CN to boost capital spending, add capacity

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Jim McLeod, Canadian National's chief engineer, structures, design & construction, speaks at the NRC conference in Los Angeles on Friday.
TRAINS: David Lassen
LOS ANGELES — When it comes to capital spending, Canadian National has left behind “steady as we go” and is moving into a cycle of “the gangbuster variety.”

That’s the assessment of Jim McLeod, CN’s chief engineer, structures, design & construction, in his presentation at Friday’s session of the National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association conference.

Reflecting on CN’s 2017 traffic growth — an industry-best 10.4 percent — as well as a long-term commitment to increasing capacity, CN will increase its maintenance spending and pursue major capacity expansion projects in 2018.

CN plans a total of 49 miles of double-tracking, four new sidings, and three siding expansions in four segments of its system: Prince Rupert-Taverna, British Columbia ($56 million for four new sidings, two siding extensions, and three miles of double track); Vancouver-Edmonton ($58 million for 12 miles of double-track and a new siding); Edmonton-Winnipeg ($81 million for 28 miles of double-track); and Winnipeg-Chicago ($26 million for six miles of double-track and one siding extension).

Also on the drawing board is a “strategic bridge initiative” which will draw $85 million in spending in 2018 and $100 million in 2019. Among those projects is the beginning of renewal of Chicago’s St. Charles Air Line, which has bridges dating to 1899.

The railroad will also increase its basic track infrastructure spending from $1.18 billion in 2017 to $1.2 billion in 2018, $1.23 billion in 2019 and $1.27 billion in 2020. The 2018 plans include a 20-percent increase in tie replacement, up to 1.1 million ties, and 446 track miles of rail replacement, equaling the 2017 figure.

In Friday’s other presentations:

Norfolk Southern plans four major projects to add mainline capacity, in Buechel, Ky; Vermillion, Ohio; Charleston, S.C.; and Fort Wayne, Ind. The railroad will expand intermodal capacity in Kansas City, Mo.; Maple Heights, Ohio; and Calumet Yard in Chicago.

NS will maintain its 2017 levels in terms of rail and tie replacement. The railroad will install 272.7 miles of dual rail and 177.3 miles of single rail; of the 86,492 tons of rail to be installed, 88 percent will be new 136-pound rail. The railroad anticipates installing 2.48 million new crossties and 2.13 million tons of ballast.

Darrell Wilson, NS associate vice president, government relations-public affairs, also highlighted several current public-private partnerships involving the railroad.

Like most other Class I railroads to present so far, NS did not yet have a final budget figure for its 2018 capital spending.

LA Metro, which operates the Los Angeles light rail and subway systems, highlighted the myriad of rail projects in progress or in the planning stages as part of its 40-year transit plan. Among the projects outlined by Richard Clarke, chief program management officer, the three in the most advanced stages are:
The 8.5-mile Crenshaw-LAX light rail line, which will connect two other parts of the light rail system and add eight new stations. That $2.058 billion project is projected to begin revenue service in October 2019.

The downtown regional connecter, a 1.9-mile subway linking the Blue and Exposition light rail lines. Budgeted at $1.75 billion, it is set to conclude tunnel boring on Jan. 16 and to open in 2021.

The Purple Line subway extension, which will reach UCLA in three stages. The initial 3.92-mile, $2.82-billion section is projected to open in 2023 or 2024; an additional 2.59 miles will open in 2025 or 2026, with the final 2.59 miles to UCLA and the Westwood VA Hospital, budgeted at $3.48 billion, in the engineering phase.

LA Metro also provides half the funding for the Metrolink commuter train system, and is working on an as-yet-unfunded plan to turn Los Angeles Union Station into a through station, rather than its current stub-end design for the commuter service. That project would create eight run-through tracks, an expanded concourse and new platforms, and would increase peak capacity by 40 to 50 percent.

Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco has set a $998 million capital budget for fiscal 2018, a year in which it expects to open two additions to a system that currently covers 109 miles and 46 stations. One extends BART’s eastern reach from Concord, Calif., to Antioch. The other is the first phase of its Silicon Valley extension on the east side of San Francisco Bay, from Fremont toward San Jose. Completion of that extension is projected for 2026.

BART is currently pursuing three major capital projects: the “Fleet of the Future,” which would add 1,081 new cars, 775 of which are already on order, at a cost of $1.652 billion; train-control modernization, to be in service by 2026 at a cost of $1.15 billion, and an expansion of the Hayward Maintenance Complex, at a cost of $581 million.

Because current projections have BART running at 152 percent of peak-hour capacity by 2040, Carl Holmes, BART’s assistant general manager, planning, development, and construction, said the agency is also beginning its planning for a second transbay crossing. The Transbay Tube between Oakland and San Francisco is a major bottleneck for BART’s efforts to expand service.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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