Saturday, October 8, 2011

October 8, 2011 weekly rail news

Fun stuff:
  • Here's Local Motives, a Macalester student film discussing the Central Corridor, Northern Lights Express, and the debate about whether trains to Chicago should go down the Mississippi River or through Rochester:

    Local Motives from James Christenson on Vimeo.

  • Canadian Pacific has put up a website to show when and where their annual Holiday Train will show up. In Minnesota, travel dates appear to stretch from December 5th to December 15th.

Planning, construction, and funding news:
  • According to a article, the cost of the Twin Cities & Western freight rail reroute/relocation is being added to the cost of the (previously) $1.25 billion Southwest Corridor light-rail line. It's estimated at between $70 and $150 million at this point. I'm of the opinion that the tab for this should really go to Mn/DOT, who severed the (ex-Milwaukee Road) TC&W tracks in the 1990s to make way for the interchange at Hiawatha Ave and Lake Street and forced the railroad down its current Kenilworth route.

  • The Federal Transit Administration is redirectiong $6 million originally intended for the Kenosha–Racine–Milwaukee (KRM) commuter train in Wisconsin, which is now canceled. Some in Milwaukee had hoped to get the money to help fund a planned streetcar line there.

  • In New England, the Vermonter has resumed normal service after a summer of bustitution as tracks were upgraded.  In combination with upgrades now beginning between Springfield and New Haven, CT,

  • EMD is planning a new streamlined 125-mph diesel passenger locomotive for the American market (and our screwy crash standards), though it will take until 2014 to see a prototype. EMD is now owned by Caterpillar, and the new locomotive is planned to have a Cat engine inside.

  • BNSF Railway says that flooding-related repairs, particularly along the Missouri River, are going to cost them $375 million this year.

  • On Tuesday, yet another mudslide blocked tracks near Tacoma, Washington and forced Amtrak to cancel Cascades service and presumably truncate Coast Starlight trains. Just last month, the state received $16 million for rail improvements including up to $10 million for mudslide mitigation. This week's outage was expected to last 48 hours.

  • An Iowa Interstate Railroad train derailment and ensuing fire has forced evacuations in Tiskilwa, Illinois. Some of the train's tank cars were loaded with ethanol.

  • A chunk of concrete fell and hit a Metra locomotive as it was parked on Track 5 at Union Station in Chicago on Thursday.

  • I guess I missed it last week, but officials in Washington had begun backing off a bit with regard to the tampering that occurred along BNSF tracks which initially led to cancellations and later reduced speeds as trains were escorted through the area. Police now say that the tampering did not pose any threat to trains or passengers, with one official calling it "a nuisance type thing."

  • The Twin Cities' Transportation Advisory Board is looking for three new members from three Met Council districts:

    • District A (Council Districts 1 and 2)
      Includes the Hennepin County cities of Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Champlin, Corcoran, Dayton, Greenfield, Independence, Loretto, Maple Grove, Maple Plain, Medicine Lake, Medina, Osseo, Plymouth, Robbinsdale and Rogers, and the town of Hassan, and the Anoka County cities of Columbia Heights, Fridley, Hilltop, and Spring Lake Park.

      District B (Council Districts 3 and 4)
      Includes the Hennepin County cities of Chanhassen, Deephaven, Eden Prairie, Excelsior, Greenwood, Hopkins, Long Lake, Minnetonka, Minnetonka Beach, Minnetrista, Mound, Orono, St. Bonifacius, Shorewood, Spring Park, Tonka Bay, Wayzata, and Woodland, Carver County and Scott County, except for New Prague

      District C (Council Districts 5 and 6)
      includes the southwest portion of Minneapolis and the Hennepin County cities of Bloomington, Crystal, Edina, Golden Valley, New Hope, Richfield, St. Louis Park and the unorganized territory of Fort Snelling.

  • dscf0084-contrastCanadian Pacific is moving out of the Soo Line Building in downtown Minneapolis to One Financial Plaza right next door on the same block. The building was the tallest skyscraper in Minneapolis when it was built in 1914. The building, which is just an intersection away from the Hiawatha Line's Nicollet Mall station, is planned to be outfitted with 250 upscale rental units.

  • In labor relations, a 30-day cooling-off period ended overnight on Thursday/Friday. A dozen railroad unions representing 92,000 workers have been negotiating with the National Carriers' Conference Committee representing the Class I railroads and many regional lines. The largest union -- the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen -- voted almost unanimously to go on strike, and apparently several others followed. However, as expected, President Obama set up a 5-member Presidential Emergency Board to recommend a settlement. The board will have 30 days to come up with a recommendation, and the unions will have another 30 days to accept or reject it. The United Transportation Union has accepted an earlier proposal to increase wages by 17% over the next 6 years and limit monthly health care premiums to $200.

  • A dozen counties along the route of the (ex-Illinois Central) Grenada Railway line in Mississippi that is threatened with abandonment are looking into creating a regional rail authority to take over the line and keep it in operation. Shippers have complained of rate hikes designed to kick them off the rails, and a state-owned rail line to Kosciusko also objected to the abandonment plan. Grenada's parent company V&S Railway and it's affiliated companies have a history of buying out lines and scrapping them.

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