Union Pacific to invest $98 million in Arkansas lines, road crossings

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 92 views 

Union Pacific plans to invest $98 million in 2015 to improve Arkansas’ transportation infrastructure, the company announced Thursday, with some of that to be spent on rail lines and road crossings in the Van Buren area.

The railroad giant’s multi-million dollar private investment will enhance employee, community and customer safety and increase rail operating efficiency, the company said in news release on its website.

“We constantly evaluate our customers’ needs to make targeted investments that enhance our efficiency and deliver the goods American businesses and families use daily,” said Brenda Mainwaring, Union Pacific vice president of public affairs, Southern Region. “Continuing to aggressively invest in our infrastructure is an important element in Union Pacific’s unwavering safety commitment.”

Union Pacific’s planned investment in Arkansas covers a range of initiatives, including $81 million to maintain railroad track, $8 million to enhance signal systems and $8 million to maintain or replace bridges in the state. Key projects planned this year include:
• $23 million investment in the rail line between Gould and the border with Louisiana to replace 44 miles of rail and repair the surfaces at 65 road crossings;

• $9.7 million investment in the rail line between Knoxville and Van Buren to replace 65,251 railroad ties and install 28,107 tons of rock ballast. In addition, crews will repair the surfaces at 62 road crossings; and

• $7.1 million investment in the rail line between Hope and Texarkana to replace 50,383 railroad ties and install 21,910 tons of rock ballast. In addition, crews will repair the surfaces at 40 road crossings.

This year’s planned $98 million capital expenditure in Arkansas is part of an ongoing investment strategy. From 2010 to 2014 Union Pacific invested more than $663 million strengthening Arkansas’s transportation infrastructure.

Union Pacific plans to spend $4.2 billion across its network this year, following investments totaling more than $31 billion from 2005-2014. These investments contributed to a 38% decrease in derailments over the last 10 years.

Earlier Thursday, the nation’s largest railroad operator announced plans to invest $27 million to improve transportation infrastructure in Oklahoma, and another $72 million to upgrade its railway and transportation systems in Louisiana.

The infrastructure upgrades were announced by Union Pacific even though the Omaha, Nebraska-based railroad has furloughed about 900 railroad workers because shipping demand has been weaker than expected.

Last month, Union Pacific began reducing rail crews and storing some locomotives because shipping volume had been weaker than expected this year.

In Arkansas, Union Pacific operates more than 1,325 miles of track across the state and has nearly 3,000 employees with an annual payroll exceeding $246 million 2014. As Arkansas’ largest railroad, Union Pacific serves the food processing, forest products and poultry industries. Major commodities hauled by the railroad giant include soybeans, cotton, rice, bauxite, manganese and glass. In addition, the railroad is a vital link for western coal used by local electrical generating plants.

Union Pacific’s operational hub in Arkansas is located in North Little Rock, where the railroad operates the Downing B. Jenks locomotive repair shop — the largest and most modern on the system. North Little Rock is also home to Union Pacific’s second-largest freight car classification yard.

Beyond North Little Rock, Union Pacific operates a $70 million state-of-the-art, 600-acre intermodal facility at Marion (10 miles west of Memphis) and a classification yard at Pine Bluff. Amtrak operates passenger train service over Union Pacific’s main line through Arkansas, connecting St. Louis and Texas.

According to company officials, Union Pacific invested more than $663 million in Arkansas transportation infrastructure from 2010 to 2014. Nationwide, Union Pacific has nearly 49,000 employees and is the largest railroad transportation company in North America, covering 23 states in the western two-thirds of the United States.

In the first quarter, Union Pacific reported net income of $1.2 billion, or $1.30 per diluted share, compared to $1.1 billion, or $1.19 per diluted share, in the first three months of 2014. Operating revenue for the quarter was of $5.6 billion, same as a year ago.