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Virginia Governor Announces Railroad Safety and Security Taskforce

May 13th, 2014
NTSB inspection of Lynchburg derailment

NTSB inspection of Lynchburg derailment. Photo: courtesy of NTSB.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has announced the creation of the Commonwealth’s Railroad Safety and Security Taskforce, which will include state officials and subject matter experts who will be responsible for making recommendations and taking action to ensure the protection of lives, property and the environment along the state’s rail lines. The Governor’s announcement follows the derailment of a CSX freight train in downtown Lynchburg, Va., on April 30, 2014. The train was transporting crude oil from the Midwest to Yorktown.

“The train derailment that occurred on April 30 raises important public safety and health concerns,” said Governor McAuliffe. “While fortunately no one was hurt, it is critical that we determine the cause of this accident to help better protect Virginia’s families. The Railroad Safety and Security Taskforce will help ensure that the Commonwealth is a national leader in preventing, preparing for, and responding to these types of events.”

Governor McAuliffe sent a letter earlier this week to Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx highlighting his support to strengthen federal rules regarding the safety of rail cars carrying crude oil and to improve communication between the rail companies, first responders, and community officials.

CSX applauded Governor McAuliffe’s task force, with CSX Regional Vice President – State Government Affairs Bryan Rhode saying, “CSX appreciates Governor McAuliffe’s leadership in this area and his focus on shared dialogue with respect to the safety and security of rail shipments, which is our priority. We look forward to participating in the task force as part of our ongoing collaboration with federal, state and local agencies.”

Rhode said that CSX continuously seeks to offer the safest means of transporting energy products through collaboration, customer coordination, employee training, and investment in infrastructure and new safety technologies.

“CSX currently is engaged in a number of new efforts, including under the recent compact between the Association of American Railroads and U.S. Department of Transportation,” said Rhode. “That agreement will slow speeds of some shipments through certain urban areas, increase track inspections, and enhance already strong efforts to promote strong, long-term coordination with state, local and emergency response officials across the network.”

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San Bruno Celebrates Caltrain Grade Separation Completion

May 13th, 2014

Officials gathered at Posy Park in San Bruno, Calif., to mark the completion of a $155 million, mile-long grade separation project elevating the train tracks, used by Caltrain, over three streets in downtown San Bruno. Posy Park, the site of the celebration, was reconstructed at a new location adjacent to the project, which spans San Bruno, San Mateo and Angus Avenues in the city.

The project includes a new train station with passenger shelters and ticket vending machines on the 800-foot elevated platform, three pedestrian underpasses, a new parking lot and an area for dropping off and picking up passengers. In addition, the surrounding streets were repaved and striped and new sidewalks, traffic signals and a left turn lane were installed.

The project is intended to improve rail safety and support the revitalization of San Bruno’s downtown. Landscaping and an archway over San Bruno Avenue are also being planned.

From 1992 until 2010, there have been 11 fatalities on the train tracks in the City of San Bruno with nine of these occurring at either San Bruno or San Mateo Avenues. In 2002, the California Public Utilities Commission ranked San Bruno Avenue as the fifth most dangerous crossing in the state of California. The grade separation project is expected to eliminate vehicle-train collisions and reduce pedestrian fatalities.

“The City of San Bruno and its citizens have worked closely with Caltrain for over a decade to bring this project to reality,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “The result provides not only a tremendous rail safety improvement but a beautiful gateway to our community. The relocated and enhanced Posy Park is a wonderful new amenity for our residents and train passengers alike to enjoy. Residents and visitors entering San Bruno will be welcomed with the structure’s strong and positive statement that this is a special place.”

Before construction could begin, temporary train tracks were built, utility lines were relocated and a culvert was constructed. In addition, because the BART track extension to San Francisco International Airport was underneath the project area, the weight of the entire project could not exceed the weight of the soil, so a total of 65,000 cubic yards of soil was removed from the site.

The construction of the grade separation was funded by $92.4 million in sales tax revenues from Measure A, a voter-approved half-cent sales tax for transit and transportation projects in the county. The funds were leveraged to attract state funding of $55.9 million and federal funds of $6.6 million.

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FreightCar America Appoints Koenig VP Sales, Eastern U.S. Region

May 13th, 2014

FreightCar America Koenig

Dana Koenig has joined FreightCar America, Inc. as vice president sales, eastern U.S. region. In her new position, Koenig will be responsible for sales coverage and account management in FreightCar America’s eastern region. She will be based in Jacksonville, Fla.

“We are extremely pleased that Dana has agreed to join our company,” said Ted Baun, senior vice president marketing and sales. “I am confident that her strong experience will make a significant contribution to FreightCar America’s continued commercial success.”

Koenig has worked in rail-related businesses for 23 years and has extensive experience in railcar leasing along with a broad knowledge of many railcar types. She has worked for Bank of America, Mitsui Rail Capital, LLC, Bombardier Capital Rail, ConAgra Trade Group, Bunge Corporation, and the Union Pacific Railroad. Koenig attended Southeast Missouri State University where she earned a bachelor of science in Business Administration.

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Trinity Industries Completes $1.1 Billion Railcar Leasing Joint Venture

May 12th, 2014

Trinity Industries, Inc. has announced the completion of a $1.1 billion railcar leasing joint venture formed in May 2013. The company partnered with Napier Park Railcar Lease Fund LLC (the “Napier Park Fund”) and an additional co-investor who also invested in the Napier Park Fund, to create RIV 2013 Rail Holdings LLC (“RIV 2013”) in May of last year.

A subsidiary of TRIP Rail Holdings LLC (“TRIP”) acquired a $388 million portfolio of existing leased railcars from Trinity Industries Leasing Company (“TILC”), which was capitalized by a $336 million asset-backed securitization, with the remainder of the purchase price provided in the form of equity contributed by the co-owners of TRIP. TRIP is a partially owned subsidiary in which TILC owns a 42% interest. The remaining 58% of TRIP is owned by the “Napier Park Fund” and the co-investor “RIV 2013”.

TRIP and a second joint venture, “RIV 2013”, have purchased approximately $1.1 billion of leased railcars from TILC and its subsidiaries since May of 2013. TILC owns a 31% interest in RIV 2013 and the Napier Park Fund and the co-investor own the remaining 69% interest. This transaction substantially uses the remaining equity capital that was committed in May 2013 by the Napier Park Fund, the co-investor, and TILC to form RIV 2013 and finance the recapitalization of TRIP.

TRIP’s purchase of the $388 million portfolio leased railcars was financed with the issuance of $336 million of long-term, asset-backed debt and $73 million of previously committed equity capital, some of which was used to pay closing fees and expenses on the debt transaction. The newly issued debt has a weighted average life of 8.2 years and a blended coupon of approximately 3.8% at closing. The debt was issued by an existing subsidiary of TRIP, and is secured by the subsidiary’s fleet of railcars and their associated operating leases. The obligations are non-recourse to Trinity, TILC, and TRIP. TILC will act as servicer.

The transaction is expected to generate capital of approximately $370 million for Trinity, after committing its share of equity capital and the payment of associated transaction costs. Both TRIP and RIV 2013 are accounted for on a fully consolidated basis.

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Desjardins-Siciliano Named President & CEO of VIA Rail

May 12th, 2014

VIA Rail Canada Chairman of the Board Paul G. Smith, has announced that, on the recommendation of the Honorable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, Yves Desjardins-Siciliano has been appointed president and CEO of VIA Rail Canada Inc. for five years, replacing Interim President and CEO Steve Del Bosco, who will resume his previous role as chief commercial planning officer.

“It is an honour and a privilege to be given the opportunity to serve in this capacity,” said Desjardins-Siciliano. “I am proud to work with the outstanding people that make VIA Rail, an iconic Canadian brand. The task ahead is to ensure that inter-city passenger rail continues to play a key role in the economic prosperity of Canada.”

Prior to his appointment, Desjardins-Siciliano served as VIA Rail’s chief corporate and legal officer and corporate secretary since April 2010 where his responsibilities included managing the major capital projects program and public affairs as well as legal matters, risk management and the governance of VIA’s board of directors.

Before joining VIA Rail, Desjardins-Siciliano held several senior positions in legal and government relations, corporate development, marketing and finance. He was senior vice-president, law and corporate development at Bell Mobility and vice-president, law and business development, at Information Systems Management (ISM), a subsidiary of IBM. A graduate of the Université de Montréal and McGill University, Desjardins-Siciliano is a member of the Quebec Bar Association and a former president of the Quebec division of the Canadian Bar Association.

Minister Raitt stated, “Mr. Desjardins-Siciliano’s strong leadership skills, legal expertise, and wide-ranging business experience, both at VIA and in the private sector, will be valuable assets to VIA, which provides passenger rail service for the travelling public, business and tourism.”

In addition, VIA Rail Canada has released its 2013 Annual Report with revenue totaling $270.4 million, a decrease of 2.3% when compared to 2012 revenue. Ridership totaled 3.9 million passengers, level with total ridership from 2012.

 

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Western Maryland Scenic Railroad to Restore, Operate C&O Locomotive No. 1309

May 12th, 2014
C&O Locomotive No. 1309

C&O Locomotive No. 1309: courtesy of B&O Railroad Museum

The B&O Railroad Museum, located in Baltimore, Md., has announced that it will transfer ownership of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Locomotive No. 1309 to the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad (WMSR), where the historic locomotive will be restored and used for operation on the railroad’s passenger line.

The Collections Committee of the B&O Railroad Museum’s Board of Directors considered the change of ownership to be a one-of-a-kind opportunity for both of the non-profit organizations. “This historic agreement is a win-win for railroad preservation,” said B&O Railroad Museum Director Courtney B. Wilson. “It ensures the long-term preservation and restoration of an important steam locomotive which is central to our mission.”

The C&O Locomotive No. 1309 was built in 1949 and was the last domestic steam locomotive manufactured by Baldwin Locomotive Works. The locomotive is known as a “Mallet,” after Swiss engineer Anatole Mallet whose design combined an articulated frame with “compound” steam. Articulation of the frame allowed the 217-ton locomotive to navigate curves and the compound steam used the engine’s steam for both the rear set of high pressure cylinders and for the low pressure front cylinders.

No. 1309 worked out of C&O’s Peach Creek Terminal in Logan, W.Va., hauling coal. It was retired in 1956 and became part of the B&O Railroad Museum’s Collection in 1972.

“With the full support of the Board of Directors, the continued efforts of the executive directors, staff and employees of the WMSR have allowed for the growth and prosperity of our wonderful tourist attraction in Western Maryland,” said Mark Farris, president of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Board of Directors. “These efforts have provided the resources to give the WMSR the opportunity to acquire locomotive 1309, restore it, and place it back into service in a wonderful mountainous setting where thousands of people can enjoy the sights and sounds of a bygone era.”

The locomotive is currently in the B&O Railroad Museum’s restoration facility in preparation for shipment by rail on specialized flat cars pulled by CSX to the Western Maryland’s shops, where restoration to operating condition is expected to take several years.

 

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VIA Rail, CN Reach Tentative Agreement to Continue Northern New Brunswick Passenger Service

May 12th, 2014

VIA Rail and the Canadian National Railway (CN) have reached a tentative agreement allowing VIA’s passenger rail service to continue on the Newcastle subdivision. Under the agreement, VIA Rail will provide CN with approximately $10.2M to rehabilitate 44 miles of track on the line between Nelson Junction and Nepisiquit Junction. The tentative agreement must still be ratified by the companies’ respective boards.

As a result of the agreement, VIA Rail will continue to offer its Ocean passenger rail service between Bathurst and Miramichi three days per week and will also hold discussions with the province and municipalities along the subdivision to explore ways to increase train ridership.

The Honorable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport, who announced the tentative agreement with the Honorable David Alward, Premier of New Brunswick, said she has been following the situation and urged VIA Rail and CN to find a solution that will benefit the citizens of New Brunswick.

“Our government is committed to creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity,” said Minister Raitt. “The continuity of VIA Rail’s Ocean service on this rail line in Northern New Brunswick is excellent news as it will not only benefit the users, but also each community along the route by maintaining jobs and supporting the local economy.”

Premier Alward remarked, “Access to rail for both passenger and cargo services is vital to the growth and prosperity of many communities in Northern New Brunswick. Our government’s investment in the future of these communities is an important part of our plan to create jobs and make life better in New Brunswick.”

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California High-Speed Rail Authority Approves Alignment, Certifies EIR/EIS

May 12th, 2014

The California High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors has approved a high-speed rail alignment that extends from the southern edge of the already-approved Fresno Mariposa Street station to the 7th Standard Road in Kern County northwest of Bakersfield. The Board also certified the Final Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and approved entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the San Joaquin Valley Unified Air Pollution Control District to offset emissions during construction.

“This document represents a culmination of the work done by the Authority to identify a preferred alignment for the project that is consistent with the parameters of Proposition 1A requirements, and extensive input and feedback from members of the community, local and elected officials, a variety of stakeholders and our state and federal partners,” Board Chair Dan Richard sated. “As this process moves forward, we are all committed to and will continue to work with property owners and businesses to ensure that impacts from the high-speed rail project are mitigated and that the project benefits Central Valley residents now and into the future.”

The Fresno to Bakersfield high-speed rail project begins south of the terminus of the Merced to Fresno section and runs north of the City of Bakersfield, approximately 114 miles. The preferred alternative is comprised of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe alternative (BNSF), the Corcoran Bypass alternative, the Allensworth Bypass alternative and the Bakersfield Hybrid alternative. Proposed stations are identified as the Downtown Bakersfield station on Truxtun Avenue, and the East of Hanford/west of Visalia station option located near State Route 198.

Under the MOU, the construction of the high-speed rail project in the district boundaries must include the offset of construction criteria pollutant emissions. The District will source, procure and secure the offsets on behalf of the Authority. Additionally, a process for Voluntary Emission Reduction Agreements (VERA) with be outlined. The Authority currently requires the design-build contractors to use clean construction vehicles and recycle 100 percent of steel and concrete.

“This agreement is an extremely important investment in our future that will benefit Central Valley residents as we still have unacceptably poor air quality, which we see that through high asthma rates for children,” said Board Vice-Chair Tom Richards. ”As both a Central Valley resident and business owner, I believe that through high-speed rail, we will be able improve the livability of the valley and make the air cleaner for everyone, while at the same time, building new economic and job opportunities for our region.”

The Federal Railroad Administration will now consider approval of the project and the issuance of a Record of Decision under the National Environmental Policy Act, which is anticipated to happen in June of this year.

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Amtrak Opens Service in St. Paul’s Union Station

May 12th, 2014

On May 7, Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman along with officials from Ramsey County Regional Railroad Authority (RCRRA) cut the ribbon for the first-ever Amtrak service in Downtown St. Paul, Min., where Amtrak opened service to the newly renovated Union Depot with the arrival of the Empire Builder from Chicago.

“It’s a great day to welcome passenger rail back to Saint Paul, and no better place to do it than the historic Union Depot—a building that would have met the wrecking ball if not for the leadership of its many champions from the County Board to the White House,” said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

At Union Depot, which is owned by RCRRA, Amtrak travelers can now connect from more than 500 destinations to intercity buses, Metro Transit and MVTA bus services. Next month, service will be provided to Metro Transit’s Green Line. The Amtrak schedule will be slightly different at Union Depot from those at that the former Midway Station between St. Paul and Minneapolis, which no longer has any public functions.

“With Amtrak, the range of transportation options at Union Depot expands opportunities for travel connections throughout the Upper Midwest and beyond. Our beautifully restored building is achieving our vision as a multimodal transit facility and a unique gathering place for people – whether they are travelers passing through, living in St. Paul, stopping in the area for business, or here to attend one of many social or cultural events this region has to offer,” said Rafael Ortega, Ramsey County commissioner and RCRRA chair.

Funding for the $243 million renovation of Union Depot was obtained from federal, state and local agencies. The largest grant was $45.3 million from SAFETEA-LU, a federal transportation bill for large-scale projects of national or regional significance. The RCRRA was awarded a $35 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant by the U.S. Department of Transportation for the project, and $40 million was funded through the Federal Railroad Administration’s High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. The Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Bus and Bus Facilities Program contributed $4 million to finance the new bus terminal. Other funds used in the project were obtained from state bonds and a tax levy imposed by the RCRRA.

The opening ceremony was attended by more than 200 people and continued through Saturday, when Union Depot hosted a National Train Day event.

Amtrak will soon send the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) a report regarding an additional round-trip on the Empire Builder’s route between St. Paul and Chicago, one of four passenger rail corridors being considered by the state.

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Loeb Named Watco Sr. VP Marketing & Strategic Development

May 9th, 2014

Stefan Loeb has been named Watco Transportation Services’ (WTS) senior vice president of marketing and strategic development, responsible for the organic growth initiatives of WTS’ North American railroads and contract switching locations.

Loeb will continue to support Watco executive leadership in strategic areas, including business development and Class I relationships. Kirk Hawley, senior vice president of transportation marketing and sales, will continue leading the transportation marketing team, reporting directly to Loeb

Loeb joined the Watco Team in 2010 as vice president of business development, leading and assisting with several acquisitions, including the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, Birmingham Terminal Railway, Ann Arbor Railroad, and Autauga Northern Railroad. Before that, he was vice president – client manager at Bank of America from 2008 to 2010, and from 2001 to 2008, he served in various roles at LaSalle Bank moving up from credit analyst to vice president – surface transportation.

Loeb earned a bachelor’s degree in Business and Finance from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind.

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