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Cowan to Fill New Role of Senior VP Operations at Greenbrier

April 23rd, 2014

The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. has appointed Jim Cowan senior vice president operations, a newly created role in which Cowan will be responsible for executing initiatives to improve Greenbrier’s gross margins and liberate capital. In addition, Cowan will direct activities to enhance the company’s margin beginning with the repair & parts businesses. He will report to William A. Furman, chairman and CEO of Greenbrier.

“The addition of a seasoned executive of Jim’s caliber to Greenbrier adds depth to our executive team,” said Furman. “His international business experience and operations expertise will benefit our entire organization.”

Cowan is a former employee of Amsted Rail where he supported activities in Brazil. Prior to working for Amsted, he was employed at American Railcar Industries, Inc. (ARI) for eight years where he served as president and chief executive officer and was a member of the board of directors for three ARI joint ventures, including Axis, an axle manufacturing business.

Cowan served on the board of Ohio Castings, LLC, a joint venture between ARI, Greenbrier and Amsted Rail. Before his career in the rail industry, Cowan worked 26 years in positions involving engineering, construction and manufacturing of steel and tubular products, including serving as president and chief operating officer of Maverick Tube Corporation and president and chief 0perating officer of Vallourec & Mannesmann Star.

“Jim’s abilities will help Greenbrier reach our stated objectives to expand our gross margin, increase our return on invested capital and improve our operational efficiencies, particularly in our repair & parts business,” Furman said. “I am confident Jim’s contributions will quickly add to shareholder value, helping us to more fully recognize and capitalize on the abundant opportunities presented by the current railcar manufacturing and railcar maintenance cycles.”

Short Line Industry Connects in San Diego

April 23rd, 2014

More than 1,500 railroad and supplier representatives are expected this week as the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association opens its annual convention in sunny San Diego.

The ASLRRA 2014 Connections convention attracted the organization’s second-highest number of exhibitors. Rail industry suppliers and contractors are taking up more than 210 exhibit booths at the sold-out exhibit hall at San Diego Hilton Bayfront, displaying some of the latest technology products and services.

Alan Matheson, chairman of the 2014 convention, was particularly pleased by the turnout of so many of his short line railroad colleagues. Matheson serves as chief mechanical officer for Tacoma Rail.

The event marks the last annual convention for ASLRRA President Rich Timmons, who is retiring later this year as leader of the association. A search committee has been formed and the ASLRRA’s Executive Committee targets having a new president in place this fall to accommodate a smooth transition. Timmons has been praised widely for his role in raising the short line industry’s national profile and growing the association.

ASLRRA 2014 Connections will feature more than 40 breakout educational sessions addressing railroading’s hottest topics, and keynote remarks from Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo and BNSF Railway CEO Carl Ice and a panel discussion with top executives from short line holding companies.

MTA Metro-North Appoints Three Railroad Veterans to Top Operating Posts

April 21st, 2014

MTA Metro-North Railroad has filled three top leadership positions, naming Glen Hayden vice president of engineering, Michael J. Yaeger chief mechanical officer and Kevin J. O’Connor chief transportation officer.

Joseph Giulietti, MTA’s president, commented on the appointments, saying, “I am confident that this highly experienced team will provide the leadership that Metro-North needs to refocus all its attention on safety, reliability and customer service and in the process rebuild its reputation for excellence.”

Hayden will lead Metro-North’s Maintenance of Way Department, which is responsible for the integrity of the track and associated structures. He will report directly to the president. Hayden worked for Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB) for the past 16 years, where his responsibilities included planning and/or project management for a number of large transportation projects in the northeast. He spent much of his early career at Metro-North and its predecessor railroads where he attained the position of chief engineer. Before joining PB, he worked for F.R. Harris. He is a professional engineer (PE) licensed in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

“An integral part of operating a safe railroad is ensuring that the railroad’s infrastructure is maintained to the highest standards and that the methods and procedures we use reflect the best practices of the industry at large,” Giulietti stated. “Hayden brings 37 years of experience to this challenging position and I have every confidence in him. Glen’s extensive and comprehensive engineering expertise will be of tremendous value as we continue to improve our infrastructure.”

Yaeger and O’Connor will report to Metro-North Senior Vice President Operations, John Kesich.

Yaeger will be responsible for maintenance of MTA’s fleet of rail cars and work trains. He has spent 27 years at Metro-North in the Maintenance of Equipment Department where he worked on project planning and maintenance operations. He also has participated in Metro-North’s benchmarking efforts as an international representative of the railroad. Yaeger has been MTA’s acting CMO since July 2013.

O’Connor will now be responsible for the day-to-day operation of trains. He succeeds Assistant Vice President John McNulty, who is retiring this summer after 40 years at Metro-North.

O’Connor began his 36-year railroading career at Amtrak, where he was a service attendant, block operator and train dispatcher. Since then he has held positions in operations management for Amtrak and NJ Transit. His most recent post was vice president and general manager of rail operations for NJT. O’Connor has experience in implementing the FRA’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), which Metro-North has committed to activating. C3RS is a voluntary and confidential program sponsored by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that allows railroads and their employees to report close calls.

 

Amtrak, Maryland DOT & FRA Launch Rehabilitation/Rebuilding Study of Susquehanna River Rail Bridge

April 21st, 2014

Susquehanna River Bridge

Amtrak, in conjunction with the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration, has launched a preliminary engineering study for the rehabilitation or possible replacement of the 108-year-old Susquehanna River Rail Bridge.

The existing two-track bridge, a vital crossing on the Northeast Corridor (NEC), is used by Amtrak and Maryland’s MARC Commuter Rail passenger trains as well as Norfolk Southern Railway, which uses it to carry freight across the Susquehanna River. The bridge is owned by Amtrak.

Stephen Gardner, Amtrak Vice President of Northeast Corridor Infrastructure & Investment Development, said that the Susquehanna River Bridge is a crucial crossing on the NEC. “Along with our partners, we continue to work toward a vision for the next generation of this bridge to accommodate the forecasted growth in rail traffic and meet the needs of the local community.”

The project team will develop and evaluate various alternatives to improve capacity and to enhance trip time, reliability and safety for commuter, freight and intercity passenger rail service. Alternatives will include new and/or rehabilitated structures with up to a four-track total capacity crossing the river and the reconstruction of the approaches to the bridge.

“This study is the first step in breaking a major bottleneck along the busy Northeast Corridor, which will ultimately improve trip time and reliability for our MARC passengers and freight shipments to the Port of Baltimore,” stated Maryland Transportation Secretary James T. Smith, Jr.

The study is expected to be complete in mid 2017. Possible improvements to the navigation channel for marine users will also be considered. The engineering study and environmental work, which will comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, is federally funded by a $22 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration. Design or construction funding has not yet been made.

“Replacing the Susquehanna Bridge is critically important for travelers on the Northeast Corridor. A new bridge enhances safety, improves service reliability, reduces trip times and will provide a significant boost to the region’s economy,” explained Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “We need to move forward with engineering assessments and planning now so that the region’s future is not shortchanged.”

Detailed information about the study, including description, history, study area map, environmental review information and proposed project schedule is available at the Susquehanna River Rail Bridge Project web site.

AAR Reports 8.2% Increase in Total Combined U.S. Weekly Rail Traffic

April 21st, 2014

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported an 8.2 percent increase in total combined U.S. weekly rail traffic for the week ending April 12, 2014 when compared to the same week in 2013, with 559,676 carloads and intermodal units reported.

U.S. carloads, with a reported total of 295,294 for the week, increased by 7.2 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume increased by 9.3 percent for the week, with a total of 264,382 units reported.

Of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by AAR, eight posted increases compared with the same week in 2013. Grain showed the highest increase, up 21.7 percent with 20,760 carloads. Coal increased by 11.2 percent, with 115,403 carloads reported. When compared with the same week in 2013, metallic ores and metals decreased 3.9 percent, with 22,409 carloads and forest products decreased 1.5 percent, with 11,034 carloads.

U.S. railroads reported a 3.1 percent increase in total combined traffic for the first 15 weeks of 2014 when compared to the first 15 weeks of 2013, with a total volume of 7,922,537 carloads and intermodal units. U.S. carloads, with a reported total of 4,194,072 for the first 15 weeks of 2014, increased by 1.6 percent. U.S. intermodal volume, with a total of 3,728,465 units, increased by 4.8 percent.

Canadian railroads reported a decrease of 4.5 percent in carloads and an increase of 9.7 percent in intermodal units for the week ending April 12, 2014 when compared to the same week in 2013. Weekly 2014 totals were 78,691 carloads and 58,993 intermodal units.

For the first 15 weeks of 2014, Canadian railroads reported a cumulative volume of 1,092,584 carloads, down 6.8 percent when compared to the same time period last year. An increase of 2.9 percent was reported for intermodal units, with a total of 787,348 intermodal units recorded.

Mexican railroads reported an increase of 1.5 percent in carloads for the week ending April 12, 2014 when compared to the same week in 2013. A total of 15,440 carloads were reported. Intermodal units saw a 4.1 percent decrease from the same week last year, with 9,686 intermodal units reported.

For the first 15 weeks of 2014, cumulative carload volume on Mexican railroads increased 2 percent when compared to the same time period in 2013, with a reported 226,629 carloads. Intermodal units increased 0.6 percent, with 142,469 units reported.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail carload volume for the first 15 weeks of 2014 decreased 0.1 percent compared with the same time period last year, with a reported 5,513,285 carloads. Intermodal trailers and containers increased 4.3 percent, with a total of 4,658,282 units.

CTA Modernizing Red and Purple Lines, Extending Red Line

April 21st, 2014
Bryn Mawr Platform

Bryn Mawr Platform Concept

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) President Forrest Claypool and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have announced the first phase of CTA’s Red and Purple Modernization (RPM) program and have also announced that they are in the process of securing federal funding for the Red Line Extension plan. The RPM program and the Red Line Extension project are the latest in a series of projects to modernize and extend the CTA’s rail system.

“As a world-class city, Chicago has a world-class transit service to connect residents to jobs, education, culture and above all opportunity,” Mayor Emanuel said. “CTA is investing in modernizing the Red Line as part of our strategy to create a seamless, safe, and reliable transportation system for every neighborhood.”

The RPM program will proceed in phases to fully replace old, deteriorating infrastructure and stations along the entire north branch of the Red Line and the parallel Purple Line. The RPM will rebuild the Wilson, Lawrence, Argyle, Berwyn, and Bryn Mawr stations and rebuild all tracks, support structures, bridges and viaducts for the Red and Purple lines between Lawrence and Bryn Mawr.

The project also includes rebuilding the tracks, signals and support structures. Construction is also planned for a bypass north of the Belmont station to speed up train service where the Red, Purple and Brown lines currently intersect. Replacement of the Wilson station and surrounding infrastructure begins this fall. Estimated cost for the first phase of the RPM is $1.7 billion

“These projects are the next steps in our overall vision to rebuild, modernize and expand the entire Red Line,” explained Claypool. “We’re already kicking off Red and Purple Modernization by beginning reconstruction of the Wilson station this fall and continuing progress on the South Side by starting the new 95th Street Terminal this summer, following the successful completion of the Red Line South reconstruction last year. With both the Red and Purple Modernization and Red Line Extension projects, we’ll replace outdated infrastructure with a modern, efficient rail, and build more than five miles of new track. Together these improvements will offer CTA customers faster, more reliable service, and increasing access to quality rail transportation for thousands of future riders.”

The CTA is also moving forward with its proposed Red Line Extension plan by beginning the second step of the environmental process to finish the Environmental Impact Study required to begin engineering on the plan to extend the Red Line south of 95th Street to 130th Street.

In November 2013, the CTA became the first transit system accepted into the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) new Core Capacity Program, which provides funding to transit systems to add capacity on existing infrastructure for future ridership growth. The RPM project is eligible for 2014 Core Capacity federal funding that was approved by Congress earlier this year.

AAR Report Says FCC-Required Antenna Review Causing Delays in PTC Installation

April 18th, 2014

The Association of American Railroads has published a new report updating the industry’s progress on installing Positive Train Control (PTC), which the nation’s freight railroads said is delayed because of the FCC directive that suspended installation of approximately 20,000 communication antennas necessary for PTC to work until the antennas are assessed through the FCC’s process.

The approval process originally mandated by the FCC includes the use of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), in which railroads must ascertain if each of the 20,000 communication antennas will harm areas of historic, cultural, or religious significance. Currently, the FCC is still determining how to streamline this review of the antennas. PTC can take place only with a communications network in place that includes the antennas, which are spaced along the 60,000 or so miles over which PTC is being installed.

“Everyone in the industry is greatly frustrated at the inability to move forward and do what we need to do to advance PTC installation,” said Association of American Railroads President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “It’s been two steps forward, three steps back for months and we simply don’t have the certainty we need to move ahead and get PTC tested, fully functioning, certified and ready to go.”

At one time the freight railroads had projected that they would have PTC installed on 40 percent of the network mandated by FRA by 2015. The railroads now believe that, because of the FCC issues, only 20 percent of the PTC network will be up and running by the congressionally imposed deadline of Dec. 31, 2015.

Hamberger had alerted congress to the inability of the rail industry to get FCC approval for installing the antennas in the first week of March. “The FCC’s stop-work order has effectively prevented us from doing what Congress mandated and we’re fully committed to doing – installing a nationwide PTC system,” he said. “We are caught between a statutory requirement and an unworkable bureaucratic process and don’t see a viable path forward to deploy PTC in a timely manner.”

Railroads have been working on other projects required to implement the PTC and, to date, have one third of required wayside units deployed, replaced one half of signals needed for implementation and have mapped most of the track that will be equipped with PTC. Also, PTC equipment has been installed or partially installed on 50 percent of the locomotives that require the equipment.

The freight rail industry has spent approximately $4 billion to date implementing the PTC system, which was part of the 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act, and the FRA estimates that the total cost to the freight rail industry will be $5 billion.

AAR’s report to FRA includes a summary of the freight railroad industry’s progress, an in-depth look at issues such as delays in availability of critical back-office-server software, complexities of mapping a nationwide rail network, and taking a phased approach to testing and implementing PTC on each railroad’s PTC network.

In conclusion, the AAR report states, “Despite the railroads having spent approximately $1.5 million to develop and install PTC, the December 31, 2015, deadline for implementation of a nationwide interoperable PTC network is not achievable.

UP Sees Growth in First Quarter Earnings

April 18th, 2014

Union Pacific Corporation has reported a net income of $1.1 billion for the 2014 first quarter, or $2.38 per diluted share, compared to $957 million in the 2013 first quarter, or $2.03 per diluted share. Diluted earnings per share increased by 17 percent. The 2014 first quarter operating ratio of 67.1 percent was a first quarter record, 2.0 points better than the first quarter 2013.

Operating revenue for the 2014 first quarter totaled $5.6 billion, an increase of 7 percent when compared with the 2013 total of $5.3 billion. Operating income for the 2014 first quarter totaled $1.85 billion, up 14 percent from the 2013 first quarter. First quarter business volumes for 2014 increased 5 percent and quarterly freight revenue increased 6 percent compared to the first quarter of 2013.

“Union Pacific achieved record first quarter financial results, leveraging the strengths of our diverse franchise in the face of challenging weather conditions,” said Union Pacific CEO Jack Koraleski. “We’re proud of the efforts of the men and women of Union Pacific, who worked tirelessly to serve our customers despite these weather challenges and helped us achieve such a solid start to the year.”

Freight revenues increased in the following commodity groups in the 2014 first quarter when compared to the first quarter 2013: agricultural products, up 16 percent; industrial products, up 10 percent; intermodal, up 4 percent; and coal, up 3 percent. Automotive volumes were flat as were chemicals volumes, with growth in base chemicals offset by a reduction in crude oil shipments.

“As we look forward, we’re watching the economy very closely, as well as the potential impacts of weather, particularly on our coal and grain business. There’s still a lot of year ahead of us, but we are seeing signs of gradual economic improvement, and we’re encouraged by the opportunities it presents,” remarked Koraleski. “With the power and potential of the Union Pacific franchise, we’ll leverage these opportunities to drive record financial performance and shareholder returns this year and in the years to come.”

The Company repurchased 3.8 million shares in the first quarter 2014 at an average share price of $178.85 and an aggregate cost of $683 million.

MTA Awards $627.79 Million in Contracts for East Side Access Manhattan Tunnels and Caverns

April 18th, 2014

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has awarded two contracts valued at $627.79 million for the installation of communications systems in Grand Central Terminal’s future Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) concourse and for the lining of newly excavated tunnels with permanent walls.

“The work to be performed through these contracts will significantly advance East Side Access, the most complex and largest transportation infrastructure project underway in North America,” said President of MTA Capital Construction Michael Horodniceanu. “Tunnels that have been drilled through Manhattan bedrock will be waterproofed and lined with concrete and readied for tracks. A cavern that is presently a raw concrete space will be activated with advanced communications networks that will be used by tens of thousands of people each day. When Long Island Rail Road riders come to Grand Central, the systems that will be put in place through these contracts will serve as an unseen backbone making train service possible.”

Tutor Perini Corporation has been awarded a $333.59 million contract, with options leading to a total of $550.4 million, to complete communications systems that will be used by both the public and employees in the future LIRR concourse. They will also be responsible for infrastructure support systems needed to make the space usable by the public. Communications systems will include telephone, two-way radio, public address, digital signage and fire detection. Infrastructure support systems include tunnel ventilation, drainage and lighting as well as plumbing and fire protection.

A $294.2 million contract has been awarded to Frontier-Kemper Constructors to build permanent structural concrete lining on 10,000 linear feet of newly excavated tunnels north of Grand Central Terminal running from 50th Street and Park Avenue to 63rd Street and Second Avenue. Work on the tunnels will include embedded mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

Under the contract, Frontier-Kemper will also rehabilitate the segment of the 63rd Street Tunnel under the East River that will be used by LIRR trains, which was completed in the early 1970s. The firm will also complete work on the underground portions of two facilities, located at 50th Street and 55th Street, which will ventilate the tunnels and cavern that will house the new LIRR station at Grand Central. The above-ground portion of the 50th Street ventilation facility and blasting underneath the 55th Street ventilation facility have been completed.

The East Side Access project will bring trains from Long Island Rail Road to a new concourse being built beneath Grand Central Terminal. Each cavern will contain four tracks, an upper and lower level platform, and a mezzanine.

$249.8 Million Approved for Charlotte LYNX Blue Line Extension and Blue Line Capacity Project Construction

April 18th, 2014

The city council off Charlotte, N.C., has authorized $249.8 million for construction of the LYNX Blue Line extension (BLE) and the Blue Line capacity project. The completion of the BLE will give the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) more than 18 miles of rapid transit in the city.

The $119 million contract for construction of the BLE was awarded to Lane Construction Corporation and includes construction of bridges, arterial roadways and retaining walls. Erosion control, sewer and water main installation and drainage as well as traffic signals and traffic control are also included in the contract.

The BLE extends the LYNX Blue Line light rail by 9.3 miles, which will allow the service to run from Uptown Charlotte to the UNC Charlotte campus and will include 11 light rail stations and four parking facilities. Operations on the line are scheduled to begin in spring of 2017.

Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. was awarded the $114 million contract for the installation of the light rail track, train control and signal systems. They will also be responsible for the overhead catenary and traction power system as well as the communications systems.

The remaining $16.4 million will be used for the expansion of platforms and systems on the current LYNX Blue Line to accommodate three-car trains at the I-485/South Blvd., Stonewall and Seventh Street Stations. Upgrades will also be made to the communications, power, train control and signal systems to run the longer train.

CATS and the City of Charlotte received an $18 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery III (TIGER III) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to assist with the capacity enhancements along the LYNX Blue Line.