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In his annual "State of the Railroad" letter posted online late last week, Kansas City Southern President and Chief Executive Officer David Starling highlighted objectives for 2014.Next year, focus will continue on executing the strategic plan, part of which calls for finding more ways to exploit the four fastest-growing areas of KCS' business: automotive, crude oil, frac sand and cross-border intermodal, Starling wrote on Dec. 19. Through third-quarter 2013, revenue growth in those sectors reached 26 percent and volume growth was 19 percent."The long-term, sustainable growth outlook is very good, especially when new auto plants under construction in Mexico are completed in 2014," Starling said. "Our gateway strategy to extend our network reach by partnering with connecting carriers and supply chain partners is a strength for KCS and the larger North American rail network."Next year also will be another big one for track, capacity and capital projects tied to new business development after a busy 2013, he said. Major 2014 projects in the United States include replacing 650,000 ties (compared with 600,000 ties in 2013); replacing 40 miles of rail; adding three R&D tracks in Jackson, Miss.; expanding an intermodal facility in Kendleton, Texas; beginning construction on a new intermodal facility in Wylie, Texas; and starting installation of a Centralized Traffic Control system in the Laredo Subdivision.In Mexico, KCS plans to continue a Monterrey-to-Nuevo Laredo track upgrade by installing new rail and ties; complete additional expansions at Sanchez Yard and Interpuerto San Luis Potosi; and continue the development of a double-track corridor between Sanchez and Nuevo Laredo.Overall, "KCS' strategically-positioned network is operating well" and infrastructure is solid, Starling wrote."New business is coming on line at an unprecedented rate and the team is working with our gateway partners to maximize the extension of our route," he said.