Composite railroad-tie manufacturer TieTek LLC will supply more than 63,000 ties to the Chicago Transit Authority, the company announced.
The ties are being delivered now, and the project is slated to be complete next fall.
TieTek, based in Marshall, Texas, is the lone subsidiary of publicly traded holding company North American Technologies Group Inc.
Using a proprietary mix of recycled high density polyethylene, crumb rubber from used tires, fiberglass and minerals, TieTek can extrude 220,000 ties per year at its 200,000-square-foot plant in Marshall. The firm also operates a 50,000-square-foot plant in Houston that can produce about 100,000 ties a year. TieTek opened that plant in December, replacing an older, 25,000-square-foot facility there that was damaged by fire in April 2005.
Plastic ties are now commonplace in the rail industry, but there is still a long way to go before they become the industry standard.
Despite being made from recycled products, their material and engineering costs mean the plastic ties cost two or three times more than wood. Even a favorable lifetime cost analysis cannot convince many railroad companies to buy the ties in high volume.
At a composite tie workshop given by the Lanham, Md.-based American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association, materials engineer Rich Lampo said in a presentation that plastic ties are priced at $75-$125, while wood ties typically cost $35-$45.
Lampo is with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Ill.
Nonetheless, composite ties have become a focal point for the structural plastic lumber industry.
``The supply agreement ... represents significant progress in confirming the value proposition of the company's engineered composite ties for transit rail applications,'' said Alex Rankin, North American Technologies Group's chief executive officer, in a news release.