AAPRCO Mid-Month Highlights

Russell Sharp <russsharp21@...>

FYI below ⬇️.

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From: AAPRCO <execdirector@...>
Date: March 16, 2023 at 7:47:22 PM EDT
To: russsharp21@...
Subject: AAPRCO Mid-Month Highlights
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Mid-Month Highlights
March 2023
45th Annual Convention
~ New Orleans, Louisiana ~
May 2nd - May 4th, 2023
Our annual car party will be held at New Orleans' Union Passenger Terminal.
We expect up to 12 cars to travel to the convention.
Thanks to our participating car owners!
Hotel Block is Open!

HYATT Regency New Orleans
601 Loyola Avenue
New Orleans, Louisiana 70113
This four-star hotel in the heart of the Crescent City's downtown will host our Welcome Reception on the evening of May 2nd, as well as all our convention sessions. The hotel is just a ten-minute walk from Union Passenger Terminal where AAPRCO cars will be parked. Other nearby attractions include the historic French Quarter, Arts District, and the Mississippi Riverfront.

AAPRCO Room Rate - $259
Plus taxes and fees of $44.96
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
April 28 - May 7, 2023

AAPRCO's convention dates correspond with Jazz Fest, the annual celebration of Louisiana's unique heritage and culture. In addition to regional cuisine and arts and crafts, thirteen stages offer a range of music including jazz, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, blues, R&B, rock, funk, African, Latin, Caribbean, folk, and more. music, along with regional cuisine, arts and crafts, parades and more.

For the 2023 music line up and to purchase tickets,
visit nojazzfest.com.
Don't miss the fun!
Renew your membership for 2023
Online renewal is fast and easy
Secretary's Report

By Tom Lanahan
Director Nominations

The nomination deadline for open seats on the board of directors has now closed. Thank you to everyone who nominated candidates and to all those who are willing to serve. There will be elections for both the Associates director position and for four Amtrak-Certified Car Owner director positions. Candidates are as follows:

Amtrak-Certified Car Owner Candidates (Four positions are open)
  • Sherrie Conover
  • Bill Gray
  • Robert Menzies
  • Dale Parks
  • Keith White

Associates Director Candidates (One position is open)
  • Tom Hartig
  • Tom Lanahan

Ballots will be mailed in a few weeks and must be returned prior to the convention by a date to be included in the ballot package.

To be eligible to vote, you must have paid your 2023 membership dues.
Washington Update

By Ross Capon
VP Government Affairs
The President’s budget is always labeled “dead on arrival” on Capitol Hill, but it is a starting point for discussions that will lead to the enacted appropriations levels. And it doesn’t hurt for Amtrak and transit to be in strong positions. First, however, the big picture. The W.H. total spending request is $6.9 trillion (including $842B for Defense; $28B for DOT) and a $1.8T deficit. They claim $2.9T deficit reduction over 10 years, heavily based on tax increases (including increase corporate tax rate to 28% from 21%) whose enactment is unlikely. 
The White House wants a real 9-10% increase in non-defense discretionary spending (of which Amtrak is a part), whereas the House GOP wants a cut in the 20-25% range. Ergo, says Jeff Davis, Washington’s leading expert on DOT budget issues, “look for at least one government shutdown later this year, possibly several, while they figure this out. A year-long CR [continuing resolution]” is also possible. Indeed, he notes that FY23 appropriations bills were crafted with extra care, since Congress knew that a CR was possible, meaning new appropriations provisions might either never be agreed to or never implemented.
The shutdown(s) could begin with the September 30 conclusion of FY23, or sooner in conjunction with a debt ceiling crisis. Of course, an unprecedented failure to set the debt ceiling at the level necessary to meet borrowing needs could jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States by preventing the Treasury from paying the government’s bills. This would make the issues in this memo look like very small potatoes. 
However, about 80% of the funding requested for USDOT has already been provided by the IIJA (Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act of 2021 -- Public Law No: 117-58, enacted 11/15/2021). 
Washington Post and others show a decline in DOT funding (2.9% per Bloomberg Government) without taking IIJA funds into account.
Could a sharply conservative Congress claw back any of this “guaranteed” funding? There could be talk about that but, thus far, Republicans don’t agree amongst themselves on what they actually want to cut and many (including those who opposed IIJA) have taken victory laps for projects they got in the law.
Beyond IIJA, the White House wants $28.16 billion in new discretionary appropriations for DOT, plus $3.35 billion in new contract authority for the Airport Improvement Program, from a new FAA reauthorization bill or extension. To show an $882 million reduction in total appropriations vs. FY23, the W.H. proposes a number of changes that Congress will not accept, including saving $2.6 billion by zeroing out all earmarked funding from the FY23 omnibus. The third largest among $4.6 billion in spending increases would be $648 million for Amtrak’s National Network.
Indeed, the W.H. proposes to re-prioritize Amtrak’s National Network farther ahead of the Northeast Corridor. 
The W.H. also seeks funding for two grant programs not in the FY23 Act:
·        $250 million for grade crossing grants (plus the IIJA’s $600m) with language that would allow more than 20% of a year’s grade crossing grants to go to a single state.
·        $50m for rail restoration/enhancement.
Davis says Amtrak will be the first thing House Republicans come for, so the National Network increase is doubtful…Republicans in general dislike operating subsidies, but for some reasons Senate Republicans are o.k. with that. A lot of Republicans have a big chip on their shoulders about operating grants, but there are never enough of them to kill Essential Air Services (W.H. request $348M similar to FY22, FY23; plus $154M mandatory from overflight fees) or Amtrak, but enough to stop them in the Republican conference.
One noteworthy comment regarding the Highway Trust Fund (HTF): Treasury and Congressional Budget Office HTF revenue projections are unusually far apart – CBO 5.9% or $2.4B higher in FY24 and 8.3% or $3.3B higher in FY28. For the six years FY23-28, CBO is almost $16B higher.
As previously noted, the four top appropriators are women:
·        House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger (R-TX)
·        House Appropriations Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)
·        Senate Appropriations Chair Patty Murray (D-WA)
·        Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME)
AAPRCO will be working again to get report language on the FY 24 DOT appropriations bills. It’s always good to thank your legislators for the language on the bills for the previous five years (FY19-23) and to ask for that tradition to be continued. 
Passenger Rail News
Service between Portland and Vancouver has not been available since 2020 due to the pandemic. Seattle-Vancouver service was restored in September 2022.
Photo – amtrak.com

Amtrak restores Cascades service
Amtrak has fully restored daily service to the Cascades route between Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia, for the first time since the service was suspended in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The line was partially restored in September 2022 for daily service between Seattle and Vancouver.

“With more people now traveling, we are thrilled to double the daily roundtrips between Seattle and Vancouver,” said Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner. “By adding staffing and equipment to the region, we can once again offer customers a direct connection between Portland and Canada.”

More trains will be added to the Portland-Seattle route later this year, said Ron Pate, Washington State Department of Transportation’s director of the rail, freight and ports division.
Amtrak's Adirondack Line will Resume Service on April 3rd
Amtrak has committed to fully reopening the Adirondack Line by April 3. The Adirondack Line runs from Albany to Montreal, including stops in Plattsburgh, Whitehall, Ticonderoga, Rensselaer, Port Henry, and Rouses Point. It has been closed since the onset of the pandemic.

Congresswoman Elise Stefanik ( R-NY) said, “Families throughout Upstate New York and the North Country rely on the Adirondack Line for transportation, and it serves a significant economic driver, connecting tourists and our Canadian neighbors, to our region..."

"The long-awaited resumption by Amtrak of the Adirondack rail service between Montreal and New York City not only reestablishes one of just three vital train links between the U.S. and Canada but restores Amtrak service to several North Country communities and represents another important step in normalizing cross border travel post pandemic," said Garry Douglas, President of the North Country Chamber of Commerce. 

"The service, which had been growing before the COVID shut down in 2020, has been recognized as one of the world's most scenic train rides, used by Montrealers and New Yorkers as a travel option to reach either end or to access the Adirondacks. For Plattsburgh, it has been popular with area college students who live in the New York metro region. We
thank Congresswoman Stefanik and Senator Gillibrand for their active advocacy and now look forward to working with Amtrak to help spread the word that the link is back. Onward and upward and on track!"
Early construction activities for the first phase of the $6 billion project begin tomorrow and are expected to wrap up in early summer.
Photo – amtrak.com

Amtrak to begin construction activities
for B&P tunnel replacement

Amtrak announced on March 8th that it is ready to begin early construction activities tomorrow for the $6 billion B&P Tunnel Replacement Program in West Baltimore and Halethorpe, Maryland.

The work calls for replacing aging wood ties with new concrete ties, installing new rail and completing track drainage improvements. The upgrades will enable high-speed operations on all four tracks in the track segment, Amtrak officials said in a press release.

The first phase of construction is expected to conclude in summer, with additional work related to the replacement of an existing turnout in Winans to be completed in a future construction phase.

The B&P is Amtrak’s oldest tunnel on the Northeast Corridor at nearly 150 years old. The 1.4-mile tunnel connects Baltimore to Washington, D.C., and has a number of age-related issues that cause excessive water infiltration, structure deterioration and rail service delays, Amtrak officials said.

The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal-State Partnership for the State of Good Repair Grant Program. In the future, the project also will be supported by funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Amtrak officials said.

Future work includes the construction of new bridges, rail systems and track; an ADA-accessible West Baltimore MARC commuter-rail station; and the new Frederick Douglass Tunnel, which will include two new high-capacity tubes for electrified passenger trains.
A hotbox and dragging equipment detector on the Union Pacific near East Bernard, Texas. A wheel bearing expert says on-car sensors, rather than lineside detectors, is the best way to find defects. Tom Kline

Wheel bearing expert: To prevent derailments,
railroads should equip freight cars with sensors

By Bill Stephens | March 6, 2023
Trains Magazine Email Newsletter

Unlike wayside detectors, on board sensors can detect bearing defects
months before they become a safety hazard

Installing sensors on freight cars is the only way to prevent another disastrous derailment like the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern hazardous materials wreck in East Palestine, Ohio, a wheel bearing expert says.

Constantine Tarawneh, a mechanical engineering professor who heads the University Transportation Center for Railway Safety at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, says adding more wayside hotbox detectors won’t be enough to eliminate derailments caused by wheel bearing failures.

“Temperature is just not the way to measure the condition of a rotating object. Period. It’s a good secondary measure, but not a primary measure. And so I don’t care how close you space them … it’s not going to help,” Tarawneh said in an interview last week.

The Rail Safety Act of 2023, which was filed last week in the Senate, would require railroads to place hotbox detectors every 10 miles. Today detectors are spaced an average of 25 miles apart, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

There’s no question that hotbox detectors work. Train accident rates caused by axle and bearing-related factors have dropped 81% since 1980 and 59% since 1990 due to the use of hot bearing detectors, according to the FRA.

But bearings can overheat quickly, the FRA says, and can burn off in as little as 1 to 3 minutes. Hotbox detectors failed to diagnose 124 severely defective bearings in the U.S. and Canada from 2010 to 2018, 117 of which resulted in derailments.

“The one in East Palestine caught everyone’s attention because of the hazardous materials,” Tarawneh says. “These are accidents waiting to happen. They might not happen that often, but they will continue to happen because we’re just taking a shot and hoping that these wayside detectors are effective.”

The shortcoming of both hotbox detectors and wayside acoustic detectors is that they are reactive and can only catch late-stage defects that pose an immediate safety threat, Tarawneh says.

A proactive solution, he says, would be to outfit rolling stock with accelerometers that can detect telltale vibrations in wheel bearings up to 50,000 miles before they become a safety hazard.

The research team at University Transportation Center for Railway Safety has developed a battery-powered sensor module that can measure the operating load, temperature, and vibration levels within a bearing. It wirelessly sends the data to a central computing unit for analysis. The system can warn railcar owners of defects thousands of miles in advance of a potential failure and provide an estimate of how long the bearing can safely remain in service.

The system has been tested in the center’s laboratory as well as on test track at the MxV Rail Transportation Technology Center in Colorado.

Some bearings can fail without getting hot enough to trigger a hotbox detector until a few minutes before a derailment, as was the case in East Palestine. On-board sensors would have flagged the problematic bearing several months beforehand, Tarawneh says.

Amsted Rail, which supports research at the University Transportation Center for Railway Safety, is among the companies that offer on-board sensor equipment.

RailPulse, the freight car telematics joint venture spearheaded by Norfolk Southern, is testing on-board sensors that track a car’s location, whether it’s empty or loaded, whether it’s experienced a significant impact event, whether the hatches or doors are open or closed, and whether the hand brakes are on or off.

The initial pilot program – which involves NS and RailPulse members Union Pacific, short line holding companies Genesee & Wyoming, Watco, and Railroad Development Corp., and car manufacturers and leasing companies GATX, Greenbrier, and Trinity – is not testing wheel bearing monitors.
But RailPulse General Manager David Shannon says the goal is to ultimately monitor wheel bearing health. “We are very interested in it,” he says.

Taranweh says it might cost $1,000 to retrofit a freight car with a wheel-bearing sensor system.

Byron Porter, the founder and CEO of telematics company Hum Rail, which licensed the rights to the University of Texas system, estimates that wheel bearing monitoring would cost between $400 and $500 per year for the 15-year life of its equipment. “That includes hardware, bearing condition, wheel kips (exactly like a wheel impact load detector system), truck hunting monitoring, impact detection, GPS, software and firmware updates, and data access, either through APIs or through our own website,” he says.

Around two-thirds of the 1.6 million freight cars in North America are owned by shippers or leasing companies.

“What I’ve been telling folks is there are three ways to look at the additional cost to outfit their own fleet,” Porter says. “A fraction of the total cost for a new build (0.5-2%). An insurance premium that keeps your name out of the headlines. Less than the East Palestine derailment is going to cost NS.”
It costs about $200,000 to install a hotbox detector on a single track main line and $350,000 on double iron. More than 6,000 hotbox detectors are currently in service. To double that figure to reduce spacing between detectors, it would cost between $1.2 billion and $2.1 billion.

Equipping the entire freight car fleet with wheel bearing monitors might cost $1.6 billion or more. But the telematics system would also provide shippers with real-time car location, other car health data, and significantly reduce the number of trains that need to stop and set out cars while en route.

Taranweh says the industry should start by adding wheel bearing sensors to tank cars and other cars that carry hazardous materials. Outfitting the entire fleet would take years. “It might take a decade or even two decades. But we have to start somewhere,” he says.

The Biden administration has backed the Rail Safety Act, but the FRA has yet to take a formal position on all of the bill’s provisions, an agency spokesman says.

“Both wayside detectors and on-board sensors are expected to be discussed at length during an upcoming meeting of the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee that will be announced in the very near future,” FRA spokesman Warren Flatau says. “Otherwise, it’s a bit premature to opine on the views of one researcher about the virtues of one technology over another until such time that a more comprehensive examination is undertaken related to potential future regulatory activity.”

National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy says the board’s investigation of the East Palestine derailment will include an analysis of wayside detection systems, how railroads use their data, and whether temperature thresholds should be set at a lower level.

The board also will look at alternatives to the traditional hotbox detector, including acoustic detectors and on-board sensor systems.

“We like redundancy at the NTSB so there’s more than one way to ensure safety,” Homendy said today in a webcast with The Washington Post. “We will look at all the technologies out there and make a recommendation.”

Some in the railroad industry are skeptical that on-board sensors can be rugged enough and reliable enough to be as effective as wayside detectors.