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D.C.’s Silver Line Metro Opens to Riders

July 30th, 2014
Silver line station at Tysons corner Station. Photo: courtesy Federal Transit Administration.

Silver line station at Tysons Corner. Photo: courtesy of Federal Transit Administration.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx joined local, state and regional representatives to celebrate the opening of the 11.7-mile Silver Line extension, the first phase of the planned 23.1-mile extension of Washington, D.C.’s Metrorail service to Dulles International Airport and Loudoun County, Virginia. The new line, the largest expansion of Metrorail service in 20 years, connects the nation’s capital to the Virginia areas of Tysons Corner and Reston.

“The Obama Administration is proud to be a partner in delivering more world class transportation options to the Washington Metropolitan area and connecting thousands of residents and visitors with major employment, education and economic opportunities throughout the region,” said Secretary Foxx. “The Silver Line is an excellent example of why Congress should pass the President’s GROW AMERICA Act so we can meet the rising demand for more and better transportation choices by supporting projects like this across the country.”

The first phase includes five new stations, a 2,300-car commuter parking garage, the purchase of 64 rail cars, and expanded capacity at the West Falls Church rail yard. The new line is expected to serve approximately 85,700 daily riders by 2030.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Deputy Administrator Therese McMillan, who also attended the opening, said that with population growth expected to continue over the next two decades, the Silver Line is an excellent investment in the area’s transportation future. “This project will expand capacity for one of our nation’s largest transit agencies, accommodate thousands of additional riders for years to come, and offer a much-needed alternative to traffic congestion in Northern Virginia,” said McMillan.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is providing $900 million in FTA Capital Investment Grant (New Starts) Funding and $75 million in other DOT funds toward the $3.14 billion total project cost of the first phase of the Silver Line extension. The remaining cost is being covered by state and local funding sources.

In addition, DOT has approved a $1.87 billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan for construction of the second phase of the Silver Line extension to Loudoun County—the largest TIFIA loan in the program’s history.

The Silver Line is being constructed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) and operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

“The Silver Line will be a dynamic economic boost to the region,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who also attended the opening. “It will reduce congestion, create new jobs and begin to unlock Dulles Airport, one of Virginia’s most important economic assets. I am honored to have worked along so many leaders to help bring Phase 1 of this transformational project to fruition.”

Metrorail, the nation’s second busiest rapid transit system, grew 10 percent larger with the five new stations and new direct rail service between the Washington region’s two largest employment centers, as a result of the opening of the Silver Line’s first phase.  The new rail line is the largest expansion of Metrorail — and the first time a new color has been added to the Metro map — since the Green Line opened in 1991.

With the opening of the Silver Line, Metrorail now serves a total of 91 stations on a 118-mile system in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

New Appointments Made at Watco’s GDLK and WSOR

July 30th, 2014

Watco Companies has named a new general manager of Grand Elk Railroad (GDLK) and a new general manager and director of operations of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR).

Chris Norman Photo: courtesy of Watco.

Chris Norman Photo: courtesy of Watco.

Chris Norman has been named general manager of GDLK, with responsibilities for overseeing the railroad with the Customer First Foundation Principles being the highest priority. He will manage, direct and provide insight and follow up, maintain safety culture, set expectations, and lead and develop all team members.

Norman joined GDLK in February as senior trainmaster. Prior to that, he worked for CN Railroad from 2007 to 2014 as trainmaster, division trainmaster and assistant superintendent. From 1997 to 2007, he worked for CSX as conductor, engineer, yardmaster, and trainmaster.

At WSOR, Larry McCloud has been named general manager and Joe Via has been named director of operations. McCloud will be responsible for the daily operations, specifically focusing on improving safety, productivity and efficiency. Via will oversee the operations of the WSOR and manage and direct the team in the areas of safety, finances, customer relations and team development.

Larry McCloud photo: courtesy of Watco

Larry McCloud Photo: courtesy of Watco.

McCloud has 39 years of experience in the rail industry, having most recently served as general manager of the GDLK. Prior to joining Watco, he was vice president of operations for Industrial Railway, president of the Tuscola Saginaw Bay Railroad and vice president at RailAmerica. In addition, he worked in a number of positions at C&O Railway, including brakeman, conductor, fireman, engineer, yardmaster, and trainmaster. McCloud attended the University of Michigan Business Management.

Joe Via Photo: courtesy of Watco.

Joe Via Photo: courtesy of Watco.

Via joined Watco in 2012 as director of switching for the West Region. He worked for a year with the Union Pacific Railroad before joining the West Region, and he worked for 13 years for Utah Railway, a Genesee & Wyoming railroad. He held various positions such as conductor, assistant trainmaster, trainmaster and director of safety.

Organizational Changes in KCSR Operations Department Announced

July 30th, 2014

Kansas City Southern (KCS) has announced organizational changes within the operations department of The Kansas City Southern Railway Company (KCSR), including the promotions of Mike Naatz, Jeff Songer and Steve Truitt.

Naatz was promoted from senior vice president and chief information officer to senior vice president operations support and chief information officer, reporting to David Starling, KCSR president and chief executive officer. Greg Walling, vice president network design; Gary Jarboe, vice president mechanical operations; Wayne Godlewski, vice president information technology; and Matt Bommarito, director process improvement will report directly to Naatz.

Naatz, who joined KCSR in 2012, has 20 years of transportation experience. Prior to joining KCSR, he served as president at USF Holland (a YRCW company) and as chief customer officer and chief information and service officer for YRCW. Additionally, he held a variety of other IT and operations leadership positions for YRCW and USF. Naatz earned a master of business administration from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and a bachelor of arts in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Songer has been promoted from vice president and chief engineer to senior vice president engineering and chief transportation officer. In addition to his engineering department direct reports, Steve Truitt, vice president transportation and safety, and Mike Curry, assistant vice president network operations, now report to Songer.

Songer joined the company in 2005 and was promoted to vice president and chief engineer in 2012.  Prior to joining KCSR, he spent 12 years in the construction and finance industries. He earned a master of business administration and bachelor of arts in engineering from the University of Kansas.

Truitt’s position has changed from vice president safety training and standards to vice president transportation and safety. In addition to his safety and training department direct reports the following assistant vice presidents now report to Truitt: Chad Devenney of the Midwest Division, Rick Pennington of the Southeast Division and Richard Bartoskewitz of the Southwest Division.

Truitt has 31 years of railroad experience. He joined KCSR in 2011 and has also held operations positions with CSX and Union Pacific. He earned a bachelor of science in business management from Virginia Tech.

A few people will be moving from Truitt’s department to administration and corporate affairs, including Al Rawls, assistant vice president and chief of police, and Danny Lites, public safety director, will again report to Warren Erdman, executive vice president administration and corporate affairs. Carl Akins, director environmental and hazmat, will now report to Doug Banks, assistant vice president facilities and heritage operations.

Bellevue Site Picked as Preferred Alternative for Seattle Area’s Light Rail Base

July 29th, 2014

The Board of Directors for the Seattle, Wash., area’s Sound Transit has identified a site in Bellevue as the preferred alternative for a new Link light rail operations and maintenance base. Located on the Bel-Red corridor between the cities of Bellevue and Redmond, the site will be used to store, service and deploy the light rail train fleet that will triple in size from 62 to 180 vehicles as the system expands from 16 to 50 miles by 2023.

Sound Transit Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine said this keeps Sound Transit on track to open more than 30 miles of light-rail extensions within the next 10 years. Sound Transit is also taking action to advance the vision of the Bel-Red corridor, which is poised to be one of the region’s largest transit-oriented communities, according to Constantine.

The current operations and maintenance facility in Seattle has capacity to store and maintain 104 light rail vehicles. As Sound Transit buys additional vehicles in advance of opening rail lines to the north, east and south, the existing facility will reach full capacity by 2020. The preferred alternative is west of 120th Avenue NE adjacent to existing railroad tracks on land that Sound Transit owns a portion of.

The new facility, which needs to be close to an operating light rail line and up to 25 acres to store and maintain the additional fleet requirements, is estimated to cost between $345 million and $415 million.

The final decision on the site location will be determined after the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is complete in mid 2015. Work on both the FEIS and the preliminary engineering and design on the preferred alternative will begin this summer. The final site will be selected in the fall of 2015.

Sound Transit will open new light rail lines between downtown Seattle and the University of Washington in 2016 along with an extension to South 200th Street in SeaTac. Extensions to the Northgate neighborhood north of Seattle will open in 2021 and extensions to Lynnwood and Bellevue will open in 2023.

DOT Celebrates Opening of Tucson Streetcar Line

July 29th, 2014
Tucson's new Sun Link Streetcar line. Photo: courtesy of Federal Transit Administration.

Tucson's new Sun Link Streetcar line. Photo: courtesy of Federal Transit Administration.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Chief Counsel Dorval Carter joined Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and other local officials to celebrate the grand opening of the Sun Link Streetcar line in Tucson, Ariz., a four-mile line that will expand regional transit options.

The new line connects downtown Tucson with the University of Arizona and the University of Arizona Medical Center and offers connections to Sun Tran bus service and the University’s Cat Tran shuttle service.

“The new Sun Link Streetcar line is a great addition to Tucson’s growing transit network, connecting residents and students with work, school, and other ladders of opportunity, while also spurring tremendous economic development that creates jobs in the city,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This Administration would like to build more projects like this one in other communities across the country, but we need Congress’ help to pass a long-term funding bill to meet the rising demand for more and better transportation choices.”

The Downtown Tucson Partnership estimates the project created approximately 500 construction jobs and has generated roughly $1.5 billion in public-private investments along the corridor.

“Roughly 100,000 people live within a half-mile of one of the new Sun Link streetcar stations, and that’s great news for everyone looking for an opportunity to leave their car at home and take transit instead,” said Carter. “We must continue to invest in transportation projects like this one that help the local economy to grow and give working families a chance to succeed.”

Tucson’s eight zero-emission streetcars were manufactured in Portland, Ore., by United Streetcar, a U.S.-owned manufacturer. United Streetcar is a beneficiary of the federal government’s Buy America regulation, which requires at least 60 percent of the content of transit vehicles to be produced domestically.

The streetcar line was funded in part with a $63 million DOT Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. In addition to the DOT TIGER funds, FTA invested $19.7 million in other DOT funds toward the $196.5 million Sun Link Streetcar project.

NTSB Names Benthall CFO

July 29th, 2014

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has named Edward Benthall, Jr. chief financial officer. Benthall has served as NTSB’s acting chief financial officer since January and as deputy chief financial officer since 2011, serving a critical role in effectively managing the agency’s budget of more than $100 million.

“Ed’s efforts have contributed to more than a decade of consecutive clean audit opinions and completion of Government Accountability Office recommended actions,” said Acting Chairman Christopher A. Hart. “He has been instrumental in establishing the sound financial management that NTSB has today.”

In 2001, Benthall joined the NTSB with more than 20 years’ experience from roles in government, corporate, and public accounting, including experience in consulting, auditing, bank examination, and information systems.

Before he was named deputy chief financial officer, Benthall served as the NTSB’s chief financial management and quality assurance officer, developing a strategic plan for establishing solid financial policies and procedures. The plan enhanced the agency’s organizational performance management, improved agency-wide internal controls, and strengthened its working relationships with other agencies and with Congress.

Benthall earned a Master’s degree with an emphasis in management information systems and a Bachelor of Science degree with an emphasis in accounting, both from Bowie State University. Additionally, he attended executive programs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, the Brookings Institution, the Federal Executive Institute, and the Office of Personnel Management.

UP Invests $8 Million in Kansas Transportation Infrastructure

July 28th, 2014

Union Pacific Railroad is investing $8 million in the rail line between Herington and Whitewater, Kan., to replace 52,000 ties, install 25,000 tons of rock ballast and renew the surfaces at 67 road crossings.

The project, intended to strengthen the transportation infrastructure in Kansas, is funded entirely by Union Pacific without taxpayer dollars. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of September.

The project is one of nearly 1,500 that Union Pacific will complete across its 32,000-mile network this year to help improve train operating efficiency, reduce motorist wait times at crossings and enhance safety.

“Union Pacific helps businesses connect with consumers, suppliers and markets across the nation and around the world,” said Donna Kush, vice president of public affairs, northern region. “In addition to helping move our customers’ goods safely and efficiently, our investments support communities by reducing traffic congestion, facilitating industrial development and promoting economic expansion.”

Union Pacific Reports Strong Second Quarter

July 28th, 2014

Union Pacific Corporation has reported several all-time records in their 2014 second quarter when compared to the second quarter of 2013. Diluted earnings per share were $1.43, an increase of 21 percent, and operating revenues were up 10 percent to $6.0 billion. Records were also set for operating income, which was up 17 percent from the same time period last year, with a total of $2.2 billion, and for operating ratio, which increased by 2.2 points to 63.5 percent.

“Union Pacific achieved record quarterly financial results, leveraging the strengths of our diverse franchise to handle strong demand in the face of challenging operating conditions,” said UP Chief Executive Officer Jack Koraleski. “We were pleased to see strong volume growth which, combined with solid core pricing, drove more than a two-point improvement in our Operating Ratio to a record 63.5 percent for the quarter.”

The 2014 second quarter net income was $1.3 billion compared to $1.1 billion in the 2013 second quarter 2013. There was an 8 percent increase in business volumes, as measured by total revenue carloads.

In the second quarter of 2014, freight revenues increased 10 percent compared to the 2013 second quarter, driven by volume growth and core pricing gains. Agricultural products saw the highest gain with a 19 percent increase. Intermodal and industrial products were up 16 percent over the second quarter of 2013.

“We are optimistic about the second half of the year,” Koraleski said. “As always, we are closely monitoring the economic landscape, along with the major drivers across all of our business segments, including the potential impact of weather on grain and coal. As the economy gradually continues to improve, the power of our diverse franchise provides business growth opportunities in all of our commodity groups.”

“The men and women of Union Pacific are committed to safely improving our network performance, allowing us to provide customers with the excellent service they deserve, while rewarding our shareholders with increasing returns,” concluded Koraleski.


AAR Reports 6.7% Increase in Weekly U.S. Rail Traffic

July 28th, 2014

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported a 6.7 percent increase in total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending July 19, 2014, when compared to the same week in 2013, with 566,931 carloads and intermodal units reported.

U.S. carloads, with a reported total of 299,256 for the week, increased 7.6 percent compared to the same week last year. Total U.S. intermodal volume was 267,675 units, an increase of 5.6 percent for the week.

Nine of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by AAR posted increases compared with the same week in 2013. Motor vehicles and parts showed the highest increase, up 46 percent, with 15,882 carloads. Grain increased 27.4 percent with a total of 20,505 carloads, and petroleum and petroleum products increased 25.3 percent, with 16,725 carloads. The commodity that posted a decrease was coal, with 113,120 carloads, down 0.4 percent.

U.S. railroads reported a 4.7 percent increase in total combined traffic for the first 29 weeks of 2014 when compared to the same period in 2013, with a total volume of 15,702,356 carloads and intermodal units. U.S. carloads, with a reported total of 8,308,888, increased 3.6 percent. U.S. intermodal volume, with a total of 7,393,468 units, increased 6 percent.

Canadian railroads reported an increase of 11 percent in carloads and an increase of 6.1 percent in intermodal units for the week ending July 19, 2014, when compared to the same week in 2013. Weekly 2014 totals were 82,637 carloads and 59,477 intermodal units.

For the first 29 weeks of 2014, Canadian railroads reported a cumulative volume of 2,276,926 carloads, an increase of 1 percent when compared to the same time period last year. An increase of 6.4 percent was reported for intermodal units, with a total of 1,623,187 units.

Mexican railroads reported a 3.1 percent increase in carloads for the week ending July 19, 2014, compared with the same week in 2014, with 16,252 carloads reported. Intermodal units saw a 0.9 percent decrease, with 11,423 units reported.

For the first 29 weeks of 2014, cumulative carload volume on Mexican railroads increased 1.9 percent when compared to the same time period in 2013, with a reported 451,079 carloads. Intermodal units increased 3.3 percent, with 291,525 units reported.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail carload volume for the first 29 week of 2014 was 11,036,893 carloads, an increase of 3 percent compared with the same time period last year. Intermodal trailers and containers totaled 9,308,180 units, up 6 percent.

California High-Speed Rail Authority Awards City of Gilroy Funding to Plan High-Speed Rail Station

July 28th, 2014

The California High-Speed Rail Authority and the City of Gilroy, Calif., have entered into a station-area funding agreement that allows the planning process to start for a potential high-speed rail station. As part of the agreement, the city of Gilroy will receive $750,000 in grants to explore options and seek public input for the design and development of a potential station in the downtown area of the city.

The grant will provide funding for the city to identify potential sites, develop conceptual designs for the station and allow the city to identify alternatives for station-area development. The funds will also be used by the city to conduct cost analysis, evaluate financing options and promote connectivity to regional transportation.

“The Authority is excited to enter into this agreement with the city of Gilroy,” said Dan Richard, chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors. “We are looking forward to working with the city to create a vision for a future high-speed rail station that meets the needs of residents and stakeholders, and to ensure that the future high-speed rail station will serve as an economic catalyst for the city.”

The California High-Speed Rail Authority, which provides funds to help cities initiate planning efforts for high-speed rail stations, will provide $600,000 and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)  will supply $150,000 to support the city’s station-area planning. The city will contribute $80,000 to the station-area planning fund.

Gilroy Mayor Don Gage remarked, “The high-speed rail station will change the landscape of our downtown, just like the railroad did in the late 1800’s. We are very pleased to receive the financial and technical support of the California High-Speed Rail Authority and VTA to properly design, plan and implement a station area that complements and enhances our downtown.”

The City of Gilroy is located in the San Jose-to-Merced project section of the California High-Speed Line. The California High-Speed Rail Authority is currently involved in advanced planning and outreach in support of future environmental clearance in the corridor between Gilroy and Merced. The downtown site is one of two locations under consideration for a Gilroy high-speed rail station.