Category Archives: Ecology

New York’s Cuomo Tries to Bail Out Dying Nukes

New York’s “liberal” Governor Andrew Cuomo is trying to ram through a complex backdoor bailout package worth up to $11 billion to keep at least four dangerously decrepit nuclear reactors operating.

To many proponents of safe energy, the move comes as a shock. Its outcome will have monumental consequences for nuclear power and the future of our energy supply.

For years, Governor Cuomo has made a public show of working to shut down two Entergy-owned reactors at Indian Point, thirty-five miles north of Manhattan. He and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have fought Entergy in court, trying to stop operations. They warn that the reactors are too dangerous to run so close to New York City, which cannot be evacuated in case of a major accident. More than ten million people live within a fifty-mile radius of Indian Point, whose two operating reactors opened in the 1970s.

Entergy is now trying to get the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend the expired operating licenses for the two plants, Indian Point Two and Three. (Indian Point Unit One was shut in October 1974 due to its lack of an Emergency Core Cooling System).

Cuomo claims he still wants to close Indian Point Two and Three. Like most aging reactors, they have been continually plagued with leaks, mechanical failures, structural collapse, and unplanned shutdowns. Recent revelations of major problems with critical bolts within Indian Point’s core structure, and tritium leaks into the broader environment, have deepened public opposition.

The national and local groups fighting to shut Indian Point, some for decades, include Riverkeepers, Clearwater, the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, the Nuclear Information & Resource Service, Beyond Nuclear, Friends of the Earth, and many more.

But now Cuomo wants to earmark more than $7 billion in public money, for starters, to keep four upstate nuclear reactors on line. One is the Ginna reactor, near Rochester; the other three—FitzPatrick, Nine Mile Point One, and Nine Mile Point Two—occupy a single site on Lake Ontario. Fitzpatrick is owned by Entergy. The rest are owned by Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear power owner/operator.

All four reactors are in various stages of advanced deterioration and were slated for permanent closure. Without massive public subsidies, none can compete with natural gas or with wind and solar, which are rapidly dropping in price.

Entergy announced last fall that economic factors would force it to shut Fitzpatrick in January 2017. Exelon told the New York Public Service Commission that it would probably shut Nine Mile 1 and Ginna next year as well.

Environmentalists hailed the announcements. The aging U.S. fleet now involves about 100 reactors, down from a maximum of about 130, and 900 fewer than the 1,000 Richard Nixon predicted in 1974. Many of them, like Ginna, are well over forty years old. Many are known to be leaking various radioactive substances, most commonly tritium, as at Indian Point. Major leaks have also recently been revealed at FitzPatrick. Structural problems like Indian Point’s missing bolts and a crumbling shield building at Ohio’s Davis-Besse are rampant.

Nonetheless, in a complex twelve-year package ostensibly meant to promote clean energy, Cuomo’s PSC has passed a huge subsidy plan meant keep the four upstate reactors going

The deal’s arcane terms involve a transfer of Fitzpatrick from Entergy to Exelon. The handouts from the public to the nuclear industry would be spread over more than a decade. Ironically, they could, under certain circumstances, also be used to keep open the two reactors at Indian Point.

Cuomo has made much of “saving” some 2,000 reactor jobs jobs in a depressed region where unemployment is rampant. But Stanford economist Mark Jacobson has shown that the billions spent to keep the reactors open could create tens of thousands of jobs throughout the state if spent on pursuing wind and solar energy and increased efficiency. Those sources could provide New York with far more energy at a much cheaper rate, without the long-term safety, ecological, and public health problems caused by the aging reactors.

Cuomo has also cited former climate expert James Hanson, claiming the prolonged nuke operations will not emit carbon. But the pro-nukers ignore the four reactors’ huge hot water and steam releases.

U.S. reactors each dump some 800 million to 1.25 billion gallons of hot water and steam into the environment every day, a major source of global warming. The estimate for the daily emissions at California’s double-reactor plant at Diablo Canyon is about 2.5 billion gallons of hot water per day. Only about one-third of the energy U.S. reactors produce actually makes it onto the grid in the form of useable electricity. About ten percent of that is then lost in transmission.

Nuke operators throughout the United States are watching to see if New York’s proposed subsidies will keep set a precedent for states to jump in and keep money-losing reactors operating as they crumble. Exelon has lost a fight for billions in Illinois. Environmental, consumer, and even competing utilities are fighting huge bailout demands from FirstEnergy for its Davis-Besse reactor near Toledo.

At the turn of the twenty-first century, the industry fought for deregulation, arguing that its reactors would do well in a “free market economy.” But in the process it demanded (and got) about $100 billion in public handouts for “stranded costs” that it argued were unfairly imposed on its massively inefficient technology.

Now that the reactors are failing even after that huge cash infusion, the industry wants another round of huge subsidies

Meanwhile, there are some positive signs. In California, a turning-point deal has been cut at Diablo Canyon with the state, Pacific Gas & Electric, the plant’s unions and major environmental groups to shut the two huge reactors in about nine years, when their licenses expire. In the meantime, the utility will shift almost entirely to carbon-free wind and solar, and will “retain and retrain” the bulk of the plant’s workers.

California’s anti-nuke community worries that the nine years left for Diablo to operate are too much. The two reactors sit on or near a dozen earthquake faults, and are just forty-five miles from the San Andreas, half the distance Fukushima was from the epicenter of the quake that destroyed it.

But the deal marks the first time a nuclear utility has admitted that all the power from its reactors can come instead from renewables. And it’s the first major phase-out plan to allow for a transition for both the plant’s workers and the nearby communities, which will lose a substantial tax base when the reactors close.

With such developments as a backdrop, the New York fight could be a serious turning point in nuke power’s last battle.

The reaction among New York anti-nuke groups to Cuomo’s handout has been fierce. The battle heads back to the PSC in the form of public comment, and then into the courts. Opponents are buoyed by the growing success of the state’s solar industry. As the interests tied to Solartopian technologies expand, their opposition to bailouts like this escalates.

It’s unclear how the battle over nuclear power in New York will be resolved. “The fight,” promises Tim Judson of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, “is far from over.”

Harvey Wasserman, The Progressive

MTA gears up for systemwide subway cleanup

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) next month will launch a multipronged plan to clean up trash on New York City subway tracks.

Dubbed “Operation Track Sweep,” the initiative is aimed at improving the station environment and reducing track fires and delays caused by garbage and debris on the track, according to an MTA press release.

As part of the plan, MTA on Sept. 12 will kick off a two-week track cleaning “blitz” at all 469 stations. The cleanup on underground stations will be performed at night, when ridership is the lowest, MTA officials said. During the day, workers will clean tracks at outdoor and elevated stations.

In addition, MTA is working with two manufacturers to develop a portable track vacuum system that can be deployed quickly, operated from platforms and easily moved from one station to the next. Vacuum prototypes are slated to arrive in November or December, MTA officials said.

The agency also has ordered three new track vacuum trains, with the first two trains arriving in 2017. The vacuum trains can remove up to 14 cubic yards of trash each day, according to the MTA.

Moreover, the agency will purchase 27 new refuse cars to support the expanded cleaning effort. The units are equipped with special railings to secure and transport wheeled garbage containers that are collected at subway stations.

Toronto proposes massive new ‘Rail Deck Park’ in city’s downtown

Toronto Mayor John Tory and Councillor Joe Cressy last week announced a plan to build a new, 21-acre park above Metrolinx tracks in the city’s downtown core.

To protect the rail corridor and build the park, the city will have to secure air rights in the area and create a plan amendment to ensure the space is developed for public use only, according to a press release issued by Tory’s office.

The city would create the park by decking over the corridor, which would create a “marquee green space” for the high-density surrounding neighborhoods and help connect the city to its waterfront, the release stated.

The park would be similar to Chicago’s Millennium Park and New York City’s Hudson Yards development, both of which transformed rail corridors into “iconic spaces,” according to Tory’s release.

“Great cities have great parks. As Toronto grows, we need to take bold action to create public space and make sure we build a city that makes future generations proud,” Tory said. “This is our last chance to secure a piece of land that could transform the way we experience our city.”

The initiative is part of Toronto’s TOCore project, which is a response to the rapid development of the city’s downtown.

No clear timeline or cost for the project has been determined as of yet, according to a CBC News report.

MTA, New York health officials take aim at Zika transmission in subways

MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast (left), Gov. Andrew Cuomo (center) and New York State Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker (right) place larvicide in an area of standing water at the Whitehall Street station in Manhattan.
Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and New York state health officials are implementing measures to prevent the transmission of the Zika virus in New York City’s subways, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday.

In cooperation with the MTA, the New York State Department of Health is deploying larvicide tablets in standing water inside the subway system to decrease the prevalence of potential breeding grounds for the albopictus mosquito, which is present in the state.

Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Aedes albopictus is active in southeastern New York.

The mosquitoes lay eggs in or near water, and their offspring remain in the water before emerging as adults that fly and bite.

MTA and New York State health officials will target 36 priority locations to eliminate standing water in subways by increasing drainage and deploying larvicide as needed, according to a press release issued by Cuomo’s office.

“With 6 million daily subway customers, the MTA takes public health concerns just as seriously as our operational safety,” said MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Tom Prendergast.

About 13 million gallons of water enter the subway system daily through precipitation, groundwater intrusion and water used to clean platforms, Prendergast noted.

As a result, the serious threat of the Zika virus “makes it even more important to have clean, functioning drains, and adequate pump equipment, aggressive inspection and pumping schedules to remove standing water,” said Prendergast.

Health officials also will place traps to monitor the mosquito population and test and report the presence of the albopictus mosquito throughout the system.

To date, 537 confirmed cases of the Zika virus have been reported in New York. The vast majority of the cases were travel-related. Of confirmed cases, 414 were in New York City.

FRA begins environmental impact review for Hudson tunnel project

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday published its notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement with New Jersey Transit for the proposed Hudson tunnel project, according to the Federal Register.

The project involves the construction of a new rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River, including the railroad infrastructure in New Jersey and New York to connect the new tunnel to the Northeast Corridor (NEC), as well as rehabilitating the corridor’s existing tunnel known as the North River Tunnel, according to the notice.

The environmental impact statement will evaluate the project’s potential environmental impacts of a range of alternatives, as well as the “no build” option.

As necessary, the FRA and NJ Transit will coordinate the statement with Amtrak — which owns the tunnel — and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The FRA is soliciting written comments on the scope of the statement by May 31. In addition, the FRA and NJ Transit will hold scoping meetings on May 17 in New York City and May 19 in New Jersey.

The tunnel system is a critical component of the NEC, as it is the only intercity passenger rail crossing into New York City from New Jersey. Amtrak and NJ Transit provide connections between the major cities of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states and commuter connections for people heading into and out of New York City.

NY state comptroller calls on feds to tighten safety measures for oil trains

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli earlier this week asked the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to strengthen safety measures to prevent oil spills and other hazardous accidents on the state’s railways and require oil transporters to carry sufficient insurance to cover cleanup costs and other liabilities in the event of a major incident.

In an April 25 letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, DiNapoli noted that accidents could overwhelm New York communities and environment, as well as the financial resources of state and local governments if the incidents occur without sufficient insurance coverage on the part of shippers and railroads.

DiNapoli, who is the state’s chief fiscal officer and administrator of the New York Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund, cited a USDOT finding that oil shippers and the railroads they use carry insurance that may not be sufficient to cover liabilities resulting from a serious accident involving trains carrying crude oil or other hazardous materials.

“A major accident could impose not only tragic human costs, but loss of local jobs and tax revenues,” DiNapoli said in a press release. “The state has stepped up inspections, but incidents such as the recent derailment in Ripley, N.Y. demonstrate that the risk of a disaster remains a major concern. Federal regulators must do more to protect the taxpayers and communities of New York.”

Trains hauling hazardous or flammable materials cross 21 New York counties.

DiNapoli’s proposed safety measures would:

• assess the need to designate additional municipalities requiring slower train speeds;

• consider rerouting trains carrying hazardous materials around population centers;

• ensure adequate resources and oversight are directed toward track and rail-car maintenance;

• review the FRA’s Action Plan for the Safe Transportation of Energy Products to determine if additional measures are needed to limit risks at grade crossings;

• partner with state and local officials to evaluate emergency response planning and preparedness and determine if adequate resources are available to respond to high-risk spills;

• require that railroad safety plans called for in new federal rules and the results of track and rail-car safety monitoring are shared with State Emergency Response Commissions; and 

• require railroads to obtain insurance or provide financial security to cover emergency response, remediation and other liabilities associated with major accidents.

March Against Monsanto Happening Everywhere May 21

hy do we march?

Research studies have shown that Monsanto’s genetically-modified foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects. In the United States, the FDA, the agency tasked with ensuring food safety for the population, is steered by ex-Monsanto executives, and we feel that’s a questionable conflict of interests and explains the lack of government-lead research on the long-term effects of GMO products. Recently, the U.S. Congress and president collectively passed the nicknamed “Monsanto Protection Act” that, among other things, bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.

For too long, Monsanto has been the benefactor of corporate subsidies and political favoritism. Organic and small farmers suffer losses while Monsanto continues to forge its monopoly over the world’s food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup. Monsanto’s GMO seeds are harmful to the environment; for example, scientists have indicated they have caused colony collapse among the world’s bee population.

What are solutions we advocate for?

Vote with your dollar by buying organic and boycotting Monsanto owned companies that use GMOs in their products. Labeling of GMOs so that consumers can make those informed decisions easier. Repealing relevant provisions of the US’s “Monsanto Protection Act.” Calling for further scientific research on the health effects of GMOs. Holding Monsanto executives and Monsanto-supporting politicians accountable through direct communication, grassroots journalism, social media, etc. Continuing to inform the public about Monsanto’s secrets. Taking to the streets to show the world and Monsanto that we won’t take these injustices quietly. We will not stand for cronyism. We will not stand for poison. That’s why we March Against Monsanto.

Please click here to find an event near you.

By NationofChange

Suppliers of vegetation management equipment and services expect a busy year on the brush-control front

Vegetation management is a fact of life for railroads, and it can be a challenge to keep pace with nature’s progress. “One thing is certain: Vegetation will continue to grow and require maintenance on rail lines nationwide,” said Scott Balderson, president and chief executive officer of Dymax Inc., which offers a range of railroad maintenance equipment.

What’s also certain is that manufacturers will continue to develop more versatile, compact and mobile ways to remove brush and other growth that can interfere with rail operations.

In recent years, however, the increased prevalence of the emerald ash borer and pine beetle has complicated vegetation management efforts in some parts of the United States.

An Asian beetle that feasts on species of ash trees and likely arrived in the United States in the early 2000s on wood packing material carried in cargo ships, the emerald ash borer has cost municipalities, property owners and forest products industries hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Michigan State University’s Emerald Ash Borer Information Network.

“Some areas have already been completely destroyed, leaving no ash remaining, but other areas are soon to be caught in the crosshairs,” said Mike Heridia, president of All Railroad Services Corp., a full-service vegetation management company that serves the rail industry. “Some of our customers are doing like most owners of public and privately owned rights-of-way and completely removing the ash trees before they die. When ash trees die, there is no root system left to hold them up. When this occurs, the cost of tree removal increases by up to 500 percent, because of the danger to the crews trying to remove it.”

Similarly, pine beetles attack old or weakened pine trees. Experts suggest that climate change has increased the size and severity of the pine beetle outbreak in North America. The insects, they say, have a significant effect on the capability of trees to remove greenhouse gases (or carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere.

The damage caused by pine beetles and the emerald ash borer are just a couple reasons suppliers of vegetation management equipment and services expect to be busy this year. Progressive Railroading recently asked a sampling of contractors and equipment providers to discuss their product offerings, as well as how 2016 is shaping up, business wise. Their emailed responses follow.

All Railroad Services Corp.

All Railroad Services Corp. (ARS) offers a variety of vegetation management services, including brush and tree cutting (both on-track and off-track), pole-line removal, wood-tie removal, land clearing projects and specialized cleaning of yard tracks. ARS also offers emergency services under the most extreme weather conditions to help keep trains rolling.

The company provides more than 300 pieces of equipment to Class Is, regionals, short lines and transit authorities in 26 states.

In terms of business activity, ARS officials expect 2016 to be better than 2015.

“Right-of-way maintenance isn’t something you can just stop,” President Mike Heridia said.

Asplundh Railroad Division

Part of Asplundh Tree Expert Co., Asplundh Railroad Division provides both herbicide and mechanical cutting services throughout North America, and has eight fleet and office facilities in the United States and Canada. The company’s services include cutting and mulching limbs, trees, vines and brush, as well as mowing, crossing maintenance, ballast or trackside brush spraying, and fire suppression services.

In addition to traditional hi-rail aerial lifts, chippers and spray trucks, Asplundh maintains a fleet of specialized units such as its Eco-Cutter dual-action cutting and spraying machine, hi-rail side trimmers with telescopic booms and a spray train that can hold up to 80,000 gallons.

With GPS and vehicle-locating technology installed in all of its vehicles, Asplundh can ensure railroad personnel know exactly where Asplundh crews are on the track and obtain an electronic record of where herbicides were applied or vegetation was cut.

“Over the last several years, we have been able to really adapt our operations to our customers’ needs for specialized technology and equipment,” said Regional Manager Randal Haines. “We’ve been able to improve efficiencies and reduce track time, which in turn enables our customers to expand their vegetation management programs and increase the overall amount of work completed on a yearly basis.”

Brandt Road Rail Corp.

The Brand Rail Tool is a brush-cutting product that also can be used to handle materials and move dirt. It features a 200-horsepower auxiliary engine, rail-car braking system, AAR couplers on each end of the machine and heavy-duty rail gear, and it can travel up to 30 mph on rail.

Among Brandt’s newest products is the RTB 130 hi-rail backhoe, a multimodal excavator and wheel loader in one versatile machine. Mounted on a John Deere 710 base chassis and powered by a 130-horsepower engine and high capacity hydraulics, the RTB 130 can accomplish a variety of tasks, including brush cutting, and its reach can extend 26 feet.

“Things are looking positive for 2016,” Sales Manager Shaun Gettis said. “We have expanded our sales team and are very excited for some of our new products coming on line.”

Dymax Inc.

Dymax has a long history in rail maintenance, and it has an even longer one in providing attachments for vegetation management. The Dymax Limb Shear offers safe and fast pruning of branches and limbs. Meanwhile, the Dymax VortexMax resembles a mower and is designed to “obliterate vegetation of up to six inches in diameter,” President and CEO Scott Balderson said. As a result, the VortexMax “makes short work of small trees and runaway brush,” he added.

These work tools operate best on hydraulic excavators, he added, and when paired with the RailRider MP, they offer a complete hi-rail solution to vegetation management. The MP series of RailRiders is available in eight-, 12- and 20-ton excavator models, and the carts are propelled by the excavator’s hydraulic system without any modifications to the excavator. This enables the machine to be a high-rail workhorse, while also working in the right of way, under bridges and any other areas not accessible from the rail, Balderson said.

“Though Class I capital spending will be down somewhat in 2016, maintenance work will continue,” he added. “We believe that with our improved products and newly introduced products, along with demand from outside North America, sales growth will continue in 2016.”

K.W. Reese Inc.

Founded in 1972, K.W. Reese Inc. specializes in railroad right-of-way widening, danger tree removal and storm restoration services for railroads, private rail owners and transit authorities in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.

The company performs most of its work with hi-rail-equipped bucket trucks, chippers and grapple trucks, which reduce the risk of flying debris from mechanized clearing equipment. Trees can be removed safely from just a few feet away from buildings and other structures, company officials said.

As a full-service railroad contractor, K.W. Reese also can perform other services during the same work window, including ditching, tie replacement and derailment cleanup, said President Jeffrey Reese. Crews are available around the clock.

Knox Kershaw Inc.

Knox Kershaw offers a Diamond Mowers Inc. brush cutter attachment for its KSF 940 Snow Fighter/Ballast Regulator, which allows for the control of light brush and grass, the company said. Mower heads are available in rotary and flail styles.

The boom actuator comes with 90-degree movement forward and 75-degree movement backward. It also offers high-load bearing capacity and a breakaway feature to prevent stress on the boom. The brush cutter arms can be mounted on one or both sides of the machine, and the saw-blade option passes close to the track to cut through fallen debris.

“Our machine and parts sales remain strong in 2016 and we are always striving to improve and innovate,” said Sales Manager Jaky Felix. “In the vegetation control segment, we expect an increase in sales because more and more customers are discovering the brush cutter attachment and have been impressed.”

Loftness Specialized Equipment Inc.

Loftness Specialized Equipment Inc. manufactures the VM Logix line of compact equipment for right-of-way vegetation management. The line includes mulching head attachments and compact mechanical tree trimmers designed to clear vegetation in areas larger equipment cannot easily access.

“We expect a strong 2016, as there is always a need to maintain right of ways,” said Product Development

Supervisor Bill Schafer. “Additionally, there is a lot of potential for compact equipment to play a much larger role in this industry, due to the increased efficiencies that can be gained.”

In January, Loftness introduced a redesigned mulching head for its Carbide Cutter line.

Available in 61- and 71-inch cutting widths, the new Carbide Cutter G4 features a larger variable-displacement piston motor to provide more torque and quicker recovery than previous models. It also boasts a new positive-cogged belt drive to more efficiently transfer horsepower to the rotor, and the primary shear bar is now adjustable to vary particle size and production rate.

Other additions include a redesigned body to help prevent internal build-up of debris, new skid shoe adjustments to allow grinding below grade and improved hose routing to reduce the chance of damage.

Mitchell Rail Gear

Mitchell Rail Gear’s vegetation management solution is “economical mobile equipment that can get on/off track quickly,” said President Estel

Lovitt Jr. Equipment offerings include the company’s track skid steer loader or backhoe loader equipped with Mitchell Rail Gear’s suspension system for traveling over uneven track. The track skid steer loader and backhoe loader — the backbone of many railroad track construction repair sites — can accommodate a variety of bucket, snow blower and brush cutter attachments.

“With the attachment system, machines can travel to overgrown vegetation areas and get off the track to take care of problem areas without shutting down the track for long periods of time,” Lovitt said. “The mobile equipment can be used in the winter for blowing snow off the rail and for vegetation control during the warm season.”

Lovitt expects strong sales this year, thanks to increased demand for versatile mobile construction equipment.

NMC Railway Systems

NMC Railway Systems continues to expand its line of hi-rail equipment to combat remote vegetation growth. One of the company’s most popular pieces of equipment is the CHX20E Hi-Rail Excavator, said Sales Manager Mark Anderson. The CHX20E features a 20-ton capacity and enables railroads and rail contractors to utilize multiple tool functionality, including brush cutters with a 36-inch diameter.

The flexibility of the CHX20E provides operators access to remote rail areas to manage potential overgrowth early in the season, the company said. When paired with a Rototilt, the operator has the ability to rotate the attachment head 360 degrees, allowing for full maintenance of vegetation overgrowth.

Combating vegetation early is key to controlling potential overgrowth, Anderson said. Pairing the brush cutter attachment with the hi-rail excavator provides operators access to remote track lines before trees bud.

“We’ve seen an increase in demand for machines that allow for multiple tool functionality like those in our hi-rail product line,” Anderson said. “Units from our hi-rail product line not only provide easier access to remote track lines for spot rail maintenance work, they also increase productivity on rail maintenance projects during open track windows.”

Rail Construction Equipment Co.

Rail Construction Equipment Co. (RCE) expanded its Railavator hi-rail excavator product line in 2015. Four new Railavator models now support a brush cutter and come in sizes of 85G, 135G, 245G and 250G, accommodating cutter heads up to 72 inches wide.

RCE’s brush cutters can be customized by excavator model (high rail and conventional) and size of tree grinding and brush clearing heads. The available mowing heads allow users to make clear and clean cuts without the hazards of flying debris.

“Uncontrolled vegetation is a safety and operational issue, so it continues to be a maintenance priority to our customers,” said Sales Manager Dennis Hanke. “We’ve noticed a mix of strategies in the current marketplace. Some railroads are building up their own maintenance fleets, while others are continuing to hire contractors.”

Michael Popke is a Madison, Wis.-based freelance writer. Email comments or questions to

Washington state DOT seeks input on rail-car program revival

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is seeking information from railroads and intermodal logistics companies to help determine if the department should revive the the former Washington Produce Rail Car program.

The department last week issued a request for information seeking proposals from parties interested in restoring the program. The deadline for submissions is May 2.

Federal funding may be available to support the program, but input from the freight community will help the department determine if it should pursue such funding, WSDOT officials said in a press release.

“Both the number and quality of submissions is important to this process,” said WSDOT Freight Rail Policy and Program Manager Chris Herman. “We’ll be looking at the level of demand, as well as assessing the experience of each submitter in managing temperature-controlled fleets and meeting strict service requirements for perishable shipments.”

The Produce Rail Car program originally launched in 2006 with federal and state funding. The program was suspended in 2012 when several private companies were expanding in the market.