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FRA Investigating CSX Derailment in WV

February 27th, 2015

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the lead Federal agency charged with investigating the derailment of CSX crude-oil tankers outside of Montgomery, W.Va., is moving forward with its full-scale forensic investigation into the incident. The agency was hampered in its investigation earlier last week by weather and safety concerns.

“With the response and recovery effort now complete, and the dangers associated with the initial derailment now minimized, the FRA will now begin its thorough investigation into the derailment,” stated Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “I thank the emergency responders who stepped into harm’s way to evacuate the affected communities, and I am eternally grateful that no residents were seriously injured.”

On February 16, a 109-car unit train pulled by two locomotives derailed 27 tank cars carrying Bakken crude oil near the Kanawha River, approximately 30 miles southeast of Charleston, W.Va. The Department’s FRA and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Coast Guard, and West Virginia state agencies have been at the site of the derailment since the evening of February 16.

The FRA announced next steps in its ongoing investigation into the derailment at a media conference in Boomer, W.Va., which includes participation from PHMSA. A full team of FRA investigators will remain in the Montgomery area for several days, and possibly weeks, as the investigation continues.

Initial activity at the derailment site focused on response and recovery, including controlling fires, containment of the crude oil release into surrounding areas, and protection of communities and drinking water sources near the derailment site. These activities, along with weather concerns, limited the DOT’s initial steps in its investigation and data collection.

“We are grateful to the first responders for evacuating residents safely, and grateful to the Coast Guard, the EPA and state and local agencies that worked together to immediately address urgent conditions at the derailment site,” said Sarah Feinberg, acting Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. “Now it is time for the FRA to begin our investigation into this incident in earnest, to identify any warranted enforcement actions, and to continue our work to ensure accidents like these do not continue.”

As part of its investigation, the FRA will inspect all damaged tank cars, recover damaged rail from the accident site, and review maintenance and inspection records for rolling stock, track, signals, and locomotives. All equipment, including rail, recovered from the accident site will be reassembled, documented, or reconstructed by investigators near the derailment site. All recovered components will be examined to either eliminate or identify issues related to wheels, track, axles or other components that could have caused or contributed to the accident.

The PHMSA is conducting testing of the crude oil product carried in the tanker cars to determine gas content, volatility, tank car performance and to ascertain compliance with federal hazardous material regulations related to proper product classification. The results will be included in FRA’s final investigative report.

PHMSA Acting Administrator Tim Butters said, “We continue to look into the composition of Bakken crude oil, which is why we took samples of the product to verify appropriate classification and whether emergency responders received the accurate information to respond to this derailment.”

Federal and state agencies will continue to monitor the derailment site and surrounding areas to ensure it remains safe for residents. The EPA and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection are continuing to work with the U.S. Coast Guard to test and monitor water quality and atmospheric conditions in the vicinity of the derailment.

The FRA will publish the findings of its investigation into the derailment on its website.

Secretary Foxx Vistis Durham During The GROW AMERICA Express Tour

February 27th, 2015

As part of his The GROW AMERICA Express bus tour, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx attended an event last week in Durham, N.C., to highlight a proposed light rail project and the benefits that increased investment in transportation brings to communities.

The Secretary was joined at the ceremony by N.C. Congressman G.K. Butterfield and Durham Mayor William V. “Bill” Bell as he discussed the need for the public to have access to transportation.

“Projects like the Durham-Orange Light Rail Line will connect Americans to opportunity by improving access to jobs and education while helping to spur economic development in growing communities like Durham, Chapel Hill and across the country,” stated Secretary Foxx. “I’m traveling throughout the Southeast this week to highlight projects like this one that show if we invest in a 21st century transportation system, we can grow jobs and the economy – and create a brighter tomorrow for future generations.”

The 17.1-mile Durham-Orange Light Rail Line will connect the City of Durham and the Town of Chapel Hill. Triangle Transit, the transportation agency for the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, is currently conducting planning and the environmental review for the light rail line. The agency expects to seek $910.3 million in federal funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grant Program toward the estimated total project cost of $1.8 billion.

“This new light rail line will make a huge difference for thousands of students and residents traveling to the renowned medical, educational and cultural institutions in the region,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan.

On February 2, the Obama Administration announced a plan to address the infrastructure deficit with a $478 billion, six-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal, building on the GROW AMERICA Act, which the Administration first released last year. Earlier this month, U.S. DOT released a study, “Beyond Traffic”, which looked at the trends and choices facing American transportation over the next three decades.

According to the study, Durham resides within the Piedmont Atlantic mega-region, which is projected to experience a 78 percent increase in population growth between 2010 and 2050.

The GROW AMERICA Express is an effort to raise awareness of America’s infrastructure deficit.

Trinity Industries Posts Strong Results

February 27th, 2015

Trinity Industries, Inc. has reported results for the fourth quarter ending December 31, 2014, with a net income of $138.2 million, or $0.86 per common diluted share, compared to $112.8 million, or $0.72 per common diluted share, for the fourth quarter of 2013. Revenues for the quarter increased 32 percent to a record $1.7 billion compared to revenues of $1.3 billion in 2013.

“During 2014, we utilized the strengths of our integrated business model to achieve record financial results, with all of our business segments reporting higher revenue and profit,” said Timothy R. Wallace, Trinity’s chairman, CEO and president.

“Our Rail Group received a record number of orders in 2014, and its $7.2 billion order backlog provides significant production visibility,” added Wallace. “Our Leasing Group achieved record financial results in 2014 and generated strong earnings and cash flow from strategic railcar leasing transactions completed during the year.”

In the fourth quarter of 2014, the Rail Group reported record revenues of approximately $1.1 billion, up by 25 percent over last year, and operating profit of $194.2 million, an increase of 23 percent. The increase in revenues and profit was due to higher deliveries, improved pricing, and a more favorable product mix.

The Rail Group shipped 8,460 railcars and received orders for 17,770 railcars during the fourth quarter, and their backlog increased to a record $7.2 billion at December 31, 2014, representing a record 61,035 railcars.

The Railcar Leasing and Management Services Group reported revenues of $238 million for the 2014 fourth quarter compared to revenues of $190.8 million during 2013. Railcar operating profit for this group was $96.6 million in this year’s fourth quarter compared to operating profit of $85.5 million in 2013. The increase in revenues and operating profit was due to higher rental rates as well as increased railcar sales from the lease fleet.

For the full year of 2014, Trinity Industries reported a record full year earnings per common diluted share of $4.19, a 76 percent increase over 2013. Full year revenue growth was up by 41 percent and all business segments reported year-over-year revenue and operating profit growth during 2014.

The Company anticipates earnings per common diluted share of between $4.00 and $4.40 compared to full year earnings per common diluted share of $4.19 in 2014. The Company expects quarterly earnings per share in 2015 to be relatively consistent throughout the year. As a result of the first quarter 2014 results including $0.72 per common diluted share of earnings related to sales of new and existing leased railcars to Element, Trinity Rail expects first quarter 2015 earnings per common diluted share to be below last year’s level.

Canada Introduces Rail Safety Legislation

February 26th, 2015
The Honorable Lisa Raitt introduces new rail legislation. Photo: courtesy of Transport Canada.

The Honorable Lisa Raitt introduces new rail legislation. Photo: courtesy of Transport Canada.

The Honorable Lisa Raitt, Canadian Minister of Transport, has introduced the Safe and Accountable Rail Act, which will enhance railway safety and make the rail industry and crude oil shippers more accountable to Canadians. The new Act proposes changes to the current Canada Transportation Act and Railway Safety Act.

“The Government of Canada continues to make the safety and security of Canadians a top priority,” stated Minister Raitt. “This new legislation will improve railway safety and strengthen oversight while protecting taxpayers and making industry more accountable to communities.”

Proposed changes include providing the Minister with the authority to issue a Ministerial Order requiring a company to take corrective measures if it is believed to be implementing its Railway Safety Management System (SMS) in a way that could compromise railway safety.

The proposed legislation would also require Federal railway companies to obtain and maintain legislated minimum levels of insurance based on the type and volume of dangerous goods they carry. Shippers of crude oil will be required to pay a levy per ton of crude oil shipped to build up a supplementary fund to pay for damages exceeding a railway’s minimum insurance level if an accident involving crude oil occurs.

The Minister also announced the new Railway Safety Management System (SMS) Regulations, 2015, which were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II on February 25. SMS Regulations require companies to develop and implement a formal framework that integrates safety into their day-to-day operations. The new regulations will help address recommendations made in the November 2013 Auditor General’s report. The new SMS Regulations will come into effect on April 1, 2015.

Seattle Area’s Tukwila Sounder Station Opens

February 26th, 2015

Representatives of Sound Transit, the authority for transportation in the Seattle area, were joined by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith and other local dignitaries in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Tukwila commuter rail station. The new station is one of nine Sounder stations on a south line commuter rail that serves more than 13,000 riders a day.

“Expanding our rail system is an important step toward building a strong foundation for long-term economic growth that will help families and businesses throughout Washington state,” said Senator Murray.

“This station will continue to link communities throughout the region, support local businesses and help commuters every day,” added Senator Murray.

The new regional transit hub offers 390 parking spaces, improved bus access, storage for 80 bicycles and four electric vehicle charging stations. It serves 10 round-trip Sounder south line trains each weekday and four daily Amtrak Cascades round trips.

“This newest transit hub gives commuters in South King County faster access to destinations across the region,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “My thanks to Senator Murray for helping secure the federal funding needed for this project.”

The new transit facility includes two 600-foot-long platforms, two passenger shelters, a plaza, improvements to walkways, lighting and the underpass connecting the platforms, and stormwater facilities to help manage runoff. Artist Sheila Klein designed the signature entryway art piece for the station.

The $46 million project was supported by $13.5 million in federal funding, including $4.6 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, $1.5 million in FTA Fixed Guideway funds and $7.4 million in High Speed Rail grant monies.

FTA Proposes Rule to Increase State Safety Oversight of Rail Transit Systems

February 26th, 2015

At Washington’s Union Station, the last stop on his GROW AMERICA Express bus tour, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced a proposed rule  that will replace regulatory framework of State Safety Oversight Agencies (SSOAs) with one that will better evaluate the effectiveness of a rail transit agency’s system safety program.

“We must improve, modernize and transform rail transit safety oversight to provide the increased level of safety expected by the millions of passengers who use rail transit every day,” stated Secretary Foxx. “Rail transit is a safe travel option, but we have an obligation and opportunity to make it even safer.”

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) proposed rule would give states more resources to increase oversight over rail transit systems by reflecting new statutory safety authority established by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). The proposed rule would require adoption and enforcement of federal and state safety laws, and require SSOAs to be financially and legally independent of the rail transit systems they oversee.

The proposed SSO rule reflects the flexible, scalable principles of Safety Management Systems that focus on organization-wide safety policy, proactive hazard identification and risk informed decision-making.

The FTA would also enhance its authority to review and approve each State Safety Oversight (SSO) program, including triennial audits, review of annual status reports, and certification of SSOAs. If states are not meeting the statutory criteria, FTA may withhold federal funds until an SSO program is certified.

“FTA appreciates the continued cooperation and engagement of our state and rail transit industry partners as we take this major step forward toward a new safety regulatory framework,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “We drafted the proposed rule to ensure it allows for the flexibility and scalability needed to provide effective safety benefits for passengers and employees of transit agencies of all sizes and operating environments.”

Public comments on the proposed rule will be accepted for 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register.

Last week, the FTA also announced that it will publish a final interim safety certification training program that will enhance the technical competencies and capabilities of individuals responsible for direct safety oversight of rail transit systems at agency, state and federal levels; and of individuals who conduct safety audits of these systems.

The FTA plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to establish the permanent provisions later this year. The interim training program becomes effective 90 days from its publication in the Federal Register.

Secretary Foxx Visits NC, Highlights Need for Rail Investments

February 25th, 2015

In an effort to highlight the need for increased investment in passenger rail and rail safety, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was joined by Vice President Joe Biden and other officials on a visit to a North Carolina passenger and freight railroad corridor north of Uptown Charlotte.

“Transportation projects have stalled or stopped across the country due to the lack of funding certainty,” said Secretary Foxx. “Passenger rail is critical to a growing economy – it brings economic development, creates jobs and provides access to opportunity for residents in the surrounding community.”

A new multimodal transportation center is currently being developed by the N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and the City of Charlotte to replace the existing Amtrak station. The new Charlotte Gateway Station will serve intercity passenger rail, regional and local buses, and a proposed streetcar.

The Secretary’s visit is part of the four-day, five state “The GROW AMERICA Express bus tour, highlighting the importance of investing in America’s infrastructure and to encourage Congress to act on a long-term transportation bill.

OmniTRAX Affiliate Acquires Illinois’ Peru Rail Line

February 25th, 2015

OmniTRAX affiliate acquires city of Peru rail line. Photo: courtesy of OmniTRAX.

OmniTRAX, Inc.‘s affiliate Peru Industrial Railroad, LLC is purchasing the Peru Rail Line from the City of Peru, Ill., and will immediately begin to run freight service on three miles of track. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

“The rail line is a natural add on for OmniTRAX and will create great freight and development opportunities for the City of Peru,” said OmniTRAX CEO Kevin Shuba. “When combined with the Illinois Railway, this operation will provide our customers with needed services, while delivering new jobs and economic growth to LaSalle County and beyond.”

Peru Industrial Railroad directly connects with the OmniTRAX-managed Illinois Railway, LLC, with both rail lines totaling 116 miles of track. Interchanges are available with BNSF, Norfolk Southern, Canadian Pacific, Canadian National and CSX.

“The City of Peru started on the Illinois River and authorized its first railroad in 1887. The City is at the crossroads of two interstate highways and owns a regional airport,” stated Peru Mayor Scott Harl. “This sale further enhances the City’s position as a center of transportation logistics and we look forward to working with Peru Industrial Railroad to further develop that industrial corridor.”

KCS Names Ottensmeyer President

February 25th, 2015

Kansas City Southern (KCS) has appointed Patrick J. Ottensmeyer president, effective March 1, 2015. Ottensmeyer, who is currently executive vice president and chief marketing officer, will continue to report to CEO David L. Starling.

Ottensmeyer will continue to be responsible for sales and marketing with additional responsibilities for operations, which includes transportation, engineering, mechanical, network operations, operations support and information technology.

“I am excited about Pat’s appointment as president of our company,” said Starling. “He has served as the company’s chief financial officer and, most recently, its chief marketing officer, which has prepared him for his new role as president.”

Ottensmeyer has more than 15 years of railroad industry experience, holding various positions within KCS. Prior to joining KCS, he worked for BNSF Railway and has also held executive level positions in the banking industry.

Ottensmeyer earned a bachelor of science in finance from Indiana University.

BART Receives Grant for Trackside Alarm Technology

February 24th, 2015

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has awarded the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) a $5 million grant to develop an alarm device that would protect trackside workers by automatically stopping an approaching train. The two-year project is scheduled to start with system development and to end with a final demonstration.

The project’s aim is to link trackside workers’ warning devices with trains and the BART Operations Control Center. The safety system would automatically stop an approaching train before it can enter the worker’s safety zone if a worker does not actively acknowledge a device’s warning,

“We have high hopes for this project,” said Tom Blalock, BART board president. “Not only could it save lives here at BART, but we believe it can also protect track workers at any rail system nationwide once we have successfully demonstrated this technology.”

BART’s efforts in procuring the grant received strong support from U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee, Eric Swalwell and Mike Honda.

Congresswoman Lee stated, “I am pleased that BART has been selected to receive this important safety funding. These funds will provide BART workers with needed security as they fulfill their duties to ensure safe, reliable and environmentally-friendly transit around East Bay and the entire region.”

Until the new system can be successfully put into use, BART will continue to follow requirements to impose train speed restrictions in trackside work zones.