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Suarez Named COO of Texas’ Denton County Transportation Authority

August 1st, 2014

Texas’ Denton County Transportation Authority (DCTA) has named Raymond Suarez chief operating officer, responsible for developing, organizing, and directing the implementation and operation of the agency’s transportation and maintenance services, as well as functions for the A-train and bus system.

“We are excited to welcome an accomplished new member to our team of dynamic leaders at DCTA, and we know Raymond will be a tremendous asset to our staff and the communities we serve,” said Jim Cline, president of DCTA. “His leadership and vast experience in the transit industry will be key for our future growth and development in Denton County.”

Prior to joining DCTA, Suarez served as chief administrative officer for the Trinity Railway Express (TRE), overseeing aspects of TRE contracts, safety, operations, maintenance and capital program. While at TRE, he developed the agency’s annual budget and managed its long-range capital investment program and state of good repair model.

Also during his time at TRE, Suarez worked with the regional transit agencies to ensure adherence to annual authorizations and with regional partners to develop a 10-year cash flow for TRE, DCTA and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (The T) to support new regional operations and maintenance solicitation.

Prior to the TRE, Suarez served in multiple leadership roles within the transit and technology industries, including Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), Reactrix Systems, General Dynamics, Superconducting Supercollider and Trans Industries, Vultron Inc.; and provided consulting services for various companies throughout his career.

Suarez holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Texas Wesleyan University.

State of Maryland Requests Proposals for New Light Rail Line

August 1st, 2014

The Maryland Department of Transportation / Maryland Transit Administration  (MDOT/MTA) has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the construction and operation of the Purple Line, a new light rail line to be constructed in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

MDOT/MTA will select a private-sector team (Concessionaire) to design, build, construct, finance, operate and maintain the Purple Line during a 35-year contract term. Four teams, short-listed by MDOT/MTA in January, are eligible to submit proposals due on January 9, 2015.

The 16-mile Purple Line light rail line will run east-west inside the Capital Beltway between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. The line will have 21 stations and connect with the DC Metrorail’s Orange Line, Green Line and two branches of the Red Line. Connections will also be provided to the MARC Brunswick, Camden and Penn Lines. Estimated ridership is expected to be more than 74,000 riders a day by 2040.

“This is a significant milestone towards construction of the Purple Line, which will help us grow our economy, create jobs for Maryland’s workers, and strengthen communities in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties,” said Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown. “Building the Purple Line as a public-private partnership will allow us to continue our commitment to fiscally responsible budgeting while using the knowledge and skills of the private sector to expand our transportation infrastructure.”

The total project cost is $2.37 billion. Funding will come from federal, state and local governments, with the private sector expected to invest between $500 million and $900 million.

The Federal Transit Administration has recommended the project for a Full Funding Grant Agreement, providing $100 million in Fiscal Year 2015 and requesting $900 million for the project through its New Starts Program. The state of Maryland plans to invest $350 million to $750 million in the project. MDOT/MTA is currently working with Montgomery and Prince George’s counties on a combined local contribution of $220 million.

“The Purple Line will provide an essential east-west link as we strive toward the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s goal of doubling transit ridership,” said Maryland Transportation Secretary James T. Smith, Jr. “Advancing the Purple Line as a public-private partnership has resulted from a thorough evaluation and ensures that the taxpayers of Maryland receive the best value for their investment while maintaining our commitment to environmental stewardship, economic empowerment and community involvement.”

“MDOT and MTA are committed to building and operating the Purple Line to achieve consistent, excellent and responsive service by providing incentives for our private partner to make wise investments considering the entire life of the Purple Line,” said Robert L. Smith, MTA administrator and CEO.

Following RFP proposal submissions on January 9, 2015, MDOT/MTA will select a preferred partner in spring of 2015 and recommend the final agreement to the Board of Public Works for its review and approval. Construction would start later that year.

VIA Rail Canada Renovating Brockville Station

August 1st, 2014

VIA Rail Canada recently launched an extensive renovation project to transform its Brockville station with a new roof, building envelope and lighting and finishes. Renovations to the station, originally built in 1872, will also include door and window replacement, installation of an automatic door, and other accessibility improvements for people with disabilities.

The project also includes the demolition of an adjacent building and the construction of a passenger shelter in its place. The work, which will create 12 full-time and part-time jobs, is expected to be completed by November.

The renovations to Brockville station are part of a nation-wide project to improve VIA Rail stations and infrastructure. The work is being funded through the Government of Canada’s capital funding, totaling more than $1 billion since 2007, the largest investment of its kind in VIA Rail.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit Names new CIO and VP Finance

August 1st, 2014

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has hired two new executives, naming Nicole Fontayne as chief information officer and Joseph Costello as vice president of finance.

As chief information officer, Fontayne will oversee management information systems, intelligent transportation systems, networks and telecommunications. In addition, she will be responsible for developing and implementing information technology and intelligent transportation systems that support the agency’s strategic goals.

Nicole Fontayne   Photo: courtesy of DART

Nicole Fontayne Photo: courtesy of DART

Fontayne joins DART with more than 14 years of experience in senior positions at the city of Detroit and Broward County, Fla. She previously was an engagement manager with Dallas-based Everest Group, a global management consulting firm, where she directed complex projects for major companies. Fontayne earned a Master of Public Administration from Nova Southeastern University and a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Roosevelt University. She has completed additional executive education courses at Harvard University.

As vice president of finance, Costello will supervise the agency’s budget process, financial planning, debt financing and management, treasury, funds management, revenue administration and collection, grants management, accounting and business process re-engineering.

Joseph Costello   Photo courtesy of DART.

Joseph Costello Photo: courtesy of DART.

Prior to joining DART, Costello worked for Regional Transportation Authority in Chicago, most recently serving as executive director and previously serving as chief financial officer for 16 years. He earned an MBA from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from the University of Illinois.

Construction of Vehicle Maintenance Facility for KC Downtown Streetcar Line Begins

July 31st, 2014

The KC Streetcar Constructors (KCSC) recently began construction on the Singleton Vehicle Maintenance Facility (VMF), which will serve as a full-service station to repair, service and maintain the KC Downtown Streetcar line streetcars.

The VMF will have a total of 24,982 square feet, including 10,966 square feet of work area, 7,635 square feet of equipment and storage area, and 6,381 square feet of office area.

The two-story facility will be located at 3rd Street and Holmes, allowing for ground access to both the upper and lower levels because of the slope of the terrain.

Construction is scheduled to be completed next summer.

The two-mile north-south KC Downtown Streetcar will travel along Main Street and connect the River Market to Crown Center and Union Station, serving the Central Business District, the Power and Light District, and the Crossroads Art District.

UP Employees Match Best Ever Safety Performance for First Half of Year

July 31st, 2014

For the first half of 2014, Union Pacific Railroad (UP) employees matched their best ever reportable safety incident rate achieved in the first half of 2011, with a 1.01 reportable safety incident rate.

“The safety of our employees, customers and communities is our No. 1 priority, and each day Union Pacific employees embrace a safety mindset to keep themselves and others safe,” said Bob Grimaila, vice president of safety, security and environment at UP.

A company’s employee injury rate is calculated using the number of injuries per 200,000 employee hours, which is equivalent to the number of hours worked by 100 full-time employees in a year.

“Through employees’ ‘Courage to Care’ pledge to look out for themselves and others, the Total Safety Culture initiative, and the company’s focus on identifying and mitigating risk, we continue to work toward our commitment to zero injuries,” said Grimaila.

Construction Begins on Detroit’s M-1 RAIL Streetcar Line

July 31st, 2014

Construction began this week on the M‐1 RAIL Streetcar, a new 3.3 mile streetcar line that will travel on Woodward Avenue between Larned Street and West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Mich. Operating and construction agreements were unanimously approved by Detroit City Council on June 24, allowing the non‐profit organization M‐1 RAIL to begin work on the project.

M‐1 RAIL is a public‐private partnership leading the design, construction, and future operation of the new streetcar line in collaboration with local, state and federal governments.

M‐1 RAIL Chief Operating Officer Paul Childs said, “Over the next thirty days our team will be pounding the pavement to make everyone who lives, works and visits the Woodward corridor aware of what they should expect from track construction and how to navigate around it once we begin on July 28th.”

“We are moving quickly to provide information and resources to businesses and residents along the corridor,” continued Childs. “There will be a business support program that we will introduce in the coming weeks along with more details about construction activities and timelines as they are finalized.”

The streetcar will service 20 stations (16 curbside and four median running) at 12 locations. The project is expected to be completed in late 2016.

Trinity Industries’ Rail Group Sees Record Numbers in 2014 Second Quarter

July 31st, 2014

Trinity Industries, Inc.’s Rail Group has reported record revenues of $895.6 million for the 2014 second quarter, an increase over last year’s second quarter of 34 percent. Operating profit for the quarter was a record $176 million, a 63 percent jump over 2013.

During the 2014 second quarter, the Rail Group shipped 7,160 railcars and received orders for 9,880 railcars. The group’s backlog increased to a record $5.5 billion at June 30, 2014, representing a record 45,350 railcars, compared to a backlog of $5.2 billion as of March 31, 2014, representing 42,630 railcars.

The Railcar Leasing and Management Services Group reported revenues of $231.5 million for the second quarter of 2014 compared to revenues of $169.6 million for last year’s second quarter. The group had operating profits of $102.4 million in the second quarter compared to the same time period in 2013, which had an operating profit of $75.7 million. The increase in revenues and operating profit was due to higher rental rates and utilization, lease fleet additions, and increased railcar sales from the lease fleet.

During the second quarter, the Company sold $121.4 million worth of railcars to Element Financial Corporation under the program agreement announced last December with $53.5 million reported as sales of railcars owned one year or less at the time of sale and $67.9 million reported as sales from the Rail Group.

For the consolidated company, Trinity Industries, Inc. reported 2014 second quarter revenues of $1.5 billion, a 39 percent increase when compared to the 2013 second quarter revenues of $1.1 billion. Net income for the 2014 second quarter that ended June 30 was $164.2 million, a 95 percent increase over 2013. The results were adjusted for the 2-for-1 stock split completed during the quarter. Quarterly earnings per common diluted share increased 94 percent to $1.01.

“I am pleased with our strong results for the second quarter and our ability to build upon the positive momentum occurring within Trinity over the last several years,” said Timothy R. Wallace, Trinity’s chairman, chief executive officer and president. “Consolidated revenues increased 39% year-over-year and net earnings nearly doubled, outpacing revenue growth by a wide margin. The amount of operating leverage we obtained and the record $6.5 billion backlog in our major businesses at the end of the second quarter were impressive.”

CN Says Canada’s Rail System Ready for New Harvest

July 31st, 2014

Canadian National Railway Company (CN) has said that Canada’s rail transportation system will be able to handle this year’s harvest and also address the excess carry-over from last year’s record-breaking crop as early as next spring.

“CN posted a record performance in the 2013-2014 crop-year just ending – our movement of Western Canadian grain was a full 25 percent greater than past average performance,” said Claude Mongeau, president and chief executive officer. “We can be proud of our performance and for making good on the commitments we gave the federal government a month before the order-in-council requiring railways to move specific grain volumes took effect last March.”

“By virtue of normal commercial incentives, the grain handling and transportation system is now fully back in sync and ready to accommodate the upcoming harvest,” Mongeau continued. “This positive development is very encouraging and calls for careful balance from the federal government in how it pursues the regulatory agenda it announced in haste in the midst of a very difficult winter.”

Mongeau pointed out that CN transported record grain volumes last fall until the ability of the rail industry to move grain efficiently was hampered by the extreme winter weather. The company was able to ramp back up to its record performance as soon as the weather eased, with winter grain shipments only two percent below normal winter volumes.

CN’s run rate of spotting approximately 5,500 grain hopper cars per week since April 2014 has allowed the company’s wait-list to return to the normal level of only one week of shipments. Mongeau said that with the rail transportation system running efficiently, the grain supply chain is very well positioned to handle the coming harvest.

“According to Agriculture Canada, the carry-over from the crop-year just ending will be about 18 million tonnes, only 5.5 million tonnes higher than an average carry-over,” said Mongeau. “Given a late-planted crop this spring, the supply chain will have another five or so weeks to deplete stocks further by five to six million tonnes prior to the harvest starting in full gear. All this means there should be sufficient storage capacity available in the system.”

“Looking forward, given Agriculture Canada’s latest 2014-2015 crop forecast of 59 million tonnes – slightly higher than a trend-line average crop – the current throughput level for the rail industry should be sufficient to eliminate all the excess carry-over of grain by as early as next spring,” said Mongeau.

“End-to-end balance has been restored to the grain supply chain through hard work and normal commercial incentives. As there is no structural problem to fix, the government of Canada should limit the scope of new rail regulations, and instead focus on encouraging true supply chain collaboration. CN urges the federal government to adopt such a commercial approach and is ready to play its key role in the grain handling and transportation system for the benefit of Canadian grain growers,” Mongeau concluded.

New Appointments Made at Watco’s GDLK and WSOR

July 30th, 2014

Watco Companies has named a new general manager of Grand Elk Railroad (GDLK) and a new general manager and director of operations of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR).

Chris Norman Photo: courtesy of Watco.

Chris Norman Photo: courtesy of Watco.

Chris Norman has been named general manager of GDLK, with responsibilities for overseeing the railroad with the Customer First Foundation Principles being the highest priority. He will manage, direct and provide insight and follow up, maintain safety culture, set expectations, and lead and develop all team members.

Norman joined GDLK in February as senior trainmaster. Prior to that, he worked for CN Railroad from 2007 to 2014 as trainmaster, division trainmaster and assistant superintendent. From 1997 to 2007, he worked for CSX as conductor, engineer, yardmaster, and trainmaster.

At WSOR, Larry McCloud has been named general manager and Joe Via has been named director of operations. McCloud will be responsible for the daily operations, specifically focusing on improving safety, productivity and efficiency. Via will oversee the operations of the WSOR and manage and direct the team in the areas of safety, finances, customer relations and team development.

Larry McCloud photo: courtesy of Watco

Larry McCloud Photo: courtesy of Watco.

McCloud has 39 years of experience in the rail industry, having most recently served as general manager of the GDLK. Prior to joining Watco, he was vice president of operations for Industrial Railway, president of the Tuscola Saginaw Bay Railroad and vice president at RailAmerica. In addition, he worked in a number of positions at C&O Railway, including brakeman, conductor, fireman, engineer, yardmaster, and trainmaster. McCloud attended the University of Michigan Business Management.

Joe Via Photo: courtesy of Watco.

Joe Via Photo: courtesy of Watco.

Via joined Watco in 2012 as director of switching for the West Region. He worked for a year with the Union Pacific Railroad before joining the West Region, and he worked for 13 years for Utah Railway, a Genesee & Wyoming railroad. He held various positions such as conductor, assistant trainmaster, trainmaster and director of safety.