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Still cleaning up from Gustav, US transport system takes a hit from Hurricane Ike

US Department of Transportation Secretary Mary Peters announced $4 million had been made available in emergency relief funds for Louisiana and Mississippi to help pay for urgent repairs to roads and bridges damaged in floods in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav.

"We want states to get roads cleared, bridges reopened and traffic moving as quickly as possible,” said Secretary Peters.

"Restoring transportation links is key in the aftermath of a natural disaster," said FHWA Administrator Thomas J. Madison. The Federal Highway Administration's emergency relief program provides funds to states for the repair or reconstruction of federal-aid highways damaged by natural disasters or catastrophic events. The program typically works on a reimbursable basis. These emergency relief funds are provided from the General Fund of the Treasury and not the Highway Trust Fund.

Freight traffic on US railroads was off during the first week of September in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported. The was at least partly because of weather-related issues (Hurricane Gustav at the beginning of the week and Tropical Storm Hanna later in the week). (Both this year's week and the comparison week from last year included the Labor Day holiday.)

Total volume was estimated 32.0 billion ton-miles, down 3.3% from the comparable week in 2007.

Carload freight in the week totaled 306,340 cars, off 3.5% from last year. Volume was down 1.7% in the West and 6.1% in the East.

Intermodal volume, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 200,876 trailers or containers, down 3.4% from a year ago. Trailer volume was off 2.8% while container traffic was down 3.5%.

Cumulative volume for the first 36 weeks of 2008 totaled 11,705,340 carloads, up 0.2% from 2007; 8,029,188 trailers or containers, down 2.9%; and total volume of an estimated 1.2 trillion ton-miles, up 1.3% from last year. (A ton-mile is a measure of one ton of frieght moved one mile.)

Just ahead of Hurricane Ike making US landfall, Kansas City Southern Railway Co. (KCSR) initiated its hurricane plan, issued embargoes, moved equipment out of yards and staged maintenance of way resources to make any necessary repairs.

The KCSR embargo covered Beaumont and Port Arthur, Texas, including interchange with UP and BNSF at Beaumont and interchange with UP at Port Arthur. Embargoes were also issued for the following stations in Texas: Corpus Christi, Robstown, Spear, Alice, Matthews, Realitos, Milepost 74, Hebronville, Killam and Laredo. This includes interchange with BNSF, CCPN and UP at Corpus Christi and BNSF and UP at Robstown.

The railroad noted delays could be expected through this corridor as Hurricane Ike passed and until a post-hurricane assessment could be made.

From the office of Homeland Security:

Secretary Chertoff stated on September 13th, “Hurricane Ike has struck the coast of Texas and the west coast of Louisiana, but the effects of the storm including an exceptionally broad storm surge have been felt as far away as eastern Louisiana and Mississippi and down the Texas coast. By way of illustration, we've had some very, very significant surges in the area: Beaumont, particularly Orange County and Cameron Parrish in Louisiana, have been very hard hit with a surge. Lake Charles, for example, in Louisiana, is experiencing some flooding as are other parts of Cameron County. Although the impact in the city of Galveston and the Houston ship channel was not quite as bad as worst case scenario, it was still very substantial.”

[The Port of Houston was without power and remained closed as of Monday, Sept. 15th.]

“We're talking about surges of 16 feet, maybe more in certain isolated inland places,” Chertoff continued.

“Our principle focus at this moment is search and rescue. More than 50 aircraft are currently engaging in that effort. Coast Guard has a couple of Falcons that are currently flying and Coast Guard, Department of Defense, National Guard, over 50, are airborne conducting search and rescue operations. Again, we're particularly focused on those areas hit with storm surge.”

An estimated 2.2 million people were evacuated in Texas and Louisiana also estimates a significant number of evacuations, over 130,000.

View complete coverage of Hurricane Ike from Outsourced Logistics and other Penton Media publications.

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