CSX Workers Complete 2014 Maintenance Jamboree…

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

JACKSONVILLE, FL - July 9, 2014 - Over the Fourth of July holiday, more than 525 CSX employees were hard at work on the railroad, safely replacing about 68,000 railroad ties and 200,000 feet of rail, and completing nearly 120 miles of surfacing work.

These accomplishments were part of the 2014 CSX “Maintenance Jamboree,” an annual blitz that accomplishes about a year’s worth of rail, crosstie, signal and bridge work during one week to reduce impact on customers and communities. CSX crews undertook engineering projects that promote train safety, reliability and service, and benefit customers across CSX’s network. They also support community safety by helping to maintain smooth crossings where roads and highways meet the tracks at grade level.

“The annual Maintenance Jamboree is one more example of CSX’s commitment to investing in both the safety and reliability of our network to better serve our customers and the communities in which we operate,” said Oscar Munoz, executive vice president and chief operating officer. “This program depends on the dedication and hard work of our engineering teams, who work tirelessly through the holiday period to ensure our network can move customers’ freight efficiently and continue to connect American businesses to the global economy.”

The $25 million worth of work, which ran from June 30 to July 7, focused on CSX tracks and bridges across Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. Track work was concentrated on key routes between Shelby, Ky. and Greenwood, S.C. and from Bostic to Monroe, N.C. In addition to the track and tie work, CSX crews also converted several open deck bridges to more modern concrete ballast decks.

CSX has celebrated a Maintenance Jamboree since 1999, when a machine operator coined the term “Jamboree” to describe the mass gathering of maintenance-of-way crews and equipment in one area.

AAF Unveils Design for Fort Lauderdale Station…

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

03_Aerial_TVScreen

MIAMI, FL – July 9, 2014 – Florida’s Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief and Fort Lauderdale Mayor John P. “Jack” Seiler joined All Aboard Florida executives yesterday to reveal designs for All Aboard Florida’s new Fort Lauderdale station, which was planned and designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) in association with Zyscovich Architects.

The downtown Fort Lauderdale station unveiling is the latest in a series of recent milestones and announcements made by All Aboard Florida as the project continues to
move forward.

The Fort Lauderdale station will be located on 4.8 acres of land adjacent to the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) corridor on NW 2nd Avenue, between Broward Boulevard and NW 4th Street. Located at the northern end of downtown Fort Lauderdale, the nearly 60,000 square foot station and platform will stimulate a currently underutilized area, driving new visitors into downtown and the surrounding cultural, economic and shopping destinations.

05_DropOffStationEntrance_TVScreen“Today’s Fort Lauderdale station design unveiling marks a significant milestone in the start of construction within the segment between Miami and West Palm Beach,” said Michael Reininger, President and Chief Development Officer of All Aboard Florida. “As planned, construction will commence on the segment north of West Palm Beach after the environmental impact statement process is completed.”

Providing a new gateway into the city and all of Broward County, the Fort Lauderdale station will include a modern, multi-story lobby spanning an elevated passenger lounge area for travelers, and parking facilities. The station, located between NW 2nd street and Broward Boulevard, was chosen as it provides convenient connections to the Sun Trolley, Broward County Transit system, future Wave Streetcar and planned Tri-Rail station.

“All Aboard Florida will bring new jobs, increased business opportunities and an enhanced quality of life to Fort Lauderdale. This project helps to further our ‘Fast Forward Fort Lauderdale’ plan for the future, which includes becoming a fully connected ‘City of Tomorrow’ that is anchored by alternative modes of transportation and allows for less reliance on vehicles,” said Fort Lauderdale Mayor John P. “Jack” Seiler. “This exciting project will also assist in our downtown redevelopment and, from a tourism standpoint, this new mode of transportation should bring visitors right to our front door and allow us to showcase our many attractions and destinations.”

“Fort Lauderdale is a dynamic city whose leadership understands the importance of creating new opportunities and solutions that keep up with the needs and demands of our increasingly mobile world,” added All Aboard Florida’s Michael Reininger. “As with our other planned stations in South Florida, All Aboard Florida will not only set a new standard in passenger rail, but will revitalize Fort Lauderdale’s downtown core, fueling job and business growth, reducing road congestion, increasing tourism, delivering state and local tax revenues and contributing long-term environmental benefits.”

Each of All Aboard Florida’s three planned stations in South Florida (Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach) will serve as both gateways to their respective cities, and as key portals and iconic destinations with ready access to places to shop, eat and connect. As part of the urban infrastructure of each area, the stations are expected to generate significant economic impact to the State. Economists estimate that All Aboard Florida will add more than $6 billion to Florida’s economy over the next eight years, including $333 million in economic impact for Broward County through 2021.

Nearly 800 jobs will be created in Broward County through the construction of the station and the rail line.

“All Aboard Florida’s Fort Lauderdale station will not only stimulate our local economy and drive consumers to the area, but will also create thousands of direct jobs during construction and implementation for locals and cities along the route,” said Broward County Mayor Barbara Sharief. “All Aboard Florida will bring significant opportunities to Broward County and enable our local businesses to thrive in a global marketplace.”

“Herein lies an excellent opportunity for Fort Lauderdale’s urban vitality to be further enhanced by direct and efficient connectivity to the hubs of Orlando and Downtown Miami,” said Bernard Zyscovich, CEO and Founder of Zyscovich Architects. “This 21st century, central station will be a catalyst for redevelopment along the western edge of downtown Fort Lauderdale.”

INRD Completes Indianapolis Sub Track Upgrades…

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – July 9, 2014 – The Indiana Rail Road Company (INRD) is investing millions of dollars in private capital on the north end of its Indianapolis Subdivision this summer, and the results will greatly benefit the general public: faster, quieter-moving trains and smooth at-grade road crossings.

In the wake of multi-million dollar investments in new rail, crossties and rock ballast, INRD will on July 15 increase the speed limit for trains to 30 mph for the portion of its mainline between West Street and Stop 11 Road. Most of this 6-mile segment of railroad has had a speed limit of only 10 mph since the railroad’s founding in 1986.\

The most notable benefit for southern Marion and Johnson County residents will be the greatly-reduced time required for trains to pass at-grade road crossings. It takes a mile-long train 6 minutes to pass a grade crossing when running at 10 mph. At 30 mph, a train of the same length will pass in 2 minutes.

Once ongoing track improvements are complete, the entire Indianapolis-Bargersville segment will operate at 30 mph, and thanks to the installation of continuously-welded rail – quarter-mile strands of rail without joints – the traditional “clickety-clack” of steel wheels on jointed-rail will be replaced by much quieter passage of each train.

The Indiana Rail Road has also completely rebuilt 10 road crossings in Indianapolis: West Street, Bluff Road, Southport Road, and Troy, Epler, Sumner, Hanna and Edgewood Avenues. County Line Road and Stop 11 Road will be renewed by the end of August.

In Johnson County, the railroad has or soon will complete full replacement of Smith Valley Road, County Road 144 in Bargersville, Peterman Road, State Road 44, and County Roads 250N, 100N and 100S.

Total investment for the 2014 grade crossing replacements – at no cost to taxpayers – is approximately $990,000.

“By 2016, the 30th anniversary of our company, Indiana Rail Road will have invested more than $200 million of our own private capital to create a state-of-the-art, heavy-haul transportation system capable of delivering millions of tons of commerce consumed in Indiana and made by Hoosiers,” said INRD Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Hoback. “We continue to invest with an eye on future economic development opportunities.”

Amtrak Receives 3-Car Delivery from CAF USA in NY…

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

ELMIRA, NY – July 9, 2014 – New York’s U.S. Rep. Tom Reed was at CAF USA in Elmira, New York on Tuesday for the news that the first three cars in the 130-car Amtrak contract were to be delivered to Albany.

The trio of Viewliner II cars – a sleeper, diner and baggage-dorm car – left Elmira on Tuesday afternoon, bound for acceptance by Amtrak at Albany, New York.  The cars are expected to be placed in service from there and sport the new Amtrak America ‘retro-scheme’.

At toal of 70 car shells have been built of 130 on order, a company official said.

“Presently between the Amtrak contract and the Houston contract CAF was awarded a little over a year ago, there’s approximately over 800 people that are working here now. The buildings are full, the warehouses are full, they’re operating two and a half shifts of work and the place is really hopping,” said James German, Amtrak project team lead team.

“That’s exciting,” Reed said. “I’m a firm believer in U.S. manufacturing, and to see it happening right here in our backyard is something that we want to see first-hand and continue to promote across the district.”

The Elmira Heights facility received a $300 million contract from Amtrak to produce 130 long-distance passenger cars – baggage, diner, sleeper and bag-dorm cars. The new cars will replace ones that date back to the 1940s and 1950s and are on schedule to be in service by the end of this year.

MBTA Commuter Rail App Released by Keolis…

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

BOSTON, MA – July 8, 2014 – The official MBTA Commuter Rail app from Keolis Commuter Services, which began operating the trains on July 1, is now available and features an alarm that can be set to activate from five to 60 minutes before a train’s real-time arrival at a station.

“We viewed this as part of our customer service outreach,” Keolis spokesman Mac Daniel said of the app. “We really wanted it to be user-friendly and help. Over time, we want the passengers to influence where it goes from here.”

The Android version of the free app launched July 1, and the Apple version debuted yesterday.

The app provides access to commuter rail schedules and real-time countdowns to trains’ departure and arrival times, with updates on delays and other alerts. Commuters also can track a train’s progress on a map view of its route.

“(It’s) useful both for veteran commuters and folks just getting to know the system for the first time” Daniel said.

Users can see a train’s speed, its direction, trip distance and stops remaining. The app also keeps a tally of the gas that commuters save by using the rail service instead of driving, carbon dioxide emissions avoided and “time spent working or relaxing and not stuck in traffic.”

Available in English and five other languages, the app links to the MBTA mTicket app for ticket purchases.

A lost-and-found function is in the works. Users also can provide feedback directly to Keolis’ customer service.

VIA Rail Looks to Sell or Divest Stations in NB…

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

MONCTON, NB – July 8, 2014 – VIA Rail is offering municipalities served by their trains – starting with stations in New Brunswick on the Ocean route between Montreal and Halifax – to buy or take control of some stations.

The idea was presented to the mayors of municipalities east of Montreal Friday morning in Halifax during a working meeting organized as part of celebrations of the 110th anniversary of the Ocean train.

The meeting, attended by mayors, government officials and members of senior management of VIA Rail, was meant to discuss ways to give a boost to the trip, which has seen declining traffic levels during the last several years.

Spokesperson for VIA Rail, Mylène Bélanger says that the Crown corporation sees the transfer of certain stations to municipalities as a way to involve communities.  “VIA Rail wants municipalities become partners to help it to operate the stations, to make buildings integral parts of their real estate assets that can be used for municipal purposes,” she says.

According to her, this cooperation can take many forms, is “sales, sessions or transfers.” The status of the stations will also impact on the proposed approach.

“You know, the stations have different statuses. Some heritage, so we’re talking about different processes. But in any case, everything is possible,” she said.

The website indicates that VIA Rail New Brunswick currently has 10 railway stations. At the time of going to press, the spokesman of VIA Rail was not able to specify how many of them are owned by the Crown corporation and how many are for rent.

Mylène Bélanger says this initiative VIA Rail is not yet cast in stone and that dialogue with municipalities will continue shortly.

“These are discussions that will take place over the coming weeks. There will be opportunities. There is nothing which was concluded today (Friday Halifax). ”

The principal head of media relations and communities of VIA Rail, Jacques C. Gagnon says, that this approach is not only for the stations served by the train Ocean. It is also applied to the rest of the country.

Other meetings will be held in the coming weeks to further discuss proposals by VIA Rail.

AAF Proposes Scaled Back Initial Launch of Service…

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – July 8, 2014 – According to All Aboard Florida, the company’s planned Miami-to-Orlando passenger rail service will initially service passengers between Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, with trains rolling in late 2016.

The company plans to start building its downtown Fort Lauderdale station and double-tracking its South Florida segment late this summer as it works out the logistics of building the rest of the line to Orlando and adding capacity enhancements to Jacksonville.

Company president Michael Reininger said the initial service won’t compete with Tri-Rail because its trains will only stop in the three downtowns– an hourlong trip. Tri-Rail makes 16 stops between Miami International Airport and West Palm Beach and takes more than 90 minutes.

“We don’t see this at all as a competitor to commuter rail,” Reininger said. “It’s complementary service.”

AAF unveiled designs for the new $30 million Fort Lauderdale station, located north of Broward Boulevard near Northwest Second Street.  Renderings show a sleek modern steel and glass structure with a waiting area above the tracks and a bridge connecting passengers to a multistory lobby west of the tracks for ticketing, luggage handing and a lounge.

Other major highlights of the project include:

  • Building a second track in areas where only a single track exists today, enabling trains to travel faster and pass each other.
  • Safety upgrades to dozens of crossings that will aid municipalities seeking to silence train horns, with the bulk of the cost picked up by All Aboard Florida.
  • New technology to limit bridge closures for trains at the New River in Fort Lauderdale.
  • Coordinating crossing gates with train speeds so gates don’t come down sooner than necessary.
  • Closing Northwest Second Street at the tracks and building a pedestrian bridge linking All Aboard Florida’s station with Broward’s bus terminal and the planned Wave Streetcar, which will stop a block away.

Plans for the downtown Miami station were announced in June, featuring a 50-foot-tall platform above the streets to connect All Aboard Florida’s trains to Metrorail, the bus system and Metromover, the downtown automated train.

Details for the West Palm Beach station are expected soon.

All Aboard Florida will run 16 trains each way, each day, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fares are expected to be about $30 to $36 for a one-way ticket – much higher than Tri-Rail’s $6.90 one-way fare to travel from Miami to West Palm Beach – though officials would not confirm prices.

Reininger said the company’s planned improvements, including modernized signals and crossings, will make the Florida East Coast Railway into “safest possible rail corridor in the country.”

Having two tracks is key to eliminating a major source of commuter frustration in Fort Lauderdale – slow moving freight trains which occasionally get held up because of a train traveling in the opposite direction. The FEC tracks already are mostly doubletracked between the airport and Northeast 13th Street in Fort Lauderdale, but only a single track exists north and south of there, with the exception of some side tracks.

“There’s a 97 percent probability (drivers will) never encounter one of our trains,” Reininger said. “If you are one of the three percent, the sum duration of that encounter will be around 45 seconds.”

The marine industry is outraged that boats will face more waits for bridge openings as trains crisscross the New River.  But Reininger said upgrades to the bridge would allow it to open and close more efficiently and possibly faster. New technology, he added, will allow the company to schedule trains to pass each other on the bridge at the same time, often in tandem with freight trains already crossing the bridge.

Also a possibility: returning a tender to operate the bridge, which is currently controlled remotely by dispatchers in Jacksonville.

The project’s second phase — from West Palm Beach to Orlando — is dependent on completion of an environmental study. A growing opposition in the Treasure Coast wants to slow or stop the project because no stops are planned there. Residents also object to the potential backups at crossings and at drawbridges for mariners.

Gov. Rick Scott — one of the project’s biggest supporters — has asked train backers to slow down the process to allow for more public input.

“As I have traveled the state, I have heard from many Florida families who are concerned about the increased rail traffic and how it will impact their communities,” Scott recently wrote to All Aboard Florida and the Federal Railroad Administration.

But all approvals are in hand for the South Florida segment.

LIRR, MTA Talking with Mediators Again Today…

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

NEW YORK, NY – July 8, 2014 – The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Long Island Rail Road unions are set to resume talks today with Federal mediators agreeing to help try and avoid a strike by the union, which wants a 17 percent raise over six years while leaving work rules and pensions alone.

The MTA offered that hike over seven years and wants workers to pay more of their health care costs. Currently, LIRR workers don’t contribute toward their health insurance.

Unions representing 5,400 workers threatened to walk off the job if no deal is reached by July 20th.  But the MTA still hasn’t released a contingency plan for the commuters who chalk up more than 330,000 rides a day on the LIRR.

“It’s very likely,” union general chairman Anthony Simon said.  He blames the MTA for failing to accept the recommendations of two independent mediators.  “I would rather have a settlement today, right now,” he said. “I don’t like to wait until the last minute. I don’t think that’s the right way, to put the communities in harm’s way.”

MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg says the union is stonewalling.

MTA officials insisted Monday they have a limited strike contingency plan that calls for getting commuters to subway stations in Queens aboard charter buses, like those used after last year’s derailment in the Bronx.

The railroad’s unions voted to authorize a strike after working without a contract since 2010. President Obama appointed two emergency boards to help resolve the dispute, but the MTA rejected both non-binding recommendations.

The emergency board’s last proposal called for a 17 percent raise over six years while leaving work rules and pensions alone. The MTA last week offered a 17 percent wage increase over seven years. Its earlier offer called for an 11 percent hike over six years.

Greenville & Western Railway Acquires More GP30s…

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

TAYLORS, SC – July 8, 2014 – The Western Carolina Railway Service Corporation has acquired another pair of former BNSF (ex-ATSF) GP30s from Larry’s Truck & Electric (LTEX) for the company’s Greenville & Western Railway.

WCRS had previously acquired a pair of ex-ATSF GP30s and painted them in an attractive two-tone green scheme with Aiken Railway lettering and reporting marks.  The Aiken units eventually became AIKR 4201 and 4202.  The latest pair – former BNSF 2409 and 2451 – have been readied for shipment with all Santa Fe markings being painted out and GRLW reporting marks being applied.  Ex-BNSF 2409 will become GRLW 4203 and ex-2451 will become GRLW 4204.

The units have not yet departed the LTEX Ohio facility, however are expected to in the coming days.

NS Rescinds Tank Car Indemnity for Shippers…

Monday, July 7th, 2014

NORFOLK, VA – July 7, 2014 –  A little more than a week ago, Norfolk Southern attempted to require its shipping customers to indemnify the railroad against legal liability for any disaster arising out of use of DOT-111 tanker cars and hoped to create a built-in measure to protect the company, however that planned requirement has now been rescinded.

The plan was to secondarily provide additional insurance from the shippers to any of those affected by fires, explosions, deaths, etc. for toxic spills, derailments and for the release of hazardous materials into the environment.

Backlash from shippers has forced NS to rescind their new requirement, which was to be effective July 15, 2014. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has noted the shortcomings of DOT-111 cars since 1991. A Safety Recommendation from the NTSB issued in 1991 states that “improvements are still needed in the protection provided by some tank cars for certain products transported in them.

DOT-111 cars were specified in the report, stating which noted that they are “used to carry hazardous materials that can pose a substantial danger to life, property, and the environment.” The exteriors of the DOT-111 cars are thinner than other train models, vulnerable to puncturing or leaking oil or other hazardous materials. The DOT-111 cars that would have been affected by Norfolk Southern’s mandate comprise 78% of the 102,760 tanker fleet.

Shipper discontent, however, comes as no surprise. It is no secret that estimates for the costs of the changes in worst case oil spill fire disaster scenarios could run $1 billion, and investors and shippers are not willing to indemnify Norfolk Southern, when DOT-111 cars are currently transporting oil across the country daily, no matter how susceptible to disaster. There was unconfirmed word that several shippers threatened to simply pull their business from Norfolk Southern, and go to CSX or other competitor railroads.