Positive Train Control Means Increased Rail Safety Measures

Rail systems get millions to improve safety

Rail systems get millions to improve safety

Last spring, the  U.S. Department of Transportation announced it would grant $197 million in funding for rail systems to implement the new rail safety measures called Positive Train Control.

Positive Train Control, or PTC, has been described as something of an “air traffic control” center for trains. PTC makes use of GPS satellites, radio towers, and ground sensors in order to better read a train’s speed and location. One such added benefit of this technology is that it can detect if a train is going too fast and allow on board computers to slow it down or stop it all together.

PTC

Photo Source – The Press Enterprise

“The number of passengers depending on rail has increased dramatically, which means PTC is needed now more than ever,” said Patrick Warren, FRA Executive Director. “This funding will get us closer to PTC implementation on some of the most significant railroads in the country that transport several million passengers to and from work every day.”

PTC systems are designed to prevent certain train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, incursions into established work zones, and trains routed to the wrong tracks because a switch was left in the wrong position. The grants under this program will be used to install PTC technology, including back office systems and wayside, communications, and onboard hardware equipment associated with railroads’ PTC systems.

“Millions of people rely on our nation’s commuter railroads and Positive Train Control will help ensure safe and reliable service,” said FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes. “Today’s announcement means that commuter railroads can move forward with the implementation of an important rail safety feature.”

Of course, a project of this scale and scope has been met with some hesitation. Some fear such a system could higher transportation costs in addition to redundancies that could potentially result in layoffs. Though the debate continues whether implementation is fiscally wise or will managed, few can deny that such a tech will not be a strong tool in helping prevent accidents caused due to human error.

To view a list of when railroads predict that they will achieve full PTC system implementation, visit Railroads’ Planned Timelines for Full Implementation of PTC TechnologyExternal Link.

Sources:

New Technology Coming To Help Make MARC Trains Safer

Rail systems get millions to improve safety

Regulators and railways spar over Positive Train Control, a controversial safety system that won’t arrive in time

If you can think it you can print it! How 3D printing is revolutionizing the rail industry.

UnionPacific3D

Photo Source: 3D Printing Industry

“We can make design tweaks and have a new version ready within hours, plus the prototype never leaves UP. Additionally, it ensures a complete design before we move into expensive tooling or long lead times for molded parts.” – Royce Connerley, Union Pacific Senior System Engineer

It’s no exaggeration to say the 3D printing is a technology with boundless potential. With medical industries, housing, manufacturing, and hobbyists using the tech for printing in ways never before possible, it is no surprise that the railway industry too is turning to 3D printing for solutions.

For a bit of a background, 3D printing is the use of machinery to print components/materials. These materials can be plastic, metal through powder printing, and much more.

Union Pacific, for example, is using 3D printing for railroad machine vision technology. Machine vision loosely refers to the using of imagery for automatic inspection or analysis. Furthermore, Union Pacific is 3D printing remote controlled devices to track rail equipment.

In Europe, Deutsche Bahn has begun to use 3D printing in their actual train assembly. As Uwe Fresenborg, CEO of DB Fahrzeuginstandhaltung states: “For the maintenance of our vehicles we need immediately available spare parts. Our trains are expected to roll, 3D printing helps us in doing so. Printing is faster, more flexible and cheaper than conventional manufacturing processes, and the vehicles are available again in a very short time and are used for our customers.”

3D-Druck_02

Photo Source: 3D Printing Industry

Beyond creating parts for trains, Deutsche Bahn has employed 3D printing to increase the overall experience of customers, such as by 3D printing metal pieces with braille for disabled customers and individualized handicap signs for handrails. As the program develops we can anticipate seeing more 3D printing components throughout Europe and beyond.

It’s safe to say that 3D printing will revolutionize not only rail but all manner of transport industries with its benefits to customer quality of life, safety testing, part replacement, and machine vision. As more industries adopt the technology we can expect to see even greater breakthroughs still.

Sources:

RailJournal: DB steps up 3D printing of train components

3D Printing Industry: Union Pacific 3D printing for railroad machine vision technology

3D Printing Industry: Deutsche Bahn extends use of 3D printing to “revolutionize maintenance”

Railroad Day on Capitol Hill

Capitol_at_Dusk_2

In a few short weeks, advocates and representatives of the Railroad Industry will make their annual journey to Washington DC to make their messages heard by lawmakers. This important annual event, Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, is taking place on March 2nd, 2017, at the Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown, 999 9th St, NW, Washington, DC.

With the ever-shifting political climate, it’s more important than ever to be heard.  As anyone who has taken part in the event before knows, it’s the most effective way for the railroad industry’s message to be reached by Congress and can only succeed if everyone turns out in order to present a unified industry.

New Dome Railroad Day Logo - 2017

The event takes place over the course of one day with appointments, meetings, and events all organized in order to communicate the important role that the railroad industry plays in America’s economy, improving our country’s role in global marketplace, and our ongoing success in helping the environment.

Attendees of Railroad Day will have the opportunity to speak directly with decision makers and help promote real change. “Railroad Day is our single most impactful day of the year with Congressional leaders,” said Linda Darr, president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, of 2016’s Railroad Day. “We had the opportunity to address issues of importance to our industry and the shipper customers we serve.”

Attendance is open to all Class I, II, and III railroad personnel, shippers, state and local government representatives, as well as members from the supplier community with an interest in furthering the political goals of the railroad industry. To learn more, please visit www.aslrra.org.

Photo Credit: By Martin Falbisoner – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, www.commons.wikimedia.org

NRC-REMSA 2017 Wrap Up

NRC-REMSA2017

Photo Source: REMSA Twitter

Last month, a team from Willamette Valley Company’s Railroad Division had the privilege of traveling to Boca Raton, Florida to meet with industry representatives and officials at the NRC-REMSA 2017 Conference and Exhibition. This year’s event proved once again to be an unparalleled opportunity for WVCO and other railway businesses to connect directly with professionals representing all segments of the industry. We appreciated the opportunity to listen to your questions and concerns about the growing number of challenges this industry faces and introduce you to our wood-tie remediation and other repair products.

NRC-REMSA

The annual NRC Conference and NRC-REMSA Exhibition encompassed more than 1,000 attendees, 150 exhibitors and over 25,000 square-feet of meeting space. It was a pleasure to join the many other members of the railroad industry; including service firms, manufacturers, suppliers and contractors to answer questions about our railroad products and POLYQuik Roadway Repair materials, Joint Fillers and Light-Rail Grout. Other participants of the conference/exhibition included: Union Pacific, SANDAG (San Diego), Genesee and Wyoming, Caltrans, CSX, California Rail, LA Metro, Alaska Railroad, Norfolk Southern, Canadian National, New York MTA, Watco, OmniTRAX and many others.

Speakers

Event-goers had the chance to take in seminars from key individuals in the railway and transportation industry. Rob Castiglione, the Staff Director of Human Performance Program for the Office of Railroad Safety FRA presented “Overview of FRA Part 243 Minimum Training Standards Final Rule,” where he expanded on training requirements for all railroad employees and contractors who perform safety related work, the history of the rule, and the role of associations like NRC.

John Zuspan of Track Guy Consultants presented “Means and Methods for Direct Fixation, Low Vibration Track & Embedded Track,” a seminar on the means and methods for embedded track construction.

Jerry Power’s seminar on “Overview of FRA Part 219 Drug & Alcohol Regulation for Maintenance-of-Way Workers Final Rule”  covered  the scope of FRA’s alcohol and drug regulations to cover employees who work in railroad maintenance.

Lastly, Lesa Forbes, Senior International Trade Specialist, U.S. Commercial Service, spoke on new opportunities abroad and how US Commercial Services can help your firm expand your international business.

HallOfFame

Photo Source RT&S

The event also saw the induction of new members into the NRC Hall of Fame, Ron Brown, John Zuspan, and Rick Ebersold. The three were honored for their work in NRC, REMSA, and the railway industry as a whole.

Below are some photos of NRC-REMSA 2017, courtesy of REMSA’s Twitter page.

NRC-REMSA2017

Photo Source: REMSA 2017

NRC-REMSA2017

Photo Source: REMSA Twitter

WVCO was proud to take a part in NRC-REMSA 2017 and look forward to taking part once again next year!

Sources:

Railway News

NCRMA

RT & S

Innovators We Admire: Dirk Ahlborn

Dirk-Ahlborn

Photo Source CrowdFundInsider.com

“New technologies and new ideas, can create a better passenger experience while solving these issues through new monetization strategies and business models, with the Hyperloop and all other forms of transportation.” – Dirk Ahlborn

Innovation can’t thrive in a vacuum; external factors, opposing views, tools, and resources must come together to create the breakthroughs that propel us forward. Few know that as well as Dirk Ahlborn, Founder and CEO of JumpStarter Inc. which operates JumpStartFund  and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT).

Ahlborn’s mission was to create a new platform for scientific funding and the bringing together of minds. “We already have a process to help create a physical startup. Why not do that online?” asks Ahlborn. “Why not create an online crowdsourced incubator? This way we allow tech-disconnected hubs to connect with the best technology hubs and co-found new companies. It’s all about building communities smarter and faster.” It’s this collaboration of communities and hubs that have lead the way for Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

Watch as Ahlborn discusses his ideas about the world’s next breakthrough in transportation on the news program, Business Rockstars.

The term Hyperloop, a concept popularized by super innovator Elon Musk (most famous for Telsa), is a system of transportation that uses tubes and air compression to reach incredible speeds. Inspired by this idea, Dirk Ahlborn and Jumpstarter Inc. built HTT, a research crowd collaboration company working to develop a high-speed transportation system.

Hyperloop

Photo Source Hyperloop Transportation Technologies.

HTT aims to create a high speed intercity transport that travels close to 800 miles an hour as well slower, inter-suburban travel. The project would have a capacity of 15 million passengers a year. Putting this into further context, an airplane travels at most at 500mph and most trains at 200mph. Beyond its speed, the Hyperloop boasts many other proposed benefits, such as being self-sufficient through renewable energy, a greater emphasis for safety, lower construction costs, and affordable travel.

This may sound like a far-off fantasy but it’s closer than one may think.  In a partnership with Deustche Bahn, HTT will be working to create an “Innovation Train,” a conventional train powered through the technology of HTT for greater efficiency. One such piece of tech would be the creation and use of Augmented Reality windows, as seen below.

Dirk Ahlborn knows that innovation can’t thrive when it’s isoated, it’s only when great minds come together that breakthroughs occur. This philosophy is already bringing about changes to the transportation industry and will only continue from here. For these reasons and many more, we name Dirk Ahlborn our “Featured Innovator of the Month.”

If you’re looking to hear about more incredible innovators bringing the latest breakthroughs to the transportation industry, be sure to take part in AREMA’s 2016 Expo.

Note: Dirk Ahlborn does not work for Willamette Valley Company nor is he affiliated with our company.

Sources:

Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

JumpStartFund

Tech.EU

TechnoBuffalo

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or “FAST Act” is Signed Into Law

FASTAct2America has always been a nation on the move. But an aging and crumbling transportation system is not only slowing Americans down, it’s reducing productivity, undermining our ability to move products across the country and around the world, and increasing congestion and air pollution. It’s time to get America moving again! – U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Last month, the first law providing long-term funding certainty for surface transportation in over a decade was signed into law. The implementation of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or “FAST Act” States means that local governments should be able to move forward with critical transportation projects, like new highways and transit lines, more easily. “After hundreds of Congressional meetings, two bus tours, visits to 43 states, and so much uncertainty – and 36 short term extensions – it has been a long and bumpy ride to a long-term transportation bill,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx. “It’s not perfect, and there is still more left to do, but it reflects a bipartisan compromise I always knew was possible.”

The deteriorating condition of America’s roads, bridges and rail lines have been an area for concern for some time.  According to US Department of Transportation, sixty five percent of America’s major roads are rated “less than good” condition, while one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic and 45 percent of Americans do not have access to transit.

The FAST Act is considered by many to be a good start, as it increases funding by 11 percent over five years. “This is far short of the amount needed to reduce congestion on our roads and meet the increasing demands on our transportation systems,” states the U.S. Department of Transportation. “In comparison, the Administration’s proposal, the GROW AMERICA Act, increases funding by 45 percent”.

The law also makes changes and reforms to many Federal transportation programs, including streamlining the approval processes for new transportation projects, providing new safety tools, and establishing new programs to advance critical freight projects.

For a more detailed summary of some FAST Act provisions, visit www.transportation.gov/fastact.

 

The Challenges of Funding our Growing Transportation Needs

Highways and Bridges

Grow America

Transportation is critical to economic growth, however, economic growth is critical to fund the ever changing needs of our transportation system. One cannot exist without the other. The imminent threat of Highway Trust Fund insolvency combined with this paradox is the root of intense debate and discussion in Washington, DC and among key players in the transportation industry.

According to US Department of Transportation, sixty five percent of America’s major roads are rated “less than good” condition, while one in four bridges require significant repair or cannot handle today’s traffic and 45 percent of Americans do not have access to transit.

One of the proposed solutions to this challenge is The GROW AMERICA Act, a six-year bill that would increase investment for our nation’s highways, bridges, transit, and rail systems by 45%. The proposal is funded by supplementing current revenues from the Highway Trust Fund in combination with a 14 percent transition tax on an estimated $2 trillion of untaxed foreign earnings that U.S. Companies have accumulated overseas.

Critical investments are needed to help communities keep pace with our expanding economy, our growing population, and the traveling needs of the public. This animated video explains the key features of the GROW AMERICA Act and why we need to move forward on a long-term surface transportation bill.

How would you address the funding challenges in our transportation infrastructure?

For more information on this proposed bill and other transportation topics, please visit www.transportation.gov.

photo credit: 2008 06 09 – 3057 – Baltimore – I-895 at Moravia Rd via photopin (license)

2015 Western Bridge Preservation Partnership Meeting

Bridge Preservation
A few months ago, “60 Minutes” aired an insightful report about America’s aging infrastructure. According to the peice, titled “Falling apart: America’s neglected infrastructure“, 1 in 9 of the 700,000 bridges in the United States is considered “structurally deficient”.

Transportation activists and professionals agree there is an urgent need for lawmakers to invest in the much needed restoration of America’s outdated roads, rails, airports, seaports and bridges. One of the biggest challenges facing transportation engineering and maintenance personnel today is maintaining the integrity of these massive structures used by millions of people every day.

“Our highway infrastructure took decades and generations of Americans to build and is simply too valuable to be left to languish,” says Larry Galehouse, National Center for Pavement Preservation (NCPP) in this post. “As with any valuable asset, we must work hard to preserve it by judicious and timely proactive maintenance.”

Our POLYQuik Performance Products team is looking forward to meeting with bridge practitioners from state and local agencies, contractors, consultants, suppliers, academia, and federal government officials at the 2015 Western Bridge Preservation Partnership Meeting May 18-20, 2015 in Portland, Oregon. The event is a regional forum dedicated to bridge preservation practices throughout the Western Region.

Bridge Preservation is defined as “actions or strategies that prevent, delay or reduce deterioration of bridges or bridge elements, restore the function of existing bridges, keep bridges in good condition and extend their life.” Source: AASHTO Board of Directors, Policy Resolution PR-3-11, October 17, 2011.

The experienced chemists and engineers in our POLYQuik division continue to research and create high performance concrete repair products that are successfully utilized in bridge maintenance. The conference is an opportunity for us to share our concrete repair solutions with bridge maintenance managers, superintendents, designers, crews, planners, programmers, inspectors along with local, state, federal, and other agency bridge owners involved in bridge maintenance activities.

photo credit: “Old Town” Tbilisi and the Mktvari River via photopin (license)

US DOT Unveils Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices

 U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx examines the aging infrasture in our country. Photo via instagram.com/usdot.

In 30 years, how will you travel? That is the question the U.S. Dept. of Transportation wants us to ask ourselves. U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was joined recently by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to unveil US DOT’s 30 Year Framework for the Future, Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices.

Beyond Traffic looks at the latest data and anticipates the trends and choices facing our transportation system over the next three decades. If we do not make significant changes, the US DOT predicts our country will face a grim future which will include extreme gridlock, higher costs, and more devastation to our already aging infrastructure.

Secretary Foxx’s draft framework for the future of transportation encourages us to ask ourselves the tough questions, look at the trends, and – hopefully – inspire some innovative thinkers to come up with solutions. “For too long, our national dialogue about transportation has been focused on recreating the past. Instead, we need to focus on the trends that are shaping our future,” he says.

How will we build a transportation system to accommodate a growing population and changing travel patterns?

How will we move things? By 2045, freight volume will increase 45 percent.

How will we build a transportation system that doesn’t just let a growing population travel – but lets them travel SAFER than ever?

How do we make our infrastructure more resilient for a time when weather events like Hurricane Sandy will occur with increasing frequency?

How can we invest the trillions of dollars our transportation needs in the smartest way possible?

These are the questions the US DOT wants us to tackle. So how can advances in robotics, research, and automation help us overcome the dramatic challenges the American transportation network is facing and change the future transportation?

Be a part of this important conversation and share your ideas at www.dot.gov/beyondtraffic.

More about Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices
Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices is structured in three parts. The first part discusses the major trends shaping our changing transportation system. The second part discusses the implications of these trends for each mode of transportation: highways, transit, pedestrian and bicycle, aviation, intercity and freight rail, maritime and pipeline. The third part presents a description of a possible future scenario based on the trends analyzed in the previous section.