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By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor
Trains continue to pound track, infrastructure capacity remains a priority and maintenance-of-way (MOW) material costs keep rising.
Accordingly, the eight Class I respondents to our annual survey are budgeting a total of $5.1 billion for MOW this year compared with $4.9 billion in 2006.
Five of the large roads’ budgets are up year over year, while Union Pacific Railroad’s 2007 plan calls for expenditures totaling a Class I-high $1.5 billion — the same amount UP spent in 2006.
Following are MOW snippets from three Class Is that set aside more dollars in ’07 to build and maintain more track.
BNSF Railway Co. has budgeted $1.23 billion, up slightly compared with 2006’s $1.22 billion.
“It’s a big year for maintenance, and a big year for expansion projects on top of that,” says BNSF Vice President of Engineering Greg Fox.
On the expansion side of the equation, BNSF plans to install 39 miles of triple and 21 miles of quadruple track in Wyoming’s Orin Subdivision on the Powder River Basin joint line the Class I shares with UP. By 2007’s end, the 103-mile joint line will be completely triple- or quadruple-tracked, says Fox.
BNSF will install new second, third and fourth mainlines totaling 151 track miles compared with 74 in 2006.
“About 110 of the miles will be coal-focused,” says Fox.
The railroad also will begin a three-year project under which crews will upgrade an Avard, Okla.-to-Birmingham, Ala., line as part of the Class I’s ’06 agreement with CSX Transportation to jointly create a high-volume southeastern intermodal corridor.
This year, six BNSF production gangs will replace rail and ties, and perform undercutting work as part of the project’s $10 million first phase.
Two-part plan of attack
Rail and ties are a big part of BNSF’s ’07 track maintenance work, too. The railroad will replace rail on 834 track miles, up 20 percent compared with last year. The Class I needs to replace more curved and tangent rail, says Fox.
“We’ve had our fifth-straight year of double-digit growth, so our curves are wearing out,” he says.
BNSF also plans to install slightly more concrete ties (160,000 in ’07 vs. 124,000 in ’06), but replace fewer wood ties, which will total 2.64 million this year compared with 2006’s 2.72 million.
However, BNSF this month will begin using a high-speed production tamper on wood ties — the first such machine to be used in the United States, says Fox, adding that one is used in Europe.
Built by Plasser American Corp., the tamper features an automated “tie finder” system with surface mapping capability designed to map out 10 track miles at a time so the machine can correctly tamp ties the next pass.
“It can tamp two to three times faster for wood ties,” says Fox.
In summer, BNSF also will acquire its second Plasser 09-3X Dynamic Tamping Express for concrete ties. After increasing its high-production tamper fleet to three, the railroad will complete surfacing work on heavy axle-load line segments more quickly, says Fox.
“With the growth rate we’re seeing, we can’t just rely on a traditional fleet of tampers,” he says.
To complete track maintenance work as quickly as possible, BNSF conducted blitzes earlier this year in two subdivisions. In February, the railroad capped off a $16 million, month-long blitz in the Bakersfield Subdivision on a Fresno-to-Bakersfield, Calif., line. And last month, the Class I completed a blitz in the Birmingham Subdivision.
For the 10th-straight year, CSXT is planning a blitz, as well. To be conducted in July, the “Jamboree” will involve the coordination of hundreds of workers and dozens of machines to upgrade a main coal route between Elkhorn City, Ky., and Spartanburg, S.C. Crews will install about 36,000 ties and complete surfacing on 35 track miles.
“We didn’t do any ties in last year’s Jamboree, just rail and surfacing,” says CSXT VP of Engineering Don Bagley.
Steel prices a real concern
The railroad also will install continuous-welded rail on 410 track miles as part of ‘07 MOW work. Although that amounts to seven fewer miles than in ‘06, the rail will cost more this year because steel prices have steadily risen the past 18 to 20 months, says Bagley.
Rising track material costs are the primary reason CSXT’s MOW budget is up from $548.8 million last year to $589.9 million in ’07, he says. For example, crosstie prices have increased $3 per tie because of wood-treatment costs.
“Creosote is petroleum-based and oil prices have increased,” says Bagley.
In addition, Grade 3 yard ties are in short supply, so CSXT might install more relay ties to compensate, he says.
Although CSXT plans to install 3 million wood ties this year — the same amount as in ‘06 — crews will install an additional 150,000 ties as part of a $120 million capacity project on the railroad’s Southeast Expressway between Chicago and Jacksonville, Fla.
Budgeted separately from CSXT’s MOW program, the project calls for installing track and signals on 50-plus track miles, and building 10 miles of track to support CSX Intermodal’s new Chambersburg, Pa., terminal scheduled to open in fall.
“We’re using contractors to build the new track so the project doesn’t eat into our manpower when we do our normal capital work,” says Bagley.
The ‘heart’ of the matter
Norfolk Southern Railway also has a major multi-year project slated for ’07: the Heartland Corridor. To be completed in mid-2010, the double-stack container line between Columbus, Ohio, and Norfolk, Va., will shorten NS’ current intermodal route by 300 miles.
In August, crews will begin lowering or realigning track in six tunnels, performing structural modifications to 21 tunnels and modifying eight bridges.
NS’ MOW budget has increased from $496 million in ’06 to $568.4 million in ’07, but not because of the corridor. The road plans to install more rail this year.
“We’ll install 40 more miles of new rail and 40 more miles of relay rail,” says NS VP of Engineering Gary Woods.
The railroad will install the following double track: 8.8 miles in Jamestown, N.C., 5.1 miles in Lindale, Ga., 4.7 miles in Howardville, Tenn., and 2.4 miles in Irondale, Ala. NS also will replace 90 miles of curved rail — a typical amount for a given year, says Woods.
Union Pacific Railroad
2007 MOW budget: $1.5 billion
2006 MOW budget: $1.5 billion
2007 capacity budget: $260 million
Rail: Install or replace 870 miles of continuous-welded rail (CWR), 260 miles of curved rail and 190 miles of rail associated with concrete tie projects.
Double track: Spend $290 million to continue Sunset Route double-track project in various New Mexico and Arizona locations; add double mainline in Los Angeles Basin area.
Triple track: Add third mainline between Shawnee and Jireh, Wyo.; complete third mainline in North Platte, Neb., yard; and work with BNSF to add third mainline between Caballo and Reno Junctions, and fourth mainline at Logan Hill on southern Powder River Basin joint line.
Sidings: Construct five sidings in Texas, two in Illinois, and one each in Iowa and Missouri; extend a siding in Colorado. All sidings will be about 9,000 feet long.
Ties: Replace or install 4.43 million wood, concrete and composite ties.
Ballast: Install 5.8 million tons of “D” ballast, and 750,000 tons of other ballast and rip-rap.
Grinding/surfacing: Grind 22,000 pass miles; surface 8,200 miles.
Other significant MOW projects: Upgrade track circuits at several California and Oklahoma locations; replace west hump control system at Bailey Yard in North Platte; and install Centralized Traffic Control at several Arizona, California and New Mexico locations on the Sunset Route.
BNSF Railway Co.
2007 MOW budget: $1.23 billion
2006 MOW budget: $1.22 billion
Reason for increase: Continued revenue and traffic growth in all segments of customer base.
Rail: Replace or install 834 track miles with 141-, 136-, 132- and 115-pound CWR.
Double track: Construct following segments: 21 miles in Kansas; 14 miles in Colorado and Nebraska; 11 miles in Wyoming and Nebraska; 10 miles in Nebraska; eight miles in Iowa; six miles in Wyoming; and four miles in Alabama.
Triple track: Construct 24- and 15-mile segments in Wyoming; and eight-, six- and three-mile segments in California.
Quadruple track: Construct 21-mile segment in Wyoming.
Sidings: Build eight and extend seven sidings totaling 22.2 miles in various locations.
Ties: Replace or install 2.64 million wood and 160,000 concrete ties.
Ballast: Install 3.15 million tons.
Grinding/surfacing: Grind 30,000 pass miles; surface 11,800 miles; shoulder ballast cleaning of 1,600 miles; and undercutting of 420 miles.
Bridge work: Total $68 million budget, includes bridge rebuilds ($41 million), open-deck bridges ($12 million), ballast decks ($3.6 million) and bridge fills ($2.5 million).
Track equipment to lease/purchase: 40 portable welders; nine production tampers; nine ballast regulators; two Plasser 093X tampers; one rail gang equipment-complete set; and one tie gang equipment-various equipment.
Other significant MOW projects: Powder River Basin Capacity Project: Add 60 miles of main track in Wyoming’s Orin Subdivision and 43 miles of main track on coal route supporting traffic to and from Orin; build yard support tracks; remove last wood ties and install 60,000 concrete ties and undercut Orin line’s north end. Avard-Birmingham Capacity: Begin first phase of three-year project on Birmingham gateway ($10 million). Kansas City Bridge Improvements: In second year of three-year project to replace floor systems in three truss spans of Hannibal Bridge in Kansas City, Mo. ($2.5 million). Abo Canyon: Continue multi-year project to progress construction of seven miles of main track through the canyon between Sais and Scholle.
Canadian National railway Co.
2007 MOW budget: $690 million
2006 MOW budget: $717 million
Reason for decrease: In late 2006, purchased various pieces of rail and tie installation equipment for start of 2007 capital year.
Rail: Replace or install 348 track miles of new rail and 125 track miles of secondhand rail.
Double and triple track: Construct third and fourth tracks in greater Toronto area to share with GO Transit.
Sidings: Construct 13 new 12,000-foot sidings and extend sidings in western Canada; build 10 sidings in British Columbia; two in northern Minnesota; and one in Ontario.
Ties: Replace or install 1.65 million wood and 36,000 concrete ties. Ballast: Install 2.2 million tons.
Grinding/surfacing: Grind 16,500 pass miles; surface 6,500 miles.
Bridge work: Spend $80 million to replace, upgrade or redeck bridges systemwide.
Track equipment to lease/purchase: Purchase a CAT tamper, ballast regulators, various pieces of tie handling equipment and new mobile crew accommodations to use in remote areas.
Other significant MOW projects: Replace 82,500 wood ties in Bluford (Illinois) Subdivision and 67,000 wood ties in Kingston (Ontario) Subdivision; extend track closure to replace bridge in high density mainline in Ashcroft Subdivision near Kamloops, B.C.
2007 MOW budget: $589.9 million
2006 MOW budget: $548.8 million
2007 capacity budget: $120 million
Rail: Replace or install 410 miles with CWR.
Ties: Replace or install 3 million wood ties (does not include ties installed as part of track capacity projects in 2007). Ballast: Install 3.6 million tons.
Grinding/surfacing: Grind 18,000 miles; surface 5,613 miles.
Bridge work: Total budget of $40 million to rehabilitate various bridges.
Track equipment to lease/purchase: Spend a total of $17.5 million to purchase various MOW equipment.
Other significant MOW projects: Add capacity on 50-plus miles of Southeast Expressway between Chicago and Jacksonville, Fla., by building track and installing signal systems; also build 10 miles of track to support CSXI’s new Chambersburg, Pa., terminal, and complete track expansions in Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.
Coal Line Jamboree ($14 million): From July 2-9, shut down former Clinchfield Railroad line to complete track maintenance blitz. Work includes 21 miles of rail renewal, 35 miles of tie and surfacing (T&S) work, and 75 miles of continuous-action tamper (CAT) surfacing. Jamboree will involve 10 curve patch, three T&S and three CAT teams.
Norfolk Southern Railway
2007 MOW budget: $568.4 million
2006 MOW budget: $496 million
Reason for increase: Higher rail replacements and need to update machinery fleet.
Rail: Replace or install 318.2 miles with CWR.
Double or triple track: Install 8.8 miles in Jamestown, N.C. ($20 million); 5.1 miles in Lindale, Ga. ($15.3 million); 4.7 miles in Howardville, Tenn. ($14.4 million); and 2.4 miles in irondale, Ala. ($8.7 million).
Sidings: Arabi, Ga. (upgrade 6,900 TF, extend 4,100 TF); Auburn, Ga. (19,500 TF); East Durham, N.C. (11,700 TF); Fargo, Ga. (upgrade 7,700 TF, extend 3,300 TF); Lithia Springs, Ga. (12,400 TF); Oostanaula, Ga. (upgrade 2,660 TF, extend 10,440 TF); and Ridgeville, S.C. (upgrade 1,300 TF, extend 9,700 TF).
Ties: Replace or install 2.4 million ties, mostly wood; and 350,000 borate-treated ties with steel ties during siding construction. Ballast: Install 2.7 million tons.
Grinding/surfacing: Grind 13,530 pass miles. Bridge work: $36 million budgeted to replace 135 timber trestles (totaling 4,310 feet in length), replace superstructures at 21 bridges (1,253 feet), rehab 19 bridges, install remote control on one drawbridge, and replace or rehab culverts.
Track equipment to lease/purchase: Six ballast regulators; material-handling, speed-swing and ditching cranes (three of each); three tie tampers, two anchor spreaders; one Brandt unit; and one in-track flash-butt welder.
Other significant MOW projects: Begin Heartland Corridor project in August. Work includes track lowering or realignment at six tunnels, 4.5 miles of structural modifications to 21 tunnels and open cutting of one tunnel. Also modify eight through-truss bridges, raise one overhead bridge and modify slide fences at eight locations.
Canadian Pacific Railway
2007 MOW budget: $435 million
2006 MOW budget: $406 million
Reason for increase: Crosstie replacements, and bridge and structure projects.
Rail: Replace or install 280 track miles with CWR.
Sidings: Build three 10,000-foot and one 8,500-foot sidings; 8,500-foot long track at Coquitlam Yard; and 6,500-foot service track at Yorkton.
Ties: Replace or install 1.05 million wood, 16,700 steel and 5,150 concrete ties, plus other ties.
Ballast: Install 359,000 tons.
Grinding/surfacing: Grind 11,300 track miles.
Bridge work: Total budget of $39 million, includes various rehab projects.
Track equipment to lease/purchase: Spend $14.5 million to purchase seven rail handlers, five spikers, three regulators, three tie inserters, three production tampers, two tie cranes, two tampers and one car mover/material handler.
Other significant MOW project: Construct new spur near Woodstock, Ontario, including 5,350-foot lead and 2,295-foot access tracks, 200-foot bridge and 4,590-foot-long pre-tripping yard.
Kansas City Southern (Includes KCSR and KCSM)
2007 MOW budget: $156 million
2006 MOW budget: $165 million
Reason for decrease: In 2006, spent $31 million on Tex-Mex RRIF rail renewal project.
Rail: Replace or install 138 miles primarily with CWR.
Double track: Add three miles from La Pila to Espanita, Mexico.
Sidings: Extend sidings in Leesville, La.; Potter, Ark.; Killam, Texas; Dalby, Mo.; and Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico.
Ties: Install or replace 650,000 wood and 100,000 concrete ties.
Other significant MOW project: Rehabilitate Deramus Yard in Shreveport, La. ($10 million), includes installing east R&D lead, East Bypass lead and new East trim lead.
Ferrocarril Mexicano S.A. de C.v.
2007 MOW budget: $76.5 million
2006 MOW budget: $41.8 million
Reason for increase: Rehab 127 miles, install 96 miles of 136-pound rail.
Rail: Replace or install 140 track miles with CWR.Sidings: Rehab 44, extend 20 and build five new sidings.
Ties: Replace or install 196,500 wood and 111,500 concrete ties. Ballast: Install 969,600 tons.
Grinding/surfacing: Total of 420 miles.
Bridge work: Repair damage to two bridges caused by Hurricane Lane ($1.7 million).
Track equipment to lease/purchase: Lease one grinder.
Other significant MOW project: Replace 100-pound yard rail with 136-pound rail on 77 miles of track to handle 286k unit trains ($24.2 million).