The Hill.com reported that just days after a backpack filled with explosives was found near a New Jersey train station, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), its ranking member, submitted a bill that would mandate the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to allocate funds to secure and protect rail and transit transportation hubs. Read the complete article here.
Amarillo.com reported that BNSF freight trains collided head-on this morning in the town of Panhandle, Texas, near Amarillo, creating a massive fireball and explosion that prompted a swift evacuation of Panhandle residents. Injuries and missing persons have been reported; at this time, no details have surfaced regarding those missing, or the number or severity of injuries. Read the complete story here.Photo courtesy of ABC News.
On May 2nd, SMART TD Kentucky State Legislative Director Jared Cassity and SMART TD Vice President Doyle Turner paticipated in a round table discussion in Ashland, Ky. with presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Read the complete story here.
SMART TD President Previsich came out against the merger in a letter addressed to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in January of this year. “We strongly opposed the merger when it became clear that CP’s takeover of NS would cost U.S. jobs as well as have a negative impact on those who sought to ship by rail” said Previsich, who further commented: “Having long opposed the negative impact that mergers and acquisitions such as this have on our members, we are extremely pleased to hear that CP has officially terminated their quest to takeover NS.” Read the complete statement, here.
Bloated inventories and weak trade making it difficult for truckers, railroads
American truckers have developed a slow leak.
U.S. shipments as measured by the latest Cass Freight Index dropped 5.3 percent last month from a year ago, making it the worst October since 2011. The year-over-year decline was the eighth straight and the biggest since November 2009. Trucks transport almost 70 percent of the nation’s freight by weight, according to American Trucking Associations.
SEATTLE – Because the future of our economy rests on a strong transportation system to move materials and products, today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx released the draft National Freight Strategic Plan, which offers specific policy proposals and solutions to address the growing challenges of moving freight in this country. Now open for public comment, the draft Plan is an essential step for continuing to support the nation’s economy through the efficient movement of goods, while recognizing and responding to future infrastructure challenges. He was joined by Senator Maria Cantwell at Seattle Public School Headquarters.
Every day, millions of trucks, trains, aircraft, and ships move across the United States, transporting and delivering materials and products that are essential to our way of life and our economy. According to the most recent data released from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, freight shipments last month reached an all-time high and were 30.4 percent higher than the recent low in April 2009 during the recession. While this increase in freight traffic is good news for our economy, concerns remain that our infrastructure cannot accommodate continued growth: in the next 30 years the population of the United States is expected to grow by 70 million people, and freight traffic is expected to increase by 42 percent by 2040.
“With an increasingly competitive and complex global marketplace and a deteriorating transportation infrastructure that is unfortunately showing the effects of age and underinvestment, the need for us to have a national freight plan could not be more urgent,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.
This draft Plan is a first-of-its-kind document that takes a comprehensive look at the Nation’s freight needs and future challenges and offers a roadmap for improvements. It proposes solutions and strategies to address the infrastructure, institutional, and financial bottlenecks that hinder the safe and efficient movement of goods. It also identifies many successful programs already in place to improve freight planning and investment, and proposes new programs and ideas that could make more progress possible. Importantly, it also recognizes the benefits of establishing a strong freight program in the next reauthorization bill.
“Congestion on rails, surface streets, and at our ports across the Pacific Northwest costs businesses billions of dollars a year and gives an edge to competitors around the globe. The National Freight Strategic Plan means places like Seattle and Tacoma will be part of our national strategy to quickly move products through traffic congested areas,” said Senator Cantwell.
These strategies include efforts to reduce congestion and increase efficiency while improving safety and reliability, and reducing adverse impacts on the environment and communities. This will include incorporating new technologies allowing for better quality data collection and faster analysis of freight routes, travel times, and infrastructure capacity. It also means breaking down institutional impediments, such as conflicting priorities at the Federal, State and local levels, and unnecessarily complex and lengthy permitting and approval processes. Building on existing efforts to improve coordination and synchronization across various levels of government, the draft Plan presents opportunities and potential pathways to enhance freight planning.
Specific strategies include:
Ensure dedicated freight funding: The draft Plan emphasizes the importance of a dedicated freight program that would improve the movement of freight and meet regional economic demand and would require or incentivize State Freight Advisory Committees, State Freight Plans, and cross-jurisdictional/cooperative planning. The GROW AMERICA Act would provide $18 billion over six years through two dedicated, multimodal freight grant programs for targeted investments.
Identify major trade gateways and multimodal national freight networks/corridors: U.S. DOT is releasing a draft Multimodal Freight Network (MFN) map to inform planners, private sector stakeholders, and the public about where major freight flows occur and where special attention to freight issues may be most warranted. U.S. DOT and the U.S. Department of Commerce have monitored and analyzed major trade gateways and freight corridors for decades, but the draft MFN combines the most critical modal components and shows the connections between them.
Facilitate multijurisdictional, multimodal collaboration and solutions: U.S. DOT will continue its work to support local, State, and interagency collaboration, including close cooperation with port authorities, private sector stakeholders, and agencies in Canada and Mexico; sharing best practices for freight planning; supporting advisory committees and public forums with stakeholders; and encouraging effective use of funding available at the national level.
Ensure availability of better data and models: U.S. DOT will continue to develop and deploy newer and more advanced freight data resources to the planning community and advance the measurement and analysis of transit times for different commodities from a multimodal, origin-to-destination perspective. Congress could enhance U.S. DOT’s authority to collect intermodal freight data by giving U.S. DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics the authority to assemble intermodal freight movement data under the Intermodal Transportation Data Program, as proposed in the GROW AMERICA Act.
Improve safety and support the adoption of new transportation technologies: U.S. DOT is undertaking new and innovative efforts to improve freight transportation safety. The Department recently announced the formation of a National Coalition on Truck Parking to improve commercial driver safety. U.S. DOT will also efforts to adopt new and exciting transportation technologies, including autonomous vehicles that promise to allow for safer and more reliable freight transportation.
Develop the next generation freight transportation workforce: U.S. DOT is committed to promoting economic opportunity through high-quality transportation jobs as part of the President’s Ladders of Opportunity Initiative. Efforts include developing freight skills for State transportation agency and MPO staff through a growing body of resources and guidance on freight planning, and pushing for greater authority to develop workforce plans.
The most recent surface transportation reauthorization law, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), directed the U.S. Department of Transportation to develop a National Freight Strategic Plan laying out a course of action to meet National Freight Policy goals designed to improve the movement of freight in the U.S. The Department welcomes the public to provide feedback and comment on the draft National Freight Strategic Plan. To submit your thoughts and to learn more about the draft plan, visit www.transportation.gov/freight.
Despite high-profile train derailments in Tennessee and Pennsylvania, railroads remain relatively safe transportation for people and freight, federal statistics show.
A derailment late Wednesday near Maryville, Tenn., of a CSX freight train carrying acrylonitrile, a hazardous material used to make plastics, rekindled attention in rail safety. So did the derailment May 12 of an Amtrak train in Philadelphia that killed eight people.
The number of freight train accidents dropped nearly in half during the last decade, to 1,644 last year from 3,094 in 2005, according to Federal Railroad Administration statistics.
The nation’s four major railroads are still carrying less freight than they were before the recession. But the last decade has been an exhilarating ride for them nonetheless — an era of growing profits, soaring stock prices and ambitious investments.
For Jacksonville-based CSX Corp., freight volume has dropped 7 percent since 2004. Meanwhile, its shares have climbed to $35 from less than $6, and its net income has risen 450 percent, to almost $1.9 billion in 2013, according to SEC filings.
Iowa Interstate Railroad and Amtrak are intending jointly to launch conventional-speed (79 mph) passenger service between Chicago and Iowa City over a previously abandoned rail line, reports progressiverailroading.com.
The proposed service, reported progressiverailroading.com, has been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, but is not expected to begin prior to 2013.
Progressiverailroading.com quoted Iowa Interstate CEO Dennis Miller that the railroad has “spent many hours working with local community leaders, the states of Iowa and Illinois, and Amtrak to make sure that if this service was approved, we could handle it in conjunction with our existing and growing freight business.”
Perhaps contradicting many Class I freight CEOs — who are cool about expanding passenger service over freight railroad track — Iowa Interstate Chairman Henry Posner III, a former Conrail executive, was quoted by progressiverailroading.com that, “The lesson here is that a healthy freight network is the single most important building block for passenger service.”