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Seattle’s Sound Transit Completes First Phase of University Link Light Rail Testing

June 30th, 2015

Sound Transit, the transportation authority for the Seattle area, completed the first phase of testing for the University Link light rail signal and power systems as part of the plan to open the extension in early 2016.

“University Link will be a game changer for commuters by connecting downtown Seattle and UW,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “The work that’s wrapping up is clearing the way for an 8-minute trip, completely bypassing some of the worst traffic in the region.”

Contractors have installed and tested new power, safety, train control and communications systems for most of the 3.1 miles of tunnels between Westlake Station in downtown Seattle and the University of Washington. The work included the installation and testing of new light rail control and safety systems for the entire light rail line and energizing the new overhead train power lines in the University Link tunnels.

Sound Transit has released a video that shows the view from the cab of a light rail train during testing as it made a run from Capitol Hill Station to the University of Washington Station.

Over the next months, contractors will remove the temporary wall and doors between the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) and the University Link tunnels and install the last 600′ of power and communication lines in that section.

During the final phases of testing that begins this fall, all trains that operate during normal service hours will continue on to Capitol Hill and UW Station before returning south. All northbound passengers will still have to deboard at Westlake Station, which will remain the first southbound station until the extension opens for service. This “pre-revenue service testing” familiarizes operators with the new stations and ensure all systems are performing well.

The $1.8 billion University Link light rail extension includes new stations at Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. The line is entirely underground,  and it is currently $150 million under budget and six to nine months ahead of schedule.

Stephens Joins Parsons Brinckerhoff

June 29th, 2015
Phillip Stephens

Philip Stephens

Parsons Brinckerhoff has appointed Philip Stephens a senior principal technical specialist in the company’s Chicago office, where he will act as quality task lead for the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail program. In his new role, Stephens will provide oversight/direction and audits of all program management sub-consultants and contractors that must implement quality assurance programs to meet federally mandated requirements.

Parsons Brinckerhoff is serving as program manager of the $1.6 billion corridor improvement project for the 284-mile route from Chicago to St. Louis. The project will reduce total trip time approximately one hour by allowing passenger rail service to operate at speeds up to 110 mph.

Stephens joins Parsons with more than 20 years of management experience in the application of quality standards for design and construction of large transportation infrastructure projects. He was formerly employed with a Chicago construction engineering firm, where he was also involved with quality assurance activities for the Chicago to St. Louis high-speed rail project. He also worked as a construction quality assurance manager for a construction management company which provided quality assurance services for Chicago Transit Authority projects.

Stephens attended the University of Dublin, Trinity College, Ireland, where he received post-graduate diplomas in project management and highway engineering and geotechnics. He also earned a BSc degree in engineering surveying from the Dublin Institute of Technology. He is affiliated with the U.S. Green Building Council, is an LEED accredited professional, and a member of the Registrar Accreditation Board. Stephens has been a certified principal QMS auditor since 1999.

Alstom Delivers New H3 Hybrid Locomotive to Volkswagen

June 29th, 2015
Alstom's H3 Hybrid Locomotive. Photo: © ALSTOM Transport/TOMA – V. Baillais.

Alstom's H3 Hybrid Locomotive. Photo: © ALSTOM Transport/TOMA – V. Baillais.

Alstom delivered a new zero-emissions H3 hybrid locomotive to Volkswagen (VW) at a ceremony held in Scaxony-Anhalt, Germany, at Alstom’s Stendal site where the locomotive was built. VW will use the hybrid shunting locomotive at its Wolfsburg plant for freight transport. Alstom has agreed to a 10 year maintenance contract on the locomotive.

Kristina Mennecke, head of industrial railroads of Volkswagen AG, stated, “Volkswagen is reducing CO2 emissions on the roads and, with the new hybrid locomotive, on the railways too. We anticipate savings of 45 percent of fuel and 25 tons of CO2 emissions. The new hybrid loco contributes to from Volkswagen’s sustainability objective; to achieve a 25% reduction of the environmental impact in the manufacturing area by 2018. Thanks to its frequent operation in battery mode, the level of noise is also significantly reduced.”

Alstom’s new H3 shunting locomotive has 50 percent less CO2 emissions, a 70 percent reduction of overall pollutant emissions and a significantly reduced noise emission. The 350 kW diesel generator meets the most recent European exhaust gas standard requirements and has been designed with future exhaust gas standards in mind.

“Alstom is pleased to hand over the third new H3 shunting locomotive to Volkswagen today after receiving orders of eight more from Audi, DB Regio Franken and Mitteldeutsche Eisenbahn Gesellschaft,” said Ralf Materzok, managing director of Alstom Lokomotiven Service GmbH. “Alstom is now ready for in-series production to address the needs of companies wishing to opt for zero-emission freight transport.”

The shunting locomotive will spend between 50 to 75 percent of its service time in battery mode depending on its use. This makes it possible to achieve zero-emission rail transport in urban areas or production halls. The locomotive reaches maximum speeds of 100 km/h and, once approved by the German Federal Railway Authority, can be integrated in main line traffic.

“With this environmentally friendly hybrid concept, Alstom’s Stendal site has proven its innovative prowess once again,” said Klaus Schmotz, Stendal’s lord mayor. “Zero-emission freight transport will play an increasingly important role in sustainable CO2 reduction worldwide. I offer my congratulations for this unique and robust vehicle and wish Alstom many successful projects on the German and international markets.”

Volkswagen and Alstom are already connected in a long-lasting technology-partnership on the area of hybrid shunting locomotives. In a pilot project, Volkswagen used retrofitted shunters with hybrid drive from Alstom, which helped in the development of the new H3 platform.

UP Hosts Tank Car Safety Training

June 29th, 2015

Union Pacific Railroad (UP) hosted 26 emergency response personnel from 11 states at the Association of American Railroad’s (AAR) Transportation Technology Center in Pueblo, Colo., for advanced tank car safety training. UP paid for all attendees’ expenses, with no cost to communities or organizations.

The five-day course, which was held at the Security and Emergency Response Training Center facility from June 8 – 12, covered a variety of safety topics, including identifying tank car types, tank car construction features and the fittings and safety appliances on tank cars.

“Our advanced tank car safety programs are an important feature of our ongoing commitment to educating first responders in the communities we serve,” said Mark Maday, UP’s manager hazardous materials training. “These five-day courses offer important information and more hands-on experience than our basic five-day course that responders can use in the unlikely event of a rail-related hazardous material incident.”

The emergency responders received hands-on experience in assessing tank car damage, making repairs, controlling the release of hazardous materials from damaged rail cars and using proper protective clothing. They also participated in a simulated hazardous material incident that helps students learn how to safely respond to such an event and how to effectively work with UP if such an incident occurs.

Union Pacific has sponsored four five-day advanced training programs and 53 five-day training programs at the Transportation Technology Center since 1986. The company regularly reaches out to fire departments as well as other emergency responders along its routes to offer the training to communities where the railroad operates. UP annually trains approximately 2,500 local, state and federal first responders on ways to minimize the impact of a potential derailment.

Massachusetts Union Station Redevelopment Underway

June 26th, 2015

A redevelopment project for Union Station, located in Springfield, Mass., is underway, with Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito committing the final $12 million needed to reach the $88.5 million in funding for the project.

“With access to the east-west and north-south interstate highways, and corresponding rail corridors, the city of Springfield is strategically situated at the transportation crossroads of New England,” said Governor Baker. “The funding we are pledging today will allow for the redevelopment of Union Station to capitalize on those connections, and rebuild the station into a regional transit hub that provides more options in a modernized building with space for new economic activity and growth.”

The Union Station project will include a completely renovated terminal building, a reactivated passenger tunnel and a new ADA-compliant rail boarding platform. The renovated station will also feature 66,000 square feet of commercial space, an open-air bus terminal and a new six-level parking garage. Union Station, owned and developed by the Springfield Redevelopment Authority, is expected to support approximately 200 permanent jobs. The project has a completion date of fall 2016.

“I would like to thank Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito for this significant grant that will allow for the full redevelopment of Springfield Union Station. With substantial money secured by Congressman Richard E. Neal this grant will allow for a full build of the planned two phase redevelopment,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno. “When completed the region will have a modern Intermodal transportation center and Springfield will have long time vacant building completely redeveloped.”

The funding commitment made by the Governor is a combined $12 million. Of that, $9.6 million has been allocated by MassDOT from Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality federal funding. An additional $2.4 million, which represents a required match to leverage the federal funds, has been allocated by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development through the MassWorks Infrastructure Program.

Weekly U.S. Rail Traffic Declines

June 26th, 2015

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending June 20, 2015, totaled 550,839 carloads and intermodal units, a drop of 2.4 percent compared to the same week in 2014.

U.S. carloads, with a total of 273,932 for the week, were down by 6.1 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 276,907 units, up by 1.6 percent compared to 2014.

Four of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending June 20, 2015, when compared with the same week in 2014. Miscellaneous carloads increased 15.7 percent to 8,946 carloads; grain increased 3.4 percent to 18,271 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts increased 1.9 percent to 18,682 carloads.

Coal showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 13.7 percent to 95,095 carloads, and metallic ores and metals were down 8.1 percent to 25,181 carloads. Forest products declined by 7.3 percent to 11,119 carloads.

For the first 24 weeks of 2015, U.S. rail volume totaled 12,987,628 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 0.8 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 6,658,163, were down by 3.6 percent, and intermodal was up by 2.2 percent to 6,329,465 units.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending June 20, 2015, was 719,747 carloads and intermodal units, a drop of 2.6 percent.

For the first 24 weeks of 2015, North American rail volume remained flat, with a total of 16,950,429 carloads and intermodal units.

 

Canpotex Orders National Steel Car Railcars

June 26th, 2015

National Steel Car, a railroad freight and tank car manufacturer in Hamilton, Ontario, has received an order from Canpotex, a potash marketing and export company, for 700 new railcars valued at C$70 million. The railcars will be custom designed by National Steel Car, in collaboration with Canpotex, to conform ‎to the properties of potash. Since 1999, Canpotex has invested more than C$500 million to have National Steel Car manufacture over 7,000 railcars.

“We are proud of our strong relationship and 20 year history of working with and producing industry-leading potash cars for Canpotex,” said National Steel Car’s Chairman and CEO Gregory J. Aziz. “We greatly appreciate the trust Canpotex has repeatedly placed with our company. This order alone will secure approximately seven months of employment for over 400 of our 2,400 employees, and will provide significant additional benefits to our Province.”

The potash railcars are custom designed to optimize the number of metric tons per railcar as well as maximize the number of railcars per unit train‎. Canpotex has increased overall train efficiencies by more than 90 percent with the railcar design, resulting in reduced greenhouse gas emissions and enhanced rail corridor capacities. Since 2000, Canpotex has doubled its annual rail shipments without adding an additional train.

“Canpotex’s success is due in part to our 43-year reputation as a reliable supplier of potash,” stated Canpotex President and CEO Steve Dechka. “The quality and innovative design of the railcars from National Steel Car will ensure we continue to reliably deliver the potash our global customers need, when they need it.”

“Canadians throughout the country benefit from the global export of Saskatchewan potash. We are delighted Canpotex’s $70 million investment in railcar capacity will stay in Canada by working with National Steel Car and their Hamilton employees,” added Dechka.

Potash is Canada’s largest mineral export and Canpotex currently ships in excess of 10 million metric tons per year, representing approximately $3 billion in annual exports. Once in service, Canpotex’s railcars will transport potash from Saskatchewan to Canpotex port facilities in Canada and the United States.

CSX, L&I Railroad Sign Agreement to Improve Rail Corridor

June 25th, 2015

CSX and Louisville & Indiana Railroad (L&I), a subsidiary of Anacostia Rail Holdings, have signed a $10 million agreement granting CSX a permanent easement to operate over L&I’s 106-mile corridor between Indianapolis and Louisville.

The two companies also finalized an operating agreement providing for $90 million in infrastructure upgrades over several years to improve the track structure and right of way along the line. The joint project was approved by the Surface Transportation Board in April and closed on June 17, 2015.

“CSX’s investment of approximately $100 million will provide enhanced rail access for the Port of Indiana-Jeffersonville, increase capacity and efficiency along this corridor and improve connectivity to CSX’s broader network,” said Oscar Munoz, CSX president and chief operating officer.

“These critical infrastructure improvements include the installation of new rail, upgrades to the rail bed structure and bridge improvements to enhance safety and service for customers in the Midwest and provide more efficient rail service throughout the region,” added Munoz.

As part of the infrastructure upgrade, 20 miles of rail on the southern portion of the Indianapolis/Louisville line will be replaced in the coming months. Representatives of both railroads held meetings with community leaders along the construction corridor to provide project status updates and address concerns related to public safety, anticipated increases in freight volume and construction plans.

L&I President John Goldman stated, “Since 2011, both L&I and CSX have coordinated with state and local officials to discuss the upgrade of the line to support manufacturers, farmers, marine ports and other contributors to the area’s economic growth. As we undertake the first phase of construction, we will continue to collaborate with local officials to plan and execute construction activities to minimize disruptions to communities along the corridor.”

Based in Jeffersonville, Ind., the L&I Railroad acquired the 106-mile Indianapolis/Louisville freight route from Consolidated Rail Corporation and began operations in 1994.

Dallas Transit Announces Leadership Appointments

June 25th, 2015

Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has appointed Maureen McCole vice president commuter rail/railroad management, Garrome “Jerry” Franklin vice president chief safety officer, and David Schulze vice president for policy and strategy.

Maureen McCole

Maureen McCole

In her new position, McCole will be responsible for the day-to-day leadership of Trinity Railway Express, the commuter rail service for the Dallas/Fort Worth area. She will serve as DART’s liaison with the Fort Worth Transportation Authority, which jointly owns the 35-mile commuter rail with DART. McCole will also be managing both the contracted commuter rail service for the Denton County Transportation Authority and the more than 200 miles of DART-owned freight rail corridors.

McCole began her career with Amtrak where she held several positions, including chief clerk mechanical, special assistant to the president (Northeast Corridor), government affairs officer and senior manager operations for the engineering department. She joined New Jersey Transit in 2004 as policy and strategic analysis manager and in 2007 was appointed superintendent of the River Line light rail operations.

McCole earned a bachelor’s of business administration/organizational management from attended Cabrini College.

Garrome "Jerry" Franklin

Garrome Franklin

Franklin brings more than 40 years’ experience in the transportation industry to his new position, where he will be responsible for DART’s operations safety program. He began his career at the Federal Aviation Administration where he served as regional administrator and deputy associate administrator for civil aviation security. Franklin also worked for the Federal Transit Administration as a regional administrator. He joined DART in 2006 as interim vice president of procurement, vice president of executive affairs and vice president economic opportunity/government relations.

Franklin earned a bachelor’s degree from Park College and a master’s in business administration from Webster University.

David Schulze

David Schulze

Schulze will lead DART’s strategic planning initiatives, developing and reviewing policies, providing analysis of critical issues and overseeing and managing projects that have agency-wide impacts. Schulze has worked in various attorney roles for the city of Dallas and general counsel roles for DART for the past 25 years.

Schulze earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from Baylor University.

NYSDEC Selects Parsons for Crude Oil Emergency Plans

June 25th, 2015

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has selected a Parsons team, made up of OBG and Gallagher Marine Systems, to help develop individual geographic response plans for emergencies involving crude oil trains. The plans are expected to be completed by April 2016.

In the event of a crude oil rail incident, the plans will provide response strategies and tactics as well as guide deployment of specialized spill response equipment to aid local response efforts. The emergency plans will cover areas in New York State that are along the crude oil freight train corridor. NYSDEC selected the Parsons team because of its extensive oil spill response experience.

Parsons Group President Virginia Grebbien said, “As part of Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 125, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is enhancing local spill response capabilities, and the Parsons team looks forward to assisting in the development of these important emergency response plans.”

New York State’s Executive Order 125 outlines improvements to oil spill response and prevention to better protect communities and the environment from the risks associated with crude oil transport.