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)

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