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MTA & LIRR Begin Restoration Project on Long Beach Branch

April 15th, 2014

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and the Long Island Rail Road have started a $120 million construction program designed to protect the LIRR’s Long Beach Branch from the recurrence of damage such as that caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The four-year project includes construction of three new power stations and the replacement of switch machines, signals, communications systems and third rail equipment. The project also includes vegetation management and the restoration of the Wreck Lead Bridge, which spans Reynolds Channel and connects Island Park to the City of Long Beach.

When Sandy struck in October 2012, the Long Beach branch suffered the most damage of the railroad’s branches. Third rail power was lost with three of the four substations off-line and awash in sea water. The tracks between Island Park and Long Beach stations were covered with debris and switch, signal and communications were knocked out by the salt water.

“The LIRR is an economic lifeline for tens of thousands of residents on the South Shore of Nassau County who commute to and from work each day via the Long Beach Branch,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast. “ It is no less important to the City of Long Beach, a destination for thousands more heading to the community’s beautiful public beachfront and its popular restaurants and nightlife. There is no better insurance for the economic vitality of this region than ensuring the safe and reliable future operation of the LIRR’s Long Beach Branch.”

Three substations – Oceanside, Oil City and Long Beach – are being demolished and replaced by prefabricated substations constructed on platforms that will put them well above flood waters. Work has recently started on the Oceanside substation, with the Oil City project set to begin in January and the Long Beach project in September 2015.

The Long Beach Branch systems restoration, which is currently in design stage, will replace switch machines, signals, communications and third rail equipment. Critical components like the new signal and communication huts will be placed on platforms to avoid damage from flood waters.

Vegetation will be cleared on the LIRR property to prevent safety hazards and slip-slide conditions that can occur when leaves fall and decompose, leaving a residue on rails. Tree limbs and bushes will be cut back and an extensive clearing of trees and bushes will take place on LIRR property to accommodate a pole line that will anchor new signal, communications and electrical systems well above the flood plain.

Restoration of the Wreck Lead Bridge will include the replacement of underwater cable, the bridge electrical system and the bridge’s emergency generator.

New Railcar Repair Company to Provide Services to Crude-By-Rail Industry

April 15th, 2014

Kevin Goins and Don Walsh have formed Freedom Railcar Solutions, LLC to provide mobile railcar repair and maintenance to crude-by-rail shippers, operators and other railcar lessors in the Bakken Shale and Powder River Basin areas.

Goins, cofounder and president, has more than 20 years’ experience in the rail and transload industry. He currently serves as president of Strobel Starostka Transfer, which operates transload facilities for the energy industry. He was senior vice president and COO of Watco Transload & Intermodal Services prior to joining Strobel Starostka. Before Watco, Goins directed CSX Corporation’s North American and international transload divisions.

Walsh, cofounder and vice president of business development, served as a director of operations for Transco Railway Products Inc., where he added tank car mobile repair services to Transco’s Iowa and Montana operations. He has management experience as a railcar owner and lessor with GE and a railcar lessee with Loders Croklaan. Walsh also managed railcar repair services for Rescar Companies and Greenbrier Rail Services.

“We are very pleased to announce the formation of Freedom Railcar Solutions,” said Goins. We formed Freedom Railcar to address the increasing demand for dependable, high-quality railcar services in the Bakken and other rapidly emerging crude-by-rail markets. We are a next generation company with a customer-driven approach to railcar repair and maintenance. We believe in measuring our success by our customers’ success. Our first objective is to ensure that we minimize railcar downtime by providing safe, reliable and rapid service when and where our customers need it.”

Freedom Railcar expects to begin operations in North Dakota and Wyoming by July 1, 2014. The company will be based in Mustang, Okla.

NFTA Names Cox CFO

April 15th, 2014

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority  (NFTA) has appointed John T. Cox to the position of Chief Financial Officer. As CFO, he will report to the NFTA’s board of commissioners and will be a member of the executive director’s management team with functional responsibility to the executive director.

Cox’s duties will include formulating the strategic financial plan of the authority. He will also act as an advisor on all financial matters pertaining to developing innovative cost containment measures and revenue enhancements for all business centers within the authority.

Prior to joining NFTA, Cox spent two years as deputy director of finance / accounting for the City of Rochester, N.Y., where he supervised and participated in preparation of various financial statements and reports, the city’s annual update document and financial statements, and the city’s comprehensive annual financial report.

From 2007 to 2012, Cox was comptroller / director of finance for the City of Binghamton, N.Y. His responsibilities included overseeing the city’s cash management and investment strategies and collaborating to formulate the annual budget.

Cox attended Syracuse University where he earned a bachelor’s degree. He has a master’s degree in accounting from Binghamton University.

ASLRRA Supports TTX Flatcar Pooling Extension

April 14th, 2014

Short lines are urging the Surface Transportation Board to approve TTX Company’s bid to extend its flatcar pooling authority.

American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association President Rich Timmons said his organization’s members benefit daily from TTX’s flatcar pool. “Many small railroads own few cars of their own. Thus, the reliable availability of specialty flatcars from TTX allows our members to serve diverse customer needs knowing that needed flatcars will be available,” he told the STB on behalf of the group’s more than 480 Class II and III railroad members.

“Our small railroad members would be hard-pressed indeed to obtain the flatcars were it not for the service provided by TTX. In addition, our member railroads have limited networks and are highly reliant on the pooling service offered by TTX. TTX is a key player in assuring a fluid national rail network across carrier platforms. Our small carriers rely on the availability of specialty flatcars to provide “first mile, last mile” service in what are often rural and economically fragile parts of the country,” he added.

TTX filed for reauthorization with the STB on Jan. 16 in Finance Docket No. 27590 (Sub-No. 4). The former Interstate Commerce Commission approved TTX’s original flatcar pool in 1974, and the ICC and the STB extended TTX’s pooling authority in 1989, 1994, and, most recently, in 2004 for a 10-year period that expires this year. Industry comments are due April 21 on TTX’s plan to extend its flatcar pooling authorization for another 15 years.

INRD Awards CSR Grant For Research Converting Railroad Ties to Biofuel

April 14th, 2014

The Indiana Rail Road (INRD) has awarded a grant to the Coalition for Sustainable Rail (CSR) for research into converting used railroad ties to biofuels. CSR, a non-profit organization whose purpose includes the development of modern biofuels and sustainable railroad locomotives, will be working with the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) of the University of Minnesota – Duluth in order to determine the viability of converting some of the 15 million ties replaced on U.S. railroads each year into a clean-burning coal alternative.

“CSR is thrilled to have the support of the Indiana Rail Road on this important, potentially historic opportunity. INRD is dedicated to innovation and technology, and its investment in our primary research is an inspiration to the entire team,” stated Davidson Ward, CSR president.

Researchers at NRRI and CSR will use a biomass processing technique known as torrefaction to convert used ties into a clean, densifiable biofuel. They anticipate the results to be a pelletized biofuel that can be used in power plants. First, it will be used to power CSR’s test bed steam locomotive, the Santa Fe Railway’s 1937-built No. 3463.

INRD President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas G. Hoback commented, “As the son of a Santa Fe dispatcher and a lifelong student of that railway, I’m intrigued in CSR’s desire to rebuild and modernize such an innovative piece of technology as the 3463, and especially NRRI and CSR’s pursuit of energy, fuel and transportation development. This important research impacts not only the future of energy in the U.S., but it honors the tradition of American innovation, from the reconstruction and modernization of an iconic steam locomotive to the biofuel development associated with our donation.”

The first phase of the research will be to identify any hurdles involved with “upcycling” the railroad ties to fuel, including handling of wood preservatives found in the ties. Results of the research will be made available through CSR’s “White Paper Program.”

“This is something that I believe could lead to a key development in the future of the railroad industry,” said Hoback. “It is important to take pride in the history of where we’ve been, and the unique melding of research with preserving history, as championed by CSR, is a great way to honor the legacy of the Santa Fe.”

Koppers to Acquire Osmose Wood Preservation and Railroad Services for $460 Million

April 14th, 2014

Koppers Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koppers Holdings Inc., has signed an agreement to acquire the Wood Preservation and Railroad Services businesses of Osmose Holdings, Inc. for the base purchase price of $460 million, subject to closing adjustments. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2014, subject to regulatory filings and customary closing conditions.

Osmose’s Wood Preservation business develops, manufactures and markets wood preservation and treatment chemicals used in a range of end-markets, including infrastructure and commercial construction. The company’s Railroad Services provides bridge inspection, engineering, maintenance and repair as well as construction services for North American Class I and short line railroads.

Walt Turner, president and CEO of Koppers, said, “Acquiring these businesses from Osmose represents another important step in our long-term growth strategy by expanding both our chemicals offering and extending our existing railroad and utilities products and services platform. This unique growth opportunity will complement our existing businesses through leading market positions in strategic end-markets.”

“Importantly, the business culture of Osmose is closely aligned with that of Koppers, which should provide for a smooth integration allowing us to fully capture synergies and realize the earnings and margin accretion that we have identified during our due diligence process,” continued Turner. “The addition of these two businesses is very exciting for Koppers and will strongly contribute towards our ultimate goal of increasing shareholder value.”

Included in the base purchase price is an anticipated 338(h)(10) tax election that is expected to provide cash tax savings of approximately $7 million annually over the next 15 years. Koppers plans to finance the acquisition through new and existing bank debt.

CSR Puzhen Produces First Low-Floor Tram in China

April 14th, 2014

CSR Puzhen low-floor tram

 

Bombardier partner CSR Nanjing Puzhen Rolling Stock Co. Ltd. (CSR Puzhen) has rolled out the first low-floor tram manufactured under the 10-year license signed in July 2012 between Bombardier Transportation and CSR Puzhen, a subsidiary of China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corporation Limited, to produce trams based on BOMBARDIER FLEXITY 2 technology.

The trams are equipped with BOMBARDIER FLEXX Urban 3000 bogies and BOMBARDIER MITRAC propulsion technology. The five-section bi-directional, multi-articulated low-floor trams for Suzhou are 32 m long and 2.65 m wide. Bombardier developed the vehicle design, provides training and delivers on-site support.

CSR Puzhen won the order for 18 low-floor trams, which will be operated by Suzhou New District Tram Co., Ltd. (SND) within the Suzhou new and high-tech industrial development zone, a “greenfield” satellite city within Suzhou municipality.

“We are proud to be part of this milestone and look forward to seeing Suzhou become a benchmark in modern tramway operation in China,” said Jianwei Zhang, president of Bombardier China. “As the world market leader in trams, Bombardier is the ideal partner to introduce this technology in China successfully.”

CSR Puzhen is also producing trams featuring Bombardier’s catenary-free technology based on BOMBARDIER PRIMOVE traction batteries for the Hexi and Qilin lines in Nanjing.

CTA To Start Work on Harrison Station, Orange Line Track Projects

April 11th, 2014

The Chicago Transit Authority  (CTA) will begin work next week on the rehabilitation of the Harrison Red Line station and the Orange Line’s 18th Street Connector. The two projects are part of a $92 million transportation investment in the Near South Side section of the city.

The $10 million Harrison Red Line station rehabilitation, which begins April 14, will include structural and cosmetic repairs to the 70-year-old facility and its three entrances. The rehabilitation will include building two main entrance canopies, waterproofing to reduce pooling of water in mezzanine and platform areas, installing new granite flooring and lighting, and repairing all three station stairways.

Work on the Orange Line’s 18th Street Connector will begin on April 18. The $25 million project will make repairs to the half-mile structure, including painting, structural improvements, waterproofing and track work. The track work will include replacement of worn rail ties and components.

VIA Rail Issued Order to Address Safety Issues at Six Railway Crossings

April 11th, 2014

VIA Rail has been issued a Section 31 Notice and Order by Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt to immediately address safety issues at six railway crossings in the Barrhaven community of Ottawa. The order, issued under the authority of the Railway Safety Act, states that VIA Rail must develop a long-term plan to manage safety at the six railway crossings and have flagmen on site at all times to provide manual crossing protection for all freight and passenger trains.

The order applies to the Fallowfield, Woodroffe, the OC Transpo Transitway, Greenbank, Jockvale, and Standherd crossings.

“The safety of Canadians is my top priority,” stated Minister Raitt. “That is why I am issuing this Order to ensure that passenger and freight trains are crossing safely at our intersections. I am confident that VIA Rail will take swift action to resolve these issues.”

There have been several reports of signal malfunction at the Fallowfield railway crossing. VIA Rail Canada is currently doing a risk analysis with RailTerm and two other independent engineering consulting firms to determine the cause of the incidents that have occurred over the past few weeks. RailTerm will direct rail traffic and perform regular maintenance and upkeep of the infrastructure owned by VIA Rail. The two consulting firms will provide a comprehensive review of the signaling system.

To date, the firms have completed initial inspections, made some minor repairs and preventative maintenance was done. These initial reviews have not identified all root causes of these incidents and, as a result, investigations will continue.

VIA Rail has put several temporary measures in place at the six designated rail crossings in the Fallowfield area. These measures include reduced operating speeds for trains at each of the crossings and stationing personnel at these locations to provide supplementary support to automatic warning devices, including ensuring that motorists and pedestrians stop at each crossing.

In collaboration with the City of Ottawa, VIA Rail is also considering the installation of cameras at crossings to minimize technician response time. The company is also requesting that the Ottawa Police open an inquiry on recently reported incidents.

Transport Canada will have a railway safety inspector on-site to closely monitor the situation and verify compliance with the Railway Safety Act and related rules and regulations.

VIA Rail Canada is Canada’s national rail passenger service, operating intercity, regional and transcontinental trains across its 12,500 km network.

G&W Reports March 2014 Traffic Up Nine Percent Over Last Year

April 11th, 2014

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) has reported an increase of 9.0 percent in March 2014 traffic when compared with March 2013. Carloads for the month increased by 13,916 over last March with a total of 167,993 carloads reported.

First quarter 2014 traffic increased 3.8 percent compared with the first quarter of 2013. Total carloads were 467,379, an increase of 17,075 over the 2013 first quarter volume. Severe winter weather in the first quarter of 2014 resulted in lower than expected traffic and higher than expected expenses.

For the first quarter 2014, coal & coke traffic increased 14.2 percent, or 10,743 carloads, over first quarter 2013, primarily due to increased steam coal shipments in G&W’s Midwest and Ohio Valley regions, partially offset by decreased shipments in G&W’s Mountain West Region.

Metallic ores traffic increased by 4,062 carloads, or 27.4 percent in first quarter 2014 when compared with  first quarter 2013. This was primarily due to increased iron ore shipments in G&W’s Australia Region.

Lumber and forest products showed a decrease of 3.2 percent, with a total of 32,547 carloads for 2014 first quarter compared with 2013 first quarter results.

G&W’s 2014 first quarter Australian traffic increased 2,509 carloads or 4.5 percent, primarily due to increased iron ore and grain shipments, partially offset by decreased minerals & stone traffic.