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BART Silicon Valley Extension Completes First Road Crossing

October 15th, 2014
BART/Hostetter Rd. intersection. Photo: courtesy of VTA.

BART/Hostetter Road intersection. Photo: courtesy of VTA.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) will reopen all lanes of the Hostetter Road intersection this week, as the first road crossing has been completed where the future BART Silicon Valley Extension will run in the trench below the roadway. Construction will continue beneath the road to prepare the trench for BART tracks.

Construction began on the intersection in April 2013, with commuters experiencing lane reductions and lane shifts to facilitate the construction of a trench and a street-level bridge for Hostetter Road.

This winter, construction will begin on the next major road crossing at the intersection of Sierra Road and Lundy Avenue. The intersection will be fully closed for approximately nine months during major construction activities. Three additional traffic shifts at road crossings are also taking place within the BART corridor in Milpitas and San Jose.

The BART Silicon Valley Extension project in California extends the BART rail system from the city of Fremont through the cities of Milpitas, San Jose, and Santa Clara in Santa Clara County.

VTA has made significant progress at both the Berryessa and Milpitas station areas and completed construction of a crossing above Warren Avenue in Fremont. The project remains on schedule with passenger service anticipated to begin in late 2017.

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Chicago’s Metra Proposes $2.4 Billion Modernization Plan

October 14th, 2014

Metra, the commuter rail division of the Chicago area’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), has proposed a $2.4 billion modernization plan that calls for replacing the agency’s aging rail cars and locomotives. The plan will require Metra financing, fare increases and increased state and federal funding over the next decade.

Metra Board Chairman Martin Oberman and Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno said the proposed $2.4 billion plan calls for phased-in purchases of new passenger rail cars and locomotives. More than 40 percent of the current fleet of rail cars date from the Eisenhower administration to the Reagan administration.

The proposed rail car program will purchase 367 new cars, at a total cost of $1.2 billion. The plan calls for 106 new cars to be delivered between 2018 and 2019 and 261 cars to be delivered between 2020 and 2024.

To finance the modernization plan, Metra would issue its own bonds or employ similar financing, starting with $100 million in 2015 to be followed by similar amounts in 2017, 2019 and 2022. The agency also plans for a portion of the 10.8 percent fare increase in Metra’s proposed 2015 operating budget to pay for the debt service on the first $100 million.

“Folks may love nostalgia, but it makes a powerful statement when our oldest cars date from the Eisenhower administration,” Oberman said. “The majority of our rail cars are older than the majority of our daily commuters. While nobody ever likes fare increases, Metra’s fares are significantly lower than our peer railroads in major cities and have not kept pace with inflation. In addition, it’s time we do this right.”

“We have to stop pretending that our costs do not go up every year, just like they do for everything else,” continued Oberman. “We hope that our current and prospective riders will see this as a sound, common sense investment that will make commuting a more comfortable and enjoyable experience.”

Metra also plans to invest $20 million for improvements to its 49th St. yard facility, where most rail car rehabilitation work takes place, increasing the number of cars it can work on each year from 40 to 60.That rehabilitation work will cost about $341 million. It will also rebuild 85 locomotives in the fleet at an estimated cost of $178.5 million. In 2020, it is anticipated that 52 new locomotives would be purchased for delivery from 2020-2024, at an estimated cost of $416 million.

The modernization plan also allocates $275 million to positive train control (PTC), a GPS-based safety technology designed to automatically ensure compliance with speed limits and other operating standards, helping Metra to complete the implementation of the system, which is estimated to cost more than $400 million.

Metra is providing riders and the public with a projection of fare increases that will be needed over the next decade to pay debt service on all the financing and to cover annual anticipated increased costs of doing business. Projections of increases could change as new funding becomes available.

“We are only asking our customers to pay about 16 percent of the total cost of this program, but that is an important component of our plan,” Oberman added. “Metra believes that by taking the lead to fund its capital needs through financing – which will largely be paid by Metra riders – we will convince government leaders to step up to the plate to provide the additional needed funding.”

According to RTA’s 2013 Capital Asset Condition Assessment Update Report, Metra needs $9.9 billion over the next decade to achieve and maintain a state of good repair on its system, and it can roughly expect about a fourth of that amount from traditional state and federal sources. The report said that roughly 50 percent of Metra’s assets were estimated to be in marginal or worn condition.

“We expend a huge amount of resources – time, staff and money – on timely and extensive maintenance so that even our ‘vintage’ rolling stock is completely safe,” Orseno said. “But, as the old saying goes, is this really any way to run a railroad? Safety will always remain our number one priority, but being modern and comfortable is important too – especially if we want to continue attracting riders because they want to use Metra, not just because they have to.”

“Frankly even with the proposed increases, commuting on Metra remains a much better value for our passengers than paying for car maintenance, gas and parking,” Orseno said.

The modernization plan does not address all of Metra’s capital needs. Additional plans will be developed to address other areas, including tracks, structures, signals, facilities, stations and parking.

“Metra can no longer ‘kick this can down the road’ and continue with cobbled-together solutions on its aging system,” said Oberman. “We must secure a stable funding stream that allows us to implement ongoing rehabs and replacements. A safe, reliable, comfortable ride has a price tag, and this Board intends to continue tackling the tough challenges – transparently and effectively – to ensure a long future with a rail system commuters can count on.”

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Bombardier Wins Signaling Contract for Ethiopian Rail

October 14th, 2014

Bombardier Transportation has won a contract worth approximately $45 million to supply the mainline signaling solution for the new 400 km Awash-Weldia line in Ethiopia. The contract was awarded by Yapi Merkezi, a Turkish construction company that is designing and constructing the rail line.

The new rail link is part of an investment program by Ethiopian Railways to extend the country’s rail network.

“This is one of the longest lines tendered as a turn-key project in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Erdem Arioglu, board member of Yapi Merkezi. “Yapi Merkezi went through a very detailed selection process to determine its suppliers and sub-contractors and Bombardier was selected due to its proven track record and its successful, long-term cooperation with Yapi Merkezi on similar projects worldwide.”

Bombardier Transportation will supply its BOMBARDIER INTERFLO 250 solution, which will be based on the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). This global, standardized signaling system will ensure the new railway is interoperable with other lines and new vehicles.

“Bombardier is proud to be selected to supply the signaling technology for this important part of the Ethiopian infrastructure investment program,” stated Peter Cedervall, president, Division Rail Control Solutions, Bombardier Transportation. “We are happy to once again work with our esteemed partner Yapi Merkezi and further strengthen our relations with the Ethiopian railway industry.”

Bombardier has delivered its rail control solutions to several lines in Africa, including the Gautrain Rapid Rail Link and Durban’s Main Corridors in South Africa. Bombardier was also chosen to supply signaling systems to Zambia’s north – south connection between Livingstone and Chingola and  to upgrade Morocco’s Casablanca to Tangiers line. The company is also providing Algeria with its first ERTMS and advanced interlocking technology.

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Two NY MTA Stations to Close for Renewal

October 14th, 2014

As part of an on-going renewal project, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) of the New York area will close the Manhattan-bound platforms at 104 St-Oxford Avenue and 88 St-Boyd Avenue stations on the A line from October 13, 2014 until January 2015. The stations were originally opened in the early 1900’s as part of the Long Island Rail Road.

The $39 million capital project will also renew three other stations along the Liberty Avenue Line: 80 St-Hudson Street, Rockaway Blvd, and 111 St-Greenwood Avenue.

Renewal work at the two stations will consist of repairs or replacement of mezzanine to platform stairs, mezzanine floors, doors, windows, interior and exterior walls, and the installation of new platform edges and ADA tactile warning strips. Each station will be painted and canopies, windscreen panels and railings will be replaced. New lighting in the mezzanines, and other amenities, including new artwork are also included in the project. Similar work was recently completed on the Queens-bound platforms.

The construction contracts were awarded in December 2013 as a joint venture to Forte Construction Corp and Emis Construction Group.

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Genesee & Wyoming Posts September Rail Traffic Gains

October 14th, 2014

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) has reported a 5.1-percent increase in traffic volumes for September 2014 when compared to September of 2013. Total carloads for the short line holding company were reported at 163,530, an increase over last year of 7,880 carloads.

Commodities that showed the largest growth last month when compared to September 2013 were led by agricultural products with an increase of 3,764 carloads, or 25.4 percent, over September 2013. Minerals & stone carloads increased by 23.1 percent, or 4,394 carloads, primarily due to increased shipments in G&W’s Ohio Valley and Central regions. Coal & coke carloads showed the greatest decline, dropping by 16.1 percent, or 4,659 carloads. The decrease was primarily due to maintenance outages at multiple facilities in G&W’s Midwest and Central regions.

G&W’s same-railroad traffic for September 2014, which does not include the Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad, Inc. acquisition that started operations on June 1 of this year, increased by 1.8 percent, or 2,779 carloads, when compared to last September, with 158,429 carloads reported.

North American same-railroad traffic for the month of September increased 12,894 carloads, or 9.1 percent, and Australian traffic decreased 982 carloads, or 4.8 percent.

For the 2014 third quarter, G&W reported an increase of 7.7 percent, or 37,007 carloads, compared with the third quarter of 2013 through September. Traffic for this period totaled 519,900 carloads.

Commodities that showed the largest jump in the third quarter of 2014 through September compared to the same time period in 2013 were minerals and stone with a 22.1 percent increase, or 12,829 carloads, and agricultural products with a 19.4 percent increase, or 10,471 carloads. Intermodal units saw the largest decrease with a drop of 12.8 percent, or 2,562 units.

G&W’s same-railroad traffic in the third quarter of 2014 through the end of September increased by 4.4 percent, or 21,433 carloads, when compared to the 2013 third quarter. Same-railroad traffic for the 2014 third quarter totaled 504,256 carloads.

North American same-railroad traffic for the third quarter of 2014 through the end of September increased 23,928 carloads, or 5.7 percent, and Australian traffic decreased 2,495 carloads, or 4.2 percent.

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AIG Expands Casualty Liability Limits to North American Class I’s

October 14th, 2014

In response to record rail traffic and the growing number of rail cars carrying  potentially hazardous materials such as crude oil, American International Group, Inc. (AIG) is expanding excess casualty liability limits for Class I railroads in the United States and Canada to $1 billion per occurrence. This coverage for catastrophe losses would be in excess of $1.5 billion in underlying limits and is one of the largest capacities offered to the rail industry by a single insurer.

“These expanded limits are another way AIG’s scale and innovation is meeting the needs of our critical infrastructure clients and the customers they serve,” said Russ Johnston, president, Casualty Americas. “The Class I railroads are seeing strong growth and a resulting increase in risks they need to cover. AIG is one of the few carriers that can provide customers the large limits and risk expertise to meet this need.”

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported U.S. rail demand is at a 7-year high and that U.S. Class I railroads, including the U.S. Class I subsidiaries of Canadian railroads, transported more than 407,000 carloads of crude oil in 2013, up from 9,500 carloads in 2008.

“Rail companies need additional coverage to help protect their balance sheets,” said Jeremy Johnson, president and chief executive officer, Lexington Insurance Company. “This billion dollar coverage will help Class I railroads address expanding risks while continuing to serve the growing needs of transportation customers in North America.”

The excess coverage is provided by Lexington Insurance Company and other affiliated AIG Companies. Lexington is the largest domestic excess and surplus lines carrier in the United States.

AIG companies serve commercial, institutional, and individual customers through a worldwide property-casualty network.

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Naatz Elected to Railinc Board

October 14th, 2014

Michael J. Naatz, senior vice president operations support and chief information officer at Kansas City Southern (KCS), was recently elected to Railinc Corp.’s board of directors.

“We are excited to have Mike join the Railinc board,” said Allen West, Railinc president and chief executive officer. “He has extensive experience in leading transportation technology initiatives and business planning, and will be a valuable addition to the board.”

Naatz, who has 20 years of experience in transportation and logistics, joined KCS in 2012. Prior to that, he held key business and technology leadership positions with transportation and logistics provider YRC Worldwide and its subsidiaries.

Naatz earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master’s in business administration from Northwestern University.

“Railinc’s software and services are essential to the freight rail industry’s daily operations,” Naatz said. “I am looking forward to working with the other board members to provide guidance as Railinc continues to develop innovative solutions that serve the industry.”

Railinc, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Association of American Railroads, deploys data to help railroads, rail equipment owners, and other industry participants manage their businesses.

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Weekend Service to be Restored on Three MassDOT Commuter Rail Lines

October 13th, 2014

After a two-year absence, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will restore weekend commuter rail service beginning on December 27, on the Kingston/Plymouth, Greenbush and Needham lines. The schedules serving the area will mirror those previously offered, once again connecting communities on the South Shore to South Station.

“Our customers have consistently asked for more transportation options, not fewer,” said MassDOT Secretary & CEO Richard A. Davey, who said that the communities will have more transportation options when the three commuter rail lines will again offer weekend service.

Weekend service was halted on the three rail lines in 2012 when a deficit was faced for the FY2013 budget. MassDOT and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) heard from many commuter rail customers, and their representatives in the legislature, requesting reinstatement of service to these areas. The restoration of service on these lines was made possible by the inclusion of funding in the FY15 state budget.

“Increased access and availability of public transit can only mean greater opportunity for those we serve,” said Dr. Beverly Scott, general manager of the MBTA. “While we often must make difficult decisions in balancing the system we want and the system we can afford, I’m pleased that today we can once again provide weekend service to these communities.”

“I am delighted that weekend service will be restored for the Kingston/Plymouth line,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “Local residents rely on public transportation to get in and out of Boston and tourists use the commuter rail to visit attractions on the South Shore. The discontinuation of weekend service negatively impacted our communities and it is critical that this service be permanently restored and better marketed to increase ridership levels.”

Representative James Cantwell said work is still needed to ensure the service is successful and schedules will need to be revised to meet consumer need.

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Conrad Retiring as BROOKVILLE President

October 13th, 2014
Brookville Equipment President Larry Conrad Retires

Larry Conrad

After a career spanning more than 35 years at Brookville Equipment Corporation (BROOKVILLE), President Larry Conrad is retiring, effective immediately. Dalph S. McNeil, chairman of the Board and chief executive officer, will serve as interim president.

Conrad was hired by BROOKVILLE in 1979 as a design engineer. He played a major role in developing the company’s modern mining equipment product line. He went on to become vice president of operations, managing design-build projects that led the company into the streetcar and locomotive markets. He ultimately succeeded McNeil after his initial retirement as president in 2010.

“What has amazed me for many years and still amazes me today is the talent, the pride, the work ethics of the people we have in this company,” Conrad said in the address to his BROOKVILLE colleagues. “It’s truly been a pleasure working with each and every one of you, and I wish you all great success in the future.”

Based in Pennsylvania, BROOKVILLE manufactures underground mining and tunneling equipment, locomotives, and streetcars.

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Caltrain to Proceed with Design/Build for Electrification

October 13th, 2014

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr., has signed Senate Bill (SB) 785, allowing the electrification of the Caltrain commuter rail line, which serves the city of San Francisco and the San Francisco Peninsula, to proceed as a design/build project. The bill extends the transit authority’s ability to issue contracts for the project until 2024. Prior to the signing, the authority to issue design/build contracts was set to expire at the end of this year.

The electrification project, part of the Caltrain Modernization Program, will transform the system from a diesel-based service to an electrified overhead system with electric trains. With Caltrain’s diesel system unable to meet existing ridership demand, electrification will allow Caltrain to almost double the system’s forecasted daily ridership by 2040 and will help prepare the corridor to eventually accommodate California’s planned high-speed rail system.

The design/build procurement method allows agencies to combine design and construction activities into one contract. A Request for Qualifications has been issued to potential contractors and A Request for Proposal will be issued January 2015. A contract is expected to be awarded in fall 2015.

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