Archive for January, 2013

Jan. 25, 2013

CSX Transportation, working in conjunction with the commonwealth of Massachusetts, has opened New England’s first double-stack-cleared intermodal route on its line between the New York state line and a newly expanded intermodal terminal in Worcester, CSX Corp. officials announced yesterday.

The double-stack intermodal route benefits businesses and consumers in central New England by reducing transit times on key lanes by as much as 24 hours, they said.

Prior to opening the route, CSXT increased vertical clearances at 31 locations on the line to 21 feet. Previously, double-stack trains coming to New England from the Midwest or from western origins had to stop in Syracuse, N.Y., to be converted to single-stack configurations, and the reverse occurred on westbound routes from New England, adding time, cost and complexity to freight flows, CSX officials said.

The project was part of an agreement with the commonwealth that enabled Massachusetts to acquire CSXT’s lines in the Boston area to increase commuter-rail service. In conjunction with that project, the Worcester intermodal terminal was expanded.

“This is an excellent example of how the public and private sector can work together on projects that benefit the public, strengthen the economy and enable highway-to-rail freight conversion to reduce strain on public infrastructure and serve supply chains seamlessly,” said Clarence Gooden, CSX’s executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

Meanwhile, Union Pacific Railroad yesterday announced it’s spending about $13.2 million to improve a line between Troutdale and The Dalles, Ore.

The project, which began Jan. 7 and is slated for completion in April, calls for replacing 91,000 ties and five switches, installing more than 30,000 tons of ballast and renewing surfaces at 32 grade crossings.

This year, UP has budgeted $3.6 billion for capital expenditures, including $1.6 billion for infrastructure replacement projects, $670 million for capacity/commercial facility projects, $610 million for locomotive and equipment acquisitions, and $450 million for positive train control work. In 2012, the Class I spent about $3.7 billion on its rail network.–34964


Jan. 28, 2013

Iowa Pacific Holdings L.L.C. subsidiary the Texas-New Mexico Railroad (TNMR) recently began moving unit trains of crude oil along its route, which serves as a key rail line in the Permian Basin oilfield. TNMR operates about 100 miles of track between a connection with Union Pacific Railroad in Monahans, Texas, and Lovington, N.M.

The first unit train departed on Jan. 22 from Genesis Energy L.P.’s recently constructed crude oil loading facility near Wink, Texas, and headed for the Texas Gulf Coast. TNMR has experienced massive growth in carloads because of the vast expansion of drilling and oil production in the Permian Basin, Iowa Pacific Holdings officials said in a prepared statement.

“The initiation of crude oil unit trains represents the latest milestone in a major revitalization of this critical rail link,” they said.

Over the past three years, Iowa Pacific Holdings has spent about $25 million to upgrade TNMR’s track, such as by replacing rail and ties, installing ballast and sidings, and constructing a new locomotive shop. In August 2012, UP and TNMR opened a new jointly funded interchange yard in Monahans to facilitate traffic growth and accommodate unit trains.

“With our strong record of reinvesting in the rail properties operated by our companies, we are well positioned to support continued growth in moving crude oil by rail,” said Iowa Pacific Holdings President Ed Ellis.

Iowa Pacific Holdings operates nine U.S. railroads, and manages two United Kingdom rail lines and other rail-related businesses.–34973

Jan. 28, 2013

The California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board has chosen PGH Wong Engineering Inc. and Harris & Associates to provide additional oversight and management of contractors that will build the initial 30-mile stretch of high-speed rail from Madera to Fresno, the authority announced on Friday.

Wong-Harris will oversee contractors that will be selected to design and construct the 30-mile segment, and provide extra oversight of inspection and testing, construction safety and security, technical and environmental compliance document control, and public outreach, authority officials said in a prepared statement.

Under the contract, Wong-Harris would receive up to $34.9 million based on the actual work performed.

The firms have agreed that 30 percent of the work will be performed by small businesses and more than 50 percent of it will be located in the Central Valley, authority officials said.

PGH Wong is an engineering firm that specializes in construction management project management and design of rail projects; Harris & Associates provides project construction management, program management, engineering and municipal services.–34979

Jan. 28, 2013

CSX Corp. on Friday announced plans to construct an 89-acre intermodal terminal in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec.

CSX subsidiary CSXT Intermodal will build the $100 million terminal in the Perron Industrial Park. Construction is expected to start in spring, pending regulatory approval from the Canadian Transportation Agency, and the terminal is slated to open in 2015.

Trains serving the terminal will connect through CSX’s intermodal hub in North Baltimore, Ohio. The new terminal, which is expected to handle up to 100,000 containers annually, will expand the Class I’s intermodal presence in the greater Montreal and Quebec region, CSX officials said in a prepared statement.

“We believe this new terminal … will provide an anchor for the development of new business, helping boost the economy and create jobs while helping the environment and reducing congestion on the highways,” said CSX Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Ward.

As part of the project, the province of Quebec and city of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield plans to improve roads near the terminal. Subsidiary CSX Transportation will relocate a portion of its mainline in residential areas of the city to a point south of Autoroute 530 alongside the new terminal, CSX officials said.

CSX has served Quebec for the past 125 years, dating back to the St. Lawrence and Adirondack Railway Co.–34972

Jan. 18, 2013

he transit workers union is ramping up its efforts to slow down subway trains.

Members of TWU Local 100 are handing out flyers to straphangers that feature the chalk outline of a body on the tracks with the words “The MTA doesn’t care if you die.”

The flyers blame the agency for pushing train speed over rider safety.

The union wants train operators to slow down to 10 miles an hour when entering stations – instead of the typical 35 miles per hour – because of several high profile deaths on the subway.

The MTA says slower trains lead to more crowding on platforms which is a risk of its own.

“What the TWU is asking is almost the equivalent of putting a stop sign on every street corner in the city. It just doesn’t make sense,” said MTA Spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

The agency says it’s committed to developing more effective ways to ensure rider safety.

Jan. 24, 2013

DALLAS — Southwest Airlines Co. says fourth-quarter earnings fell by nearly half on higher spending for fuel, labor and maintenance.

The airline’s revenue rose slightly, however, as the average fare climbed almost $8 higher than a year ago.

Southwest also said that bookings for the first three months of 2013 look strong. It said that based on bookings and ticket prices so far, a key revenue measure should rise by 2 percent to 3 percent in January compared with the same month last year.

Southwest, the nation’s fourth-biggest airline, said Thursday that net income was $78 million, or 11 cents per share. That’s down from $152 million, or 20 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items such as fuel contracts, the net income would have been 9 cents per share, beating the 7-cents-per-share forecast among analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Revenue ticked up 1.6 percent to $4.17 billion but fell short of the $4.20 billion that analysts expected.

Expenses rose faster, however, by 3.1 percent. That includes a 4.5 percent increase in labor costs and a 13 percent jump in maintenance as the airline continued to overhaul the cabins inside many of its planes.

Spending on fuel, the airline’s biggest expense, rose a modest 0.7 percent. Southwest estimated that its fuel bill in the first quarter, which ends March 31, will drop to $3.30 per gallon from $3.44 in the first quarter of 2012, which CEO Gary Kelly called “an encouraging trend.”

The average fourth-quarter fare on Southwest and its AirTran Airways subsidiary was $148.02, up 5.4 percent from $140.38 a year earlier.

Passengers flew 1.4 percent fewer miles on Southwest than a year earlier, and planes were less full — 79.6 percent occupancy, down from 80.5 percent.

For all of 2012, Southwest earned $421 million, up from $178 million the year before and its 40th straight profitable year, which Kelly said was “a remarkable feat and a record unmatched in the airline industry.”

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Jan. 25, 2013

Negotiations in the 10-day-old New York City school bus strike will resume next week at Gracie Mansion, the Bloomberg administration announced Friday.

But the union at the center of the walkout, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, warned that it was unlikely to end the strike unless the Bloomberg administration reversed course and agreed to take part in the talks. While the city made the official mayoral residence available, only the union and the private bus companies that employ the drivers are sitting down to negotiate on Monday.

“As I have said from the beginning, the best way for this strike to end is with Local 1181, Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s bus companies in one room, talking candidly and in good faith,” Michael Cordiello, the union president, said in a statement. “Until that happens, the strike goes on.”

The disagreement over who should be at the table illustrates how complicated the issue is. Technically, the strike is against the private bus companies, who operate bus routes under contract with the city. But it was prompted by the Bloomberg administration’s soliciting bids for new contracts for 1,100 special-education routes, which do not include job protections for current members of the drivers’ union.

A coalition of about 20 bus companies have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, saying Local 1181 is carrying out an unlawful “secondary strike.” The board has not yet ruled, but if it decides to end the strike, it must seek an injunction in federal court.

“The school bus companies have agreed to participate in Monday’s meeting at Gracie Mansion, in the hopes of ending this unfortunate strike,” said Carolyn Daly, a spokeswoman for the bus company coalition, in a statement. She said the companies intended to do “whatever we need to do” to fulfill their contracts with the Education Department to transport children.

At the same time the city is continuing to place itself at a distance from the issues of negotiations.

On Monday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is scheduled to visit Albany to testify before lawmakers on the state budget’s impact on the city. His administration maintains that the issue is between the bus companies and the union.

“The mayor reached out to both the bus companies and the union to arrange a meeting in hopes that they can come to an agreement to end the strike and resume bus service for thousands of students,” Lauren Passalacqua, a mayoral spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The strike began on Jan. 16, affecting more than 100,000 students, tens of thousands of them special-needs children, and their parents, who often travel long distances to schools, and with difficulty.

As of Friday, about 2,689 of the 7,700 total routes were running, said Erin Hughes, a spokeswoman for the Education Department. There are now a “couple of hundred” replacement drivers out on the roads, Ms. Daly said.

Routes handled by drivers who are not part of Local 1181 are generally running.