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Rail Roundup: Breaking ground and breaking records

Congestion-alleviation projects get underway in Illinois and Texas; CN reports highest grain volume

A roundup of assorted freight rail news items. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

CREATE breaks ground on 2 congestion-reducing projects in Chicago

The Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program broke ground Tuesday on two projects aimed at improving network flows for freight and passenger trains in Chicago.

The Forest Hill Flyover project involves the construction of a bridge that the CREATE Program says will reduce conflicts between freight rail carriers Chicago Belt Railways, CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC) and passenger rail Metra. 

The 71st Street grade separation project will eliminate an existing grade crossing of CSX with 71st Street. The project will benefit local drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. 

“These projects are fixing the first half of the largest rail chokepoint in Chicago,” CREATE Program said.

Both projects received funding from private, local and state sources, as well as from the federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program, known as the INFRA grant program. 

The CREATE Program is a public-private partnership aimed at addressing improving the flow of passenger and freight rail in greater Chicago. Partners include the U.S. Department of Transportation, Illinois Department of Transportation, Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways, the Chicago Department of Transportation, Metra and the Association of American Railroads.  

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Kansas City Southern to break ground on International Railroad Bridge

Kansas City Southern officials will gather next Monday to break ground on the new International Railroad Bridge that will cross the Rio Grande River and connect Laredo, Texas, with Nuevo Lardeo in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. 

The new bridge will be constructed alongside the existing single-track bridge, and it has a completion date of 2025, KCS said Monday. The bridge will also be single track. 

The new bridge is designed to help relieve congestion between the two towns, as well as allow for improved security and flow of goods across the border. 

KCS has secured construction permits in the U.S. and Mexico, and the railroad has moved past the project engineering and design phase and into the construction phase.

KCS and Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) are currently seeking federal approval to merge the companies and create a transcontinental railroad with a network reach that would extend between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. 

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CN exceeds weekly grain record by over 50,000 metric tons

Canadian railway CN (NYSE: CNI) moved over 806,000 metric tons of grain from western Canada during the week of Oct. 16. That volume is a weekly record and exceeds the previous record by over 50,000 metric tons, CN said Monday.

Meanwhile, September was the second best month ever for western Canada grain movement, with over 2.64 million metric tons hauled, CN said.

“This performance shows what can get done when partners collaborate to create supply chain solutions to supply chain challenges,” CN Chief Marketing Officer Doug MacDonald said in a news release. “We are very proud to have set a new record for the amount of Western Canadian grain moved in a single week. We are confident that our railroaders will continue delivering results for Canadian farmers and all of our customers.”

CN’s announcement comes as recent reports from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Bloomberg highlight potential grain hauling issues in western Canada. 

CN will report its third-quarter 2022 financial results Tuesday afternoon. The railway recently published its winter plan detailing how it expects to handle operations during the season, which can bring frigid temperatures and snow.

CN also said it has reopened a branch line in northern Alberta that had been shut down because of an Oct. 5 bridge fire. CN said the engineering team worked continuously so that the track could reopen in a little over a week.

“The team mobilized the equivalent of 20 Olympic-size swimming pools of material safely and without incident, to fill in where a bridge once stood,” CN said.

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Patriot Rail appoints new chief operating officer

Jacksonville, Florida-based short line operator Patriot Rail has appointed Jerry Hall as its new chief operating officer. 

Hall most recently served as vice president of transportation at Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC), and he has over three decades of rail industry experience, Patriot Rail said in a news release last Wednesday. He has also had leadership roles at NS in network and service management and intermodal operations. 

“Jerry’s talent and deep rail industry background will drive Patriot Rail to the next level of operational excellence,” said Patriot CEO John E. Fenton in the announcement. “The company just closed a transformational acquisition doubling Patriot’s U.S. footprint from 16 short line railroads to 31, and we are excited to have Jerry join us. His outstanding on-the-ground and strategic rail expertise will guide our continued growth and performance for customers.”

Hall said he was “thrilled to be part of the team fundamentally transforming Patriot Rail.” 

“It’s an incredible opportunity to help elevate Patriot’s performance, with safety as our core value, as we grow and serve our valued customers and stakeholders,” Hall said. 

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Canadian Pacific to appeal court decision on land sale

Canadian Pacific (NYSE: CP) said Saturday it will appeal a court decision involving real estate developer Remington Development.

The Court of King’s Bench of Alberta sided with Remington Development over the sale of land in Calgary, Alberta, and said Remington is entitled to CA$163.7 million in damages from CP and the province of Alberta for a breach of a 2002 contract.

The railroad said it was “surprised and disappointed at this judgment, which CP considers to contain significant legal and factual errors related to both liability and damages. CP has strong grounds for appeal and will vigorously fight this decision.”

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.