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OmniTRAX Developing Georgia Industrial Hub

March 15th, 2016

OmniTRAX, Inc. and the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority (ECIDA) are developing a 2,700-acre tract near Rincon, Ga. The Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub will be served by the CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads and is located 12 miles from the Port of Savannah.

“The Savannah market is growing rapidly, supported by the fourth busiest port in the nation. This is a perfect opportunity for OmniTRAX to supply the capabilities and experience gained at our other industrial development sites to create a world-class business park,” said OmniTRAX CEO Kevin Shuba. “We’re delighted to be working with John Henry and his team to bring growth to the region.”

ECIDA is contributing the land to Savannah Gateway Industrial Hub, and OmniTRAX will provide capital for infrastructure, including a rail system to connect the tenants to the Class I operators and marketing services.

“This is a true partnership for Effingham County that will bring thousands of high quality jobs and economic growth to the community,” said John Henry, CEO of ECIDA. “OmniTRAX has a proven track record from several other locations around the country for creating the infrastructure required to attract great companies to our site.”

OmniTRAX has drafted a tentative master plan for the park that will ultimately provide in excess of 1,800 acres of industrial property, including a single user mega site. The company has developed other large scale projects, including the Great Western Industrial Park, a 3,000 acre, dual-rail served facility north of Denver, Colo., and the GEOTRAC Industrial Hub, a 1,400 acre rail served facility at the Port of Brownsville, Texas.

“OmniTRAX’s success in rail operations were a real attraction to us, the size and dual-rail nature of this site is what truly gives it potential to be a stand-alone premium site in the Southeast,” Henry added. “We knew in order to capitalize on the site’s potential we had to find a partner that took the rail into consideration. Rail operators that also develop industrial property are few and far between. Given the success that they have had in Colorado and elsewhere we found a respect for the company.”

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CSR Sifang America JV Awarded CTA Contract

March 14th, 2016
CTA 7000-series rail cars. Photo: courtesy of CTA.

CTA 7000-series rail cars. Photo: courtesy of CTA.

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) has awarded a contract to CSR Sifang America JV to supply the new 7000-series rail cars for the transit system. As part of its bid, CSR Sifang America JV has pledged to build a new rail car assembly facility in Chicago in which it will assemble the CTA’s newest generation of rail cars. The facility, which is expected to generate 170 jobs, represents an investment of $40 million.

CSR submitted the lowest bid of $1.309 billion for 846 railcars. CTA will purchase a base order of 400 cars first, with options to purchase the remainder in coming years.

“With this agreement, CTA riders will get state-of-the-art rail cars and Chicago returns to our roots as the place where the next generation of rail cars are built, providing good jobs for our residents. That is a classic win-win for Chicago,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

“This historic agreement was the result of strong collaboration between the City, our federal partners, the Chicago Federation of Labor, and Jobs to Move America, and I cannot thank them enough for their partnership in making it possible. Working together we will continue to bring more 21st century manufacturing jobs to Chicago while also building a modern CTA to help power our 21st century economy,” added Mayor Emanuel.

The new rails cars will feature a mix of forward-facing and aisle-facing seats, a design based on studies CTA conducted to solicit feedback from CTA riders on preferences related to seating. The cars’ design will resemble the 5000-series, the CTA’s newest rail cars, with stainless steel bodies, LED lighting and signage, and AC power propulsion.

The cars will replace the oldest cars on the CTA system, some of which are more than 30 years old. Prototype models are expected to be complete in 2019. Following testing, the cars will go into service in 2020.

“Providing modern trains and buses is a critical part of having a world-class transit system,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter, Jr. “This rail car purchase—the largest in CTA history—will give CTA one of the newest fleets in the United States and provide our customers with state-of-the-art trains providing comfortable, reliable rides.”

Once delivery of the new rail cars is complete, CTA will have its youngest rail fleet, reducing the average age of CTA rail cars from 26 years in 2011 to 13 years when the 7000-series are delivered. The new rail cars are projected to save approximately $7M annually in reduced maintenance costs and reduced use of power.

In July 2014, Mayor Emanuel and the Chicago Federation of Labor announced a partnership to encourage the creation of U.S. manufacturing jobs by working with CTA to include a “U.S. Employment” provision in the bids for the new rail cars. Bidders were asked to provide the number and type of new jobs they planned to create related to the production of the new rail cars.

“It has been over 30 years since the last rail car rolled off the Pullman assembly line on Chicago’s Southside,” said Jorge Ramirez, Chicago Federation of Labor president. “Today’s announcement is the culmination of nearly two years of collaboration with Mayor Emanuel to bring rail car manufacturing back to Chicago where it belongs. We commend the CTA for including the U.S. Employment Plan in this bid process, leading the way to high road manufacturing jobs, and thank Mayor Emanuel for his ongoing commitment to build a world class transit system.”

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Metra Announces Expansion of C3RS

March 14th, 2016

The Chicago Metropolitan Rail System (Metra) has expanded the agency’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) to every union involved in the railroad’s operations, making it the first U.S. commuter railroad to expand C3RS to every union involved in its operations.

C3RS is a voluntary safety reporting system where employees can confidentially report “close calls” without facing sanctions from Metra or the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The goal is to collect data about close calls that otherwise would have gone unreported or underreported and to use that data to identify safety hazards and take steps to correct them before an accident occurs.

“This announcement demonstrates Metra’s commitment to making safety our number one priority,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “It is significant that management and all 13 of Metra’s labor unions came together on this important and groundbreaking initiative. We share the common goal of making Metra the safest possible railroad.”

The “close calls” data is reported to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which removes any identifying information and forwards it for analysis by a peer review team of labor, Metra Management and FRA representatives. NASA also monitors trends across railroads and shares results.

“There have been 130 confidential calls made to the program since it started at Metra,” Orseno added. “Since we implemented C3RS last year, we’ve seen a reduction in the number of workplace injuries and lost time on the job.”

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G&W Reports February Rail Traffic

March 14th, 2016

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) has reported an increase of 54.8 percent, or 79,529 carloads, for February 2016 rail traffic compared to February 2015. Carloads totaled 224,656 for the month.

Same-railroad traffic for February 2016 dropped by 2.9 percent, or 4,160 carloads, to 140,967 carloads when compared to February of last year.

G&W’s North American Operations reported a decline in traffic of 2 percent to 125,476 carloads for February. The decrease was primarily due to reduced shipments of coal and coke traffic, partially offset by increased metals traffic. Coal and coke traffic dropped 31.2 percent, or 7,418 carloads, in February, primarily due to decreased shipments in G&W’s Midwest, Ohio Valley and Central regions. Metals traffic was up 17.4 percent, or 1,776 carloads, due to increased shipments in G&W’s Southern and Northeast regions. All remaining traffic increased by a net 3,127 carloads.

For the 2016 first quarter through February, G&W’s traffic was 443,087 carloads, up by 41.8 percent, or 130,611 carloads, when compared with the 2015 first quarter through February. G&W’s same-railroad traffic in the 2016 first quarter through February was 280,478 carloads, a drop of 10.2 percent, or 31,998 carloads, compared with the 2015 first quarter through February.

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Ansaldo STS to Modernize Glasgow Subway

March 11th, 2016

The Ansaldo STS – Stadler consortium was awarded contracts by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), the Glasgow Subway operator, to modernize the Glasgow, Scotland, subway. The project has a total value of £203.2 million, with Ansaldo STS’s share valued at £104.3 million.

Under the contract, the consortium will supply 17 new trains, Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) driverless signaling technology, Platform Screen Doors (PSD) and depot equipment, and related maintenance support services to upgrade the 10.5 km long twin subway lines and 15 stations of the Glasgow Subway system.

Ansaldo STS will provide its CBTC and driverless solution for the entire system as well as the communication network, Operation Control Center, PSD and depot test track. The company will also provide system integration, acceptance and related maintenance support services.

The construction contract is expected to be delivered within 66 months.

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USDOT Seeks Input on Proposed Sleep Apnea Rulemaking

March 11th, 2016

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are seeking public input during the next 90 days on the impacts of screening, evaluating and treating rail workers and commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Both agencies filed the joint Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), the first step as they consider proposing requirements specifically on OSA. The National Transportation Safety Board recommended that DOT take action to address OSA screening and treatment for transportation workers.

“It is imperative for everyone’s safety that commercial motor vehicle drivers and train operators be fully focused and immediately responsive at all times,” stated U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “DOT strongly encourages comment from the public on how to best respond to this national health and transportation safety issue.”

OSA is a respiratory disorder characterized by a reduction or cessation of breathing during sleep. Undiagnosed or inadequately treated moderate to severe OSA can cause unintended sleep episodes and deficits in attention, concentration, situational awareness, memory, and the capacity to safely respond to hazards when performing safety sensitive service.

“The sooner patients with OSA are diagnosed and treated, the sooner our rail network will be safer. Over the next 90 days, we look forward to hearing views from stakeholders about the prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea, their views on diagnosis and treatment, and potential economic impacts,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg.

FRA and FMCSA will host three public listening sessions to gather input on OSA in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles. The proposed rulemaking and information on submitting comments are available on the FRA website.

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STV Promotes Forde and Root to VP Roles

March 11th, 2016

STV, which provides engineering, planning and construction management services for transportation systems and infrastructure, has promoted Norman Forde and Eric J. Root, P.E., to vice president positions.

Norman Ford
Norman Forde

Forde, a 25-year transportation industry veteran, will be responsible for leading STV’s downtown Baltimore office. Root, an electrical engineer with 20 years of experience, will be responsible for managing the rail systems design component for STV’s design-build contracts across the United States and Canada.

Throughout his career, Forde has managed multimillion dollar projects from specification development through final design and construction. He joined STV in 2008 and has worked with clients throughout North America, including the Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration, managing the procurement of new commuter and light rail cars and overseeing initiatives to improve transportation safety technology.

In addition, Forde supported federal efforts to launch high-speed rail service in Florida and the Pacific Northwest, and he recently served as co-chairman of the 9th World Congress on High-Speed Rail in Tokyo.

Forde earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and management studies and a master’s degree in corporate planning and marketing from the University College Cardiff School of Management in Wales, U.K. He is an executive member of the American Public Transportation Association and a member of its High-Speed Rail Committee.

Eric Root

Root joined STV’s Charlotte, N.C., office in 2005, overseeing the systems management for the 9.3-mile extension of the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) Blue Line Extension and the construction management for the CATS Blue Line Starter System. Currently, he serves as the systems design manager on the ION light rail project for the Region of Waterloo Rapid Transit Division in Ontario, Canada.

Prior to that, he helped develop computer simulations to analyze the power needs for light rail systems in Dallas and Pittsburgh. He also has design experience in utility and power generation projects and supported plans for upgrades at several electrical generating facilities throughout the United States.

Root earned a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and is a licensed professional engineer in several states.

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U.S. Weekly Rail Traffic Sees Slight Decline

March 10th, 2016

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has reported that U.S. rail traffic for the week ending March 5, 2016, totaled 512,202 carloads and intermodal units, a 1.9 percent decrease compared to the same week in 2015.

U.S. carloads, which totaled 247,016 for the week, were down by 8 percent compared to the same week last year. U.S. intermodal volume for the week totaled 265,186 units, an increase of 4.5 percent compared to 2015.

Six of the 10 carload commodity groups that are tracked by the AAR posted an increase for the week ending March 5, 2016, when compared with the same week in 2015. Miscellaneous carloads increased 38.8 percent to 9,917 carloads; nonmetallic minerals increased 12.3 percent to 33,197 carloads; and motor vehicles and parts were up 11.9 percent to 18,892 carloads.

Coal showed the largest decrease in the commodity groups, with a drop of 29.6 percent to 71,669 carloads. Petroleum and petroleum products declined by 24.1 percent to 10,769 carloads, and farm products (excluding grain and food) dropped 4 percent to 16,799 carloads.

For the first 9 weeks of 2016, U.S. rail volume totaled 4,548,033 carloads and intermodal units, a decrease of 3.4 percent when compared to last year. Carloads, with a total of 2,194,100, were down by 12.9 percent, and intermodal, with a total of 2,353,933, was up by 7.6 percent.

On the 13 reporting U.S., Canadian and Mexican railroads, combined North American rail volume for the week ending March 5, 2016, was 668,423 carloads and intermodal units, down 2.3 percent.

For the first 9 weeks of 2016, North American rail volume was down 3.2 percent, with a total of 5,957,566 carloads and intermodal units.

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HNTB’s Mifsud Relocates to South Florida

March 10th, 2016
Lynda Mifsud

Lynda Mifsud

HNTB, an infrastructure solutions firm, has announced that Lynda Mifsud, AICP, is relocating to the firm’s Fort Lauderdale office to support HNTB’s transit practice in the South Florida region. She manages multiple large-scale transit and planning projects that will provide mobility options for the region and will be responsible for helping develop and grow client relationships with transit agencies in South Florida.

“Lynda’s diverse array of transit experience, throughout South Florida and other states, serves as a solid foundation to effectively manage large-scale projects to improve congestion in our region,” stated Odalys Delgado, AICP, HNTB principal planner and leader of the firm’s South Florida transit market. “Lynda, well known by some of our current clients, will be a tremendous asset to our growing practice.”

Mifsud’s has 22 years of experience in transit where her responsibilities included long-term and short-term planning horizons, project selection, environmental clearance, engineering and construction. Prior to her relocation to Florida, she served as program manager for VIA Metropolitan Transit’s SmartMove program in San Antonio, Texas. She has led multidisciplined teams for bus, light rail, commuter rail and streetcar projects, and has worked in the public sector for Houston METRO and for Hillsborough Area Transit Authority in Tampa, Florida.

Mifsud earned a Bachelor of Science in business and commerce from University of Houston. She is a member of the American Planning Association and Women’s Transportation Seminar.

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CP and Vancouver Agree to Sale of Arbutus Corridor

March 10th, 2016

Canadian Pacific Railway Limited (CP) and the City of Vancouver jointly announced that they have agreed to terms for the sale of the Arbutus Corridor by CP to the City for $55 million.

“For many years now, CP has been involved in conversations with the City about the future of the Arbutus corridor,” said CP President and Chief Operating Officer Keith Creel. “We are pleased that today’s landmark agreement allows the City to create a transportation corridor and greenway while providing a fair return to CP and our shareholders.”

Under the agreement, CP will share in future proceeds on the eventual development and/or sale of certain parcels of the corridor.

“CP has been an important part of Vancouver for 130 years, and while balancing the needs of industry against the desires of municipalities is not always easy, today’s agreement demonstrates that by working productively together we can accomplish great things to the benefit of all,” said Creel.

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