WRR – 02-11-2011

WEEKLY RAIL REVIEW

FOR THE WEEK ENDING FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2011

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

(MON) New Jersey’s U.S. Senators Lautenberg and Menendez joined Amtrak President Joseph Boardman in announcing the “Trans-Hudson Gateway Tunnel Project.”  The project attempts to resurrect the effort to build two new rail tunnels under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York.  A separate effort to construct the tunnels was shut down last year by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who said that he did not want the state to be liable for that project’s cost overruns.  The new project, which includes a connection to the Pennsylvania Station-Moynihan Station complex that the earlier effort bypassed, is estimated to cost $13.5 billion, which will be sought from various government bodies, and possibly also from private investors. (ffd: AASHTO, Crain’s Business, U.S. Senate)

(MON) BNSF announced a $3.5 billion capital program for 2011.  BNSF says that spending will include $2 billion for “BNSF core network and related assets,” $450 million to acquire 227 locomotives, and approximately $350 million for freight car and other equipment acquisitions.  BNSF said that they will also need to spend $300 million for Positive Train Control (PTC)-related projects. (ffd: BNSF RR)

(TUE) Norfolk Southern suffered an on-duty employee fatality.  Stanley Watts, Age 43 with five years’ service, was killed while switching cars in Kankakee, IL.  Media reports indicate that Mr. Watts may have been crushed between a car he was riding and another car.  The accident is the first on-duty employee fatality on U.S. railroads in 2011. (ffd: wire services)

(TUE) Following up President Obama’s call in his recent State of the Union address, Vice President Biden announced a national plan to develop a U.S. high-speed passenger rail network.  Mr. Biden said that the goal of the plan will be to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years.  He added that the proposal “would place high-speed rail on equal footing with other surface transportation programs and revitalize America’s domestic rail manufacturing industry by dedicating $53 billion over six years to…the network.” (ffd: AASHTO, wire services)

(TUE) Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) introduced a bill to modify slightly the requirements of the federal Railway Safety Improvement Act of 2008 related to Positive Train Control.  The bill would change the requirement that PTC be installed on Class I rail lines over which Toxic-By-Inhalation commodities are routed as of the Year 2015 instead of as of the Year 2008.  The change would save PTC from having to be installed on approximately 10,000 Class I route miles. (ffd: AAR, wire services)

(TUE) The American Public Transportation Association announced what they called “the 10 best [U.S.] cities for public transportation.”  Leading the list was Portland, OR, followed by Salt Lake City, UT, and New York, NY.  APTA said that the rankings were based on per capita spending on public transportation, the number of safety incidents per million trips, and the number of trips taken per capita. (ffd: APTA, U.S. News and World Report)

(WED) The Republican-lead House Appropriations Committee proposed spending cuts totaling $74 billion to the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget.  The proposed cuts include lowering Amtrak funding to $1.413 billion, representing $142 million less than the 2010 level at which Amtrak had been spending, and also eliminate all high-speed rail grants to states.  The proposals, announced by the committee’s chair, Hal Rogers (R-KY), must still be considered by the full committee and the full Congress. (ffd: AASHTO, NARP)

(WED) Canadian National announced a C$1.7 billion capital program for 2011.  A CN spokesman said that the program “includes replacement of rail, ties and other track materials and bridge improvements, as well as rail line improvements on the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway that CN acquired in 2009.” (ffd: CN RR)

(THU) The Surface Transportation Board said that it would “open a rulemaking proceeding” to determine whether Positive Train Control should be separately reported in the R-1 summary report that the STB requires each Class I railroad to annually prepare and submit.  The STB said that the proceeding respond to a request by Union Pacific “to segregate such data to make it separately identifiable.” (ffd: STB)

(THU) MapQuest, the personal mapping website, announced a new rail transit option.  The new option features a pedestrian mode that incorporates public rail transportation routings for Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.  A MapQuest spokesman added that the option “provides departure and arrival information, helpful hints to alert train passengers, and station search information [for the] designated cities.” (ffd: RT&S)

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