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Brightline Unveils First Trainset

January 17th, 2017
The first Brightline Trainset at Workshop b in West Palm Beach, Fla. Photo: courtesy of Brightline.

The first Brightline Trainset at Workshop b in West Palm Beach, Fla. Photo: courtesy of Brightline.

Brightline, the future passenger rail service that will connect Fort Lauderdale to Miami and West Palm Beach, has revealed its first trainset, BrightBlue, which is comprised of two locomotives and four coaches. The trainset is housed at its new railroad operations facility, Workshop b, in West Palm Beach, Fla., and was manufactured by Siemens in their Sacramento, Calif., facility.

“We are excited to welcome our first Brightline trainset to Florida and provide a preview of the entire train,” said Mike Reininger, president of Brightline. “Our trains are among the most innovative in the United States and the world, with every detail having been designed and built from the guest’s perspective, making it easy, convenient and comfortable to ride.”

“We are looking forward to the launch our new express, inter-city service this summer,” added Reininger. “South Florida is very close to experiencing the future of train travel, a new travel alternative as an option to private cars on crowded roads.”

The Brightline train is fully accessible and exceeds ADA compliance standards. The trains have level boarding and automated retractable platforms. Interior aisles are 32 inches wide, and a restroom that is ADA accessible is available. On each trainset, there is one Select and three Smart coaches. In the Select coach there are 49 seats that are 21 inches wide. In the Smart coach there are 58 to 66 seats that are 19 inches wide.

The trains also feature large windows, high ceilings and open luggage racks. There are luggage towers in each coach for larger carry-on bags and overhead luggage racks and under-seat storage for smaller items.

Workshop b is Brightline’s new 12-acre railroad operations facility in West Palm Beach that serves to repair, maintain and store Brightline’s trains. There are four tracks in the facility, two of which are covered by an 800-foot long canopy.  A 15,000 square foot building features offices for train personnel, a multipurpose training room and crew facilities. Additional warehouse facilities will house spare parts and supplies, along with a fueling station that is being constructed.

Four additional trainsets are being built at Siemens rail manufacturing hub in Sacramento. Siemens will also be providing the full service and maintenance for the Brightline trainsets.

The first trainset is expected to begin testing on a 10-mile test track south of Workshop b next week. Brightline is scheduled to begin express inter-city service this summer.

NY Governor Proposes $120 Million for LIRR Improvements

January 17th, 2017

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced a proposal to invest $120 million in the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) for enhancements to 16 stations, and to provide a new terminal at MacArthur Airport and a new stop at Brookhaven National Laboratory. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will cover $35 million of this investment.

Governor Cuomo said, “With these projects, we equip Long Island will the tools and resources to drive commercial activity, create jobs, and build a stronger Long Island for generations to come.”

Each of the 16 LIRR stations will receive $5 million for upgrades, which will include new facilities, Wi-Fi, charging stations, public art, new platform waiting areas, general station renovations and improved signage. These will be customized to the needs of each station and constructed with minimal disruptions.

Stations receiving the funding are:

  • Nassau County Stations: Great Neck, Bellmore, Stewart Manor, Valley Stream, Baldwin, Merrick, Syosset and Farmingdale.
  • Suffolk County Stations: Northport, Stony Brook, Port Jefferson, Wyandanch, Deer Park, Brentwood, Ronkonkoma and East Hampton.

A $20 million project will add a stop on the LIRR Ronkonkoma Branch at the center of Long Island’s innovation corridor at Brookhaven National Laboratory. An additional $20 million will support the development of a new terminal at MacArthur Airport to provide direct service to the LIRR.

KCS, Watco, WTC JV to Invest in Unit Train Liquid Fuels Terminal in Mexico

January 17th, 2017

Kansas City Southern (KCS), Watco Companies, LLC and WTC Industrial (WTC) announced a joint venture investment in the construction of a unit train liquid fuels terminal located in the WTC Industrial Park in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. WTC is the industrial developing division of the holding Grupo Valoran. The project will facilitate and expand the exportation of liquid fuels from the United States to Mexico.

The partners will invest approximately US$45 million in this phase of the project, which is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2017. The facility will be rail served solely by Kansas City Southern de Mexico (KCSM). It is projected that the terminal project will eventually include a storage facility that would provide retail fuels for the population of Central Mexico.

The joint venture comes as a direct result of energy reform legislation passed in Mexico that will culminate by 2018 in the country’s energy markets being fully open to foreign investment and the importation of refined energy products.

“Kansas City Southern is pleased to be part of this joint venture, which will expand the export of U.S. petroleum products to Mexico,” stated KCS president and CEO Patrick J. Ottensmeyer. “Not only will the terminal provide Mexico with vitally needed refined energy products, it will also serve to boost job creation in both the U.S. and Mexico. This project perfectly aligns the goals of Mexican energy reform with the desire of U.S. refining companies to expand their operations and enter new markets.”

“KCS looks forward to serving this major fluids distribution terminal in San Luis Potosi,” Ottensmeyer added. “It provides us with excellent cross-border line haul opportunities as well as moving product within Mexico on KCSM.  We have a successful history of working with Watco and WTC, and we are excited about the chance to leverage each of our strengths to create the efficiencies and economies of scale that will benefit both the U.S. and Mexico.”

“The opportunity to partner with WTC and KCS in San Luis Potosi is a best case scenario,” said Watco senior vice president network strategy Allan Roach. “WTC Industrial has an existing, modern, state-of-the-art industrial park and construction of the new rail terminal at the park is well under way and on schedule. The location adjacent to the KCSM main line ensures easy access to the terminal and quick cycle times of customer rail cars.”

“The terminal is located in a Free Trade Zone, which provides an added economical advantage to rail shippers. The terminal will have 24 hour/7 days a week secured, fully-automated operations for unit trains and manifest shipments,” concluded Roach.

Valoran Chief Operating Officer Jose Luis Contreras stated, “Thanks to Grupo Valoran’s vast experience and leadership for over eight years with the Mexican Foreign Trade Zone, this terminal will work to simplify the logistic and import process to the benefit of consumers.”

CSX Customers Invest $9.5 Billion in Facilities

January 17th, 2017

CSX has announced its customers invested nearly $9.5 billion in 114 new or expanded facilities in 2016. These facilities are to be located on the company’s rail network or connecting short lines and are expected to generate approximately 8,100 new jobs in areas served by CSX.

Derrick Smith, CSX vice president strategic business development, stated, “The substantial capital investments announced by our customers last year included a new automotive plant and an ethane cracker facility to further leverage abundant domestic natural gas supplies.”

“We also saw strong activity that generated other energy projects as well as facility construction or expansion to support agriculture and intermodal markets,” added Smith. “These projects rely heavily on the teamwork among CSX and the local, county and state economic development professionals who ensure these projects are completed successfully. We thank them for that collaboration.”

Once these facilities are fully operational, they are projected to generate more than 136,000 new annual carloads for CSX. More than 100 customer facilities on CSX began operations in 2016.

Since 2000, CSX customers have invested more than $51 billion in rail-served facilities. CSX’s Select Site program supports rail-oriented industrial development by pre-certifying properties that are suitable for manufacturing use.

Cincinnati Streetcar Line Provides More than 330,000 Rides in First Four Months of Service

January 13th, 2017
The new Cincinnati streetcar line. Photo: courtesy of the Cincinnati Bell Connector.

The new Cincinnati streetcar line. Photo: courtesy of the Cincinnati Bell Connector.

The Cincinnati Bell Connector, a 3.6 mile streetcar service in Cincinnati, Ohio, has announced that ridership totaled 330,737 passenger trips from the date the service began on September 9 through December 31, 2016.

Ridership in December totaled an unaudited 52,209 passenger trips.

The streetcar connects downtown, the riverfront and Over-the-Rhine. It is owned and funded by the City of Cincinnati, managed by the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, and operated by Transdev.

MBTA Warehouse Operations Contract Awarded to Mancon

January 13th, 2017

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Fiscal and Management Control Board (FMCB) has unanimously approved a contract with Management Consulting, Inc. (Mancon) to manage the MBTA’s warehouse operations for a period of five years. The contract projects a savings and avoided costs of $64.2 million.

“The MBTA should and will continue to be in the business of moving our customers more efficiently, and modernized warehouse and logistics operations will both reduce costs and wait times for servicing our fleets,” said Brian Shortsleeve, MBTA acting general manager. “This contract will allow us to increase the productivity of our maintenance operations and management of our inventory, improving response and repair times and the reliability of our vehicles for the riders who depend on the MBTA each day.”

The contract is estimated to allow a 34 percent increase in the MBTA’s inventory accuracy and improve mechanic productivity, service, and efficiency. Standard requests will see a  24/7, 10-hour delivery guarantee to maintenance facilities, which is projected to reduce the MBTA’s current response times by 58 hours, or 2.5 days.

The total warehousing and logistics operating budget for the Fiscal Year exceeds $12 million annually. The estimated annual cost based on a five-year contract with Mancon is $7.4 million.

Mancon will use its own facilities, labor, vehicles, software, management systems, and equipment in managing the MBTA’s warehousing operations.

Toutounchi Named RailPros Vice President

January 13th, 2017
Mary Toutounchi

Mary Toutounchi

RailPros President Eric Hankinson announced the promotion of Mary Toutounchi, PE, to vice president last month.

“Mary has been instrumental in our efforts to deliver exceptional service to our clients, and she has consistently demonstrated solid judgment, professionalism, and a commitment to success in everything she does,” remarked Hankinson. “I’m very happy to recognize her efforts with this promotion.”

Toutounchi joined RailPros in 2015 where she led the firm to a win on the Redlands Passenger Rail Program with SANBAG. Since then, she has been dedicated to that project, focusing her additional efforts on winning more work for the firm.

Prior to joining RailPros, she worked as a program manager for more than 25 years, overseeing program, design, construction, and management of  civil engineering and transportation projects for highways, rail, transit, and facilities in both the public and private sectors.

Toutounchi regularly interfaces with project stakeholders, communities, regulatory, and railroad agencies, including the Federal Rail Administration (FRA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Federal Highway Administration, Caltrans, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA), BNSF Railway, and numerous Southern California city and county jurisdictional agencies.

Toutounchi earned a bachelor of science in civil engineering from California State University, Long Beach and holds professional engineer licenses in both California and Arizona.

U.S. Rail Traffic Down in First Week of New Year

January 13th, 2017

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending January 7, 2017, totaled 441,417 carloads and intermodal units, an 11.4 percent decrease compared to the same week in 2016.

U.S. carloads, which totaled 221,146 for the week, were down by 7.7 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 220,271units, a decrease of 14.9 percent compared to 2016.

Two of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending January 7, 2017, when compared with the same week in 2016. Metallic ores and metals saw an increase of 5.4 percent, or 20,403 carloads, and grain was up 0.9 percent to 21,476 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 32.1 percent to 8,903 carloads. Farm product carloads, excluding grain and food, declined by 18.4 percent to 13,802 carloads, and forest products dropped 15.3 percent to 9,034 carloads.

For the first week of 2017, U.S. rail volume totaled 441,417 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 11.4 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 221,146, were down by 7.7 percent, and intermodal, with a total of 220,271, dropped by 14.9 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending January 7, 2017, was 581,937 carloads and intermodal units, down 10.6 percent.

For the first week of 2017, North American rail volume was down 10.6 percent, with a total of 581,937 carloads and intermodal units.

CTA Receives $1.07 Billion in Federal Funding

January 12th, 2017
FTA Acting Administrator Flowers announces CTA funding. Photo: courtesy of FTA.

FTA Acting Administrator Flowers announces CTA funding. Photo: courtesy of FTA.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Acting Administrator Carolyn Flowers announced approximately $1.07 billion in federal grant funds to the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) for the first phase of the Red and Purple Modernization Project. The announcement was made during a ceremony attended by Flowers, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, representatives from CTA, and other local officials.

The project involves construction of track improvements north of the Belmont Station to relieve a bottleneck at the junction of the Red, Purple and Brown lines; reconstruction and expansion of four stations to better accommodate current and projected demand; upgrades to the power, track and signal systems; and the purchase of 32 new railcars.

Acting Administrator Flowers stated, “FTA is awarding highly competitive grant funds for this project because there is a clear need for transit improvements in this busy, crowded corridor. When completed, this project will make a big difference for CTA riders with increased service, less crowding aboard trains, and better waiting conditions at larger reconstructed stations.”

DOT is contributing approximately $1.07 billion toward the $2.067 billion project. Federal funds include a core capacity construction grant agreement for $956.61 million through FTA’s Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Program, and approximately $116 million through the Department’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. The CIG Program is the nation’s primary grant program for funding major transit capital investments.

“For the past eight years, the Obama Administration has been committed to investing in transportation infrastructure projects that will help more Americans access jobs and new opportunities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “That’s why we are proud to support the Red and Purple Modernization Project, which will bring better transit service to thousands of Chicagoans who take the train to work, school and other destinations throughout the region.”

The CIG funds will be provided over the course of nine years on an annual payment schedule, subject to Congressional approval during the annual appropriations process.

R. J. Corman Railroad Group Announces Leadership Changes

January 12th, 2017

R. J. Corman Railroad Group, LLC has announced the appointments of Nathan Henderson as president of R. J. Corman Railroad Services, LLC and Noel Rush as senior vice president commercial development, effective immediately. Henderson and Rush will continue to report to R. J. Corman Railroad Group President and CEO, Ed Quinn.

“As a company, we look forward to seeing the accomplishments that each of these men will have in their new positions,” stated Quinn. “I am certain that they each possess the appropriate skills and will provide invaluable headship while serving in these roles. Following these successful transitions, we plan to announce the restructuring of leadership personnel within the emergency response department of R. J. Corman Railroad Services.”

In his new role, Henderson will oversee the daily operations and development of the Railroad Services company, which offers railroad construction, emergency response and maintenance of way services.

After a 14 year career with CSX Transportation, Henderson joined R. J. Corman in January 2011. He has served in several leadership roles at R.J. Corman, including vice president of material sales, vice president of strategic sales and marketing, and most recently as chief commercial officer. He has an extensive background in safety performance, customer-focused delivery, service quality and regulatory compliance.

Henderson earned an MBA from Morehead State University. He serves on the Associates Advisory Board for the Association of American Railroads (AAR) and was recently reelected to the board of the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC).

Henderson said, “I am looking forward to this new opportunity. In fulfilling this new position I am committed to providing our customers the top of the line services that they have come to expect from R. J. Corman. Additionally, I will emphasize the company’s overall operating efficiency and work toward ongoing expansion, while keeping safety as our priority.”

R. J. Corman thanked Eric West, the previous president of R. J. Corman Railroad Services, for the influential role he played in the joining of R. J. Corman Derailment Services and R. J. Corman Railroad Construction last year. West will remain with R. J. Corman where he will serve as the general manager of facilities.

As senior vice president commercial development, Noel Rush will assume responsibility for further developing the company’s corporate marketing strategies, client services, executive relationships and government affairs.

Rush has worked at R. J. Corman for 20 years, serving as president of R. J. Corman Derailment Services, vice president of finance and administration, and vice president risk management. In these roles, he was responsible for overseeing the company’s finance department, its fleet and potential acquisitions, building operating and capital budgets and coordinating with corporate counsel. He also helped to establish the R.. J. Corman Storm Team, which he led for nearly 15 years.

Rush earned a bachelor of arts in political science from The University of the South.

“I am prepared and eager to bring thoughtful and energetic leadership to the company’s commercial development,” Rush remarked. “While I am serving in this role, we will continue to work to deliver a suite of increasingly proficient services which our clients value and regard as the best and safest in the industry. We will also strive to uphold R. J. Corman’s long history of successful strategic partnerships with our customers, state and local government agencies, and the communities in which we operate.”