Lack of money stymies
Although the players are starting to ante up, there still are several hurdles to securing the $146 million needed for a Jacksonville, Fla., project – specifically, how Amtrak will be able to supply the more than $40 million needed to move its trains to an old new station, and for a new intermodal structure.
Florida’s state government and a range of city and national entities are busily trying to scrape up the $146 million needed for the Jacksonville Transportation Center, a project that has been in the works for more than five years, the Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville reported yesterday.
The project, led by the Florida DOT, would bring together a variety of ground transportation systems as well as officials who help keep traffic flowing, such as the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
The entire complex, which would not be completed for about a decade, is expected to cost about $146 million, although a third of the money is budgeted to move railroad tracks to bring Amtrak into the complex.
That part of the project might be put on hold, said DOT project manager Craig Teal, pending an infusion of cash into Amtrak’s anemic budget.
The rest of the funding is being pieced together from a variety of sources: The USDOT has $13 million committed to general construction and another $8 million for the Traffic Management Center, facility that would allow officials to monitor accidents and administer highway information signs.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority has received $1 million in federal funds earmarked for the project and is kicking in $5 million of its own money, and the city has pledged about $5 million – money intended for another part of the city – that will be used for improvements of the roads around the center and of the Skyway. The Skyway is a short monorail system downtown.
The First Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization has contracted with the Jacksonville Transportation Authority for a half-million dollar commuter rail survey, that should have begun last spring, but so far, nothing has been done.
The idea behind the center is to bring the various pieces of the transportation system together, allowing sharing of resources and making it easier for travelers to switch between the different systems.
New York’s MTA restarts campaign
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported yesterday that it is distributing more than 750,000 updated copies of emergency evacuation information brochures to subway and commuter railroad riders.
The ongoing campaign, originally launched on New York City Transit (NYCT), Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and Metro-North Railroad (MNR) in 2004, has been expanded and is being reissued to coincide with National Preparedness Month.
Copies of an MTA’s Emergency and Evacuation Instructions brochure will be available at NYCT station booths and as a seat drop on both the LIRR and MNR.
The “subway” version of the brochure has been enlarged and the evacuation information now contains information in English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Haitian Creole, Korean, Arabic, and Urdu.
Over 250,000 copies of the commuter rail version of the brochure were distributed on Wednesday and Thursday, as seat drops on the LIRR and MNR. Both the subway and train brochures are also available on the MTA website.
CSX pays dime dividend
CSX Corp directors (NYSE: CSX) yesterday approved a 10-cent per share quarterly dividend on the company’s common stock. The dividend is payable December 15 to shareholders of record at the close of business on November 24.
UP, Lionel settle toy train dispute
Union Pacific stated Friday that it has entered into an agreement allowing Lionel Electric Trains, the 106 year-old maker of model trains, to continue the use of Union Pacific’s logos and trademarks on its products.
The agreement is subject to Court approval. Neither UP nor Lionel spelled out the details, but UP some time ago directed all model railroad manufacturers to start paying UP for the right to reproduce its shield logo.
UP taps former automakers for jobs
With nearly 40 percent of its workforce reaching retirement age in the next ten years, Union Pacific Railroad said on Friday it is “aggressively recruiting and hiring new employees to ensure consumer products, automobiles, coal and food continue to move across the nation’s rail system.”
The freight carrier added, “This could be great news for the thousands of employees who are impacted by recent area job cuts announced in the automotive industry.”
Barb Schaefer, UP’s senior vice president for Human Resources, said, “While we don’t expect all employees to take retirement the minute they are eligible, we do want to add employees now so they will have the opportunity to learn and gain the experience needed to maintain the high standards set by our current employees.”
UP said it is hiring several thousand new employees in 2006, at all levels, from train service and railroad track maintenance to management positions.
Rails ready for peak season, says AAR
Railroads are well prepared for the upcoming peak shipping season, according to industry representatives participating in the 2006 North American Railroad Customer Forum here September 13 in St. Louis.
Assn. of American Railroads’ spokesman Tom White said, “It appears as if shippers agree. According to a shipper survey released last month by Bear Stearns, ‘Survey results indicate that rail service levels improved on both a sequential and year-over-year basis.’”
The financial service firm also noted that shippers were also “optimistic about rail services for the peak shipping season,” with 72 percent expecting service levels to be stable or improved over the same period last year.
Railroad executives told those in attendance that the industry has sharply increased capital expenditures to increase capacity and improve efficiency. This year, railroads are putting a record $8.3 billion into capital improvements to add track, improve signals, and buy new locomotives and freight cars.
In addition, the industry has hired thousands of new workers to handle the expected increase.
“Railroads are committed to investing even more money in the future,” said Charles W. Moorman, chairman, president and CEO of Norfolk Southern as well as chairman of the AAR, which sponsored the forum. He warned re-regulation of the industry “will eliminate much of that additional investment.”
If a railroad “can’t make adequate returns and can’t justify the money it is spending, investors won’t put up with that as long as they have in the past,” he said.
“The result would be less investment.”
Although there have been some reports of a slowing economy, most of the railroads at the conference said that their traffic remained generally strong.
Contributing to the growth were the continued driver shortage in the trucking industry, high fuel prices, the growth in international trade, and increased demand for coal. Some soft spots were reported in shipments related to the auto industry and home construction.Last year, railroads set records for total volume, coal and intermodal shipments. All three are up this year, with total volume up 2.7 percent, coal up 4.5 percent and intermodal up 6.4 percent.