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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.

L.A. Metro Appoints Schank First Chief Innovation Officer

October 1st, 2015

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) has selected Dr. Joshua L. Schank as Metro’s first chief innovation officer to head the newly created Office of Extraordinary Innovation. He will assume his role on October 5, 2015.

Dr. Schank is currently the president and CEO of the Eno Center for Transportation, a nonpartisan transportation policy think tank, where he has sought innovative solutions to national transportation concerns through consensus and coalition building among industry leaders, elected officials and academics. He also directed Eno’s working groups on public-private partnerships (P3s), freight, aviation and transportation finance.

“Dr. Schank is highly regarded across the transportation industry as a collaborator and an innovator,” said L.A. Metro CEO Phillip Washington. “He is a leader in transportation policy and driving mobility solutions through his own unique vision.”

Dr. Schank began his career as a transportation planner at the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority and later worked as a Congressional Transportation Fellow and Legislative Assistant in the United States Senate. He was a senior associate for two major international transportation consulting firms, specializing in public transit and federal transportation policy, and also served as director of Transportation Research for the Bipartisan Policy Center where he directed a panel overseeing a national study of federal transportation policy that resulted in recommendations for accountable, performance-based transportation programs.

Schank earned a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies – Political Science from Columbia University, a Master of Arts in City Planning – City Design and Development from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in Urban Planning with a Transportation Specialization from Columbia University.

Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation was formed by Washington to examine new ideas on improving mobility in L.A. County. Responsibilities will include:

  • Informing the high-level vision for L.A. Metro through exposure to innovative people, organizations and industries;
  • Supporting Metro departments in piloting and implementing new and experimental programs and policy; and
  • Serving as the primary liaison for new ideas relevant to L.A. Metro coming from entrepreneurs, private sector entities, academia or individuals.

“This office will be responsible for mining and implementing the most out of the box and innovative strategies the transportation industry has ever seen in this country,” said Washington. “This will be our Innovative Strike Force Team in areas such as public-private partnerships, value capture opportunities, high technology and autonomous vehicle impact on transit, as well as leading the agency’s strategic planning efforts.”


Virginia DRPT Promotes Craig

October 1st, 2015

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) has promoted Jacob Craig to director of engineering and project oversight. In his new position, he will be responsible for managing all engineering and project oversight functions for DRPT’s major rail and transit projects.

Craig has been with DRPT since 2007. Prior to his promotion, he worked on the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor Tier II Environmental Impact Studies in Virginia and North Carolina. He has been instrumental in overseeing many rail and transit design and construction projects, and has provided technical support to DRPT’s federally mandated State Safety Oversight program for rail transit systems in Virginia. He worked for the consulting industry in civil engineering with a focus on transportation before joining DRPT.

Craig earned an undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from Virginia Military Institute and a Master’s in Transportation Engineering from West Virginia University. He was a part-time adjunct faculty member at Virginia Tech where he taught Geometric Design.

AAR Reports Decline in U.S. Rail Traffic

October 1st, 2015

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending September 26, 2015, totaled 566,700 carloads and intermodal units, a drop of 1.8 percent compared to the same week in 2014.

U.S. carloads, with a total of 285,856 carloads for the week, were down by 5.4 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 280,844 units, up by 2.1 percent compared to 2014.

Four of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending September 26, 2015, when compared with the same week in 2014. Grain increased by 30.1 percent to 22,232 carloads, followed by miscellaneous carloads, up 14 percent to 10,100 carloads, and motor vehicles and parts, up 8.7 percent to 18,727 carloads.

Petroleum and petroleum products showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 22.3 percent to 13,014 carloads, and coal was down 14.2 percent to 101,561 carloads. Metallic ores and metals declined by 10.4 percent to 24,128 carloads.

Commodity groups that posted decreases compared with the same week in 2014 included petroleum and petroleum products, down 22.3 percent to 13,014 carloads; coal, down 14.2 percent to 101,561 carloads; and metallic ores and metals, down 10.4 percent to 24,128 carloads.

For the first 38 weeks of 2015, U.S. rail volume totaled 20,725,660 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 1.2 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 10,590,411 were down by 4.4 percent, and intermodal, with a total of 10,135,249, was up by 2.5 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending September 26, 2015, was 736,449 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.1 percent.

For the first 38 weeks of 2015, North American rail volume was down 0.8 percent, with a total of 26,999,035 carloads and intermodal units.

Testing Starts on Siemens’ New ICx High-Speed Train

September 30th, 2015
Siemens’ new ICx high-speed train. Photo: courtesy of Siemens.

Siemens’ new ICx high-speed train. Photo: courtesy of Siemens.

Siemens has begun the first high-speed trials for its new ICx high-speed train built for German rail operator Deutsche Bahn. The testing, conducted by DB Systemtechnik on Germany’s public rail network, will begin at 160 kilometers an hour and will gradually increase to the top speed of 250 kilometers an hour. The first test series will end at the beginning of October.

Deutsche Bahn has ordered 130 ICx-type trains, and beginning in 2017, they will replace the Intercity and Eurocity fleets. At a later time, the ICx will also replace ICE 1 and ICE 2 vehicles. Deutsche Bahn has an agreement with Siemens Mobility for up to 300 trainsets, the largest train contract that Siemens won in its history.