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Bill Introducted to Extend PTC Implementation Deadline

October 6th, 2015

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee leaders have introduced the Positive Train Control Enforcement and Implementation Act of 2015 (H.R. 3651), a bipartisan bill that will extend the current deadline for U.S. railroads to implement Positive Train Control (PTC) from December 31, 2015, to the end of 2018.

The bill also provides limited authority for the U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary to extend the deadline beyond 2018 if railroads demonstrate continued difficulties in completing the mandate but have made every effort to install PTC as soon as possible. The railroads will also be required to complete progress reports on implementation.

“Completion of the Positive Train Control mandate by the end of the year is not achievable, and extending the deadline is essential to preventing significant disruptions of both passenger and freight rail service across the country,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a sponsor of the bill. “Railroads must implement this important but complicated safety technology in a responsible manner, and we need to give them the necessary time to do so.”

“This extension will ensure our nation’s railroads can continue to function and hold them accountable to implement necessary safety measures on a public timeline,” stated Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham, who also sponsored the bill. “Passenger and freight railroads have stated they can’t meet the current deadline and will shut down later this year. This includes ACE in my district. We must protect communities across the country from a railroad shutdown, which would damage local economies nationwide.”

Without an extension, freight railroads will be forced to suspend shipments of certain chemicals, including some used in treating drinking water and in fertilizers; commuter railroads will need to cease operations, significantly impacting commutes in major metropolitan regions; and all Amtrak service outside of portions of the Northeast Corridor will be suspended.

Edward R. Hamberger, President and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), remarked on the introduction of the bill to extend the PTC deadline.

“The freight rail industry is pleased the House T&I bipartisan leadership has introduced legislation to extend the PTC deadline,” noted Hamberger. “The committee leadership clearly recognizes the need for immediate action to forestall the looming economic crisis that would result from widespread freight and passenger rail service disruption. We look forward to working with both the house and senate bipartisan leadership to quickly get the PTC extension across the finish line and to the President’s desk for signature.”

The AAR had also commented on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report that confirmed the need to extend the PTC deadline.

FTA Proposes Rule for Transit Agencies to Achieve State of Good Repair

October 6th, 2015

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has issued a proposed rule that would require public transportation agencies to achieve and maintain a state of good repair by monitoring and managing their capital assets. All public transportation agencies would be required to develop a Transit Asset Management (TAM) Plan that determines the condition of its capital assets, including the system’s equipment, rolling stock, infrastructure, and facilities.

The TAM System is intended to provide a transit agency with a comprehensive understanding of how the condition of its capital assets may impact the safety of its system.

“Transit ridership is rising, public transportation equipment and infrastructure are aging, and there is a growing backlog of transit-related capital maintenance needs with limited funding available,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Better and more efficient management of transit assets is a smart way to get more from our investments while ensuring we maintain the safe, reliable and accessible transit service the American public deserves.”

The proposed rule would define the term “state of good repair,” establish state of good repair performance measures, and require transit agencies to set performance targets based on those measures, which they can use to prioritize limited capital investment funding. Transit agencies would be required to report new information to the National Transit Database.

The proposed rule allows small transit providers that have 100 or fewer vehicles in revenue service and no rail fixed-guideway service to participate in a Group TAM Plan that would be developed by a State or other direct recipient of FTA funding. All sub-recipients under the Rural Area Formula Program would also be allowed to participate in a group plan.

“Strategic and targeted investments to replace and rehabilitate aging transit infrastructure are needed to bring the Nation’s bus and rail systems into a state of good repair,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “Given the diversity of transit systems, from complex urban networks to small operators in rural communities, the proposed rule offers a flexible approach for public transportation providers to better manage and maintain their assets.”

Public comments on the proposed rule are accepted through Nov. 30, 2015.

Alstom Awarded Contract for Traffic Management System in Sweden

October 6th, 2015
Bologna Control Center Mainline. Photo: ©Alstom Transport/PURPLE-M.Sfreddo.

Bologna Control Center Mainline. Photo: ©Alstom Transport/PURPLE-M.Sfreddo.

Alstom has won a contract worth €66 million from Trafikverket, the Swedish transport administration, to implement the Iconis control center traffic management solution throughout the country. The scope of the contract covers the development and maintenance of the system for eight years, with an additional nine-year option.

“We are very pleased to have met all the demanding commercial and technical criteria set by Trafikverket,” said Per Öster, managing director for Alstom Transport in the Nordics. “With traffic management systems in operation across Europe and the ongoing Denmark re-signalling and traffic optimization, Alstom is building on its experience and strengthening its position as supplier of proven and reliable railway solutions in Sweden and the Nordic region.”

The contract forms part of a broader project by Trafikverket to improve the punctuality and capacity of its network.

Alstom’s Iconis Mainline control center solution integrates information, monitoring, control and optimization of the entire rail network, allowing for traffic disturbances, management and resource allocation. The Iconis solution is based on open integration technologies that can be adapted to customer requirements, accommodates changes and additional features, and allows for future evolution.

NS Renames Memphis Yard in Honor of Butler

October 5th, 2015

Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS) President and CEO Jim Squires announced that the NS Memphis rail yard has been renamed Harris Yard in honor of Deborah Harris Butler, the railroad’s executive vice president planning and chief information officer, who retired Oct. 1, 2015.

“Consistently over her 37-year career, Deb envisioned and championed systems and technology that keep the freight moving. Her name on a key yard that handles important segments of our business – in her own hometown – is apt and well-deserved recognition,” said Squires.

Located in the midtown area of Memphis, Harris Yard is on the NS mainline from Birmingham and Chattanooga. The yard is a focal point for traffic moving east and west, as NS interchanges in Memphis with the UP, BNSF, and CN railroads. The yard also is home to the company’s 38-acre truck-to-rail transfer facility.

Butler joined NS in 1978 as a customer account auditor and was promoted to positions of increasing responsibility in operations, including assistant vice president transportation customer services in 2000 and vice president customer service in 2002. In 2007, she was named executive vice president planning and chief information officer.

Butler is experienced in car management and distribution, and she oversaw modernization of many of NS’ core transportation systems. Her tenure saw implementation of the optimized dispatching system to improve network velocity, significant progress toward installation of Positive Train Control systems, successful negotiation to purchase 282 miles of Delaware and Hudson Railway Co. lines to support rail service in the Northeast, and a growing commitment to sustainable business practices. Butler is known for her work in mentoring new railroaders. She helped start WiNS (Women in Norfolk Southern), the railroad’s first official employee resource group.

“Deb’s contributions in technology, the environment, and employee development have made a lasting difference,” Squires added. “Our board, officers, and employees are grateful for her vision and leadership.”

CTA Clark/Division Red Line Station Renovated

October 5th, 2015

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) President Dorval Carter and Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld have announced the completed renovation of the Clark/Division Red Line CTA commuter rail station at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The $50 million project is the first complete renovation of a Red Line subway station since 1943.

“This investment will make life easier for the thousands of Chicagoans who get on or off the Red Line and Clark and Division, but this is about more than just a CTA station,” stated Emanuel. “Investments like this, and other major infrastructure projects we have undertaken throughout Chicago, allow our economy to grow, our neighborhoods to thrive, and our city to flourish.”

“Chicago has one of the oldest and largest mass transit systems in the nation,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. “I commend Mayor Emanuel for making the rehab of the city’s CTA stations a top priority. Through the help of a $41 million federal investment in the Clark/Division CTA station, Red Line riders will now benefit from a safer and more efficient station that is more accessible to all CTA passengers, including people with disabilities.”

The project was completed in two stages. The first phase, which included a new 8,800-square-foot LaSalle St. mezzanine and LaSalle St. and Division St. entrance, opened last summer. The second stage of the project involved modernizing entrances and the mezzanine at Clark Street, which was recently completed.

“This renovation project shows how CDOT and the CTA are working in partnership to improve the City’s mass transit system,” said Scheinfeld. “The Clark/Division station renovation increases the capacity of the station and makes it more inviting for customers, encouraging the use of mass transit.”

The renovation project includes new elevators, escalators, street entrances, granite floors and stairs, and decorative wall and ceiling tiles. It also features new lighting, bike racks, security equipment, customer-assistance kiosks and improved communication and speaker systems.

“This is yet another great example of how the CTA and CDOT work together to modernize and improve the transit experience for all CTA customers,” said Carter. “We are pleased to continue to invest in the city’s busiest rail line with improvements that benefit CTA customers now and for decades to come.”

The Clark/Division renovation project is part of Mayor Emanuel’s Building a New Chicago, a $7.3 billion infrastructure renewal program. The project was managed by CDOT on behalf of the CTA and supported by Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) funds from the Federal Transit Administration.

The Clark/Division station was the 16th-busiest CTA rail station last year.

CP Acquires Steelcare Transload Facility

October 5th, 2015

Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (CP) has acquired Steelcare Inc., a transload and distribution hub providing transloading, warehousing and distribution services for steel products. The largest steel transload facility in Canada, Steelcare’s Plant Six is a 168,000-square foot facility located in CP’s Aberdeen yard in Hamilton, Ontario. It features two drive-through rail and truck loading and unloading areas and can handle up to 1.5 million tons of rail transload products annually.

The transaction also includes TransCare Logistics Corporation, Prometheus Six Inc. and East Port Warehousing & Distribution. The projected yearly revenue as a result of the transaction is approximately $10 million.

“CP is committed to exceptional customer service and with direct ownership of Steelcare, we are better equipped to manage our own supply chain and utilize our in-house expertise,” said James Clements, CP vice president of strategic planning and transportation services.

CP plans to keep the current management structure and employees, with Clements serving as Steelcare’s executive vice president.

Caltrain Participates in Rail Safety Blitz

October 2nd, 2015

At the end of September, Caltrain participated in a regional rail safety blitz to educate people about safe behavior around railroad tracks. Held at the Diridon Caltrain Station in downtown San Jose, the safety blitz was initiated by California Operation Lifesaver and the Northern California Rail Safety Team. In addition to Caltrain, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Amtrak, and other local police jurisdictions participated.

During the event, rail safety teams conducted outreach to the homeless, the general public and to businesses at the Diridon station and throughout downtown San Jose. Caltrain’s Transit Police Unit, the Santa Clara County Sheriff, Amtrak Police, the California State Parole Department and the Santa Clara County Probation Department, were on-hand to educate the community about safety around railroad tracks, focusing on warnings and education over citations.

Caltrain Board of Directors proclaimed September to be Rail Safety Month, but Caltrain’s commitment to safety extends beyond the month, with a year-round, daily emphasis on safety around trains and train tracks.

The rail agency addresses safety through a comprehensive, ongoing program that focuses on the “Three E’s” of railroad safety, including education, engineering and enforcement. Caltrain is an active member of California Operation Lifesaver, and offers a free education program for schools, community organizations, and businesses on the Peninsula highlighting safe practices to keep in mind when near the tracks.

PHMSA Announces Grants for Hazmat Rail Incident Training

October 2nd, 2015

The U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has announced $5.9 million in Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training (ALERT) grants to provide emergency responders with hazardous materials training.

The recipients of the grants, three non-profit organizations, will provide training to volunteer or remote emergency responders for incidents involving shipments of crude oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids by rail. The University of Findlay’s All Hazards Training Center in Ohio was awarded $611,491; the International Association of Fire Chiefs in Virginia was awarded receiving $2,654,235; and Kentucky’s Center for Rural Development was awarded $2,675,470 in funding.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said “Safety is our top priority and the ALERT grants will help first responders, especially volunteer firefighters in rural or remote parts of the country, prepare for and respond to incidents involving flammable liquids.”

“It’s critical that first responders have the information and training they need to respond to these types of incidents, and is one of more than a dozen actions the Department has taken in recent months to strengthen the safe transportation of crude oil, ethanol and other flammable liquids by rail,” added Foxx.

PHMSA used money recovered from prior year Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness (HMEP) grants to fund the ALERT grants. During grant period 2013-14, HMEP grants funded more than 91,000 first responders in hazardous materials response training, more than 1,300 hazardous materials emergency response plans, and more than 950 hazardous materials exercises.

“Nearly 25,000 additional firefighters, police and other first responders are expected to benefit from this one-year realignment of hazmat training grants,” stated PHMSA Administrator Marie Therese Dominguez.

FTA Awards Florida’s SunRail $93.4 Million Grant

October 2nd, 2015
SunRail Train. Photo: courtesy of FTA.

SunRail Train. Photo: courtesy of FTA.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Acting Administrator Therese McMillan has announced a $93.4 million federal grant agreement for SunRail commuter rail service to extend the line 17.2 miles from Southern Orlando to Osceola County. The announcement was made at a ceremony that was attended by House Subcommittee on Transportation and Public Assets Chairman John Mica, Representative Alan Grayson, Representative Corrine Brown, Representative Daniel Webster, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, representatives from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), SunRail and other officials.

“Projects like Central Florida’s SunRail commuter rail system not only create jobs as they are built, but help connect area residents with ladders of opportunity through improved access to work and school,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx stated. “We will continue to support important projects like this that provide 21st century transportation options designed to meet the needs of Central Florida’s growing population.”

The $93.4 million in funding is from FTA’s Capital Investment Grant Program and represents roughly half of the project’s $186.9 million estimated total cost. The remaining costs are covered by the State of Florida and Orange and Osceola counties in Florida.

SunRail’s Phase II South commuter rail line extension will improve transit service to regional employment, entertainment and retail destinations, including Orlando Central Business District, through transit connections to the Orlando International Airport and other local attractions.

“We applaud Central Florida’s vision and support for a safe, efficient and connected transportation network that gives more than two million residents a convenient and reliable alternative to traffic congestion on Interstate 4,” said McMillan. “SunRail will connect residents from Orange and Osceola counties with the jobs and services they need, while removing barriers to success throughout the region.”

The project includes four new commuter rail stations, the purchase of two locomotives and four passenger cars, and the construction of a vehicle storage and maintenance facility. SunRail estimates the extension will provide approximately 2,000 daily linked trips when it opens in 2019.

GE Sells Tank Cars & Repair Shops to Marmon, Remaining GE Railcar Services to Wells Fargo

October 2nd, 2015

Marmon Holdings, Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway company, has acquired substantially all of GE Railcar Services fleet of railroad tank cars and, in a separate agreement that will be completed by the end of 2015, has also agreed to acquire certain GE Railcar Repair Services repair and maintenance facilities.

The railcar assets will become part of the portfolio of rail equipment managed by Marmon’s Union Tank Car Company (UTLX) and Procor Limited, while the acquired repair facilities will expand the existing network of locations operated by UTLX Repair Services and Procor Repair Services.

Frank Ptak, chairman and CEO of Marmon Holdings, said, “Union Tank Car and Procor have a long history of providing high quality equipment and comprehensive tank car services to their customers throughout North America. This acquisition reflects our continuing commitment to invest in and grow these business units and generate enhanced value for their customers.”

“The addition of the GE Railcar Repair Services sites also will further enhance the full-service capabilities of Marmon’s already extensive repair, maintenance, and inspection network,” added Ptak.

UTLX builds, leases and ships railroad tank cars while Procor provides leasing and repair services throughout Canada.

Additionally, Wells Fargo & Company has announced that First Union Rail, its railcar finance, leasing and fleet management business, has agreed to purchase GE Railcar Services from GE Capital. The transaction will add more than 77,000 railcars and just over 1,000 locomotives to First Union’s existing fleet as well as associated operating and long-term leases. The transaction is expected to close by end of the first quarter of 2016, and terms are not being disclosed.

“GE Railcar Services, with its high quality asset base, has a long history of strength and stability that will add significantly to the quality and diversification of our existing fleet,” said First Union Rail President Barbara Wilson. “We greatly value our client relationships and look forward to meeting the industry’s growing demand for rail cars.”

Ed Blakey, head of Wells Fargo Specialized Lending & Investment, said, “First Union Rail integrates well with the many solutions Wells Fargo offers its corporate and commercial customers to help them succeed financially. We look forward to introducing GE Railcar Services’ customers to Wells Fargo’s broad suite of financial solutions.”

First Union Rail’s acquisition of GE’s railcar and locomotive fleet will make the business the second largest railcar and locomotive leasing company in North America.

Terms of the transactions are not being disclosed.