessary to invest,” stated Hamberger. “This is a perfect example of you simply can’t have it both ways. America’s rail industry is urging policymakers not to rush this legislation and instead give all stakeholders the opportunity to have a more productive conversation to try to find common ground.”

The National Industrial Transportation League, speaking on behalf of its shipper membership, has announced its strong support of the Senate legislation, which was introduced last week by Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and John Thune (R-SD).

“League members are gratified that Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member Thune have introduced an exceptionally well-crafted bill which, if enacted, will improve the operation and effectiveness of the Surface Transportation Board,” said League President and CEO Bruce Carlton. “Insuring that the STB has the resources it needs to carry out its statutory mandates is important to our members and rail shippers generally.”

“Senators Rockefeller and Thune have demonstrated the importance of a well-functioning STB by proposing legislation that will expand Board membership and its authority to help ensure that our nation’s rail system operates effectively and efficiently for the benefit of both railroads and shippers,” continued Carlton. “This bill is a shining example of effective and appropriate Congressional oversight to give this important federal agency needed new tools and direction.”

The bill calls for the addition of two new members to the Board and also encourages the STB to move forward in a timely manner on the League’s proposed competitive switching rulemaking to improve the state of competition for so-called captive shippers. “By bringing this bipartisan proposal forward now the Commerce Committee’s leadership has demonstrated a unity of purpose which we admire. Moreover, they have managed to draft a bill that does not reregulate the rail industry but appropriately requires the STB to achieve more balance in its policies and determine the necessary degree of economic regulation for the freight rail industry. They certainly have the League’s support and respect for a job well done,” concluded Carlton.

Greenbrier Reports $1.37 Billion in Railcar Orders

September 18th, 2014

The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. has reported a total of 15,000 railcar units, valued at $1.37 billion, in new orders were received in fourth quarter, which ended August 31, and through September 17. The orders include the June 2014 order for 2,700 railcar units valued at approximately $320 million.

The orders cover a broad range of railcar types, including tank cars, small cube covered hopper cars for sand and cement service, medium cube covered hopper cars for grain service, automotive carrying cars, and a recent award for 3,100 double-stack intermodal units.

From September 1, 2013, to September 17, 2014, Greenbrier has received orders for almost 39,000 railcars in North America and Europe valued at $3.72 billion. The average sales price of $95,000 reflects the diversity of railcar types ordered.

“These new orders demonstrate that our strategy to diversify our product mix, add efficient capacity in lower-cost facilities, and drive considerably more volume through our leasing and asset management model is paying off,” said Greenbrier Chairman and CEO William A. Furman. “Our comprehensive new railcar product portfolio of virtually all railcar types includes innovative new products such as our Multi-Maxautomotive carrying railcars, large cube covered hopper cars for transport of plastic pellets and other commodities, pressurized tank cars, and our next generation Tank Car of the Future. Our flexible manufacturing footprint and capital programs will allow us to double our tank car manufacturing capacity to over 7,000 tank cars per year, while preserving the capability to nimbly produce other railcar types.”

In addition, Greenbrier received a recent deck cargo barge order, which brings total marine backlog to $112 million and extends Greenbrier’s marine backlog to 2016.

“Our leasing business continues to emphasize the syndication of increased volumes of leased railcars to investors who have access to low-cost capital and who value Greenbrier’s full range of products and services over the life of the railcar,” added Furman. “At the same time, we have reduced our longer-term ownership in leased railcars, liberating nearly $100 million in capital and improving our ROIC.”

“We are particularly pleased by demand and strength in the intermodal market and Greenbrier’s award of 3,100 double stack units, reflecting 100% market share of orders recently placed. This award, along with our marine backlog, stabilizes production at our flagship Gunderson facility in Portland, Oregon,” said Furman.

According to Greenbrier, intermodal car loadings are up nearly 6% compared to the same period in 2013. Shipments of petroleum and petroleum products, including crude by rail, as well as shipments of frac sand have each grown year to date by approximately 12%, continuing to drive demand for tank cars and small cube covered hoppers. Year-over-year railcar loadings for grain are up approximately 15%, leading to nearly 100% utilization of the existing North American grain railcar fleet.

“Strong automotive, agricultural and energy markets, and a recovering intermodal market are generating robust and broadening demand,” stated Furman. “In particular, the importance of the energy renaissance in North America cannot be understated. It is rapidly reshaping our industries and strengthening the American economy. Greenbrier appreciates its opportunity to lead as a provider of safe, reliable and high quality transportation equipment that moves energy products to market over both rail and marine routes.”

Furman continued, “We anticipate that the U.S. Department of Transportation will issue its final rule on the safe movement of flammable liquids by rail before the end of 2014. A final rule will provide the clarity the industry needs to make investments that ensure that crude oil and other flammable commodities are classified properly and transported in tank cars that are safer at any speed. We continue to advocate for safety and champion a new design standard which includes a 9/16-inch thick steel shell, a feature of our Tank Car of the Future. Other safety features of our car include thicker steel, more robust top and bottom outlet protection and jacketed shells with ceramic insulation.”

“We are gratified to have received awards for 3,500 Tank Cars of the Future. These cars are eight times safer than legacy DOT-111 cars most widely used in oil and ethanol service today and two times safer than the current state-of-the-art CPC 1232 tank cars, as measured by Conditional Probability of Release (CPR). Greenbrier is also prepared to meet the need for tank car retrofits through GBW Railcar Services, our newly launched joint venture with Watco Companies for railcar repair and retrofitting. With 38 shops, 14 of which can perform tank car repairs, GBW has the largest independent shop network in North America,” concluded Furman.

Chicago Transit to Overhaul 3200-Series Railcars

September 18th, 2014

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Board has approved the complete overhaul of all 257 of the 3200-series railcars on the Brown and Orange lines. The unanimously approved $92 million contract will be used for the materials necessary to substantially renovate the rail cars, originally purchased in 1992-1993.

The overhauls will extend the life and improve the performance of the rail cars by replacing or rebuilding many of the cars’ major components, including wheel trucks, axles, motors and the propulsion and power systems. LED lighting will replace the current fluorescent lighting and doors and door motors will be replaced.

“These improvements to the 3200-series cars, combined with the new 5000-series cars we continue to introduce, will provide the CTA one of the most reliable rail fleets in years,” said CTA President Forrest Claypool. “When overhaul work is complete in 2017, our new and overhauled rail cars will comprise 70 percent of the CTA’s rail car fleet, providing our customers with an improved rail ride.”

Last year, the CTA approved contracts for other components of the 3200-series overhaul work, including the replacement of all auxiliary power supply units and all existing heating and cooling units. New, color LED destination signs were also installed, similar to those on the CTA’s newest generation of rail cars, the 5000-series.

The CTA will invest more than $166 million in the 3200-series fleet overhaul. The overhaul work will be performed in-house.

In addition to the new 5000-series rail cars and the 3200-series overhauls, the CTA is also planning for the next generation of rail cars, the 7000-series. The CTA will seek bids from manufacturers for those cars this year.

G&W Reports Increased Third Quarter Traffic

September 18th, 2014

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) saw a 10.5 percent increase in traffic volumes for August 2014 when compared to August of 2013. Total carloads were reported at 179,184, an increase over last year of 17,083 carloads.

Commodities that showed the largest growth this month when compared to August 2013 were led by agricultural products with a 24.9 percent increase over August 2013. Minerals & stone carloads increased by 19.6 percent, primarily due to increased shipments in G&W’s Ohio Valley, Northeast and Central regions. Coal & coke carloads were up 14.8 percent, primarily due to increased steam coal shipments in G&W’s Central and Ohio Valley regions.

G&W’s same-railroad traffic for August 2014, which does not include the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad, Inc. acquisition that started operations on June 1 of this year, increased by 7.3 percent, or 11,912 carloads, when compared to last August, with 174,013 carloads reported.

North American same-railroad traffic for the month of August increased 12,894 carloads, or 9.1%, and Australian traffic decreased 982 carloads, or 4.8%.

For the 2014 third quarter, G&W reported an increase of 8.9 percent, or 29,197 carloads, compared with the third quarter of 2013 through August.

Commodities that showed the largest jump in the third quarter of 2014 compared to the same time period in 2013 were minerals and stone with a 21.6 percent increase, agricultural products with a 17.1 percent increase, and coal and coke with a 12.6 percent increase.

G&W’s same-railroad traffic in the third quarter of 2014 increased by 5.7 percent, or 18,654 carloads, when compared to the 2013 third quarter. Same-railroad traffic for the 2014 third quarter totaled 345,827 carloads.

AAR Concerned About STB Reauthorization Bill

September 17th, 2014

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) is concerned that the Surface Transportation Board (STB) Reauthorization Bill (S.2777) would harm railroads’ ability to move what the economy demands and deliver the service shippers expect. The AAR also believes that, if allowed to proceed in its current form, the legislation would have a negative effect on the industry’s continued reinvestment of record amounts of private capital into the freight rail system. The bill is scheduled to be marked up in the Senate Commerce Committee today.

Edward R. Hamberger, AAR president and CEO, said railroads have several serious concerns with the bill, beginning with the legislation directing the STB to pursue regulations that could cap rates and require railroads to turn over traffic to competitors.

“The rail industry believes this legislation will harm the ability of the nation’s railroads to invest in the network and improve service for our shippers,” said Hamberger, noting that railroads are moving the most freight in the last seven years and that some commodities are up double digits over last year. “These new restrictive regulations would be imposed on the nation’s railroads at a time when investments in capacity, new equipment and new hires are needed.”

According to the AAR, several other sections of the STB Reauthorization Bill would also negatively impact the rail industry. These includes directing the STB to prevent railroads from using the common approach of railroads and shippers alike in contract negotiations to “bundle” offers, but allowing shippers to continue to do so. The AAR says the STB has no authority over rail contracts and should not be directed to interfere in agreements that are arms-length transactions freely entered into by both parties.

The AAR also believes that the STB already has broad regulatory oversight over the railroads. The legislation, however, would give the STB expanded authority to launch investigations of a railroad even where no complaint against the railroad has been lodged.

“On the one hand everyone wants to see capacity grow and traffic flow unimpeded, and on the other hand there are those that want to undercut our very ability to get the capital necessary to invest,” stated Hamberger. “This is a perfect example of you simply can’t have it both ways. America’s rail industry is urging policymakers not to rush this legislation and instead give all stakeholders the opportunity to have a more productive conversation to try to find common ground.”

Watco Makes Two Marketing and Sales Appointments

September 17th, 2014

Watco Companies has named Bob Billings vice president marketing and sales for the newly formed Great Lakes Region, overseeing the commercial activity of the Wisconsin & Southern (WSOR), Ann Arbor (AA), Grand Elk, and Pennsylvania Southwestern railroads. Andy Laurent was recently named regional vice president marketing and sales for WSOR and will report to Billings.

Billings, who has 20 years of railroad industry experience, joined Watco in January 2013 with the acquisition of the AA as the general manager. Since March 2014, he has led the commercial efforts of the AA, Grand Elk, and Pennsylvania Southwestern railroads as regional vice president marketing and sales of the northeast region.

He began his career with Norfolk Southern (NS) and moved to AA in 1998. Throughout his career, he has been promoted to positions of increasing responsibility within the oper­ating and sales and marketing departments. Most recently preacquisition, he served as AA’s vice president operations/marketing and sales.

Prior to joining NS, Billings attended college, served in the United States Navy and held various sales and marketing positions within the financial services industry.

In his new role, Laurent will be responsible for overall performance of the WSOR as it relates to growth and expansion of Watco’s existing commercial and customer relationships. He will work with and lead the WSOR marketing team and partner with Watco commercial, operating, and support services teams to meet and exceed customer expectations in accordance Watco’s Customer First Foundation Principles.

Most recently, Laurent led the commercial efforts of the Chicago South Shore and South Bend Railroad as director of marketing and sales. He brings to WSOR knowledge of interline settlement, navigation throughout the Chicago gateway railroad environment, economic development, and management of complex freight and passenger rail relation­ships.

Laurent earned a bachelor’s degree in urban planning and development from Ball State University. He contributes his time to several causes, including youth leadership programs, econom­ic development organizations, and business task forces.

St. Louis Receives TIGER Grant for New MetroLink Station

September 17th, 2014

The U.S. Department of Transportation  (DOT) has awarded a $10.3 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to the Bi-State Development Agency of the Missouri Illinois Metropolitan District (Metro) for transit enhancements in St. Louis’ Central Corridor.

The TIGER grant will be used to build a new MetroLink light rail station to be located at Boyle Avenue and Sarah Street in the Cortex District and to expand the light rail’s Central West End Station. Funds will also be used to create the first section of a bike trail that will connect the new MetroLink station to the regional Great Rivers Greenway trail network.

“The new project will be a great example of transit oriented development,” said John Nations, Bi-State Development Agency president & CEO. “The strength of our transit system allowed us to successfully compete and secure this very competitive federal funding. We look forward to the job creation and economic vitalization that will result from this partnership with Cortex, the City of St. Louis, and our other great partners.”

The project supports transit alternatives for the estimated 13,000 permanent jobs to be created in the Cortex area and throughout the Central St. Louis Corridor. ”We think the Cortex District has great promise for the future of the St. Louis region and we are proud to be part of making that vision a reality,” Nations said.

The total cost of the project is estimated at $12.9 million with local funding sources providing the remaining $2.6 million. The new MetroLink station is expected to be completed in 2017.