Railroad News

VIA Rail, Valley Metro to require riders to wear masks

Rail News Home Security 6/22/2020 Rail News: Security
image VIA Rail riders and employees will be required to wear face coverings while on trains.Photo – VIA Rail Canada Inc.

VIA Rail Canada Inc. and Valley Metro in Phoenix have announced they will begin requiring riders to wear a mask on trains to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. 

Tomorrow, masks will be mandatory for VIA Rail riders and employees at all times while on a train, and when physical distancing cannot be maintained in stations and while boarding.  

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OIG advises USDOT to monitor CARES grants for fraud, waste

Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation 6/22/2020 Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
image MTA received $3.9 billion in CARES Act funding to help combat the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Combined, the public transportation industry received $25 billion in CARES Act funding. Shown: MTA New York City Transit’s Coney Island Terminal.Photo – Marc A. Hermann/MTA NYCT

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG) announced earlier this month it has outlined risk areas for the department to monitor to prevent potential fraud, waste or abuse of billions of dollars provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Passed by Congress in March, the CARES Act provided USDOT with more than $36 billion to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19's impact on all modes of transportation. To its credit, the department swiftly distributed the funds, but the amount of funds and the speed with which they were distributed create oversight challenges, the OIG said in its memorandum to the department.

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NS donates locomotive to Kentucky Steam

Rail News Home Mechanical 6/22/2020 Rail News: Mechanical
image NS 6162 is a 3,000-horsepower SD40-2 locomotive built in 1978 by Electro-Motive Division.Photo – Casey Thomason/Kentucky Steam

Kentucky Steam Heritage Corp. (KSHC) of Irvine, Kentucky, announced last week it has received an SD40-2 locomotive (No. 6162) from Norfolk Southern Corp.

During its 42-years in service, the unit hauled countless tons of freight through the Appalachian coalfields through central Kentucky, KSHC officials said in a press release.

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Chemical shippers endorse proposed study of PSR practices

Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation 6/22/2020 Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
image An organization representing companies that ship chemicals by rail has endorsed language in a federal bill that calls for a study on the impacts of Class Is' adoption of precision scheduled railroading (PSR) operating models in the rail industry. Last week, the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed its long-term surface transportation infrastructure bill known as the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act on a party-line vote of 35 to 25. The bill includes language that calls for the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study of PSR. American Chemistry Council (ACC) President and Chief Executive Officer Chris Jahn said members of his organization would welcome such a study. "During several hearings, Congress and the Surface Transportation Board (STB) heard testimony from large and small businesses across America, including many of our members that have been hurt by the drastic operational changes adopted by the major railroads as part of their pursuit to implement precision scheduled railroading," Jahn said in a prepared statement. "Changes were often made with little advance notice or consultation with customers and resulted in harmful service reductions and higher shipping costs." The ACC commends recent STB actions to address some of those problems that have been a result of PSR, including the board's new policies on demurrage charges, Jahn said. A GAO study would help guide the STB as it "continues to pursue additional freight-rail policy reforms," he said.

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BART unveils police reforms

Rail News Home Security 6/22/2020 Rail News: Security
image BART General Manager Bob Powers pledged to reallocate $2 million in operating funds to increasing the number of unarmed civilian employees providing presence in the system.Photo – BART Facebook

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) last week announced a series of police reforms, expanded police training and new initiatives to increase the number of unarmed civilian employees providing presence on the San Francisco rail system. 

On June 12, BART Police Chief Ed Alvarez updated the BART Police Department’s (BPD) use-of-force policy to ban the use of carotid control holds. Previously it was only justifiable under circumstances where deadly force was warranted, BART officials said in a press release.

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USDOT issues final rule for transporting LNG by rail tank car

Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation 6/22/2020 Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
image "The department's new rule carefully lays out key operational safeguards to provide for the safe transportation of LNG by rail to more parts of the country where this energy source is needed," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoPhoto – USDOT

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in consultation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), late last week issued a final rule authorizing the bulk transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail. 

Specifically, the rule will permit the bulk transportation of LNG in DOT-113C120W9 (DOT-113) specification tank cars with enhanced outer tank requirements and additional operational controls.

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Rail supplier news from Strato, Miller Ingenuity, Cubic, Keolis and Direct Access (June 19)

Rail News Home Railroading Supplier Spotlight 6/19/2020 Rail News: Railroading Supplier Spotlight
image Claire Martin, Keolis' executive director of the industrial departmentPhoto – Keolis

Strato Inc. received TTX Co.’s 2019 Supplier Evaluation Committee Award for the 24th consecutive year. Strato was evaluated in two categories: coupler and yoke manufacturer and miscellaneous car part manufacturer, and component supplier. Starto received a “A” rating and the “Excellent Supplier” designation in all categories. TTX Co. rates suppliers on quality, cost, delivery, service, finance and administration.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) purchased Miller Ingenuity’s ZoneGuard roadway worker protection system for employees working on mainline track. The system kit includes train detector modules, train alert modules and worker wearable devices. With the purchase, BART has fulfilled California’s state requirement for transit agencies to comply with roadway worker protection rules. One of those rules requires agencies to adopt “early warning alarm technology” to coincide with their existing protection procedures, Miller Ingenuity officials said in a press release.

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Metro Transit-St. Louis to launch mobile ticketing

Rail News Home Passenger Rail 6/19/2020 Rail News: Passenger Rail
image The new fare option will reduce the need for light rail operators to handle cash and tickets.Photo – Metro Transit-St. Louis

Metro Transit-St. Louis on June 22 will offer light-rail riders the option to purchase fares through the Transit mobile application.

Offering the contactless fare option is part of a plan to adapt to the coronavirus, agency officials said in a press release. 

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NARS recognizes Dodd, Mann with leadership awards

Rail News Home Railroading People 6/19/2020 Rail News: Railroading People
image The North American Rail Shippers Association (NARS) yesterday announced it will recognize Richard Dodd and Bruce Mann as the recipients of its annual awards honoring leadership excellence in the rail shipping industry. Dodd, founder and president of RDC Logistics and former NARS president, will receive the NARS Edward R. Hamberger Lifetime Achievement Award. Mann, director of freight mobility at the Port of Houston, will be honored as the 2020 NARS Person of the Year. "At a time when the industry is faced with such unique and diverse challenges, it is important that we acknowledge and learn from those who demonstrate exemplary leadership," said NARS President Tom Tisa in a press release. Dodd has spent his career working for multiple blue-chip companies. He founded consulting company RDC Logistics in 2007. He has served transportation organizations in a variety of capacities as he joined the Southwest Association of Rail Shippers (SWARS) board in 2003, and served as SWARS President from 2009-2011. He was NARS president from 2015-2017. "He has positively influenced the successes of NARS and SWARS, and has inspired all of us who have had the privilege of working with him through the years," SWARS President Dale Diulus said of Dodd. Mann is recognized as a transportation industry expert with more than 20 years of experience, NARS officials said. He has served on the SWARS board since 2013 and was elected to the NARS board in 2015. He currently serves as the second vice president of NARS. "Bruce's leadership and his dedication to NARS, SWARS and all of the NARS regional associations has helped guide the growth of the organization and benefited our members by assuring they receive the networking and industry insights they have come to expect from the NARS organizations," Tisa said.  

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SMART authorizes funds for second Petaluma station

Rail News Home Passenger Rail 6/19/2020 Rail News: Passenger Rail
image SMART will use $8 million in proceeds from the sale of a downtown property to fund the construction of a new station.Photo – SMART Facebook

Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District’s (SMART) board earlier this week authorized funding the design and construction of a second commuter-rail station in Petaluma, California. 

SMART will use $8 million in proceeds from the sale of a downtown property to fund the construction of a new station and parking lot at Corona Road and North McDowell Boulevard, SMART officials said in a press release.

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PANYNJ posts dramatic loss in business in April

Rail News Home Intermodal 6/19/2020 Rail News: Intermodal
image Cargo volumes at the seaport dropped 7.5 percent to 559,929 TEUs during April.Photo – panynj.gov

The Port of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) this week announced it handled dramatically low volumes at all of its facilities in April as the result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Cargo volumes at the seaport dropped 7.5 percent to 559,929 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs) during the month compared with 605,263 TEUs in April 2019. The drop in cargo volume represented the smallest percentage decline at any of the PANYNJ facilities, port officials said in a press release.

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Chicago commission OKs South Shore Corridor plan

Rail News Home Passenger Rail 6/19/2020 Rail News: Passenger Rail
image Metra's Electric commuter-rail line serves the South Shore community.Photo – Metra Facebook

The Chicago Plan Commission in May adopted the South Shore Corridor Study, a blueprint for transit connectivity, land use and housing for two corridors in the South Shore neighborhood, the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) announced Wednesday.

The study includes recommendations aimed at strengthening transit usage and making access safer and more efficient for residents of East 75th and East 79th streets, from Stony Island Avenue to Lake Michigan.

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AAR, ASLRRA offer mixed reviews of T&I's updated INVEST Act

Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation 6/19/2020 Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
image The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I) yesterday passed its $494 billion surface transportation reauthorization bill after a two-day markup session.  The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act was approved by a party-line vote of 35 to 25. The bill, which addresses surface transportation maintenance and construction needs, also emphasizes "putting the nation on a path toward zero emissions from the transportation sector," Democrats on the committee said in a press release. Rail industry leaders had mixed reactions to the legislation that advanced out of the committee. Association of American Railroads (AAR) officials said the legislation contains numerous harmful provisions that would "hamstring" the industry for several years. "Freight railroads are extremely disappointed in the deeply partisan, backward-looking rail title of the bill," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ian Jefferies. "If enacted, this legislation would undermine the ongoing modernization of the rail industry through outdated operational restrictions and capacity constraints, weakening the industry's ability to serve its customers and the economy." Among AAR's concerns in the bill are a two-person crew mandate; an effective prohibition of liquefied natural gas by rail; a yardmaster hours of service provision; an effective prohibition on certain crew operations; and a 10-minute blocked crossing standard. Meanwhile, the bill contains some provisions that would help short lines serve thousands of shippers in small towns and rural areas, said American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) President Chuck Baker in a press release. "But there are also unfortunately pieces that would hinder our ability to bring their products to bigger domestic markets at urban centers and global markets through our port connections," Baker said. ASLRRA officials highlighted "beneficial" aspects of the legislation, including: a significant increase in the authorized funding levels for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety Improvements (CRISI) program, a competitive grant program that the short-line industry relies on for safety and service upgrades to old, inherited track infrastructure, while maintaining the rural set-aside. The bill also would remove preferential treatment for applications that provide more than 50 percent in nonfederal funding for the project. The association remain concerned about the inclusion of additional nonfreight rail applications and setting aside much of the program for mega projects; no changes to the current truck size and weight standards on the nation's highways, other than a small, "unfortunate" 2,000-pound exemption for electric trucks; support of state freight investments through the National Highway Freight Program; authorization of funding for safety culture assessments and training. Like AAR, the ASLRRA is concerned with requiring two-person crews on railroads and certain trips, as well other aspects of the bill. Those concerns can be read by clicking on this link.    

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USDOT announces $906 million in INFRA grants

Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation 6/19/2020 Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
image U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoPhoto – dot.gov

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) yesterday announced it intends to award $906 million in Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grants to 20 projects in 20 states.

Funding will be used to pay for projects that will improve highways, bridges, ports and railroads to better connect communities, enhance safety and support economic growth, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a press release.

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MBTA accelerates Red Line infrastructure work

Rail News Home Maintenance Of Way 6/18/2020 Rail News: Maintenance Of Way
image MBTA will accomplish the infrastructure work about a month and a half sooner than previously planned.Photo – MBTA

The Massachusetts BayTransportation Authority (MBTA) today will begin infrastructure work on the Red Line between Braintree and Quincy Center stations on an accelerated 14-day schedule. 

Work includes replacement of 3,500 ties; concrete repairs, elevator structure work; track replacements, resurfacing and ballast work; and bridge inspections and related repairs on the Red Line.

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U.S. Rep. Pence proposes bill to improve grade crossing safety

Rail News Home Federal Legislation & Regulation 6/18/2020 Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation
image U.S. Rep. Greg PencePhoto – Rep. Pence's website

U.S. Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.) on Tuesday introduced a bill that calls for improving grade crossing safety by allowing more flexibility in the use of funds allocated by the Federal Highway Administration's Section 130 program.

"Indiana is the crossroads of America. Blocked railroad-highway crossings pose a serious safety risk to Hoosiers and must be updated," said Pence in a press release.

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TriMet redirects police funding to community services

Rail News Home Security 6/18/2020 Rail News: Security
image TriMet will redirect $1.8 million in available funding to community-based public safety approaches.Photo – TriMet Facebook

The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TriMet) yesterday announced it will reduce its transit police force and redirect $1.8 million in available funding to community-based public safety approaches. 

For the next fiscal year starting July 1, TriMet has committed to:

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Import-export companies back Quebec port's Laurentia project

Rail News Home Intermodal 6/18/2020 Rail News: Intermodal
image More than 100 companies have given their support to the development of Laurentia, the Port of Quebec's deepwater container terminal project that, when completed, will create a new supply chain for Quebec and Eastern Canadian importers and exporters, port officials said this week. Operated by Hutchison Port Holdings (HPH) and CN, the Quebec Container Terminal will open in early 2024. The terminal will provide shippers with improved access to traditional markets in Europe and the Mediterranean, as well as expanding markets in Southeast Asia. The project includes a wharf with a 52-foot water depth, capacity to accommodate 13,000 20-foot-equivalent unit container ships and a direct connection to CN's rail network. "This project ties into CN's unique transcontinental railroad that spans three coasts, providing import and export companies with access to markets across Canada and the U.S. Midwest," said CN President and Chief Executive Officer JJ Ruest. "This will encourage growth and economic development, creating jobs and supporting the recovery of the economy while enabling supply chains and providing new options for the movement of consumer goods." With the Laurentia, the Quebec City area will serve as a hub for intermodal transportation across the continent, said Quebec Port Authority President and CEO Mario Girard. "To have already received the support of a hundred import-export companies is further tangible proof of the need for Laurentia in the Quebec City region, but also for our province and our country."

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NJ Transit outlines service recovery guidelines

Rail News Home Security 6/18/2020 Rail News: Security
image NJ Transit's plan calls for riders to wear face coverings, practice social distancing and avoid loud talking on trains.Photo – NJ Transit Facebook

New Jersey Transit earlier this week released guidelines detailing its steps aimed at protecting riders and employees as the region reopens during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The guidelines provide “clear and simple” actions that riders and employees should take to contribute to a safe return to service, NJ Transit officials said in a press release.

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CN conductor killed during switching operation

Rail News Home Safety 6/18/2020 Rail News: Safety
image A CN conductor was fatally injured June 15 while working outside a rail yard in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Teamsters Canada announced this week. The man, whose identity was not released, was in his 30s and had been with CN since 2018, union officials said in a press release. The worker was a member of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC). The employee's death was confirmed by a CN spokesman in an email. The incident occurred on company property in Port Edward, just south of Prince Rupert. "We want to offer our sincere condolences to the employee's family and community in these tragic times," said CN spokesman Jonathan Abecassis. Monday's incident was the second time a CN conductor died on the job this month in British Columbia, Teamsters Canada officials said. Another conductor died June 1 in Surrey. Both workers were performing switching operations at the time the fatal incidents occurred. "This industry has suffered far too many preventable tragedies," said TCRC President Lyndon Isaak. "We need to find new ways to focus on safety. Our union continues to work with employers, the federal government and other stakeholders in hopes of preventing future accidents and ultimately saving lives." Isaak also cautioned all TCRC members "to stay vigilant and aware of their surroundings at all times while they work." The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is looking into both incidents, the Prince George Citizen reported.      

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