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UP Invests $12 Million in Illinois Rail Line

November 20th, 2014

Union Pacific Railroad is investing $12 million in the rail line between West Chicago and Franklin Grove, Ill., replacing railroad ties and rock ballast and renewing rail. The project, which began October 1, is expected to be completed by the middle of December.

UP will replace nearly 39,000 concrete railroad ties and install 8,400 tons of rock ballast between Elburn and Franklin Grove. In addition, crews will replace more than 11 miles of rail and renew the surfaces at 20 road crossings between West Chicago and Elburn.

“Union Pacific helps businesses connect with consumers, suppliers and markets across the nation and around the world,” said Donna Kush, UP vice president of public affairs for the northern region. “In addition to helping move our customers’ goods safely and efficiently, our investments support communities by reducing traffic congestion, facilitating industrial development and promoting economic expansion.”

This project in Illinois is one of nearly 1,500 Union Pacific will complete across its 32,000-mile network this year to help improve train operating efficiency, reduce motorist wait times at crossings and enhance safety.

Metro North & LIRR Fleets Adding Cameras

November 20th, 2014

A select committee of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board has approved contracts for the purchase of inward- and outward-facing cameras for the Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road fleets. A total of 2,064 rail cars and locomotives will be outfitted under the base, $34.6 million 36-month contract.

The outward-facing cab cameras will be installed to record track and wayside activities and inward-facing cameras will record the engineer’s control area while the train is in operation. The two railroads will also incorporate passenger area cameras to improve passenger and crew safety.

In February, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended installing camera systems on the lines. MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast immediately directed the MTA’s Commuter Railroads to begin the design, engineering, fabrication, delivery and installation of on board cameras.

“Cameras provide another measure of safety and security intended to ensure our trains operate as well as possible and reassure our customers,” said Prendergast. “They will aid investigations after accidents and other incidents, as well as deter behaviors that could affect safe train operations.”

The selection committee unanimously recommended awarding 4D Security Solutions for LIRR for $16.7 million and Sepsa North America for Metro-North for $17.9 million.

In March, Metro-North, on behalf of the LIRR, requested and received board approval to use the Request for Proposal process to procure the cameras because of the complexity of implementing such a system.

The contract now will be considered by the full MTA Board.

Alstom Supplying ERTMS to Romanian Railway

November 20th, 2014

Alstom, leader of a consortium with Alcatel Lucent Romania and Pas 97 Impex, will supply its Atlas 200 European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) Level 2 solution to the Romanian Sighișoara-Coșlariu-Simeria high-speed rail segment. Alstom’s share of the contract with the Romania National railway company (Compania Naţională de Căi Ferate (CFR S.A.) is worth approximately €100 million.

CFR S.A. is modernizing and upgrading the signaling system on the 170 km railway segment with the final work to be completed in 40 months. With the installation of the new signaling system, the commercial transportation speed will increase from 120 km/h to 160 km/h.

“We have carefully decided on the best solutions for this particular rail segment. This deal will greatly contribute to fast and safe rail transport in the region,” said Gabriel Stanciu, managing director of Alstom Transport in Romania.

Alstom will provide one regional train to CFR S.A., a Coradia Polyvalent dual-mode (electric and diesel) that is fully equipped with testing capabilities. The Coradia Polyvalent is the only generation of trains to have a low floor throughout and to integrate bi-modal drive systems. The Polyvalent bi-modal power supply system reduces the train’s environmental impact, aligning its operating mode to existing infrastructure on electrified and non-electrified lines.

“The passengers will not only appreciate the increased speed and the enhanced comfort on the upgraded section, but also the design and the capabilities of the test train, showing what could be the solution for future passenger transportation needs in the country,” added Stanciu.

Alstom’s ERTMS technology is currently contracted in 23 countries covering 12,500 km and more than 4,600 trains and is in use on 7 of the world’s 12 high speed lines. It is the second project with Atlas 200 in Romania.

Phoenix Area’s Valley Metro to Update Public on Tempe Streetcar Project

November 20th, 2014

Valley Metro, the regional transit system for the Phoenix metropolitan area, is hosting a public meeting to give updated information on the Tempe Streetcar route and to request comments from the public on stop locations and traffic configuration.

The current recommended three-mile proposed Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA) includes a one-mile downtown counter-clockwise loop on Mill and Ash Avenues connecting to bi-directional service along Apache Boulevard and Rio Salado Parkway. The route was supported by the Tempe City Council earlier this year in June.

The Tempe Streetcar Project was adopted locally and regionally into the Regional Transportation Plan in 2010 as a one-way loop between Rio Salado and University Drive, going north on Mill Avenue and south on Ash Avenue in the City of Tempe, Ariz. Valley Metro and the city of Tempe, along with a Community Working Group made up of residents and business owners along the proposed line, defined where the streetcars would travel and stop. The plan was approved by Tempe City Council in fall 2011.

In April 2013, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved the Tempe Streetcar into Project Development, which is the first step in receiving federal approval. The updated route must now be shared with the community, coordination with the FTA must continue, and regional route approval must be sought from the Valley Metro Rail and Maricopa Association of Governments boards.

The Tempe Streetcar project has an estimated cost of $175-190 million and will be funded using regional Proposition 400 funds, federal grant dollars, and potential other sources. The City of Tempe will be responsible for operating costs.

The Public Open House will be held on December 1, 2014, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Tempe Transportation Center on 200 E. Fifth Street in Tempe.

G&W Expands Arkansas Operations via Pinsly Purchase

November 19th, 2014

Short line giant Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) has reached a $40 million cash deal with Pinsly Railroad Company to acquire subsidiaries that constitute Pinsly’s Arkansas Division. The parties expect the transaction to be completed in early January 2015.

Based in Jones Mills, Ark., Pinsly Arkansas includes the Arkansas Midland Railroad, which is comprised of seven non-contiguous branch lines; the Prescott & Northwestern Railroad; and the Warren & Saline River Railroad; as well as the two Arkansas transload operations of Pinsly’s Railroad Distribution Services subsidiary. Operations are composed of 137 miles of owned and leased track, 70 employees and 16 locomotives and serve the Hot Springs and Little Rock areas, as well as the southwestern and southeastern portions of the state. The railroads currently haul approximately 35,000 carloads per year and serve a diverse customer base, including aluminum, forest products, aggregates, energy and carton board.

If the deal is approved by government regulators, Pinsly Arkansas will be run as part of G&W’s Central Region, which includes six existing short lines in Arkansas.

In 2015, G&W estimates that Pinsly Arkansas will contribute approximately $5.4 million of EBITDA, including certain net cost savings.

Jack Hellmann, president and CEO of G&W, commented, “Over the past 22 years, the Pinsly team has built an impressive cluster of short line railroads in Arkansas, with a clear focus on safety and customer service. Following the acquisition, G&W will own nine short line railroads in Arkansas, and we are excited about the opportunity to support and drive further economic growth in the state.”

John Levine, president and CEO of Pinsly, added that “Pinsly Railroad Company is very pleased to be transitioning ownership of its Arkansas Division to Genesee & Wyoming. G&W is a highly respected leader in our industry and our customers, employees and communities will be well positioned for continued growth and success in the coming years. I am very pleased and proud of the accomplishments of our talented and dedicated Arkansas team over the past 22 years. We look forward to working with G&W towards a successful closing and transition of the business in January 2015.”

G&W owns short line and regional freight railroads in the United States, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Chicago Area Metra’s 2015 Budget Approved

November 19th, 2014

The Board of Directors of Metra, the commuter rail agency serving counties in the Chicago area, unanimously approved a budget and capital program for 2015.

The budget includes an average fare increase of 10.8 percent across all fare types that will help fund a modernization plan as well as the increasing costs of operating the commuter rail service. Metra will be restoring a discount on 10-ride tickets that was eliminated in 2013.

The 2015 capital budget allocates $92 million to rolling stock, $36.9 million to tracks and structure, $131.6 million for signal, electrical and communication work (including $123 million for PTC), $44.5 million for facilities and equipment, $9.4 million to stations and parking and $14.5 million to support activities.

“We are continuously looking for ways to run this agency as effectively and efficiently as possible,” said Martin J. Oberman, chairman of the Metra Board of Directors. “But the simple fact is that cost containment can only go so far. Through this budget, Metra is demonstrating that it is spending the dollars necessary to maintain service and taking the steps necessary to invest in its future.”

In recent years, Metra identified $5.9 million in efficiencies that will continue to reduce costs in 2015, including a renegotiated agreement with the South Shore Line, which will reduce costs by $2.3 million in 2015, $3.3 million in savings in maintenance costs, $3.8 million in employee health care cost savings and $700,000 in security cost reductions.

Despite the efficiencies, the Board included an amendment directing staff to prepare a detailed report by January 2015 outlining whether additional costs can be cut without reducing or eliminating service.

Metra’s 2015 budget includes $753.1 million for operations and $328.9 million for capital needs. The budget also projects expenses to grow by $51.5 million in 2015. Increase in funding from external sources will total $18 million.

Illinois’ Town of Cicero Transit Plan Approved

November 19th, 2014

The Board of Trustees of the Town of Cicero, Ill., has adopted the Cicero Connections Plan, which recommends transportation and development enhancements for the town over the next 20 years. The plan includes ways to improve rider access to buses and trains as well as attract development to nearby transit stations, including the Cicero Metra station and the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Pink line stations.

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), which oversees financial and transit planning for the Chicago area, provided $118,503 in Community Planning funds toward the Plan, with the Town of Cicero contributing $29,626.

“Through this project, the Town of Cicero and the RTA will be able to provide residents better transportation options and encourage more people to use the region’s transit system,” said Cicero Town President Larry Dominick. “I appreciate the time and effort of the Town’s staff and our consultants, The Lakota Group.”

“This couldn’t have been accomplished without the funds and technical assistance provided by the RTA and the West Central Municipal Conference, and the multi-jurisdictional cooperation this work received from Metra, Illinois Department of Transportation, Chicago Transit Authority, Pace Suburban Bus, Cook County and many others,” said Dominick.

The RTA’s Community Planning Program has completed more than 100 transit-oriented development and implementation plans since the late 1990’s using a combination of RTA, local and federal funds, totaling nearly $10 million.

“The RTA is pleased to contribute to Cicero’s vision and implementation by providing funds and technical assistance to develop their plan,” said RTA Executive Director Leanne Redden. “The Town’s efforts to develop this plan illustrate the type of transit-oriented improvements we can bring to riders and residents throughout the RTA region.”

Central Maine & Quebec Names Tynes CFO

November 19th, 2014

Central Maine & Québec Railway has appointed Harold Tynes chief financial officer, succeeding Sachi Mishra.

Tynes brings more than 30 years of management and financial leadership experience to the Central Maine & Québec Railway. Most recently, he served as chief financial officer at Swanson Industries, Inc. in Morgantown, W.V.

Central Maine & Quebec Chief Executive Officer John Giles said, “Harold and I have worked together previously and we’re counting on his extensive knowledge and experience to help make the CM&Q profitable, efficient and safe.” Giles thanked Mishra, saying, “Sachi’s help was invaluable getting the CM&Q off to a solid start. We wish him all the best as he continues his career elsewhere.”

Previously, Tynes was vice president and controller and later vice president of financial services and treasurer at RailAmerica from 2007 through 2011 and president of RailAmerica’s Atlas Railroad Construction affiliate from 2011 to 2013. He also served as corporate controller at Great Lakes Transportation from 2002 to 2004.

His early career included eight years with General Electric, starting in 1991 with GE Appliances in Louisville, Ky., then advancing to finance manager at GE Capital in Stamford, Conn.

Tynes earned an MBA from Mercer University and a BS in finance from Troy University.

Tynes, whose appointment was effective November 10, will be based at the railway’s Hermon, Maine, headquarters.

The Central Maine & Quebec Railway, a subsidiary of Fortress Investment Group, LLC, began operations on May 15, 2014, after acquiring nearly 500 route miles of track in Quebec, Maine and Vermont from the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway.

BNSF to Retrofit Locomotives with HOTSTART Idle-Reduction Technology

November 19th, 2014

BNSF Railway is retrofitting 11 locomotives with HOTSTART idle-reduction technology that will reduce emissions and conserve fuel. The locomotives will operate out of BNSF’s Washington State rail yards in Spokane and Pasco.

The retrofit is in partnership with Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency (Spokane Clean Air), a local government agency that enforces federal, state and local air pollution regulations in Spokane County, and HOTSTART, a Spokane-based developer and manufacturer of diesel engine block heaters, coolant heaters, oil heaters, forced circulation heating systems, battery pads and wraps, controls and harnesses.

“Minimizing our impact on the planet is a key priority for all of us at BNSF and we are always striving to incorporate new practices and technologies to help us reduce our impact,” said John Lovenburg, BNSF vice president environmental. “Through our partnership with HOTSTART and Spokane Regional Clean Air Agency, we are able to make continued strides in Washington to further reduce carbon emissions in our operations.”

HOTSTART’s Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) idle-reduction technology keeps the engine warm and ready to restart, decreasing idling during cold weather, which reduces fuel consumption, oil consumption, emissions, noise and engine wear.

BNSF has also installed Automatic Engine Start-Stop systems (AESS) that shut down the engine when not in use and, when used in conjunction with APUs, can potentially eliminate most locomotive engine idling. Each locomotive will have remote data logging systems installed to monitor and track data for each of the 11 APU systems.

“HOTSTART is proud to support BNSF in its efforts to reduce locomotive idling,” said HOTSTART CEO Terry Judge. “We’re thrilled that our technology, developed and built right here in Spokane, will help BNSF save fuel and reduce emissions right in our own backyard.”

Spokane Clean Air facilitated the partnership purchase between BNSF and HOTSTART with technical assistance from Washington State Department of Ecology.

“This project is an excellent example of how technology can be used to reduce air pollution while saving a company money through significant fuel savings,” stated June Oliver, Director of Spokane Clean Air. “It is a win-win and we hope to see additional diesel engines retrofitted with idle reduction technology throughout our area.”

It is estimated that, when all of the retrofits are complete, this project will reduce emissions by more than 22 tons during the six-month, cold weather operational period.

BNSF has equipped more than 90 percent of its more than 7,500 locomotives with the AESS idle-control technology. All of BNSF’s new locomotives are also equipped with AESS technology.

Keolis Transit America Names Shaw CEO

November 19th, 2014

Keolis has named Stephen W. Shaw president and chief executive officer of its Keolis Transit America subsidiary, responsible for managing the company’s transit operations in the United States.

“Steve Shaw is an experienced and innovative leader with a long track record of success in managing transit systems, and I am pleased to announce his appointment to this role which is of great strategic importance to our success,” said Executive Vice President and General Manager for Keolis North America, Eric Asselin.

Shaw, who joined Keolis Transit America in August 2013 as chief operating officer, has more than 35 years of experience managing a variety of transportation operations. He began his career serving as vice president of operations at his family’s Baltimore-based business, Shaw Bus Service, which operated school buses and motor coaches. When the company was acquired by Laidlaw Transit, Shaw became the company’s regional manager.

He later served as regional vice president for Veolia Transportation Services, managing the northeast region for eight years.

In North America, Keolis operates trains, buses, trolleys, shuttles and taxis and provides fleet management and maintenance, logistics and routing services.