Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rail Progress And What It Means To Us

There is an awful lot of talk going on here at the end of the year about what to expect from the railroad industry in 2012. Much of it has to do with further expansion of the freight rail system as we try to come out of this past recession. is reporting that next year will come with a ton of new jobs and cites the tremendous year that BNSF posted for 2011. Some 700+ jobs in one state alone and 415 of them are new jobs. It looks like we are trying to rebuild some of our decaying infrastructure, though the railroads have been doing a decent job of that in the last few decades.

On the subject of High Speed Rail, at least a couple of the funded projects will begin actual construction in the next year and there is no hope of seeing anything being done close to here.

Inter-modal shipping is picking up in a great way here in America and the railroad are again adding capacity. 

The last five years or so have seen several projects to enlarge tunnels and bridges to allow the bigger double stack trains. Norfolk-Southern is preparing to spend $60.5 million over the next two years, add 48 new employees and possibly create 400 other jobs by the end of 2014. Another expansion project could add 50 more jobs in a second location.

In Virginia, the recent holiday weekend saw the demand for Amtrak exceed the current capacity and talk is going around about the increased need in North Carolina. Even our closest Amtrak route along the Ohio River to Chicago or Washington is looking to add another trainset to the mix.

All of the above is happening in other locales, not in Kentucky. Other states are talking about adding some sort of rail facilities, both freight and passenger types. Little is being talked about in Kentucky.

One of the latest off hand comments came from Nick Nicholson, the president of Keeneland. It looks like he wants a light rail line to the track for two months of racing. Oh, and maybe an extension to the airport. I am not sure where he would like it to run and if it would use new or existing track. Maybe he is expecting R. J. Corman to operate it for him. There are numerous logistical problems to solve in that deal. It can be done but it will be a complex deal.

Speaking of Corman and his property, it appears that the Arena Area Arts and Entertainment group thinks that appropriating a necessary portion of a busy, functioning rail yard for an inter-modal passenger transfer station is an easy task. I think that Mr Corman has said that they are not bringing enough money to the table for that to occur.

Local investing in properties which could bring more rail activity is really at a standstill save for the Smucker's people. I have seen where they have purchased several pieces of property adjacent to the existing JIF plant. This gives them about 27 acres in total and space to expand to about double the production. Whether this includes expanded rail sidings I don't know, but anything is possible.

I also have been watching the Lextran situation with their remodel of their garage building. I have heard that the locals are asking for more restoration than redo and upgrade which could cost more than they have in funding. The old GE lamp plant on the other side of Broadway is empty, has plenty of room for a facility and sit on a rail line. Could this be an impetus for Lextran to think about rail.

Hold on, That is just too much wishful thinking. Lets get back to reality and savor the small gains that we are making.

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