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Groundbreaking Ceremony Held for Nation’s First High-Speed Rail Line

January 9th, 2015

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on January 6, 2015, in Fresno, Calif., to celebrate the start of construction on the nation’s first high-speed rail system. The California High-Speed Rail Authority, responsible for planning, designing, building and operating the rail system, was joined at the ceremony by California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and other government and community supporters of the rail line.

“We now enter a period of sustained construction on the nation’s first high-speed rail system—for the next five years in the Central Valley and for a decade after that across California,” said Dan Richard, chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority Board of Directors. “This is an investment that will forever improve the way Californians commute, travel, and live. And today is also a celebration of the renewed spirit that built California.”

“What is important is the connection that we are rooted in our forebears and we are committed and linked to our descendants,” said Governor Brown. “And the high-speed rail links us from the past to the future, from the south to Fresno and north; this is truly a California project bringing us together today.”

The official groundbreaking ceremony was held at the future site of the high-speed rail’s Fresno station. Ground has already been broken for the new rail line in the Central Valley. Accomplishments on the rail to date include finalization of project designs, ongoing right-of-way purchases, and workforce training and mobilization.

California-based Tutor Perini Zachry/Parsons (TPZP), A Joint Venture, is designing and building the first phase of the project, which includes 12 grade separations, two viaducts, a tunnel, and a bridge over the San Joaquin River.

The California high-speed rail will offer a connection from San Francisco to the Los Angeles basin in under three hours with speeds of over 200 miles per hour. The rail line has an expected opening date of 2029. Eventually the system will extend to Sacramento and San Diego, totaling 800 miles with up to 24 stations.

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Greenbrier Invests in Brazilian Railcar Manufacturer

January 9th, 2015

The Greenbrier Companies, Inc. has entered an agreement to acquire a 19.5 percent ownership in the Brazilian railcar manufacturer Amsted-Maxion Hortolandia for $15 million. The agreement provides Greenbrier with the option to acquire an additional 40.5 percent ownership interest to be exercised no later than September 30, 2017. The agreement is expected to close in the second quarter of 2015 subject to customary closing conditions.

Amsted-Maxion, a 50/50 joint venture between Amsted Rail and Iochpe-Maxion, established a relationship with Greenbrier in 2013 with a licensing agreement related to the production of intermodal railcars designed by Greenbrier. With the new agreement, Amsted-Maxion will continue to own the remaining 80.5 percent in Amsted-Maxion Hortolandia and 100 percent of Amsted-Maxion Cruzeiro, which provides various castings to Hortolandia. Currently, Amsted-Maxion Hortolandia holds an estimated 70 percent of the annual railroad freight car market in South America.

Amsted-Maxion Hortolandia will use Greenbrier’s investment to pay down outstanding debt and position the company for future growth.

“Using Brazil as a platform, this strategic investment permits Greenbrier to expand our geographic reach into South America, as part of a broad-based Americas strategy, building on our substantial manufacturing base in Mexico and the U.S.,” said William A. Furman, chairman and CEO of Greenbrier. “Combined with our already strong and growing manufacturing operations in Europe and North America, entry to the South American railcar markets represents an exciting new extension for Greenbrier. Amsted-Maxion is the perfect partner for Greenbrier as we enter this market. We look forward to a long and prosperous partnership with Amsted-Maxion.”

Dan Ioschpe, chairman of Iochpe-Maxion S.A., stated, “We are pleased to welcome Greenbrier to Brazil. Iochpe has been operating in Brazil for nearly 100 years. We appreciate joining with a company of Greenbrier’s caliber to enhance and expand our railcar manufacturing operations during this critical time of investment and growth in Brazil’s infrastructure including railroads, port operations and distribution centers. Greenbrier brings expertise in railcar engineering, safety, design and manufacturing, along with commercial strength to Brazil. Greenbrier’s core competencies combined with Amsted-Maxion’s leadership in the Brazilian rail markets positions our railcar manufacturing operations to recognize even higher potential as Brazil embarks on a new era of freight movement by rail.”

“We deeply appreciate our longstanding relationship as a value-added supply chain partner with Greenbrier, served by our operations throughout Asia, Europe and North America,” said John Wories, president of Amsted Rail Company, Inc. “Our frequent collaboration through the years gives us full confidence we will extend our historically successful business ties to South America. Greenbrier is uniquely positioned to introduce new leading railcar technologies combined with our railcar chassis solutions that will better serve our South American customers. The opportunity before us to enhance and expand the railcar manufacturing operations of Amsted-Maxion Hortolandia is an excellent platform for this future success.”

The market demand in Brazil is forecast to exceed approximately 4,000 new railcars annually for the near term and potentially through the end of this decade, with a South American market driven by extensive investment in infrastructure and an aging railcar fleet.

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Hill International to Manage Seattle Rail Extension Project

January 9th, 2015

Hill International, a construction management firm, was awarded a contract by the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) to provide design-build project management services for the Seattle area’s E360 Segment of the East Link Light Rail project.

Phase I of the contract covers the preconstruction phase services and is worth approximately $1 million over a 1-year period. Hill will procure the design-build contractor and review the design-build contract and the preliminary designs of the short-listed teams.

Phase II of the contract is for  construction phase services, if exercised by Sound Transit, and has an estimated value to Hill of approximately $21 million over a subsequent 4-year period. During this phase, Hill will continue to provide review services during the development of the design and expand services to include project management, estimating, scheduling, quality control, inspection, safety and commissioning.

The E360 Segment, the terminal segment of the light rail extension, is a 1.8-mile line from East Bellevue to the main Microsoft campus in Redmond. Included in the project is an aerial guideway, at-grade and retained cut sections, two new platform stations, two pedestrian bridges and a 300-vehicle parking garage. The estimated civil construction cost of the project, which is expected to be completed in late 2019, is approximately $200 million to $250 million.

“The impact of the East Link Extension is enormous, as it will provide a reliable connection from the Eastside’s biggest residential and commercial centers to downtown Seattle, Sea-Tac Airport and the University of Washington,” said Michael B. Smith, senior vice president and western regional manager for Hill’s Project Management Group. “We are honored that Sound Transit has chosen Hill to assist with this important infrastructure project.”

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Amtrak Launches Website for NEC Projects

January 8th, 2015

Amtrak has launched a new website that focuses on the growing need for infrastructure improvements on the Northeast Corridor (NEC). The website includes maps, graphics, and project information and updates on several NEC infrastructure projects under construction or in planning.

Approximately 260 million passenger rail trips are taken annually on the NEC, which is served by Amtrak and eight commuter railroads. Amtrak’s Northeast Regional and Acela services operating between Washington and Boston set new ridership records in FY 2014, increasing 3.3 percent over the prior year.

“It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Northeast Corridor to both the regional and national economies,” said Stephen Gardner, Amtrak executive vice president and chief of NEC Business Development. “Millions of people and businesses depend on a reliable and functioning NEC and greater federal capital investment is vital to ensuring it stays that way.”

Projects featured on the website include the Gateway Program to expand rail capacity into New York City and replacing the Portal Bridge in New Jersey and the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel in Maryland. The website also offers information on station planning and development efforts, providing next-generation high-speed rail service and other key NEC infrastructure projects.

“If greater investments in the NEC aren’t made soon we risk a future with increased infrastructure-related service disruptions and delays. This new website will help us tell this important story,” added Gardner.

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Boston Area’s Green Line Extension Receives $996 Million

January 8th, 2015

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was joined by U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx and other officials recently to announce a federal grant commitment of $996 million to extend the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s (MBTA) Green Line light rail.

The funding will be used for the 4.7-mile Green Line Extension (GLX) that will be built from a relocated Lechmere Station in East Cambridge to Union Square in Somerville and College Avenue in Medford.

The $996 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Capital Investment Grant Program (New Starts) funding will be distributed over the course of the $2.3 billion project. The State of Massachusetts will fund the remaining cost.

“Today’s funding commitment brings the GLX another step closer to reality,” said Governor Patrick. “With the extension, residents of Somerville, Cambridge and Medford will have more options for how they get to work, school and play and, in turn, experience sustainable, smart growth in the local economies. I thank USDOT, the Obama Administration and our Congressional delegation for their commitment to this project.”

“Bringing light rail to Somerville and Medford will connect residents to work, education and other opportunities while making it easier than ever to access downtown Boston,” stated Secretary Foxx. “We are proud to support projects like this-and recognize the need to do more. We are committed to working with Congress to find bipartisan solutions that will help the Boston region and communities across the U.S. continue to invest in and enhance their transportation systems in the years ahead.”

The GLX project includes a new vehicle maintenance facility, a community bicycle and pedestrian path, relocation of some existing commuter rail track and the purchase of 24 new light rail vehicles. Six new stations will be built with construction starting on the new Lechmere, East Somerville and Union Square stations this spring.

The work will be done in four overlapping phases from 2013 to 2020. Phase I work began in January 2013 to widen two rail bridges. Once the project is completed, the trains are expected to result in an estimated 37,900 transit trips per day.

Acting Federal Transit Administrator Therese McMillan, Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Acting Secretary Frank DePaola, MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott and Somerville Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone participated in a ceremony to commit the funds, along with Governor Patrick and Secretary Foxx.

“The commitment that federal government has demonstrated to bringing the Green Line Extension to life shows the impact that this project will have on improving transportation in the Greater Boston area,” DePaola stated. “Not only will GLX increase access to affordable, sustainable rapid transit but it will reduce traffic congestion and emissions as well.”

“The Green Line Extension will provide fast and efficient service for commuters and day trippers alike,” said Senator Markey. “With new stations that will link Medford, Somerville and Cambridge to downtown Boston, this extension will improve local and regional mobility, reduce traffic and air pollution and support transit oriented development.”

Dr. Scott stated, “The investment being made in the Green Line Extension by both the federal government and the Commonwealth will pay dividends down the line, not only in expanding access to transit, but in increasing development opportunities in Cambridge, Medford and Somerville through the GLX MassWIN program.”

The Massachusetts Workforce Initiative Now (MassWIN) program focuses on expanding the local workforce by training residents to meet the hiring requirements for local transportation and construction jobs.

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NS Releases Publicly Funded, Emissions Friendly Locomotives

January 8th, 2015
Norfolk Southern's GP33ECO switching locomotive. Photo: courtesy of Norfolk Southern.

Norfolk Southern's GP33ECO switching locomotive. Photo: courtesy of Norfolk Southern.

Norfolk Southern Corporation has released the first two publicly funded, emissions friendly locomotives from its Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, Pa., for in-service road testing. After testing, the locomotives will be permanently assigned to their respective grant award areas of Chicago and Atlanta.

The federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Improvement Program has partially funded a total of 25 GP33ECO switching locomotives for production by Norfolk Southern. The locomotive for the Chicago area was funded by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency, sponsored by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, and administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The GP33ECO switching locomotive that will be used in Georgia will service Norfolk Southern’s Atlanta Terminal. Funding for the locomotive was awarded by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Environmental Protection Division.

Dedication ceremonies for the new locomotives will occur in the months to follow.

Norfolk Southern Corporation is a transportation company whose subsidiary, Norfolk Southern Railway Company, operates approximately 20,000 route miles in the United States.

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NRC/REMSA Event Draws Crowd in Florida

January 7th, 2015

The National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association’s conference and exhibition opened this week to a record crowd.

The NRC conference and exhibition by the Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association(REMSA) drew about 1,200 attendees and more than 120 exhibitors to sunny Hollywood, Florida. NRC President Chuck Baker noted that attendance was up about 8 percent from last year and continued the group’s dramatic growth in attendance over the last decade.

The conference includes numerous speakers providing forecasts on railroad capital spending plans with contractors and suppliers for 2015 and beyond. Freight railroads providing presentations include Norfolk Southern, BNSF, CN and Union Pacific as well as OmniTRAX and Watco. Several transit agencies, including New York’s MTA, Chicago’s Metra, Miami-Dade and MBTA, also are scheduled to outline their capital plans.

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Holland LP Announces Executive Changes

January 7th, 2015

Holland LP has announced several changes in executive leadership, including the retirement of executive Robert (Bob) Madderom and the promotions of Gerry Coyne and Russ Gehl.

As of January 1, 2015, Madderom retired as vice president and general manager of the Railway Maintenance Systems and Service (RMSS) business unit. He worked for more than 40 years in the railroad industry, where he earned the reputation of being a true leader within the railroad supply community. Madderom was employed for 14 years at Holland, building the RMSS team and business unit.

Coyne has been promoted to general manager RMSS, effective January 1. He started working for Holland 10 years ago as regional sales manager for the Northeast U.S. and Eastern Canada, growing Holland’s business throughout Eastern North America. He served as both business development manager and most recently director business development and engineering for the RMSS, where he was transitioning into his present role.

Gehl was promoted to vice president maintenance of way sales as of January 1. He joined Holland approximately 6 years ago as regional sales manager, based in St. Paul, Minn., where his main responsibility was for Holland sales to the Union Pacific Railroad and Canadian National U.S.

Before his promotion, Gehl served as director of North American sales – maintenance of way and, prior to that, business development manager.

Holland LP offers track welding, maintenance and construction, and solutions and products to increase the speed of transportation. The company is based in Crete, Ill.

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NTSB Issues Safety Alert on Rail Signals

January 7th, 2015

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a Safety Alert to notify railroads that light-emitting diode (LED) railroad signals may mask nearby incandescent signals.

LED signals that are installed in close proximity to incandescent signals may cause the LED signal to appear brighter or closer, which becomes more pronounced the closer the train gets to the signals. This may cause rail crews to confuse the sequence of the signals as they approach.

NTSB also noted that control points with incandescent signals are at increased risk of being masked when they are located near control points with LED signals, particularly at night. Stacking routes may increase the risk of accidents in areas where LED and incandescent signals are in proximity to one another because of possible signal aspect (color) confusion.

To avoid accidents, the NTSB recommends railroads undertake the following precautions:

  • Identify locations where the close spacing of signals may cause a signal to either mask or visually dominate another signal, especially at locations where LED and incandescent light units have been installed in close proximity;
  • Evaluate the railroad computer aided dispatching software (CAD) to prevent confusion when lining routes non-sequentially at multiple control points;
  • When performing all mandatory operational tests on signals, railroads should conduct a hazard analysis that includes testing signal visibility (conspicuity test) with input from train crews;
  • When evaluating the safety of proposed changes to railroad systems, including signals and train control, configuration management is critical. Procedures should be implemented to notify all personnel of changes they may encounter.
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French Rail Line Orders 42 Bombardier Trains

January 7th, 2015
Bombardier Regio 2N train chosen for Parisian suburban network.

Bombardier Regio 2N train chosen for Parisian suburban network. Photo: courtesy of Bombardier.

Bombardier Transportation has received an order for 42 Regio 2N train sets from France’s Syndicat des Transports d’Ile-de-France (STIF) and SNCF. The order, valued at approximately US$484 million, is an addition in the framework of an ongoing contract signed in 2010.

The eight-car suburban Regio 2N are from the BOMBARDIER OMNEO platform of extra-wide double-deck electrical multiple units (EMU). The trains are 110 meters in length. They are designed to operate with three units coupled together and can transport a total of 3,120 passengers with seating for 1,746.

The Regio 2N is fully compliant with European accessibility standards (TSI PRM). The cars have 1.6 meter access doors along with a passenger alarm and automatic door shutting management system made for Ile-de-France operations. The Regio 2N also has energy savings of approximately 20 percent per passenger, with electrical energy reuse during braking and a light steel structure.

Jean-Baptiste Eymeoud, vice president of Projects, Western Europe, Bombardier Transportation, stated, “Bombardier is delighted with this breakthrough order for Ile-de-France and Paris suburban network which is a confirmation of the benefits that the Regio 2N fleet can bring in terms of operating costs, comfort and seating capacity.”

Delivery of the new trains will begin in September 2017. The trains will service Line R of the Parisian suburban network.

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