WRR – 03-18-2011

WEEKLY RAIL REVIEW

FOR THE WEEK ENDING FRIDAY, MARCH 18, 2011

BY DAVE MEARS

THE WEEK’S TOP RAIL AND TRANSIT NEWS (in chronological order):

(MON) In response to congressional urgings, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood designated Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Line as a U.S. high-speed rail corridor, bringing the total number of such corridors to 11. The decision allows Amtrak to apply for federal high-speed rail funds to make capital improvements to the NEC, including the $2.4 billion recently renounced by Florida Governor Rick Scott that Mr. LaHood said he would now work to reallocate. (ffd: NARP, Railway Age)

(MON) Sounder and Cascades passenger rail services in Washington State were suspended for approximately 48 hours due to mud slides. In the last three months, 20 mudslides have temporarily halted these services, with most of them occurring on the BNSF line between Seattle and Everett. State officials said that they would seek $10 million for initial work on ways to permanently prevent the mud slides. (ffd: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Times)

(MON) The American Public Transportation Association released a study that said that, if gas prices average $4 per gallon, 670 million more passenger trips on public transportation could be expected, bringing the annual total to 10.8 billion trips. The study added that, if gas prices average $5 per gallon, an additional 1.5 billion passenger trips could be expected, bringing the annual total to 11.6 billion trips. (ffd: APTA)

(MON) Metrolinx, the parent agency of GO commuter rail serving Greater Toronto, ON, ordered 50 new bi-level commuter cars from Bombardier Transportation. Production on the C$125 million order is scheduled to start in June, 2011 with the first deliveries in November, 2011. (ffd: Bombardier, Railway Age)

(MON) Southern California commuter rail operator Metrolink said that it had entered into a partnership with the University of Southern California’s engineering school to create an advance rail safety certification program. A Metrolink spokesman said that, whereas individual railroads have individual safety programs “that focus on rules and procedures, there is no consistent system safety certification program in the railroad industry. Technological advances over the next years…will create even high levels of human technology interface, which is why it is critical that a standardized system safety curriculum be created.” It noted that USC’s engineering school has provided aviation safety education for more than a half-century. (ffd: RT&S)

(MON) Chicago commuter rail operator Metra said that it would open a new station at 35th Street in Chicago on its Rock Island District line. The new station will serve nearby U.S. Cellular Field, where the Chicago White Sox play. Trains will begin stopping at the station on April 3 in advance of the White Sox home opener on April 7. (ffd: Trains)

(TUE) Congressional leaders announced the formation of the “Bi-Cameral High-Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus.” The caucus is comprised of principally Democratic members from both the Senate and the House. The caucus said in a statement that its goals include “explaining the clear economic benefits of high-speed rail and the value of investments to America’s well-being.” (ffd: NARP, The Hill)

(TUE) A U.S. appeals court upheld an earlier ruling by the Surface Transportation Board requiring Canadian National Railway to pay the majority of the costs for building two key railroad overpasses in the Chicago suburbs. The overpasses root in conditions stipulated by the STB in their oversight of the acquisition by CN of the former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway. (ffd: Chicago Tribune, Progressive Railroading)

(TUE) The Surface Transportation Board granted a coal-fired utility plant owned by Entergy and Arkansas Electric Cooperative additional rail access so that it may obtain alternatives rates and service. The plant is served by the Missouri & Northern Arkansas Railroad with traffic moving via Union Pacific. The STB’s order allows the utility cooperative to also seek rates and service with the MNA via BNSF. (ffd: Railway Age, STB)

(TUE) Southern California commuter rail operator Metrolink said that it would begin a pilot program of operating express trains on two of its busiest lines. Starting May 9, the San Bernardino Line, which has 13 stops, will have certain trains making only four stops: San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Covina, and Los Angeles. Also starting that date, the Antelope Line, which has 11 stops, will have certain trains also making only four stops: Palmdale, Santa Clarita, downtown Burbank, and Los Angeles. (ffd: Metrolink, Progressive Railroading)

(WED) Three U.S. senators introduced legislation to establish a national infrastructure bank. The bill, entitled the Building and Upgrading Infrastructure for Long-Term Development (BUILD) Act, would create the American Infrastructure Financing Authority to complement existing infrastructure funding. The AIFA would provide loans and loan guarantees for infrastructure projects and fund “the most important and economical viable” infrastructure projects in the country. (ffd: Progressive Railroading, Railway Age)

(WED) The Next Generation Corridor Equipment Pool Committee approved standard specifications for new diesel-electric locomotives intended for passenger rail service. The committee is a collaboration of 11 states, the Federal Railroad Administration, Amtrak, rail equipment manufacturers, and suppliers. It was created by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 to develop specifications and procurement strategies for new domestic passenger locomotives, rolling stock and related equipment. (ffd: AASHTO, NARP, Railway Age)

(WED) Related to coal being the commodity most carried by U.S. railroads after intermodal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed new emission regulations for coal-burning power plants. In making their announcement, the EPA noted that roughly half of the nation’s more than 400 coal-burning plants have some form of emission control technology installed and about a third of the states have set their own standards for emissions. They added that the proposed regulations would be the first national standard and will require all plants to come up to the standard of the cleanest of current plants. EPA said that the collective cost of compliance with the proposed regulations would be approximately $10 billion. (ffd: Progressive Railroading, USEPA)

(THU) The House Railroad Subcommittee held a hearing on the impact of the Rail Safety Improvement Act, with special attention to the status of Positive Train Control, which the Act requires by 2015 for passenger railroads and for Class I rail lines over which TIH traffic is transported. At the hearing, the head of South Florida’s Tri-Rail commuter rail system, who testified on behalf of members of the American Public Transportation Association, asked Congress to legislate a three-year extension of the compliance deadline, until 2018. He also asked that the federal government provide sufficient funding to assist in meeting the approximately $2 billion cost of implementation for commuter railroads. (ffd: AAR, Los Angeles Times, NARP, wire services)

(THU) Congress approved and sent to the president a three-week appropriations continuing resolution that will keep federal agencies operating until April 8. The “CR” includes $4 billion in budget cuts, including deleting seed funding for the development of positive train control technology – much of that development already being independently underway – and also $24 million from the program to assist in planning the relocation of rail lines from congested areas. (ffd: AASHTO)

(THU) Greenbrier announced that it had received orders for 4,200 new rail cars. It said that the majority of orders are for double-stack intermodal platforms, with the balance consisting of boxcars, covered hoppers, and “various car types for European markets.” It said that delivery of these cars would occur principally in 2011. (ffd: Greenbrier Corp.)

(THU) Amtrak announced that it would hold its fourth annual National Train Day Celebration on Saturday, May 7. It said that it would hold major celebratory events at its stations in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, and said that individuals may also “attend an event near you, host one of your own, or participate online.” (ffd: Amtrak)

(FRI) The New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority dedicated and formally launched two tunnel boring machines to tunnel underneath Sunnyside Yards in Queens Borough in New York City. The tunnels are part of the East Side Access project which will allow Long Island Rail Road trains to access the East Side of Manhattan and eventually reach a new station located near and connected with Grand Central Terminal. A spokesman said that the project is still scheduled to be completed by 2016, but noted that the startup date had slipped in recent years due to funding issues. (ffd: NYMTA, Railway Age)

(FRI) The Canadian government announced a series of steps it said would improve rail service in the country. The government’s proposal stems from a study of rail service in which rail customers, particularly grain shippers, said that service had been inadequate. The steps include a six-month facilitation process in which the government hopes to establish a dispute resolution process, as well as a bill which if passed would give rail shippers the right to a service agreement with railroads. The head of Canadian National Railway said that it had “serious concerns” with the proposal and the head of Canadian Pacific Railway warned against it “isolating the rail sector.” (ffd: MSN, Trains)

(FRI) The National Transportation Safety Board said that it would revamp its annual Most Wanted List Safety Recommendations Program. A NTSB spokesman said that it would work on a new process such that “future lists would be limited to a maximum of 10 issue areas, each supported by recommendations, and that the formerly separate state and federal Most Wanted Lists by combined into a single, comprehensive list.” (ffd: NTSB)

(FRI) The online travel site Orbitz For Business announced a partnership this week with SilverRail Technologies that it said “will allow customers to seamlessly plan and book rail travel through the Orbitz For Business tool – the first major online travel company to announce integrated, online rail capabilities for U.S. business travel.” An Orbitz spokesman said that customers will be able to use the service to make Amtrak reservations for all Amtrak trains. (ffd: NARP)

STATS – CLASS 1 RAIL TRAFFIC:

(THU) The Association of American Railroads reported that, for the week ending March 12, 2011 and ranked with the comparable week last year:

- U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 292,164 units, up 1.3 percent

- Notable U.S. carload rail traffic increases included metallic ores up 105.3 percent, pulp and paper products up 17.9 percent, and motor vehicle and equipment up 17.7 percent; notable decreases included waste and nonferrous scrap down 13.7 percent and primary forest products down 12.6 percent.

- U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 216,828 units, up 6.5 percent

- Canadian carload rail traffic totaled 71,533 units, down 3.9 percent

- Canadian intermodal rail traffic totaled 42,009 units, down 2.7 percent

- Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 15,545 units, up 14.1 percent

- Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 6,488 units, down 15.1 percent

For the period January 1 through March 12, 2011:

-U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 2,870,806 units, up 5.5 percent

-U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 2,176,100 units, up 7.8 percent

-Canadian carload rail traffic totaled 701,633 units, down 1.6 percent

-Canadian intermodal rail totaled 449,059 units, up 3.2 percent

-Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 143,963 units, up 6.4 percent

-Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 71,530 units, up 8.5 percent

NOTE: Canadian counts include traffic from the U.S. operations of the two Canadian-based Class I railroads, Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway.

EXPANSIONS, CONTRACTIONS AND ALIKE:

None of note this week.

 

APPOINTMENTS, ACHIEVEMENTS AND MILESTONES:

(THU) Short line holding company Watco announced the following appointments: Rob Thrall as regional vice-president of operations-West Region; Brian Boutwell as regional vice-president of operations-Gulf Region; Alex King as director of operations-Gulf Region; and Jerry Carter as director of operations-West Region. (ffd: Progressive Railroading, Watco Companies)

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WRR – 03-11-2011

WEEKLY RAIL REVIEW

FOR THE WEEK ENDING FRIDAY, MARCH 11, 2011

THE WEEK’S TOP RAIL AND TRANSIT NEWS (in chronological order):

(MON) Torrential rains caused a notable washout on Metro North’s Danbury Line, rendering it out of service and forcing the substitution of buses to serve the line’s stations. The washout measured approximately 150-feet wide by 20-feet deep and occurred at a location not readily accessible by an existing road. Metro North estimated that the line would be out of service for approximately two weeks while repairs were made. (ffd: NYMTA, Trains)

(MON) Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that creates the Southeast Commuter Rail Transit District. The district was created to facilitate eventual construction of a new 33-mile Metra commuter rail line, to be known as the Southeast Service Line, that would run alongside existing rail lines in southern Cook and Will counties. A state spokesman said that a final proposal is expected to be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration later this year. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(MON) Union Pacific released the schedule for the first part of its 2011 steam excursion program. The schedule is available on the UP website, www.uprr.com. (ffd: Trains)

(TUE) BNSF noted that its customers had facilitated fuel efficiency and emissions reduction by shipping via rail instead of by truck. It noted that, in 2010, its rail traffic reduced carbon dioxide emissions by more than 21 million metric tons, which it said was equivalent to reducing the consumption and resultant emissions of more than 2 billion gallons of diesel fuel. UP sent each of its intermodal, automotive, industrial products and agricultural products customers a customized letter that analyzed their total rail carbon footprint and saving compared to movements of their shipments via the highway. (ffd: BNSF RR)

(WED) In a letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Warren Buffett noted that it had received a $1 billion dividend from BNSF Railway, which it acquired the stock of in 2009. Berkshire also received a $1.5 billion dividend from BNSF last year. Said Mr. Buffett, “It now appears that owning this railroad will increase Berkshire’s earning power by nearly 40 percent pre-tax and by well over 30 percent after-tax.” (ffd: Railway Age)

(WED) The Association of American Railroads announced that U.S.-based Class I railroads will spend an estimated $12 billion on capital improvements this year. If realized, this spending would exceed the record capital expenditures of $10.7 billion made by these railroads in 2010. The AAR added that the two Canadian-based Class I railroads, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific, would spend an estimated $2.8 billion for capital improvements this year, which is additional to the amount being spent by U.S.-based railroads, and with at least $750 million going to the Canadians’ U.S. operations. (ffd: AAR, Business Week, Journal of Commerce)

(WED) New Jersey Transit’s board of directors approved $155.6 million to install a Positive Train Control (PTC) system on its lines. An NJT spokesman said that Parsons Transportation Group would install the first three phases of the system. The spokesman added that NJT’s PTC system would be compatible with the Amtrak PTC system. (ffd: Asbury Park Press)

(WED) Cascade Investment, wholly owned by software billionaire Bill Gates, announced that they had recently acquired 35,784 more shares of Canadian National for more than $2.4 million. Cascade now holds 37.4 million shares of CN and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, on which Gates serves as co-trustee, also owns 8.56 million CN shares. As the sole owner of Cascade and co-trustee of the trust, Mr. Gates now retains ownership and/or control of nearly 46 million CN Shares, or 10 percent of CN’s outstanding shares. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(WED) Amtrak announced that it had carried more than two million passengers last month. A total of 2,099,010 passengers were transported in February, 2011, up 7.6 percent from the previous February record in 2010. Amtrak said that it also marked, from November, 2009 through February, 2011, the 16th straight month of ridership growth, averaging a 6 percent growth rate during this period. (ffd: Amtrak, NARP)

(WED) Railway Age named Blacklands Railroad the 2011 Short Line Railroad of the Year and the Reading & Northern Railroad the 2011 Regional Railroad of the Year. In announcing the awards, the magazine said that “the entrepreneurial spirit of the two winners is a shared belief in the economic power and potential railroads of all sizes can offer.” The awards will be presented at the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association’s annual convention in San Antonio, TX in May. (ffd: Railway Age)

(WED) Three bands – Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, and Old Crow Medicine Show – announced that they would tour on a special train of two locomotives and 15 private cars. Dubbed the “Railroad Revival Tour,” the train will originate on April 21 in Oakland, CA and conclude on April 27 in New Orleans, LA, with the bands playing in these and four other intermediate cities. The bands will eat, sleep, and record on the train, which will be the focus of a documentary film. (ffd: Trains)

(THU) The House Railroad Subcommittee held a hearing on how private enterprise might play a role in U.S. high-speed passenger rail service. Notable at the hearing was a spirited exchange between House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL), who called the launch of recent high-speed rail initiatives “an absolute disaster,” and Railroad Subcommittee Ranking Minority Member Corrine Brown (D-FL), who blamed the failure of the long-planned Tampa-Orlando corridor on Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott’s “lack of leadership.” Also testifying at the hearing was Federal Railroad Administration Chief Administrator Joe Szabo. (ffd: NARP)

(THU) Following the failure of efforts in Florida to overcome Governor Rick Scott’s declining $2.4 billion in federal funding for high-speed rail development between Tampa and Orlando, U.S. Secretary Transportation Ray LaHood said that he was beginning efforts to reallocate the funding toward other passenger rail products. “There is a line outside my door of governors, senators and congressmen,” Mr. LaHood said during a congressional meeting. “There is no shortage of interest in $2.4 billion we’re going to reallocate from Florida.” (ffd: The Hill, NARP)

(FRI) The Washington [DC} Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority proposed to realign Metro subway service to “improve service, reliability, and prepare for the future Dulles extension.” The proposal is to shift-one third of Blue Line trains from Franconia-Springfield to operate via the Yellow Line Bridge to L’Enfant Plaza and on to Greenbelt. To offset the shift, three Orange Lines trains per hour would be added from West Falls Church to Largo Town Center. The proposal, which is targeted for implementation in mid-2012, will be vetted through public hearings. (ffd: RT&S)

(FRI) Amtrak announced that it would hold a rededication ceremony for its Wilmington, DE station on Saturday, March 19. The station, which recently received a $37.7 million fix-up, will be renamed in honor of Vice President Joseph Biden, who was a longtime Amtrak commuter between Wilmington and Washington, DC while serving in the U.S. Senate. The station, which was built in the early 1900s, was designed by noted architect Frank Furness. It is presently Amtrak’s 12th busiest station, serving approximately 696,000 passengers annually. (ffd: Amtrak)

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group released a high-speed rail advocacy video featuring two characters drawn from the popularly and critically acclaimed AMC television series, “Mad Men.” The series, which will start its fifth season later this year, is set at a New York advertising agency in the 1960s. In the video, two principals of the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency, Pete Campbell played by Vincent Kartheiser and Harry Crane played by Rich Sommer, muse over the best way to pitch fast trains. To watch the video, link to www.funnyordie.com and search on “mad men on trains.” (ffd: APTA)

 

STATS – CLASS 1 RAIL TRAFFIC:

(THU) The Association of American Railroads reported that, for the week ending March 5, 2011 and ranked with the comparable week last year:

- U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 300,953 units, up 5.5 percent

- Notable U.S. carload traffic increases included metallic ores up 105.2 percent, motor vehicles and equipment up 20.8 percent, and petroleum products up 18.6 percent; notable decreases included grain mill products down 12.1 percent

- U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 214,343 units, up 1.0 percent

- Canadian carload rail traffic totaled 70,551 units, down 5.9 percent

- Canadian intermodal rail traffic totaled 43,401 units, down 3.3 percent

- Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 14,225 units, up 6.0 percent

- Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 6,921 units down 4.2 percent

 

For the period January 1 through March 5, 2011:

-U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 2,578,642 units, up 6.0 percent

-U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 1,959,272 units, up 7.9 percent

-Canadian carload rail traffic totaled 630,100 units, down 1.4 percent

-Canadian intermodal rail totaled 470,050 units, up 3.9 percent

-Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 128,418 units, up 5.5 percent

-Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 65,042 units, up 11.6 percent

NOTE: Canadian counts include traffic from the U.S. operations of the two Canadian-based Class I railroads, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway.

 

 

EXPANSIONS, CONTRACTIONS AND ALIKE:

 

None of note this week.

 

APPOINTMENTS, ACHIEVEMENTS AND MILESTONES:

(FRI) Kansas City Southern Executive Chair Mike Haverty was named the winner of Progressive Railroading Magazine’s Railroad Innovator Award. The magazine said that it was recognizing Mr. Haverty for being “a strategic thinker who’s willing and able to read between the North American rail map’s lines, make sense of what he’s read and plan/manage accordingly.” (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

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WEEKLY RAIL REVIEW

FOR THE WEEK ENDING FRIDAY, MARCH 4, 2011

THE WEEK’S TOP RAIL AND TRANSIT NEWS (in chronological order):

(MON) The Washington State Department of Transportation, BNSF, and the Federal Railroad Administration announced an agreement that will allow Washington State to secure $590 million in federal high-speed rail funding to improve Amtrak Cascade rail service between Seattle, WA and Portland, OR. The agreement will allow for the operation of up to six daily round-trips, additional to Amtrak’s “Coast Starlight” train, and will also include the building of new bypass tracks, a ten-minute reduction in travel time, and reliability improvements of up to 88 percent. The project is targeted for completion by 2017. (ffd: AASHTO, NARP, USDOT)

(MON) Criticism mounted related to Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad train service. On Monday evening, a train operating from Boston to Worcester arrived three hours late, with riders noting the following day continued poor performance on the line. On Thursday, MBCR’s parent organization, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said that it was considering dismissing MBCR as MBTA’s commuter rail operator. “We have leverage over the MBCR…to scare them to prove to us that they have credible customer service,” said MBTA General Manager Richard Davey. (ffd: Trains)

(MON) New Jersey Transit Executive Director James Weinstein announced a new scorecard of accountability measures that will be established to keep the public informed of the agency’s performance. A NJT spokesman said that the scorecard would report the agency’s performance in customer satisfaction, safety and security, fiscal health, service accountability, and workforce engagement. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(TUE) Metro North put the first of 380 new Class M-8 commuter rail cars in service on its New Haven Line. The line has notably suffered equipment problems this winter, including 40 percent of its fleet being out of service at one point. On Friday, Metro North restored train service on its Waterbury Line, the stations of which had been served by buses for several weeks while its regular trainsets were diverted for use on the New Haven Line. (ffd: NYMTA)

(WED) House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chair John Mica (R-FL) said that his committee would begin work later this month on new six-year surface transportation legislation. He said that it would be a “multi-modal bill” because “we’ve got to improve all of the elements of infrastructure” and predicted that Congress “should be done with it” before the next federal budget year begins in October. (ffd: Journal of Commerce)

(THU) The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 14-to-1 to approve the Railroad Antitrust Enforcement Act of 2011 sponsored by Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI). Among other anti-trust related changes, the bill would put rail anti-trust matters under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Justice. The bill, a version of which was withdrawn by the previous Congress, now goes to the full Senate for debate. (ffd: Progressive Railroading, Railway Age)

(THU) The Federal Railroad Administration proposed new regulations related to emergencies situations at grade crossings. The proposed regulations would require railroads to post a toll-free number at each crossing to reach the railroad in an emergency and also the crossing’s federal National Crossing Inventory identification number. Past a period for public comment and possible change, the proposed regulations are scheduled to go into effect later this year. (ffd: FRA, Progressive Railroading)

(THU) The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration announced new regulations related to the transport of hazardous materials. Among other changes, the new regulations allow federal inspectors to investigate shipments of hazardous materials in transport and to take tougher enforcement action against companies shipping in an unsafe manner. The new regulations are scheduled to take effect May 1. (ffd: OSHA, PHMSA)

(THU) Investors Business Daily noted a surge in international demand for U.S. coal. It cited analyst reports that predicted that U.S. steam coal exports will nearly double this year to 40 million tons, and that total U.S. coal exports this year may be from 92 to 94 million tons. It noted that, in late February, 18 to 20 coal-carrying ships were waiting to be loaded at Lamberts Point Piers in Norfolk, VA. (ffd: BB&T Capital, Investors Business Daily)

(FRI) The Federal Railroad Administration confirmed that it would support changes to the implementation of Positive Train Control (PTC), which is required to be installed on certain rail lines by 2015. The changes, which will be finalized in a public rulemaking process, are expected to include not requiring Class I railroads to install PTC on lines over which there will minimal or no transport of toxic-by-inhalation traffic by 2015. The changes settle a lawsuit filed by the Association of American Railroads that was to be argued in D.C. Circuit Court on March 7. (ffd: Trains, Wall Street Journal, wire services)

(FRI) The Florida Supreme Court turned down a lawsuit filed by two Florida state senators that argued that Republican Governor Rick Scott exceeding his constitutional authority in renouncing $2.4 billion in federal funding for development of high-speed passenger rail service between Orlando and Tampa. News reports declared Florida high-speed rail “officially dead.” Later on Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he would reallocate the $2.4 billion to one or more states that requested it for further development of their high-speed rail projects. (ffd: NARP, Orlando Sentinel, Trains)

(FRI) President Obama signed into law a measure that extends until September 30 federal funding of surface transportation programs under the SAFETEA-LU Act. The act, which expired on September 30, 2009, has now been extended seven times. As noted above, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee expects to start work on successor legislation later this month. (ffd: AASHTO)

(FRI) The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that the U.S. Department of Transportation suffered from a “fragmented approach” to carrying out its mission that must be addressed to better improve the agency’s capabilities and its solutions to complex challenges. The report, entitled “Opportunities to Reduce Potential Duplication in Government Programs, Save Tax Dollars, and Enhance Revenue,” examines various federal programs at USDOT and other government departments. (ffd: AASHTO, GAO)

(FRI) The Surface Transportation Board ruled that BNSF’s attempt to mitigate coal dust problems were not reasonable. An electric utility company had asked the STB to prevent BNSF from using a wayside emission monitoring system to measure coal dust blowing from the tops of coal cars because, if a specified emission standard was exceeded, the utility would have been subject to enforcement measures. The STB ruled that BNSF can require shippers to take “reasonable measures” to address coal dust problems, but the provisions of its related tariff aren’t reasonable given the “level of uncertainty” and available dust control methods. (ffd: Progressive Railroading, STB)

(FRI) Fortune Magazine named Union Pacific the most admired company among trucking, transportation and logistics companies. UP ranked No. 1 in seven of nine reputation attributes: people management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, quality of management, financial soundness, long-term investment, and quality of services. Norfolk Southern was No. 3 on the list and CSX was No. 6. (ffd: CNN, RT&S)

 

STATS – CLASS 1 RAIL TRAFFIC:

(THU) The Association of American Railroads reported that, for the week ending February 26, 2011 and ranked with the comparable week last year:

- U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 296,252 units, up 2.4 percent

- Notable U.S. carload traffic increases metallic ores up 78.2 percent, nonmetallic minerals up 12.4 percent, and stone, clay and glass products, up 10.4 percent; notable decreases included waste and nonferrous scrap down 17.2 percent, grain mill products down 16 percent, and non-grain farm products down 15.4 percent

- U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 220,589 units, up 7.2 percent

- Canadian carload rail traffic totaled 71,262 units, down 0.1 percent

- Canadian intermodal rail traffic totaled 46,661 units, up 7.7 percent

- Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 14,828 units, up 5.6 percent

- Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 7,773 units, up 13.1 percent

 

For the period January 1 through February 26, 2011:

-U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 2,277,689 units, up 6.1 percent

-U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 1,744,929 units, up 8.9 percent

-Canadian carload rail traffic 559,549 units, down 0.8 percent

-Canadian intermodal rail traffic totaled 363,649 units, up 4.8 percent

-Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 114,193 units, up 5.4 percent

-Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 58,171 units, up 13.8 percent

NOTE: Canadian counts include traffic from the U.S. operations of the two Canadian-based Class I railroads, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway.

 

STATS CONTINUED – 2010 SAFETY RESULTS:

The FRA released preliminary safety results for the full year 2010. Compared with the full year 2009, they included the following:

-Train accidents totaled 1,830, compared with 1,895 earlier, a decrease of 3.5 percent

-Train accidents causes were 33.22 percent due to human factors, compared with 34.30 percent earlier; 35.25 percent due to track defects, compared with 34.88 percent earlier; 13.39 percent due to equipment defects, compared with 14.04 percent earlier; 3.66 percent due to signal defects, compared with 2.64 percent earlier; and 14.48 percent due miscellaneous causes, compared with 14.41 percent earlier

-Highway-rail crossing fatalities totaled 261, compared with 247 earlier, an increase of 5.7 percent

-Trespasser fatalities totaled 451, compared with 417 earlier, an increase of 8.2 percent

-On-duty employee fatalities totaled 20, compared with 14 earlier, an increase of 42.9 percent

-On-duty non-fatal employee injuries totaled 4,272, compared with 4,319 earlier, a decrease of 1.1 percent

 

EXPANSIONS, CONTRACTIONS AND ALIKE:

(MON) CSX announced that it had acquired land in Worcester, MA that will allow the expansion of its intermodal terminal there. The expansion facilitates the eventual closing of CSX’s Beacon Park intermodal terminal in Boston. (ffd: Trains)

(FRI) Canadian National filed to abandon approximately one mile of former Wisconsin Central line in Weston, WI. (ffd: STB)

(FRI) The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority announced that it had acquired trackage rights and land such as will allow its Green Line Extension Project to move forward. MBTA also announced that, for possible future commuter rail service, it had acquired trackage rights over the Pan Am Railway line between Worcester and Ayer, MA, and also over Pan Am Railway lines in New Hampshire serving Nashua, Manchester, and Concord, NH. (ffd: R&R Magazine)

 

 

APPOINTMENTS, ACHIEVEMENTS AND MILESTONES:

(TUE) Kansas City Southern announced the following appointments: David Ebbrecht as executive vice president of operations for U.S. operations; John Jacobsen as senior vice president and chief engineer for U.S. operations; and Oscar Del Cueto as senior vice president of operations. (ffd: KCS RR)

(TUE) William Schafer retired from Norfolk Southern. Mr. Schafer had been with NS and its predecessor Southern since 1971 and was most recently its Director-Corporate Affairs. (Note: We congratulate Mr. Schafer, a longtime WRR reader, on his retirement.)

(TUE) The Surface Transportation Board announced that Charles “Chip” Nottingham will resign as its vice-chairman effective March 18. The Obama Administration in December nominated Ann Begeman, the Republican staff director of the Senate Commerce Committee, to succeed Mr. Nottingham. (ffd: Journal of Commerce, STB)

(WED) Canadian Pacific announced the retirement of Ed Harris, its executive vice president of operations. Succeeding Mr. Harris will be Mike Franczak, who has been with CPR since 1987. (ffd: CPR RR, wire services)

(WED) RailAmerica announced the appointment of Harold Tynes as president of its Atlas Railroad Construction subsidiary. Mr. Tynes has been with RailAmerica since 2007, and was most recently its vice president and controller. (ffd: Progressive Railroading, RailAmerica Corp.)

(THU) Gordon Davids retired from the Federal Railroad Administration. Mr. Davids was most recently FRA’s chief engineer of structures and started his railroad career with the former Delaware & Hudson in the late 1950s.

(THU) Kansas City Southern announced the following appointments: Larry Haskell as assistant vice president of information technology operations and transportation systems. Mr. Haskell was most recently with ActioNet Corp. KCS also appointed Michelle Kelly as its assistance vice president of compensation. Ms. Kelly has been with KCS since 2008. (ffd: KCS RR)

(THU) The Railroad Retirement Board announced the appointment of George Govan as its chief financial officer. Mr. Govan was most recently a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, were he served as the comptroller of the 88th Comptroller Squadron. (ffd: RRB)

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WRR – 02-25-2011

WEEKLY RAIL REVIEW

FOR THE WEEK ENDING FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2011

THE WEEK’S TOP RAIL AND TRANSIT NEWS (in chronological order):

(MON) Legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to extend and enhance the Section 45G Short Line Tax Credit. The bill, H.R. 721, is sponsored jointly by Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Bill Shuster (R-PA), and Jerry Costello (D-IL). The existing credit expires at the end of this year. (ffd: Trains)

(MON) Norfolk Southern placed an order for 1,500 open-top hopper cars for coal service with FreightCar America. FreightCar America said that it will restart production at its Roanoke, VA shops to fill the order. (ffd: Journal of Commerce, Richmond Times-Dispatch)

(MON) Philadelphia commuter rail operator SEPTA put the first two of their new Silverliner V Class commuter rail cars in service. SEPTA has ordered a total of 120 of the cars, which are being manufactured by Korea’s Hyundai Rotem and assembled in South Philadelphia. The order is about one year behind schedule, which the Philadelphia Inquirer reported is due to material delays, design flaws, workmanship problems, and strained relations between the Korean managers and American workers. (ffd: Philadelphia Inquirer)

(TUE) The U.S. Supreme Court ruled seven to two that CSX could challenge an Alabama state tax on the fuel it purchases. CSX argued that Alabama’s tax was illegal because the law required such a tax imposed on railroads to also be imposed on motor and water carriers, which is not the case in the state. (ffd: Birmingham Business Journal, wire services)

(WED) A Massachusetts Institute of Technology study indicated that increasing the maximum truck size and weight limits could potentially divert a significant percentage of existing rail traffic to trucks. The study said that increasing the current 80,000-pound weight limit to 97,000-pound, six-axles trucks could result in 7.8 million more truck trips and that allowing longer double- and triple-trailer trucks could result in 17.4 million more truck trips. (ffd: Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, Progressive Railroading)

(WED) The new chair of VIA Rail Canada, Paul Smith, said that “VIA Rail is undergoing one of the biggest transformations in the corporation’s history” and that, when complete, “it will be a market leader, offering Canada’s best travel experience.” He noted that the VIA Rail is expanding track capacity, rebuilding its locomotive and car fleets, and modernizing its passenger stations and information technology systems in a five-year, C$923 million capital improvement program projected for completion by 2013. (ffd: Via Rail Canada)

(WED) The Burlington Free Press reported that Amtrak had ranked Vermont Rail System as its worst host railroad due to poor track conditions that have resulted in poor train performance. VRS hosts Amtrak’s “Ethan Allen Express” from Rutland, VT to Whitehall, NY. Vermont Transportation Secretary Brian Searles said that his agency would investigate the matter and work to facilitate its improvement. (ffd: Burlington Free Press, Trains)

(THU) Florida Governor Ray Scott, who the previous week had renounced $2.4 billion in federal funding for high-speed rail between Orlando and Tampa, again rejected a state-organized effort to continue the project. The Miami Herald reported that “angry lawmakers accused him of overstepping authority and threatened legal action.” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that he would give Florida an additional week to work out a compromise before he would begin the process of diverting the funding to the several other states that have requested it. (ffd: Miami Herald, NARP)

(THU) The Surface Transportation Board held a hearing to review regulatory exemptions for certain types of rail traffic. Among those testifying were the presidents of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association and the Association of American Railroads, who spoke of the success of the exemptions and urged that they be continued. The exemptions rooted in the STB’s predecessor, the Interstate Commerce Commission. (ffd: AAR, RT&S)

(THU) Chicago area lawmakers sharply criticized H.R. 1, the budget bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, because of its elimination of an earlier approved $133 million in federal grants to fund the Englewood Flyover. The planned flyover would enable Metra’s Rock Island Line to cross over the Norfolk Southern line used by NS and Amtrak, and would replace a congested junction used by 78 Metra trains and 60 NS and Amtrak trains each weekday. Approximately $8 million in state, local and railroad funding has already been spent on the project. (ffd: Chicago Tribune, Progressive Railroading)

(THU) The Connecticut Department of Transportation approved an order for 38 additional Class M-8 commuter rail cars for Metro North’s New Haven Line. The state’s bond commission has approved $81.5 million for their purchase. The new order adds to an earlier order for 342 M-8 cars, the first of which are expected to enter service sometime in March of this year. (ffd: Trains)

(THU) Union Pacific was sued in Texas for mutilation of a corpse. The suit alleges that the body of Roland Canchola, who was killed in a crossing crash with a UP train, was then run over by another UP train. The suit claims that the family suffered severe emotional distress as a result of Mr. Canchola’s funeral having to be closed casket. (ffd: Victoria Advocate)

(FRI) Chicago commuter rail operator Metra announced that it would activate its new Another Train Warning System (ATWS) on its Union Pacific West Line on March 1. The $132 million system uses audible and visual alerts to warn passengers crossing the tracks at or near stations that a second train – in addition to the one that is stopped at the station – is approaching or present. (ffd: Elmhurst Patch, RT&S)

(FRI) South Florida commuter rail operator Tri-Rail announced that it would purchase ten new DC-traction diesel locomotives from Brookville Equipment. However, the decision to go with Brookville’s low bid has been criticized, including by losing bidder MotivePower, who filed suit to disqualify Brookville on the grounds that its design has never been proven in continuous service as the bid required, and also by GE, which noted that AC-traction is now the preferred although more expensive locomotive technology and that Tri-Rail’s cost calculation methodology effectively precluded GE from bidding. (ffd: Orlando Sentinel, NARP, Trains)

(FRI) The University of Maryland’s Supply Chain Management Center released a study that suggested that private freight car owners might not be making high enough returns to justify their continued investment. The study went on to state that there was a need for “equitable, non-discriminatory and transparent interchange rules.” The study was prepared with financial support from the North American Freight Car Association. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(FRI) Canadian Pacific Railway announced that it had signed a collaborative agreement with the Montreal Port Authority related to performance and productivity. A CPR spokesman noted that this was the fifth such agreement they had signed with a Canadian port agency. (ffd: CPR Corp.)

 

STATS – CLASS 1 RAIL TRAFFIC:

(THU) The Association of American Railroads reported that, for the week ending February 19, 2011 and ranked with the comparable week last year:

- U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 296,980 units, up 8.2 percent

- Notable U.S. carload traffic increases included metallic ores up 77.6 percent, stone, clay and glass up 20.2 percent, and nonmetallic minerals up 18.9 percent; notable decreases included grain mill products down 9.0 percent, waste and nonferrous scrap down 7.2 percent, and primary forest products down 0.8 percent

- U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 233,993 units, up 16.9 percent

- Canadian carload rail traffic totaled 73,448 units, up 4.1 percent

- Canadian intermodal rail traffic totaled 46,489 units, up 6.8 percent

- Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 14,107 units, up 0.3 percent

- Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 8,476 units, up 32.8 percent

 

For the period January 1 through February 19, 2011:

-U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 1,981,437 units, up 6.7 percent

-U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 1,524,340 units, up 9.1 percent

-Canadian carload rail traffic totaled 488,287 units, up 0.8 percent

-Canadian intermodal rail traffic totaled 316,988 units, up 4.4 percent

-Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 99,365 units, up 5.4 percent

-Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 50,348 units, up 13.9 percent

NOTE: Canadian counts include traffic from the U.S. operations of the two Canadian-based Class I railroads, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway.

 

EXPANSIONS, CONTRACTIONS AND ALIKE:

(TUE) CSX opened its new intermodal terminal in North Baltimore, OH. The $175 million facility covers approximately 500 acres, and will, according to a CSX press release, transfer “hundreds of thousands of freight containers annually.” (ffd: CSX, Fostoria Review Times)

(THU) The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) announced agreement to purchase 38 acres surrounding Los Angeles Union Station for $75 million. The purchase allows the further development of the station complex into a multimodal transportation hub and, also, for future high-speed rail service. According to news reports, LACMTA is expected to buy the station independently at a future date. (ffd: NARP, Progressive Railroading)

(FRI) New Jersey Transit started work on an extension of commuter rail service over the former Lackawanna Cutoff. The first segment will be 7.3 miles from Port Morris to Andover, NJ. The new line will eventually connect with NJT’s Montclair-Boonton line in Port Morris. Pennsylvania officials have said that they hope to eventually extend and rebuild the line, which was abandoned in 1984, into Pennsylvania to provide for passenger rail service between Scranton, PA and Hoboken, NJ. (ffd: Trains)

 

APPOINTMENTS, ACHIEVEMENTS AND MILESTONES:

None of note this week.

 

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WRR – 02-18-2011

WEEKLY RAIL REVIEW

FOR THE WEEK ENDING FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2011

THE WEEK’S TOP RAIL AND TRANSIT NEWS (in chronological order):

(MON) The Obama Administration proposed their budget for the Fiscal Year 2012.  The budget includes $8 billion in FY2012 and $53 billion total over the next six years for high-speed passenger rail, and calls for a $556 billion, six-year surface transportation reauthorization plan.  It proposes moving Amtrak stand-alone subsidies out of the annual appropriations process and into the six-year plan, and also includes $30 billion over six years to create a new national infrastructure bank to fund projects that would have national and regional significance to the nation’s economy. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(MON) Amtrak announced its FY2012 federal budget request.  The request includes $1.285 billion for infrastructure improvements, $616 million for operating subsidies, and $271 million for debt service.  Included in the request is a plan to acquire 40 more cars for its Acela Express service, such as would allow two coaches to be added to each of the 20 Acela trainsets.  In its request, Amtrak noted that it was now covering 85 percent of its operating costs with ticket and other revenue. (ffd: Amtrak, Railway Age)

(MON) A spokesman for Chicago commuter rail operator Metra admitted that the agency should have been better prepared for the February 2 blizzard that brought two feet of snow to the region.  The blizzard resulted in Metra having to shut down some of its lines for the first time in its history.  The spokesman said that Metra also believes it did not do a good job of getting word out to riders about reduced and delayed service. (ffd: Chicago Tribune)

(TUE) The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Credit Council Committee approved a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan to the Alameda Corridor Transportation Authority.   The authority had applied for a $83.7 million RRIF loan to refinance a portion of its outstanding debt. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(TUE) The Surface Transportation Board announced new filing fees.  An STB spokesman said that, whereas shippers have previously been charged up to $20,600 for such filings, they would now be charged only $350 to file a rate or unreasonable practice complaint.  The fee to file an expedited small rate case will remain at $150. (ffd: STB)

(TUE) Amtrak announced that it now has its own dedicated section, or channel, on the YouTube website.  Amtrak said that the channel will feature videos with information on topics such as “safety and security, the Trails & Rails program, and the Amtrak vision for high-speed rail.”  The channel will also feature videos from Amtrak employees on Amtrak trips, customer experiences, and travel tips. (ffd: Amtrak, RT&S)

(WED) Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott renounced the $2.3 billion in previously announced federal funding for the development of high-speed passenger rail service between Orlando and Tampa.  The governor said that project “would be far too costly to taxpayers and…the risk far outweighs the benefits.”  The governor’s action received much criticism, including from fellow Florida Republican John Mica, who chairs the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.  Following Mr. Scott’s announcement, several state governors requested Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to redirect the Florida funding to high-speed rail projects in their states.  Following a request from several federal and state representatives from Florida hoping to work out a compromise that would allow the Orlando-Tampa project to continue, Mr. LaHood said that he would delay any further action by at least one week. (ffd: Florida Independent, NARP, Railway Age, WDBO News)

(WED) Amtrak said that it would equip 450 of its Amfleet cars with Wi-Fi equipment, such as would allow Internet access on its Northeast Regional trains and on some additional West Coast trains by the end of the year.  Internet access is presently available only on its Acela Express trains in the Northeast Corridor and on its Cascade trains in the Pacific Northwest.  Amtrak also said that it has now completed construction of a dedicated wireless network that significantly improves connectivity to trains while traveling through the New York tunnels and when stopped at New York Pennsylvania Station platforms. (ffd: Amtrak)

(THU) The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee held a hearing in Washington, DC on the federal Railroad Rehabilitation & Infrastructure Financing (RRIF) program.  In a prepared statement, the committee’s chair, John Mica (R-FL), said that the program’s barriers needed to be eliminated or reformed so that “RRIF can be an innovative and successful way to finance rail infrastructure projects, including high-speed rail.”  Mr. Mica noted that the average processing time for a RRIF loan is about 13-and-a-half months, instead of the 90 days stipulated in the law that set up the RRIF program. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(THU) The full House of Representatives defeated a budget amendment that would have cut $446.9 million of Amtrak’s federal funding for the current fiscal year.  The vote against the cut was 250 to 176, which Railway Age noted was indicative “of more Republican House support for [Amtrak] than many observers anticipated.”  However, the National Association of Railroad Passengers noted that the House budget bill would still cut Amtrak funding from $1.565 billion to $1.413 billion.  Once passed, the bill would then go to the Senate for debate and amendment. (ffd: NARP, Railway Age, wire services)

(THU) Officials in Honolulu, Hawaii said that they would hold a ceremonial groundbreaking and “blessing” for the city’s new light rail line.  Costing approximately $5.5 billion, the new 20-mile elevated line will connect East Kapolei with Ala Moana Center, and will also serve stops that include Aloha Stadium and Honolulu International Airport. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

(FRI) The Journal of Commerce reported that, based on Association of American Railroad statistics, approximately 57,000 freight cars had been scrapped since mid-2009, or roughly 3 to 4 percent of cars held in storage at that time.  The report said that the North American freight rail fleet totaled about 1.522 million cars as of February 1, 2011, down from about 1.579 million cars in July, 2009.  It noted that the AAR’s Rail Time Indicators Report said that 318,773 cars or about 20.9 percent of the fleet remained idled or stored as of February 1. (ffd: AAR, JofC)

(FRI) Canadian National CEO Claude Mongeau called for Canadian grain industry stakeholders to develop a new business model that embraces innovation, increases productivity, and provides for greater collaboration in the supply chain.  In a speech to the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Mongeau said that “achieving greater grain supply chain efficiencies means the system needs to evolve from one that’s too often characterized by adversarial relationships to one based on closer collaboration and a clear end-to-end chain perspective.”  He noted CN’s new grain scheduling plan, which calls for CN to deliver a specific number of hoppers to specific grain elevators on designated days each week, as an example of necessary innovation. (ffd: Progressive Railroading)

STATS – CLASS 1 RAIL TRAFFIC:

(THU) The Association of American Railroads reported that, for the week ending February 12, 2011 and ranked with the comparable week last year:

- U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 274,043 units, up 6.2 percent
- U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 228,035 units, up 18.5 percent
- Canadian carload rail traffic totaled 69,161 units, down 1.1 percent
- Canadian intermodal rail traffic totaled 47,581 units, up 12.0 percent
- Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 13,554 units, down 6.4 percent
- Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 7,069 units, up 6.4 percent

For the period January 1 through February 12, 2011:

-U.S. carload rail traffic totaled 1,684,457 units, up 6.4 percent
-U.S. intermodal rail traffic totaled 1,290,347 units, up 7.8 percent
-Canadian carload rail traffic totaled 414,839 units, down 1.7 percent
-Canadian intermodal rail traffic totaled 270,499 units, up 4.0 percent
-Mexican carload rail traffic totaled 82,258 units, up 6.3 percent
-Mexican intermodal rail traffic totaled 41,872 units, up 10.7 percent

NOTE: Canadian counts include traffic from the U.S. operations of the two Canadian-based Class I railroads, Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway.

EXPANSIONS, CONTRACTIONS AND ALIKE:

(THU) Michigan Air-Line Railway filed to abandon approximately six miles of line in and near Wixom, MI. (ffd: STB)

(THU) Trains Magazine reported that Watco Companies would lease, from Norfolk Southern, and operate 44 miles of line between Maplesville and Montgomery, AL.  Watco will operate the line as the Autauga Northern Railroad.  The railroad will also operate ten miles of trackage rights over CSX. (ffd: STB)

(FRI) BNSF filed to abandon approximately seven miles of line between Rockville and Cold Spring, MN. (ffd: STB)

(FRI) Union Pacific filed to abandon approximately three miles of its Lexington Industrial Lead between Myrick and Lexington, MO. (ffd: STB)

APPOINTMENTS, ACHIEVEMENTS AND MILESTONES:

(WED) BNSF appointed Ray Greer as the first president of its BNSF Logistics subsidiary.  Mr. Greer was most recently CEO of Greatwide Logistics Services LLC. (ffd: Dallas Business Journal)

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