Archive for July, 2013

July 12, 2013

The O’Malley administration is launching a three-year, $125 million construction project that will set the table for more international flights from BWI Marshall Airport.

The plans appear to dovetail with the likely move of the airport’s largest carrier, Southwest Airlines, into overseas markets and the Federal Aviation Administration’s plan to build a new tower there.

The project would modernize Concourse D — home to United, Delta, Jet Blue and US Airways — and create a secure connection to the international gates on Concourse E at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The new configuration would allow two Concourse D gates to be used for overseas flights.

The preliminary schedule calls for the design to be ready by fall 2014 and construction to be completed in fall 2016.

BWI will ask the Board of Public Works on July 24 to approve money to hire a designer and construction management company to draft blueprints.

“This development plan will support hundreds of jobs for Marylanders and increase travel, trade and business development in our state,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “Together, we are expanding opportunities for growth at BWI Marshall as a convenient, efficient airport for travelers throughout the region.”

The project will be paid for with $100 million from BWI’s passenger facility charges collected on each airline ticket and $25 million from the state’s Transportation Infrastructure and Investment Act of 2013.

The airport’s executive director, Paul Wiedefeld, who flew to Dallas on Thursday to brief Southwest officials on the proposal, characterized their response as “very pleased.”

Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the airline supports BWI’s vision.

“This is clearly building the house that is the next chapter in our relationship,” Hawkins said. “BWI is clearly hedging on low fares, high customer service and low fees on international routes, and that’s what Southwest is all about.”

While Hawkins acknowledged Southwest’s international interest, the airline has not laid out specific plans. Southwest has told the airport it intends to start flying international routes perhaps as early as 2015, Wiedefeld said.

BWI’s proposal comes as the region’s busiest airport puts the finishing touches on a $100 million terminal expansion for domestic flights, continues a $356 million runway rehabilitation program and begins planning with the FAA for a new 228-foot air traffic control tower.

The FAA wants to replace the three-decade-old existing tower over Concourse C with a taller tower able to observe the entire airport. A new tower, at a cost of at least $26 million, could be integrated into another construction project at the airport.

via State officials push for $125 million BWI expansion project – Baltimore Sun.

July 16, 2013

NEW YORK—Crude-oil futures settled lower Tuesday, while gasoline futures rallied to a four-month high due to refinery outages.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery settled 32 cents, or 0.3%, lower at $106 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. ICE North Sea Brent crude oil for August delivery, which expired at the close of trading, settled 31 cents higher at $109.40 a barrel.

While oil prices snapped a two-session gain, edging lower along with broader markets, gasoline futures rose Tuesday. Analysts attributed the move to a series of refinery outages, which tightened gasoline supplies during the peak summer driving season.

Traders and brokers doing business with Irving Oil on Monday said Canada’s largest independent refinery was forced to buy RBOB in the New York Harbor spot market for more than a week due to gasoline production problems. Meanwhile, planned maintenance continued at Phillips 66’s PSX +0.90% Bayway refinery in Linden, N.J., spokesman Rich Johnson said.

The outages sent front-month August gasoline futures to their highest level since March 15, settling 3.14 cents higher at $3.1343 a gallon. The gains come on the heels of a sharp rally in gasoline last week, which was also driven by refinery glitches.

Later this week, oil traders will turn to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s weekly report on domestic oil inventories, with analysts expecting a third consecutive week of declines.

U.S. crude-oil inventories will show a decline of 2.2 million barrels in the week ended July 12, according to a survey of analysts by Dow Jones Newswires. Gasoline stocks are expected to fall by 400,000 barrels and distillate stocks, which include heating oil and diesel fuel, are forecast to rise by 1.7 million barrels. The survey estimated that refiners cut operations by 0.4 percentage point to 92% of capacity.

Additionally, the market is closely watching Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s congressional testimony on the state of the U.S. economy. They will look for indications of a clearer timeline on when the Fed will begin curtailing its stimulus efforts that have so far boosted economic growth in the U.S., the world’s largest oil consumer.

“Broader markets are drifting a little lower. Crude is also having a quiet trading day with a couple of tumultuous days ahead,” said Matt Smith, commodity analyst at energy-consulting firm Schneider Electric SU.FR +2.64% .

Separately, the American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said in its own survey late Tuesday that U.S. crude oil stockpiles fell by 2.6 million barrels last week. Gasoline stockpiles rose by 2.553 million barrels and stocks of distillate increased by 3.821 million barrels. Refinery runs increased to 92.5% from 92.1%, the API said.

August heating oil settled 2.08 cents higher at $3.0469 a gallon.

via Crude-Oil Prices Settle Lower, Gasoline at Four-Month High – WSJ.com.

July 15, 2013

Pacific Harbor Line Inc. (PHL) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) recently signed a new five-year agreement covering the short line’s operating and maintenance-of-way employees.

The pact was overwhelmingly ratified by PHL employees and signed on July 4. The contract includes “significant” wage increases, employee contributions to health care coverage and modifications to some rules concerning profit sharing, overtime, the selection of job assignments and productivity, PHL and BLET officials said in a press release.

The BLET’s Division 214 in Long Beach, Calif., has represented PHL’s employees since the railroad was formed in 1998. Union employment at the short line has grown from 27 to nearly 120 in the past 15 years. The BLET — which recently marked its 150th anniversary — is a division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and represents more than 57,000 U.S. employees.

Although the agreement took a few years to negotiate, it includes a key profit-sharing provision that “greatly improves the earning power of BLET members,” said BLET General Chairman Bill Hannah in a press release.

An Anacostia Rail Holdings subsidiary, PHL provides switching services to customers in the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and dispatches all BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad trains within the ports.

The agreement reflects “teamwork, persistence and determination by both parties,” said PHL President Otis Cliatt II.

via Rail News – Pacific Harbor Line, BLET ink five-year labor agreement. For Railroad Career Professionals.

July 17, 2013

Growth in merchandise and intermodal volumes more than offset a large decline in export coal demand for CSX Corp. in the second quarter, during which the Class I continued to post strong results in safety, service and efficiency. The combination of those factors helped the Class I register mostly solid financial results in the quarter.

Earnings per share climbed 6 percent to 52 cents, revenue increased 2 percent to nearly $3.1 billion, operating income rose 2 percent to a record $963 million, net income ratcheted up 4 percent to $535 million, volume inched up 1 percent to 1.65 million units and the operating ratio dipped 0.1 points to a record 68.6 compared with second-quarter 2012 figures. The results bested Zacks Consensus Estimates of 47 cents per share in earnings and $3.02 million in revenue.

Solid core pricing and volume growth, and “exceptional operating results” played major roles in driving financial results, said CSX Chairman, President and Chief Executive Office Michael Ward during an earnings conference held this morning.

Same-store sales rates increased an average of 2.3 percent in the quarter, helping the Class I achieve inflation-plus pricing in a low-inflation environment, said Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Clarence Gooden. In terms of operating results, on-time originations reached a record 91 percent, on-time arrivals climbed to a record 82 percent, average terminal dwell time fell to a record-low 21.9 hours and average system velocity increased to 23 mph versus second-quarter 2012’s 20.9 mph.

Revenue generated by commodity segment shows coal revenue declined 6 percent to $770 million and volume fell 6 percent to 310,000 units primarily because export coal volume plunged 23 percent in a depressed global market for thermal coal, said Gooden. Domestic coal volume rose 5 percent versus a weak comparison in second-quarter 2012, he said.

Merchandise revenue increased 4 percent to $1.8 billion and volume rose 3 percent to 702,000 units, driven by an 11 percent jump in chemical business, mostly related to oil and gas drilling, said Gooden. Intermodal revenue climbed 4 percent to $425 million and volume rose 2 percent to 644,000 units primarily due to record domestic volume propelled by truck conversions and organic growth, he said.

The operating expenses portion of CSX’s ledger shows total costs rose 2 percent to $2.1 billion as labor and fringe benefit expenses increased 4 percent to $777 million and depreciation expenses went up 5 percent to $276 million. Headcount dropped 3 percent year over year to 31,288, but inched up 1 percent compared with the first quarter. However, fuel costs declined 3 percent to $397 million due to efficiency and a 2 percent drop in the average price of diesel to $3.08 per gallon, said EVP and Chief Financial Officer Fredrik Eliasson.

Overall, CSX’s performance in the quarter and through the year’s first half has kept the railroad on track to achieve a high-60s operating ratio by 2015 and a mid-60s ratio longer term, he said.

via Rail News – CSX set operating ratio, income records in Q1 despite weak export coal demand. For Railroad Career Professionals.

July 11, 2013

BROOKLYN – MTA workers rallied outside of the Transport Workers Union building on Livingston Street in an effort to get increased security for unruly and violent passengers.

The union says the number of reported assaults on workers for the first half of this year is nearing the total reported assaults for the entirety of last year. Workers say passengers spit on, hit and verbally assault them, and they are tired of having their lives put at risk.

One Brooklyn bus driver said a man threatened to shoot him, then attacked him while he was driving on May 15.

via MTA workers rally at Transport Workers Union building on Livingston St. for increased safety.

July 12, 2013

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec (AP) — Transportation workers moved carefully Friday in and around the site of the nearly week-old derailment that incinerated the heart of this small Quebec town and killed 50 people, searching for evidence that would help explain what led to such massive destruction.

Police, meanwhile, increased the number of people confirmed killed by four to 28 as the search for remains continued to be slowed by dangerous conditions — this time it was benzene fumes from the contaminated soil, which forced officials to try to ventilate the area. The other 22 people are presumed dead.

Information and material being put together by investigators includes the track’s grade, the train’s weight and how many brakes were set shortly before the locomotive and 72 tankers carrying shale oil began rolling down a slope in the early hours of Saturday, gathering speed for seven miles (11 kilometers) before slamming into the downtown of Lac-Megantic. The crash and ensuing explosions destroyed homes, businesses, a municipal library and the popular Musi-Cafe bar that was filled with people.

“I keep coming back to the Musi-Cafe because I have two children in their 20s and they could have easily been at a bar like that,” said Wendy Tadros, chairwoman of Canada’s Transportation Safety Board. “I’m sorry I cannot do more to relieve your grief.”

It will be months or longer before investigators will be able to draw any conclusions about what happened, Tadros said. Investigators plan to produce a 3D model through laser scanning of images being collected at the scene of the disaster.

Edward Burkhardt, president and CEO of U.S.-based Rail World Inc., which owns the runaway train, has blamed the engineer for failing to set the brakes on the train, which came from North Dakota.

Burkhardt said the engineer had been suspended without pay and was under “police control.” Burkhardt did not name the engineer, though the company had previously identified the employee as Tom Harding of Quebec. Harding has not spoken publicly since the crash.

The devastated downtown remained dangerous all week as responders put out fires and struggled to keep the remaining oil tankers cool so they wouldn’t explode. The hazardous conditions delayed the search for remains, which were burned so badly that coroners have been able to identify only eight bodies so far.

The first victim to be named by the coroner’s office Thursday was 93-year-old Eliane Parenteau. Officials did not release the names of the other seven Friday, saying their families had not been notified yet.

Earlier Friday, mourners gathered in a church near the crash site. Around town, flags flew at half-mast and small, impromptu memorials dotted the landscape. A candlelight vigil planned for Friday night was canceled after police said they didn’t have the resources to oversee large crowds.

The derailment is Canada’s worst railway disaster since a train plunged into a Quebec river in 1864, killing 99.

The crash has raised questions about the rapidly growing use of rail to transport oil in North America, especially in the booming North Dakota oil fields and Alberta oil sands far from the sea.

via Bodies recovered slowly in Quebec train derailment – Times Union.

July 14, 2013

Punks beware: The number of security cameras on buses has more than doubled since last summer and some drivers — fearful of being attacked — are packing Mace.

Between January 2010 and Wednesday, riders physically attacked MTA drivers 313 times, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority statistics. On average, approximately seven drivers a month are slapped, punched or even stabbed while on duty.

And the assault statistics don’t include the disgusting but not uncommon incidents of drivers being spat on.

“You are constantly wary,” Bronx bus driver Vaughn Brooks said at a transit union protest against the violence held outside a NYC Transit office building Thursday in downtown Brooklyn. “You don’t trust anybody. You are always on your guard.”

Drivers and union officials say far too little has changed since Edwin Thomas, a Brooklyn bus driver, was stabbed to death in 2008.

Drivers and union officials say far too little has changed since Edwin Thomas, a Brooklyn bus driver, was stabbed to death in 2008.

Transit officials hope the added technology, along with other steps, will help turn the tide against the bad guys.

After years of delays, an MTA effort to install cameras on buses has finally taken off. Since last July, the number of buses with the security equipment has grown from 500 to 1,210, a spokesman for MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said. That’s approximately 21% of the fleet. And by early next year, the number is expected to grow to 1,576, or 27% of the fleet, the spokesman said.

Increasingly, police investigating the steady series of driver assaults have video footage of the culprits they are looking to identify and arrest, said Vincent DeMarino, NYC Transit security chief.

The NYPD recently released video images of a woman in a gray hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants who slashed a Bronx bus driver in the arm at 4 p.m. July 5. The woman, who fled after sudden and unprovoked attack at Southern Blvd. and Westchester Ave., has not yet been caught.

Since last July, the number of buses with the security equipment has grown from 500 to 1,210 — or 21% of the fleet.

Since last July, the number of buses with the security equipment has grown from 500 to 1,210 — or 21% of the fleet.

Just three days earlier, another bus driver was punched and robbed of her purse at Delancey St. and FDR Drive. The robber boarded after the driver had discharged all the passengers at the lower East Side stop.

About 80 bus drivers attended a Thursday rally organized by Transport Workers Union Local 100. Angry drivers and union officials said they want the MTA to move more quickly with the installation of cameras and safety partitions. They also called on the NYPD to routinely have officers ride buses.

Drivers and union officials said far too little has changed since Edwin Thomas, a Brooklyn bus driver, was stabbed to death by an ex-con fare-beater in 2008.

One veteran bus driver said he started carrying Mace after Thomas’ murder. “In case somebody tries to attack me,” he said. “I want to make it home to my family.”

A female bus driver who works the overnight shift in the Bronx said she’s carried Mace on the job for about four years. “Sometimes I don’t think it’s enough but that’s what I carry right now,” she said. “You hear about all these assaults and you say to yourself, ‘I don’t want that to be me.'”

via More cameras mounted in NYC buses to protect drivers from violent fares  – NY Daily News.