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MTA’s Canarsie Tunnel to Close for Reconstruction

July 27th, 2016

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) New York City Transit (NYCT) will have a full closure of the Canarsie Tunnel, which carries the L train under the East River between Brooklyn and Manhattan, for massive reconstruction work starting no sooner than 2019. Work on the tunnel is expected to take 18 months.

Superstorm Sandy caused extensive damage to the tunnel’s tracks, signals, switches, power cables, signal cables, communication cables, lighting, cable ducts and bench walls throughout a seven-mile long flooded section of both tubes. Bench walls in those sections must be replaced to protect the structural integrity of the two tubes.

“While the MTA always looks to avoid service disruptions, there is no question that repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel are critical and cannot be avoided or delayed,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast.

The MTA will also make improvements to stations and tunnel segments closest to the under-river section, and new stairs and elevators will be installed at the Bedford Avenue Station in Brooklyn and the 1 Avenue Station in Manhattan. Three new electric substations will be installed to provide more power to operate additional trains during rush hours.

The decision to have a full closure instead of a one-track, three-year closure, was based on a detailed operational review and after community engagement to consider all adverse impacts.

“Throughout this process we have committed to engaging the community and listening to all concerns so that we can address them as we prepare for this necessary work,” Prendergast stated. “We are committed to working with the community just as closely as we develop ways to add service to help minimize the impacts of the closure.”

Since May, four interactive community meetings have been held by the MTA in communities affected by the upcoming closure, with hundreds of riders attending. MTA officials also visited the 11 Community Boards along the L Line, all of which were overwhelmingly in favor of the full closure. Additionally, 77 percent of the comments MTA received through email, social media and at meetings were in favor of the full, shorter-duration closure.

“Approximately 80 percent of riders will have the same disruptions with either option,” remarked NYCT President Veronique ‘Ronnie’ Hakim. “Throughout our extensive outreach process and review, it became clear that the 18-month closure was the best construction option and offered the least amount of pain to customers for the shortest period of time.”

“The 18-month option is also the most efficient way to allow MTA to do the required work. It gives us more control over the work site and allows us to offer contractor incentives to finish the work as fast as possible. We think it is better to have a shorter duration of pain than a longer more unstable process – and risk unplanned closures – by leaving one track open during construction,” Hakim added.

The Canarsie Tunnel was one of nine underwater tunnels that flooded during Superstorm Sandy, all of which required major rehabilitation and repair. Some of that work was accomplished during night and weekend closures. Complete renovations took place on the R line’s Montague Tunnel under the East River, which closed for 13 months and the G line tunnel under Newtown Creek, which closed for two months.

Procurement of design and construction services for the project must begin to move forward this year to ensure that hundreds of millions of federal dollars are not lost.

Transport Canada Invests in VIA Infrastructure

July 27th, 2016

Transport Canada Minister Marc Garneau and VIA Rail Canada Inc. President and CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano have announced a $34.4 million investment to fund improvements at stations and maintenance facilities in the Windsor-Quebec City rail corridor. The investment will ensure a safe travel service for passengers.

“This investment allows VIA Rail’s rail corridor infrastructure to remain safe and secure while at the same time improving the passenger experience by making it more accessible and efficient for everyday Canadians,” Garneau stated.

Improvements to VIA’s Montreal and Toronto maintenance facilities will include repairs and upgrades to heating, ventilation, water treatment systems, various mechanical and electrical systems, and roof replacement.

Stations in the Windsor-Quebec City corridor will receive upgrades to various mechanical and electrical systems, heating, ventilation and platform improvements. An additional $400,000 will be used towards the remediation of a federal contaminated site at VIA’s Edmonton station.

“As Canada’s national rail passenger service, VIA Rail Canada is an important part of the climate change solution for Canada,” said Desjardins-Siciliano. “Our services provide an accessible and affordable alternative to cars, the funds announced today support the necessary shift we need to make towards a more sustainable transportation system. We would like to thank the government of Canada for their continued support in helping VIA Rail to be a smarter way to move people.”

The $34.4 million investment is part of the federal infrastructure initiative announced in Budget 2016.

UP Reports Second Quarter Net Income

July 27th, 2016

Union Pacific (UP) has reported its 2016 second quarter financial results with net income of nearly $1 billion, or $1.17 per diluted share, compared to the 2015 second quarter’s $1.2 billion net income, or $1.38 per diluted share.

In the 2016 second quarter, business volumes, measured by total revenue carloads, dropped by 11 percent from the same quarter last year. Declines in coal, intermodal, industrial products, chemicals, and automotive more than offset growth in agricultural products.

“While the second quarter was again challenging from a volume perspective, we continued focusing on initiatives that are squarely in our control, such as being productive with our resources, providing our customers with excellent service, and improving our safety performance,” said UP Chairman, President and CEO Lance Fritz.

Operating revenue declined by 12 percent to $4.8 billion compared to last year’s second quarter. The company’s operating ratio of 65.2 percent was unfavorable by 1.1 points compared to the second quarter 2015. Operating income was down by 15 percent to $1.7 billion.

Freight revenues decreased 13 percent, with volume declines and lower fuel surcharge revenue more than offsetting core pricing gains.

“A soft global economy, the negative impact of the strong U.S. dollar on exports, and relatively weak demand for consumer goods will continue to pressure volumes through the second half of the year,” said Fritz. “However, we see potential bright spots in certain segments of our business if key economic drivers continue to strengthen as they have in recent weeks.”

“Beyond the impact of the current macro environment, we are implementing a strategy that will make us a stronger company for the future. In the months and years ahead we will continue to create competitive advantages for our customers, enhanced safety and satisfaction for our employees, strength in our communities, and solid returns for our shareholders,” concluded Fritz.

FRA, TxDOT Seek Comments on Passenger Rail From Oklahoma City to Southern Texas

July 26th, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) are seeking public comments on 10 service and route options for passenger rail service connecting Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, and South Texas.

The options, which are evaluated in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), are for new and improved conventional and high-speed passenger rail service. The DEIS addresses major regional markets within the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Program corridor in three geographic sections, with referred alternatives recommended for each section.

The three sections of study are the Northern Section, which includes Edmond, Okla., to Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; the Central Section, which includes Dallas and Fort Worth to San Antonio; and the Southern Section, which includes  San Antonio to south Texas (Corpus Christi, Brownsville, Laredo, and the Rio Grande Valley).

“This corridor is home to major financial, energy, and education centers that people rely on every day,” remarked U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.  “Providing efficient, more reliable, and faster higher-speed passenger rail options to move between cities is crucial for the economy and the population to thrive.”

Current passenger rail service along the Interstate 35 (I-35) corridor includes three intercity Amtrak services. They include service from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth (Heartland Flyer), Fort Worth to San Antonio (Texas Eagle), and Los Angeles to New Orleans through San Antonio (Sunset Limited).

Details of the Texas-Oklahoma Passenger Rail Study will be given at four public hearings, where residents will also have a chance to understand how their communities may be affected. Comments on the 10 options and the seven recommended preferred options identified by USDOT and TxDOT will be accepted at the meetings and during a 45-day public comment period.

“I encourage those along the I-35 corridor to participate in the comment and public hearing opportunities so that they are able to learn more and share their input,” said Secretary Foxx.

“More passenger rail service will help relieve already congested roads along the I-35 corridor and help this region manage the significant population growth on the way,” stated FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “I encourage everyone to provide feedback on the 10 options that FRA and the Texas DOT have presented to continue moving this effort forward.”

More than 10 million people currently live along the 850-mile corridor, which is expected to grow by 39 percent in Texas and 25 percent in Oklahoma City by 2035.

USDOT Establishes Build America Bureau

July 26th, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has established the Build America Bureau to assist in streamlining credit and grant opportunities for transportation infrastructure development projects in the United States.

The new bureau, which utilizes the full resources of all the modes within DOT, will offer customers a single entity in charge of DOT credit, large scale, and intermodal project development, and a single point of contact for working with DOT on infrastructure finance and development. The bureau will also provide technical assistance and encourage innovative best practices in project planning, financing, delivery, and monitoring.

“The Build America Bureau will be a one-stop shop to help develop projects and provide financing in a single streamlined, effective, and comprehensive manner,” said DOT Secretary Anthony Foxx, who announced the new bureau. “It will allow DOT to be responsive to America’s changing transportation needs and opportunities, so we can deliver real, tangible infrastructure development for local, regional, and national population centers.”

The Build America Bureau combines the following DOT programs: the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA); the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF); the private activity bond (PAB); the Build America Transportation Investment Center (BATIC); and the new $800 million Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grant program.

The Bureau Outreach and Development team will work with project sponsors to aid them on combining DOT credit, funding, and innovative project delivery such as public-private partnerships, and then offer project-level technical assistance to get them ready to pursue it. This team will continue the work of the BATIC.

The Department’s Credit team will be able to underwrite loans from multiple sources together, so that the customer is no longer getting a TIFIA loan or a RRIF loan, but instead a single credit package from DOT. The Bureau will also manage the application and evaluation process for the FASTLANE grant program.

Announced in 2014, BATIC serves as a single point of contact and coordination for states, municipalities, and project sponsors looking to utilize federal transportation expertise, apply for federal transportation credit programs, and explore ways to access private capital in public private partnerships.

Congresswoman Matsui Tours Siemens’ New Sacremento Plant

July 26th, 2016
Siemens’ new rail service headquarters in Sacramento, Calif. Photo: courtesy of Siemens.

Siemens’ new rail service headquarters in Sacramento, Calif. Photo: courtesy of Siemens.

Congresswoman Doris Matsui, along with McClellan Park President Larry Kelley and Sacramento County Supervisors Phil Serna and Don Nottoli, recently toured Siemens‘ new 60,000 square-foot plant in Sacramento, Calif. The now fully operational plant, which serves as Siemens’ Mobility Customer Services U.S. headquarters and West Cost logistics hub, is dedicated to the company’s growing rail service, maintenance and repair operations.

“This new facility is integral to Sacramento’s continued growth as a manufacturing hub in our region,” stated Congresswoman Matsui. “The work being done here not only contributes to job growth in Sacramento, it also is an investment in our clean energy future. I look forward to continued collaboration with Siemens as we work together to advance a long term, sustainable vision for our region’s transportation infrastructure and economy.”

One of the first projects at the new facility will be the modernization of 32 SD160 light rail vehicles (LRVs) for Calgary Transit in Canada. The contract is worth $21 million. The facility also refurbished 21 LRVs for Sacramento Regional Transit (RT), adding approximately 15 years of additional useful life to the vehicles. The refurbished LRVs are currently in operation on the Blue Line to Cosumnes River College extension.

With more than 60 employees, Siemens has nearly doubled its workforce at this site since announcing the opening this past February and plans to continue hiring to support its growing service business.

“Our new plant is not only the U.S. headquarters for our service business, it has also enabled us to continue to grow highly-skilled employment opportunities for the Sacramento region,” said Chris Maynard, vice president of Siemens Customer Services.

The new rail service facility complements Siemens’ existing rail manufacturing plant located in South Sacramento. The plant, which has been in operation for almost 30 years and currently employs nearly 1,000 people, includes a recent 125,000 square-foot expansion.

“With the support of our growing workforce, numerous local suppliers, elected officials like Congresswoman Matsui and McClellan Park, we look forward to helping our customers across North America maximize and maintain their rail systems, while continuing to deliver industry-leading manufacturing expertise our of acramento manufacturing plant,” added Maynard.

CP Reports Second Quarter Results

July 25th, 2016

Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (CP) has reported that revenues for the 2016 second quarter have decreased by 12 percent to $1.45 billion when compared to the second quarter of 2015. Diluted earnings per share (EPS) declined 9 percent to $2.15 from $2.36, and adjusted diluted EPS dropped 16 percent to $2.05 from $2.45. This was primarily due to a 12 percent drop in revenues.

“Revenue challenges in the second quarter, as noted in our quarterly outlook release last month, included lower-than-anticipated bulk volumes, devastating wildfires in northern Alberta and a strengthening Canadian dollar,” said CP’s CEO E. Hunter Harrison. “Despite these challenges, our team of dedicated railroaders continues to perform and their hard work and focus on service, safety and controlling costs, positions CP well for the rest of the year.”

CP’s operating ratio increased 110 basis points to 62 percent in the second quarter. This compares to an operating ratio of 60.9 percent in last year’s second quarter. Operating income dropped 15 percent to $551 million from $646 million. Reported net income declined 16 percent to $328 million, and adjusted income decreased 23 percent to $312 million over last year’s second quarter.

Harrison added, “Our business model provides the flexibility and capacity to take advantage of changing market conditions – as volumes increase, we are well-equipped and ready to respond accordingly.”

FRA Approves Environmental Report for New England Rail Initiative

July 25th, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has announced a Finding of No Significant Impact on the Northern New England Intercity Rail Initiative (Initiative). The Initiative proposes to restore service between Boston and New Haven through Springfield and Hartford and proposes the addition of new service between Boston and Montreal.

The FRA found that no significant environmental impacts would result from adding more frequent and higher speed intercity passenger rail service. The findings were primarily due to the use of existing operating rail lines within existing rights-of-way, and infrastructure improvements located within existing right-of-way along areas that were in the past double or triple tracked.

“Existing passenger rail service through New England is limited and already at capacity for a region that is growing,” stated U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “With an approved blueprint in hand, New England can now move forward to connect people to key job centers and allow students to easily travel to and from New England’s numerous colleges.”

Through the FRA’s Next Generation High-Speed Rail Program, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) were awarded $942,775 to study potential service options and complete the Tier 1 Environmental Assessment.

FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg said, “More than two million people live within three miles of a station along this corridor. For everyone to move safely and efficiently, the region needs a robust rail system, and this blueprint will help achieve that goal.”

MassDOT and VTrans will coordinate the Initiative with other projects, including NEC FUTURE, FRA’s planning effort to define, evaluate, and prioritize investments in the Northeast Corridor (NEC).

NY Governor Unveils New MTA Subway Cars and Station Renovation Plans

July 25th, 2016

The design features of 1,025 new subway cars and the key elements in the renovation of 31 subway stations were unveiled by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn. These investments are part of the $27 billion, five-year New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTACapital Program to renew and expand the MTA network.

The MTA is using design-build contracts to expedite the process and ensure the shortest time frame for project completion. The first of several Requests for Proposals are already being issued.

“New York deserves a world-class transportation network, worthy of its role as the heartbeat of the 21st century economy,” said Governor Cuomo. “The MTA design team developed a bold and visionary reimagining of the quintessential commuter experience, incorporating best practices from global transit systems, and focusing on our core mission to renew, enhance and expand.”

“We are going to do more than renovate – we are bringing subway stations to a higher standard than ever before, and the new vision for subway cars will increase capacity and reduce overcrowding and delays,” the Governor added. “I congratulate the MTA for thinking creatively and working with the kind of passion and urgency it takes to move this state forward.”

The new subway cars will feature wider doors, Wi-Fi, USB chargers, color digital customer information displays, digital advertisements, illuminated door opening alerts, and security cameras. The exterior design of the cars will include a new blue front with large windows, LED headlights, and a blue stripe with gold accents along the sides.

The MTA anticipates that out of 1,025 new cars, up to 750 will feature an Open Car End design that replaces the door between cars with an accordion-like connector in order to create longer, open spaces, allowing for greater passenger flow movement.

The announcement highlighted key elements of the Governor’s initiative to create a new and improved design standard for subway stations. Renovations at 31 stations across the five boroughs will include enhanced lighting; improved signage; and amenities, such as count down clocks, improved cellular connectivity, Wi-Fi and new art. Renovations will also consider the architectural legacy of each station, and remain sensitive to historical elements as the stations undergo redesign.

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast remarked, “The Governor gave the MTA a mandate to implement new, world-class designs as quickly as possible for all new subway cars and that’s what you’re seeing today – innovation making the lives and commutes of all New Yorkers easier. Coupled with new methods for redeveloping our stations at the Governor’s direction, customers will see us get in, get done, and return new and improved stations to them in the most efficient way possible.”

OmniTRAX JV to Operate Decatur Central Railroad

July 22nd, 2016

A managed affiliate of OmniTRAX, Inc. and the Topflight Grain Cooperative, Inc., located in Illinois, are entering into a joint venture to operate, market and rehabilitate a Topflight rail line, now renamed Decatur Central Railroad, LLC. OmniTRAX will manage the rail line, which links Cisco and Decatur, Ill., commencing in late 2016. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

OmniTRAX CEO Kevin Shuba stated, “The Decatur Central Railroad is a great opportunity for OmniTRAX due to strong existing commodity flows, real-estate driven expansion prospects and the potential to add new diversified business. We’re also very excited to work with the Topflight and Midwest Inland Port teams, and to be a part of the Decatur business community.”

The railroad, which interchanges with CN just north of Decatur, will be used to transport grain from Topflight Grain Cooperative members to the processing companies of ADM, Tate & Lyle and others in and around Macon County.

“We see a lot of opportunity on the rail line for improved performance and expansion,” said Scott Docherty, Topflight’S chief executive officer and general manager. “OmniTRAX has had great success with their other railroads and industrial parks, and we look forward to working with them to grow the business here for years to come.”

The new rail line is integral to the growth plans of the Midwest Inland Port, a multi-modal hub in Decatur. The inland port is a division by the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur & Macon County (EDC).

“OmniTRAX has a great track record of developing businesses that grow regional economies and create new jobs, and Topflight is a key agriculture player in Central Illinois,” remarked EDC President Ryan McCrady. “We look forward to working with them to help the Midwest Inland Port reach its full potential.”