Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 5 No. 2, January 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

 

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...


Empire Builder departs

Amtrak: Sharon Slaton

Amtrak flagman and Track department foreman Peter Eklund signals his track gang to wait in the clear as the Empire Builder departs Chicago. The location is within Lake Street Interlocking. A photo feature appears in “Running extra.”

 

Amtrak board nominees
tied up in hill: politics

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

The three nominees to the Amtrak Board of Directors are apparently pawns in a not unusual game of Capitol Hill politics.

Two of the three, former American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall and corporate turnaround specialist Floyd Hall, have been voted out of the Senate Commerce Committee. Their nominations are in the hands of the Senate leadership, which will determine when their names go to the Senate floor for a vote.

The third nominee, former World Bank rail advisor and onetime FRA official Louis S. Thompson, remains in a less certain position. His name has been sent back to the White House, even though – to quote committee spokesman Sean Russell – the Senate panel “has no problem with him.”

Why then was his name sent back to the White House?

“Lord only knows,” Russell told D:F on Friday. The Senate staffer indicated there was some political maneuvering going on behind the scenes, whereby some nominees were being held back for reasons not necessarily related to the positions for which they had been nominated.

It was unclear exactly what the issues were, except that Russell said the focus is on quite a few nominations to agencies of the USDOT. Calls on Friday to the offices of the Majority and Minority leaders of the Senate were unanswered as of deadline.

Ironically, of the three nominees, Thompson has been the most active in making his views on Amtrak known to anyone interested. This is contrary to the usual practice of nominees of waiting until they’re safely confirmed before making public pronouncements, other than testimony at their confirmation hearings.

Last month, Thompson spoke off the record to a group of rail-oriented specialists in Washington.

More publicly, he has e-mailed a series of answers to questions that Amtrak supporters are likely to ask.

For example, this comment on “privatization” of Amtrak, partial or total:

“I do not advocate privatization of rail passenger services, neither in the U.S. generally, nor specifically of Amtrak’s services. What I do advocate is exploring a means to strengthen and improve the efficiency or quality of rail passenger services, which could, in the right circumstances, include participation. In other countries I have seen routes concessioned or contracted, and I have seen services contracted. Which of those approaches would work, if any, in the U.S., I do not know. It would depend on Amtrak’s costs, the service needs, the competition, and the ability to reach acceptable arrangements with all affected parties.”

Thompson goes on to say he does not think Amtrak should ape the ill-fated British experience in “privatization,” mainly because it was so incredibly fragmented and had been done “almost overnight and without a fully developed, continuing government vision as to the future public role in providing rail passenger services.”

Meanwhile, two items appearing on Railway Age’s website last week are related (however indirectly) to all of this.

A restructuring plan at the USDOT would fold the Office of Pipeline Safety into the Federal Railroad Administration. The two are described as “operationally similar.” The new agency would be the Federal Railroad and Pipeline Administration (FRPA). It would be part of an overall DOT reorganization. Whether this has anything to do with the holdup of Senate confirmation of DOT nominees is not clear.

Railway Age also noted more than one billion riders boarded British intercity and commuter trains in the fiscal year ended September 30, 2003, which was the highest numbers since 1961. That would indicate whatever disasters the badly fragmented British “privatization” venture may have produced, they have not chilled rail travel’s popularity with the British public. Our British cousins like their trains.


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Amtrak gains riders

New commuter rail line coming?

Amtrak is on a roll in central Connecticut, reports the Meriden Record-Journal, with twice as many passengers as a year ago riding the rails that go through Wallingford and Meriden. At the state level, planners are getting ready to release a proposal for an all-out commuter train system that could cost several hundred million dollars to build.

Ridership on Amtrak along the line between Springfield, Mass., and New Haven, Conn., was up 107 percent, to 31,000, in the seven months from May through November, according to Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel in Washington, D.C.

Fares were reduced by up to 30 percent and five daily trains added to the schedule in late April.

The increase is credited almost completely to the local incentives. The total of Amtrak passengers traveling through New Haven for all of the railroad’s destinations was up 8 percent.

In Connecticut, the Amtrak initiative coincides with a state-level proposal to start a separate commuter rail service that would add as many as 30 weekday trains in each direction. The legislature would have to approve funding for the project in the midst of the state’s continuing budget squeeze.

The Amtrak changes are part of its national initiative to fill more seats by gaining commuting passengers to augment long-distance travelers. The railroad reported that nationwide ridership was up 12 percent in November compared to the previous year, totaling 2.1 million passengers.

Regional service with standard trains in the Washington-Boston corridor was up 15 percent. The region’s Metroliner and high-speed premium Acela Express services carried 10 percent more riders. The two-year-old Boston-Portland, Maine, service was up 9 percent.

For Wallingford, the increased number of Amtrak trains had a downside – two trains each day began skipping the Wallingford stop, trimming three minutes off their running times. Amtrak’s schedulers encountered a tight squeeze in fitting together the timetables for each train on the busy line, which also carries heavy freight traffic. Amtrak increased its one-way runs on the 62-mile line from 11 to 16 per day, eight in each direction.

On November 24, however, Amtrak restored the Wallingford stop for one of the trains, a northbound afternoon rush-hour run from New Haven that reaches Wallingford at 5:28 p.m.

”It worked out in the end. The Amtrak people were really pretty good to deal with,” said Betsy Dyer, a Wallingford resident who commutes by Amtrak to her job in Bridgeport. She organized an informal group of passengers in a campaign to get the stop restored.

Any plan to add a new commuter service to the line will encounter the same issue, exacerbated because Amtrak tore up the second track in 1990 to save on maintenance costs. About 40 percent of the line still has the second track in several passing sidings.

Meanwhile, January is the target date for release of a consultant’s report with the first detailed outline of the central Connecticut commuter rail proposal.

It’s expected to be a middle-of-the-road compromise between a $484 million maximum-build plan and an $80 million minimum-build plan. The consultant, Wilbur Smith Associates of New Haven, released those descriptions in October.

Wallingford would be the busiest suburban station on the line, with about 350 to 400 people per day boarding trains, according to estimates in the October report. An estimated 170 to 240 passengers would board in Meriden, depending on the level of service provided.

The maximum-build option was developed as a statement of an ideal rail service, but its costs are unreasonably high, according to Kari Watson, a transportation analyst with Wilbur Smith Associates.

“There are not enough people on the line to justify trains every 15 minutes. We were trying to push it to give a starting point for looking at what we could do without,” she said.

State Rep. James W. Abrams (D) anticipates that many major parts of the maximum-build scenario will be included in the plan.

“It won’t have all the bells and whistles, but I’m hoping it has real substance. The minimum-build type of service really isn’t worth doing. It just won’t attract the ridership,” he said. Abrams is a leading proponent of the commuter service.

Even the maximum-build option omitted an earlier proposal to provide train service to Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks by upgrading a little-used freight spur. That was dismissed as too expensive and was replaced by a proposal for shuttle buses from the Windsor Locks station.

Does the state need to spend money to make money?

A central question is whether or not to restore a double track on the entire Amtrak-owned line, estimated to cost $62 million. Commuter rail planners say the single-track line makes it impossible to run a heavy schedule of commuter trains at competitive speeds.

If a state project is approved, officials will face the issue of possible cost sharing among agencies. Amtrak, owner of the line, and the freight railroads that pay fees to it, would benefit from the improvements. The national passenger service also would use other improvements from the maximum-build proposal, such as rehabilitated and new stations and high-level passenger platforms.

“As the deal is struck, we’ll look at what improvements are required… and then a source of funding will be identified and the roles of the partners will be identified,” Stessel said; but he stayed far away from suggesting that Amtrak is ready to contribute.

“There is precedent for there being projects that are funded by non-Amtrak sources that mainly benefit the commuter carrier,” including a recent project in New Jersey, he said.

The maximum-build option would attract about 5,000 one-way riders per day, according to the consultants. The minimum service would carry about 1,800 per day.

Ticket sales would cover about 7.5 percent of the $48 million annual operating costs of the maximum-build option, requiring a state subsidy of $45 million per year, according to the consultants. Fares would pay 12 percent of the operating costs for the minimum-build option, leaving the state to subsidize $6 million of the $7 million annual operating cost.

Key local elements of the maximum-build proposal include constructing a 300-car parking garage at the downtown Wallingford station at a cost of $4.5 million, and a 250-car garage at the Meriden station, costing $3.75 million.

Stations all along the line would be improved and high-level platforms installed to shorten the length of each stop, at a cost of $26.8 million.

Six new stations would be added to the eight existing stops from New Haven to Springfield, including a “Wharton Brook” station on U.S. Route 5 in North Haven, at the site of a closed Pratt & Whitney factory.

It would have a 150-car parking lot.

Three bridges in Meriden and one in Wallingford would be rehabilitated or replaced. A new bridge would replace a substandard span that forces narrowing of South Colony Street in Meriden where it passes beneath the railroad. The architecturally significant 19th-century skewed arch bridge that carries the railroad over Route 71 in Yalesville would not be altered.


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At the shop

Amtrak

Metroliner coach 21908 is the first wreck-repaired car that Amtrak’s Bear Shops in Delaware returned to revenue service last year. The railroad’s Sharon Slaton tells us, through the pages of employee publication Amtrak Ink, that a corner post step and door frame were damaged following a collision in Sunnyside Yard in the Bronx. It returned to service on November 19.

 

Florida’s ‘bullet train’

Bush seen as lacking repeal votes

Florida’s bullet train is the albatross around Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) neck. He hasn’t been able to convince the legislature to end it, and its political weight may get heavier in 2004.

As the legislature opened committee hearings on January 5 leading up to the March 2 opening of the 2004 legislative session, Bush faced an uphill fight in the House and Senate to get a high-speed rail Constitutional amendment repeal on the ballot in November. Legislative leaders say he doesn’t have the needed votes in either house.

‘Bulletrain’ online

Angered over Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) failure to fund the “bullet train” as mandated by the state Constitution, a new “Florida Bullet Train” website is online at http://floridabullettrain.com, and is sponsored by the Florida Transportation Association Inc., a non profit corporation “dedicated to the promotion and development of high-speed rail in Florida.”

Their tone is sometimes strident. They point out that In November 2000, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed a Constitutional amendment that mandates the construction of a statewide high-speed ground transportation system.

“Since that time, the Florida legislature has, through the Florida High-Speed Rail Authority, taken large steps towards moving into the implementation of the first phase of the system, connecting Tampa to Orlando. However, there is one major element missing – funding,” the organization points out.

“Bush, in spite of the legislative mandate by the same citizens that elected him, has been a vocal opponent and has refused to include funding for High-Speed Rail in his budget.” Last year, Bush vetoed funding approved by the Florida Senate and House.

“This site is dedicated to those who believe in the Constitution of the State of Florida and the high-speed rail system that is mandated therein.”

In 2000, state voters approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution requiring that the state begin building a high-speed rail system by November 2003 that eventually will connect at least five urban areas of the state.

Bush, who ended an earlier “bullet train” contract (Florida Overland Express) just weeks after taking office in 1999, has consistently worked to stop the project approved in 2000.

Lakeland, Fla., Ledger reporter Bill Rufty told his readers that in November, Bush sent a letter to the legislature saying the amendment should be sent back to the voters to see if they want to spend huge amounts of money on the high-speed system. He listed road projects that he says will be affected if the system is built.

Supporters of the project, which now has a preferred contractor to build the first leg from Orlando to Tampa with a station in Lakeland, say the state would spend only $70 million per year from the Transportation Trust to finance bonds for the project. That is the amount previously approved by lawmakers for the earlier bullet train.

Bush remains steadfast in his push to send the amendment back to the voters, an aide said January 2.

“This is a very costly project that concerns the governor, one that will cost taxpayers and threatens road projects that are needed for Florida’s economy,” Bush’s Press Secretary Alia Faraj said.

“He terminated a previous (high-speed rail) project because of the threat to taxpayers and the continuing lack to get a specific cost of the project,” she said.

State Sen. Tom Lee (R), who will become Senate president in November and who is a power in the Senate leadership, said the Senate almost certainly will not agree to send the high-speed rail issue back to the voters.

He said high-speed rail does not create an emotional issue among senators because they understand that only money from the Transportation Trust Fund, which comes from the gasoline tax, grants and federal tax dollars, would be used.

He said the strong support of Polk’s senators also makes it unlikely the Senate will approve sending the issue back to the voters.

State “Sen. Paula Dockery (R) (the wife of the amendment’s author C.C. “Doc” Dockery) is a very highly respected member of the Senate, as is Sen. J.D. Alexander. They both have a way of getting strong support among the members for their issues,” said Lee, whose district includes a portion of Lakeland and western Polk County.

“High-speed rail has always been a question of ‘when,’ not ‘if,’” Lee said.

Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd (R) is known for his strong support of the governor’s programs, but two weeks ago he told The Associated Press he does not think the governor can win approval in the legislature to send the high-speed rail issue back to the voters.

Many House members would have to change their minds, he said.

The governor’s press secretary said Bush is committed to changing minds and sending it back to voters.

“The governor has voiced his concerns and will work with the legislature and continue to explain the need (to send the issue back),” she said.

Fred Dudley, a former Republican state senator and the chairman of the Florida High Speed Rail Authority, said Bush is taking the wrong course if he thinks the project is too expensive.

“The ultimate question is whether or not the current amendment is mandatory and requires the expenditure of public funds. Obviously, if it is mandatory, then it doesn’t matter what the governor feels. You either fund it or go back to people,” he said.

If public funding is not mandatory, then the state can wait until the governor or legislature deems it more economically feasible, Dudley, a lawyer, surmised.

“I have suggested to him that he exercise the very unique power of a governor and petition the Florida Supreme Court to determine the requirements. I can assure you if the legislature does not fund the project, then there will be suits, and it will wind up in the Supreme Court anyway,” Dudley said.

Dudley said he thinks Bush has some good points about the cost, but by pushing for a repeal vote this year, Bush is ignoring the politics – both state and national – of a bullet-train revote, Dudley said.

“With all the good policy that the governor has created, he somehow has a blind spot on high-speed rail, and it doesn’t let him use any good sense,” Dudley said.

“If you were (President) George Bush,” he said referring to the governor’s brother, “would you want high-speed rail on the ballot? Would you want people to say, ‘We already voted on this, and we’ll show you what we think about sending it back.’ How does this do anything but hurt his brother?” Dudley asked.

The reluctance of legislators to support the governor’s request, even in the House, which has traditionally done his bidding, is understandable, Dudley said, because those legislators would be on the same ballot with the return of the amendment.

“People are going say ‘You know, I don’t care one way or the other, but you were told by us to build it, and why haven’t you built it? Why do you believe voters are smart enough to pick you, but are not smart enough to tell you what they want done?’ “ Dudley said.

“To me, that is a horrible position for a member of the legislature to be in,” said Dudley, who noted the authority likely will rebut the governor’s November letter in its annual report to the legislature.

“There has to be one final question to the governor: ‘If the voters still say yes, what are you going to do? Are you then going to build it? If not, what is the reason for asking?’ “ Dudley said.

Lee had a different view on the political ramifications.

“I don’t think the governor’s position is a problem for him; whether a second vote would pass or not. Talk of increased burden on the taxpayer tends to draw conservatives to the polls and that’s who they want to turn out for the general election,” Lee said but such talk may be premature unless the governor can convince enough legislators to support his view of the high-speed rail system.

“As of last week, the governor was well away from the votes needed in either chamber,” said Dockery, the retired Lakeland businessman who financed the successful amendment.

“I don’t think he can get enough, and I hope eventually he will see the need for mass transportation in this state.”


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RUNNING EXTRA...  Running extra...

 

Inside Lake Street Tower

Inside Lake Street Tower, leverman Steve Pivoney, at left, lines up a train route with a new switch and signal controller, which is being used temporarily until the old interlocking machine is decommissioned. Meanwhile, train director Doug Mathew lines a train by operating the old interlocking machine. Once the upgrades are completed, both interlocking control systems will be shut down and train movement will be directed by a new computer-based microprocessor.

 

What’s going on in Chicago?

Last week we told you about big changes going on in Chicagoland – from the Lake Street Interlocking to the Brighton Park shop reopening. Now we have photos to show as well as tell, thanks to Amtrak and its public affairs writer-photographer, Sharon Slaton.

Faced with failing infrastructure, rising maintenance costs, and increasing traffic, Amtrak and METRA commuter services joined forces – and money – to rebuild the interlocking, located on a seven-block stretch extending from the north side of Chicago Union Station to Canal Street.

METRA is paying 88 percent of the $78 million price tag while Amtrak is investing the other 12 percent. Lake Street Interlocking involves completely rebuilding the subgrade and drainage system under the track, installing new track, and installing the power and signal system.

The original interlocking was installed in 1923 but in January 2001, Amtrak began rebuilding the interlocking. When the project is finished in December 2005, several miles of track, 59 signals, 62 switch machines, and specialized track work – including 19 switches, 11 single-crossovers, three double-crossovers, and two double-slip switches – will have been installed.

The rebuilt plant will handle the added capacity in 2006 when METRA doubles its North Central Service from 10 to 20 trains per day departing from Chicago Union Station.

In addition to track and signal upgrades, the old manually operated lever-style interlocking machine is being replaced with a computer. With the click of a mouse, this new system will allow train directors stationed at Lake Street Tower to line routes and clear signals through the plant.

Elsewhere in the Windy City, preventive maintenance recently returned to Brighton Park.

As part of Amtrak’s five-year capital plan to restore equipment to a “state of good repair,” as CEO David Gunn terms it, the company revived Chicago’s Brighton Park Maintenance Facility in late September.

The facility, which was closed in 2001, provides preventive maintenance on equipment operating from Chicago that were previously serviced at the Beech Grove Car Shop in Indiana and the Chicago Yards.

Servicing these cars at Brighton Park on a 92- and 365-day cycle, instead of sending them nearly 200 miles away, improves efficiency and allows Beech Grove mechanics to focus their efforts on major wreck repair and overhauls.

Thanks to Leslie Beers, Amtrak Ink editor.

All photos by
Amtrak’s Sharon Slaton
Victor Reap and John Vaughn inspect track

Switch and signal maintainers Victor Reap and John Vaughn inspect the newly installed N453A slip switch in Lake Street Interlocking.

Leroy Moore makes repairs

In Brighton Park, Ill., Mechanic Leroy Moore repairs a commode inside Superliner sleeping car 32002 as part of the car’s 92-day inspection. The Brighton Park shop recently resumed its 92-day and annual inspection functions.

A newly rebuilt section of Chicago’s Lake Street Interlocking is now in service. It is about 2,000 feet north of Chicago Union Station. Track and signal upgrades are complete in this section of a five-year project. The bridge, at right, is over the North Branch of the Chicago River. It carries a branch of the Union Pacific Railroad into the Chicago Merchandise Mart.


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BUILDER'S LINES...  Builders’ lines...

 

Siemens Product Train

Siemens

Siemens’ Exider roamed Europe, and is now in the U.S., starting at a Chicago rail trade show.

 

Siemens’ rolling trade show visits U.S.

Perhaps because no one else in the industry would think of doing so, Siemens Energy & Automation is bringing its Exider technology train to Chicago for National Manufacturing Week, kicking off a 10-city, coast-to-coast tour of the 1,000-foot exhibit on rails.

Siemens will use its sleek, blue train as a high-tech platform to showcase its products, solutions and services. Jammed with technology, the 14 railroad cars will house 224 plasma screens and monitors, 189 DVD players, four servers, nine miles of electrical cables and almost two miles of data lines.

The “trade show on rails” will put all that technology to use to simulate specific customer applications in pharmaceutical and chemical industries, water treatment, automobile manufacturing, commercial power distribution and other customer sectors. For instance, in the process automation section, visitors will pass through a tube where different process industry planning steps are demonstrated using animated video installations.

Later, visitors will find themselves in a simulated control room, overseeing the entire production process in realistic detail.

“It’s a customer event on wheels,” said John Dimmerling, Siemens Energy & Automation director of Marketing Communications and Exider project coordinator.

First stop will be McCormick Center during National Manufacturing Week, February 23-26 in Chicago. This is the one stop where the rolling exhibit will come off its wheels. The nine exhibit cars that normally travel by rail will be brought in from the Windy City chill for the warmth of massive McCormick Center. NMW’s anticipated 30,000 exhibit attendees can visit “cars” dedicated to such customer themes as process and discrete manufacturing, machine tool components, commercial and residential power distribution, and engineering services.

Siemens is betting that the Exider (pronounced “exciter,” but with a “d” instead of a “t”) can continue cutting through cultural differences and racking up staggering numbers as it has around the world. Since its rollout in Europe in 2002, the Exider has toured more than 120 cities in 22 countries and hosted more than 100,000 visitors, including its most recent 16 city, three-month tour of China.

After Chicago, the train heads down to Atlanta (March 16-17), then, over nearly three months, on to Washington, D.C. (March 22), New York (March 24-25), Boston (March 29-30). Detroit (April 2), Houston (April 7), Los Angeles (May 14), San Francisco (May 18) and Seattle (May 24).

“With the Exider, we are taking the Siemens message directly to our customers and joining them on a trip through the world of modern industrial automation, drive, switching and installation technology,” Dimmerling said.

He added, “It’s an ambitious ‘rolling exhibition’ that has been successful in every country it’s toured.”

Siemens’ technology provides some of the drives used by the train’s locomotive.

“If we tried to feature all the technologies that Siemens makes, this train would be miles long,” Dimmerling enthused.

Siemens Exider is online at http://usa.exider.com.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...


© Joseph M. Calisi

New York’s brand new Airtrain approaches a station stop at the United Airlines arrival terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) on Long Island on its first day of service. These computer-operated driverless cars are designed to operated in one, two or four-car configurations around the clock.

 

Not so easy finding AirTrain

It isn’t easy finding New York’s new AirTrain because other commuter modes have few maps showing the various places to get on and off.

The New York Daily News noted on January 8 that AirTrain, the light rail system that links Kennedy Airport with subways and commuter trains in Jamaica and the subway in Howard Beach, is not featured on any subway or Long Island Rail Road maps. Travelers looking for a speedy trip to their flights are having trouble figuring out which stations to get off at to board AirTrain.

“I went to the wrong stop, and I had to come back,” said Tom O’Neil, 44, a writer who was traveling home to Los Angeles January 7.

O’Neil rode the AirTrain to Kennedy, but that was after he made the mistake of taking the “E” train to the last stop.

“It’s not that clearly marked,” O’Neil said of the rail line. “There need to be more signs and maps.”

John O’Sullivan, 35, a personal assistant from the upper West Side, said he has used AirTrain a number of times since it went into service on December 17. O’Sullivan, who flies regularly on business, said that even for New Yorkers, it could be hard to find AirTrain.

“The first time I took the “E” train, I was watching other people with luggage get off at the station and I thought, ‘Oh this must be it,’” O’Sullivan said. “If you were coming from Manhattan, you wouldn’t know. That is a problem.”

Some travelers said they asked commuters, conductors, hotel staff and friends to find out where to go for the $5 ride. For others, a glance at a subway map and some guesswork got them to the AirTrain station in Jamaica.

“They had these little airport symbols next to the stations,” said Nina Britz, 21, a student who rode AirTrain to catch a plane for a flight home to Utah. “I kind of figured that’s where I needed to get off.”

A rider can board the AirTrain from the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road station, the Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue station on the E, J or Z lines and the Howard Beach station on the A line.

Paul Fleuranges, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the agency is revising its maps to reflect the addition of the AirTrain.

“We haven’t put out a new map because we’re waiting for the Manhattan Bridge plan to go in effect on February 22,” Fleuranges said. Those service changes he referred to are for the eight different trains that will be able to use all four tracks across the Manhattan Bridge.

Fleuranges said the new maps should begin appearing in subways a week before service changes go into effect across the Manhattan Bridge.


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Georgia authority pushes for rail line

The Georgia Rail Passenger Authority passed a resolution January 6 supporting a plan to install a commuter rail line from Atlanta to Lovejoy, with stops in East Point, Morrow, Forest Park and Jonesboro.

The Georgia DOT’s plan to implement the Clayton County portion of the Macon to Atlanta rail corridor was unveiled two weeks ago, but must be approved by Gov. Sonny Perdue, according to the Clayton County, Ga., News Daily.

The DOT’s plan has received support from Clayton County and several of its municipalities, but Perdue could still veto the measure.

Loretta Lepore, a governor’s spokeswoman, said Perdue has not decided whether or not to support the DOT proposal.

The governor “is analyzing the data and waiting on all the information to come in,” she said.

Rep. Doug Stoner (D), a former chairman of the Cobb County transportation board, said he supports the DOT plan and will encourage other legislators to do the same.

“I really cannot see how this will not succeed,” he said. “We’ve been very conservative and very realistic in this proposal.”

Getting the Lovejoy rail up and running by 2006 will cost $106 million, but the state DOT says $87 million is already earmarked for the Macon-Atlanta line, and the DOT can supply an additional $19 million for highway crossing improvements and park and ride lots.

The DOT said it will cost riders $5.60 for the 45-minute trip from Lovejoy to Atlanta, and shorter trips will cost less.

The DOT estimates the line would carry 3,000 passengers on weekdays, saving the remaining drivers 800,000 hours of traffic congestion every year.

Fares and federal grants will cover operating costs for the first three years, but the DOT is searching for operating funds after that.

Emory McClinton of the state transportation board said that, since the rail line will encourage economic development in adjoining areas, the municipalities should think about pitching in with operating expenses.

“Everyone is going to have to find a way to support (the rail line),” he said.

McClinton said if the DOT does not begin operating the Clayton County portion of the Macon-Atlanta line, the federal funds could be taken back.

“Our chances of keeping (the funding) are becoming very slim,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure Congress can not re-appropriate those funds.”

Clayton County Commissioner Carl Rhodenizer, chairman of the rail authority, said getting the Lovejoy line in operation is a “good beginning” for the line to eventually run to Macon.

“There’s a lot of work yet to be done,” he said.


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Loose rail may be accident culprit

New York City Transit officials say they now believe that a section of rail that pierced the bottom of a subway car on January 5 was a damaged piece that had been taken out of service and was sitting on the tracks for more than a year, waiting for pickup.

In the accident just north of the 96th Street station, a No. 2 train passed overhead about 9:00 a.m., and the piece snagged under the car and was pushed along about 200 feet, being driven deeper and deeper into the train, The New York Times explained.

The section pierced a box that contains the electrical controls for the car, causing a small explosion, said Charles F. Seaton, a spokesman for New York City Transit.

The rail then progressed through the floor of the passenger compartment. No one was injured.

Employees were working around-the-clock last week along the entire length of the subway system to inspect other scrap rail stored on the right-of-way for any signs of cracking or other damage, officials said last week.

“Any rail that is found to be cracked or damaged will be moved off to the side and later removed from the system,” said Seaton.

The inspections were scheduled to be finished on January 7, Seaton said. He added he did not know how many scrap pieces were in the system, but the extra rails, secured between the running rails, can often be seen from the subway platforms.

It is common practice for transit workers to nail spare rail pieces, or older sections that have been replaced by new rail, to the track bed so they can be used for track replacement or removed later but Seaton said there was no rule for when pieces of scrap rail needed to be picked up. Removals, he said, are typically done late at night by crews on work trains and require interruptions in service.

John Samuelsen, chairman of the track division for Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, said it was “outrageous” that the piece had been sitting around for so long. Usually, these pieces are picked up after a few days, he said, or two weeks at the most.

“That’s an absolute failure on the part of management,” he said.

The 20-foot rail was sitting in a trough between the running rails and parallel to them, and lying across a pair of supports that were 10 feet apart. Investigators have learned that the piece was swapped out in September 2002 because of a hairline fracture. As it lay between the rails with trains running above it, investigators believe, it broke completely.


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VRE drops holiday trains

Beginning January 19, Virginia Railway Express says it will no longer operate holiday service, except on the day after Thanksgiving.

Several months ago VRE solicited public opinion on the topic and, of the more than 1,000 people who responded, 70 percent favored eliminating service except for the day after Thanksgiving.

VRE spokeswoman Wendy Lemieux said as a result, there won’t be any trains running on January 19, Martin Luther King Day.

Regular service will resume the next day

“Before we simply made the change, we made one final effort to increase the ridership on holidays through incentives. This effort, which was done for the day after Thanksgiving, did not result in an appreciable increase in ridership. As a result, the VRE Operations Board voted to scale back the holiday service,” she said.


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Senate bill would kill rail project

Massachusetts state Sen. Brian Joyce (D) last week filed a bill designed to “put a stake through the heart” of the proposed Fall River-New Bedford commuter rail route. His office said he filed the measure on January 5.

The bill would order the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to transfer ownership of its railroad right-of-way through the Hockomock Swamp to the state Department of Fisheries, Wildlife & Environmental Law Enforcement.

The route runs through the Hockomock Swamp Wildlife Management Area, which is already managed by the fisheries department. The MBTA would lose ownership of a strip of land starting behind the Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical School campus in Easton south to a spot behind the Raynham-Taunton Greyhound Park.

“If it’s passed, this will put (the land) back in the hands of the agency that will manage it correctly,” said Kyla Bennett, New England director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, an Easton-based group opposed to the proposed rail extension through the environmentally sensitive swamp.

The swamp line is a critical piece of the proposed plan to extend commuter rail service from an existing Boston-to-Stoughton line to Fall River and New Bedford. While strongly favored by lawmakers from those two cities, the route has drawn fierce opposition from communities along the proposed route, including Raynham, Easton and Stoughton.

Gov. Mitt Romney (R) suspended work on the $700 million project in September, citing the state’s fiscal problems.

Bennett said this bill is meant to kill the project.

“Every once in a while an idea needs a stake through the heart to put it to rest for good,” she said.

Joyce legislative aide Dirk Kummerle said the senator, who represents Stoughton and Easton, filed the bill on Bennett’s behalf.

Majority Whip Sen. Joan Menard (D) said she’d work against the proposal.

“I will oppose any bill that would prohibit the commuter rail from being extended to the South Coast. I am committed to this project and will continue to support it,” she said.

The so-called “Stoughton Alternative” rail route would extend from the existing line in Stoughton and head south through Easton, Raynham, part of Taunton and then split at a junction in Berkley, with separate lines to Fall River and New Bedford.

Its path through the Hockomock Swamp has been the focal point of controversy as environmentalists say a restored rail line would endanger protected species. To address these concerns, the MBTA proposed building a $50 million trestle over sensitive swamp areas.

In settling on the Stoughton route, the MBTA rejected two other proposed rail lines, saying they could not handle additional train traffic nor would attract as many riders.

One would have gone from an existing line in Attleboro through Taunton to the Berkley split and then south. The second proposal would have extended the existing Old Colony rail line from Middleboro to points south.

MBTA studies concluded the Stoughton extension is the only feasible route for the service. Bennett’s group says the MBTA study, due to political pressure, was rigged to eliminate the Attleboro alternative from consideration. In its initial studies, the MBTA had listed the Attleboro route as its preference.

Rep. David L. Flynn (D) recently suggested building a long-distance monorail in the highway medians of routes 24 and 140 as an alternative to the stalled commuter rail project.


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URS gets Boston ‘Silver Line’ contract

URS Corp. of San Francisco reported on January 6 it has been awarded a contract by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to provide design and planning services for the final phase of the MBTA’s Silver Line project. The multiyear contract has the potential to generate $10 million in revenues for URS. The firm is in a joint venture with DMJM+Harris.

The Silver Line is the fifth rapid transit line in Boston’s “T” system, the oldest public transit system in the U.S., and the T’s first system to use a “Bus Rapid Transit” conveyance.

When it is completed, according to a BRS spokesman, the Silver Line will connect Roxbury, The South End and Chinatown to the city’s commercial center and South Boston Waterfront District as well as to Logan Airport.

The last phase of the project includes developing an underground BRT connection between Boston’s South Station and the New England Medical Center.

URS Division president Gary V. Jandegian said the Silver Line, which uses state-of-the-art computerized communication technology “to inform riders of the next arriving vehicle and allows operators to react quickly to changing conditions, is one of the most advanced bus rapid transit systems in the world. We’re excited to be continuing our work on such an innovative public transit project.”


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Regarding Lower Boonton station closure

Angry NJT commuters to meet

NJ Transit will hold a three-hour public meeting from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on January 21regarding ending commuter rail service on the Lower Boonton Line in New Jersey.

NJT officials closed the Benson, Rowe and Arlington stations last year. All comments will be placed on public record by a court reporter, according to Dave Johnson, a National Assn. of Railroad Passengers transportation associate.

He said people who testify would have four minutes to present comments or questions. The four minutes does not include NJT's responses.

The record of the meeting sent to NJT Executive Director George Warrington within 45 days of the meeting, and he has 45 days in which to respond and issue a final agency decision.

Warrington's decision can be appealed in the judicial system, and sets a precedent in NJT’s decision-making process.

This meeting is the settlement of the court case against NJT by New York & Greenwood Lake Ry., the towns of Kearny, Bloomfield and commuters.

The meeting will be held in the Kearny Town Hall, Council Chambers.


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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

Here are some other transit headlines, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at http://www.apta.com/news/pt.


 

Houston Celebrates New Year with Light Rail Debut

Houston METRORail made its inaugural run January 1 with festivities along the 7.5-mile light rail line and four days of free rides for the public.

“This is a great day for Metro and a great day for the people of Houston,” said Shirley A. DeLibero, president and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County. “We hope the entire community comes out during the New Year’s weekend and helps us celebrate a new day in our community.”

The New Year’s Day celebration marking light rail’s arrival in Houston began when Mayor Lee P. Brown and members of the Metro board of directors cut the ceremonial ribbon at the Fannin South Station. Trains then carried invited guests to the University of Houston’s Downtown Campus for an inaugural reception.


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Massachusetts Governor Kicks Off Initiative for Transit-Oriented Development

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney kicked off a new initiative December 17 to use publicly owned land as a catalyst to create high-quality residential and commercial centers around public transit stations.

“Our program encourages development where it is needed, where it contributes new jobs, new housing, and new amenities to the region and the local communities without eating up or creating the need for new infrastructure valuable open space,” said Romney.

The new Transit-Oriented Development policy, nicknamed “Take it to the T,” is part of the governor’s “Communities First” program. The initiative will encourage the use of public transit, the development of residences and workplaces in proximity to transit, and the creation of active pedestrian districts around transportation hubs.

Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which is the second-largest landowner in the commonwealth, will demonstrate these practices through development on its own property and by offering certain communities strategic assistance for this kind of development.


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CARTA Prepares for Service Cuts Following Second Court Decision

The Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority in Charleston, S.C., is seeking funds to sustain its operations in the long term while preparing for a second round of service cuts, effective January 11, to ensure short-term transit services.

The cuts will be necessary, according to CARTA Executive Director Howard R. Chapman, because the South Carolina Supreme Court decided December 17 not to review its earlier decision to invalidate a successful November 2002 referendum that would have funded CARTA operations by raising local sales taxes by one-half cent. The measure also would have provided funds to fix roads and bridges, and to create green space.

The court examined the vote at the request of a few citizens and county council members, Chapman said, who argued that voters had approved the measure because of its wording as opposed to its substance.

Chapman said CARTA has asked the county to request that the governor call a special election to replace the voided election, in compliance with state law. In the meantime, the agency is seeking federal funding to cope with the coming shortfall.


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Transit Initiatives Conference Highlights Successful Campaign Strategies

The art and science of winning transit elections was the focus of a recent workshop in Tempe, Ariz., that attracted more than 100 transit agency professionals, grassroots transit advocates, political leaders, community business leaders, and local and national campaign consultants.

The workshop, held December 7 to 9, Transit Initiatives and Communities: Lessons Learned, was organized by the Center for Transportation Excellence, which is sponsored by the Public Transportation Partnership for Tomorrow (PT)2.

Communities that have experienced transit-related referendum elections were represented at the conference, along with others that are planning upcoming transit elections. Attendees learned how successful campaigns craft their messages and implement campaign strategies that are victorious.

[[End APTA box]]


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FREIGHTLINES...  Freight lines...

FEC 208 at Sebastian River Bridge

NCI: Leo King

Florida East Coast No. 208 crosses the Sebastian River Bridge (milepost 212.07) between Brevard and Indian River Counties in Florida on December 27. The empty rock train carried a mid-train locomotive dead-in-tow, which was set out at New Smyrna Beach for repairs or inspection, a railroad spokesman said. Crushed stone and gravel paced U.S. rail carloadings in December, the AAR reports.

 

Freight train security to tighten

Trains and trucks smuggling explosives, illegal aliens, drugs and other terrorist-related cargo will be targeted under a new multi-agency effort to tighten security at the U.S.-Canadian border.

A high number of commercial vehicles haul a good deal of contraband into the U.S across the Ambassador Bridge, the Windsor Tunnel and a railway tunnel every day, The AP reported from Detroit on January 8. With the benefit of a $3 million federal grant, the Border Enforcement Security Team will provide a second layer of defense, Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans said Thursday.

The collaboration brings officers working overtime from the Detroit Police Department, U.S. Border Patrol, Drug Enforcement Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Canadian Pacific Ry. police and the Detroit-Wayne County Port Authority.

“We have established this team of offices to help cut the lifelines of drugs, weapons and hazardous materials that feed terrorist organizations,” Evans said.

The team is a unit of specifically trained officers who will perform numerous inspections of commercial trains and trucks traveling from Canada.

“Any time you get agencies sharing information and working together, good things are going to happen,” Evans said. “I expect that we will be catching significant violations every day that otherwise would have gone unchecked.”

Boats and passenger vehicles will be targeted only if specific intelligence offers a reasonable basis for stopping them, Evans said.

This announcement preceded a visit Friday from Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, who was to discuss border security at the Port Huron crossing.


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KCS says court disagrees with TMM

Kansas City Southern, embroiled in a fight with Mexico’s Grupo TMM after TMM apparently reneged on a deal to sell its stock to KCS and form the “NAFTA Railroad,” says the Delaware Court of Chancery hit TMM hard over a January 6 ruling “regarding a motion to enforce injunction and hold TMM in contempt in the dispute between KCS and TMM over the Acquisition Agreement.”

Credit Suisse First Boston January 6 cut its KCS rating to “neutral” from “outperform.” Elsewhere, Union Pacific was cut to “hold” at Smith Barney last week, and Norfolk Southern was cut to “sell” at Smith Barney.

KCS stated “The Delaware court… held TMM in contempt of court for taking action inconsistent with its October 29, 2003, order that TMM abide by the terms and conditions of the acquisition agreement pending arbitration of the parties’ dispute over the agreement.”

A KCS spokesman added, “The court held that by TMM causing its subsidiary Grupo TFM to revoke powers of attorney requiring the signature of a KCS representative for transactions in excess of $2.5 million and in granting new powers of attorney to TMM directors Jose Serrano and Mario Mohar to act on behalf of the company, TMM violated provisions of the Acquisition Agreement.”

The previous order of the court, according to KCS, required TMM to cause GTFM “to conduct its business in accordance with past practices and not to directly or indirectly amend its organizational documents.”

The court ordered TMM to take the actions necessary to revoke the new powers of attorney, to re-enact the original powers of attorney, and to pay KCS its costs and attorney fees for bringing this motion for contempt.

“KCS believes the Delaware Court’s decision is appropriate and upholds KCS’s belief that TMM cannot arbitrarily take actions without KCS’s concurrence,” according to the spokesman.


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DM&E gets $233 million federal loan

Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad (DM&E) and its subsidiary Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad (IC&E), are getting a $233.6 million loan from the feds.

The combined railroads have about 2,500 track miles and serve some 900 customers.

USDOT Secretary Norman Mineta said the FRA granted the cash on January 7, and is expected to “provide enhanced access to international markets and expanded economic benefits for regional railroad customers in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota.”

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) direct loan was provided to both railroads, which are headquartered in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Mineta, stressing the “vital role of regional railroads” in the American economy, said, "President Bush is committed to growing the economy, and the RRIF program provides targeted innovative finance opportunities that yield significant economic benefits."

The DM&E and IC&E serve eight North Central states, and are a major component of the freight transportation systems of Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota.

The DM&E is 1,103-mile regional railroad that currently serves 130 customers. The IC&E is a wholly owned subsidiary of the DM&E that serves approximately 750 companies on a 1,403-mile system.

A major portion of the loan, some $194.2 million, will refinance existing debt for rail line acquisition and track rehabilitation.

$24.4 million will improve rail lines between Wolsey, S.D. and Tracy, Minn.

$5.9 million will go toward improving rail bridges between Wolsey and Springfield, Minn., and $9.1 million to rehabilitate tracks from Owatonna, Minn. to Mason City, Iowa, and from Lawler, Iowa to Calmar, Iowa.

In addition, the DM&E and IC&E will use its enhanced cash flow, resulting from the refinancing of existing debt on substantially better terms, for an expanded program of infrastructure investment to address deferred maintenance and make other capital improvements.

The loan is expected to result in a physically and financially sustainable regional railroad.

Companies dependent on the railroads generate an estimated $6.5 to $7.0 billion in annual sales.

Planned improvements to the DM&E and IC&E infrastructure will also help assure safe rail operations, and ensure that significant amounts of freight traffic continue to be carried by rail transportation.

The federal RRIF program provides direct loans or loan guarantees for the acquisition, development, improvement or rehabilitation of existing or new intermodal or rail equipment facilities. Eligible borrowers include railroads, state and local governments and government sponsored authorities.

The FRA is online at http://fra.dot.gov.


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NS runs more Southern coal trains

The number of trains on Norfolk Southern Ry.’s Memphis to Chattanooga rail line is increasing.

Thirteen to 17 trains a day had been using this route, which includes portions of southern Tennessee and northern Mississippi and Alabama. That number is increasing to 16-20 trains per day as the result of additional coal traffic moving from the western U.S. across the tri-state area to a power plant in Georgia. Trains traveling over this route operate between 35 and 60 mph, and over numerous crossings at grade. The 307-mile rail line includes the cities of Memphis, Germantown and Chattanooga, Tenn.; Corinth, Miss.; and Muscle Shoals, Decatur, and Huntsville, Ala.

Operation Lifesaver, www.oli.org is promoting public awareness of the highway-rail crossing environment, and encourages drivers to follow traffic laws, especially running around crossing gates that are down.


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BNSF to use internet in warnings

Responding to customers’ needs for timely, detailed information on railroad operating conditions, The Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) said last week it has become the first railroad to make information on track maintenance projects available to customers via the Internet. BNSF is a subsidiary of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. (BNI).

“Providing accurate, timely information is part of our commitment to meeting our customers’ expectations,” said Greg Fox, BNSF’s vice president for engineering, on January 5.

“This new tool will make it easier for customers to ‘see’ maintenance projects that might affect the routes on which their shipments move,” he said.

Among projects for which information is available are those included in BNSF’s major maintenance blitz from January 8 through 23 on 120 miles of line between Bakersfield and Fresno, Calif.

More than 300 BNSF employees will work on specific track, rail and bridge renewal projects including replacing 14 track miles of rail; installing 38,250 wood crossties; and drainage improvements along 47,250 feet of track.

Plans are to open the Bakersfield Subdivision for 14 hours each day to operate a limited number of trains on their regular routes. In addition, daily slots have been secured to operate trains on another railroad during the maintenance blitz.

The new interactive maintenance-of-way map is available under “Planned Track Maintenance” at http://domino.bnsf.com/website/updates.nsf/ptm?ReadForm . You can also access the site by going to www.bnsf.com , then “Media,” “Network Overviews,” and “Planned Track Maintenance.”

Customers and other interested groups can click on a region of the map, bringing up a pop-up window that will describe any maintenance project(s) currently taking place at that location. The following information will be provided and will also be available in a printable format:

The location of the project

The dates on which the project will occur, including the time of day and day of week

Notes regarding the type of project, a list of trains that could be affected and an estimate of potential delays. Estimated delay times will be updated frequently as operating conditions change.

The map will be updated weekly, BNSF stated, and “Only the current week will be displayed. If no maintenance-of-way activity is taking place at a given location, a message that ‘No significant maintenance activity is scheduled for this region,’ will show up in the box.”


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Mississippi county looks for rail funding

Mississippi’s Wayne County Economic Development District has started a program to find funds to repair tracks in and around the Wayne County Industrial Park.

James Walker, the district’s trustees’ chairman, said on December 31 the district had retained a consultant to search for more than $340,000 in federal grants and prepare grant applications.

“Railroad service is vital to three or four of our largest industries and can help keep them competitive in their respective marketplaces. Those companies are responsible for more than a thousand jobs in Wayne and several surrounding counties,” Walker told the Laurel Leader Call on December 31.

Since spring 2000, Waynesboro’s railroad service has been provided by the Meridian Southern Ry. (MDSR), whose trains operate north through Quitman to Meridian where a connection is made with the Kansas City Southern Railroad and other carriers. The line once operated as a through route connecting Chicago, St. Louis, and Mobile, but the Meridian-Waynesboro segment has had five owners in the past 30 years.

“Four of the previous owners either elected to not keep the line in decent shape, or did not make necessary repairs for financial reasons. It makes good sense for the district and the Wayne County government to help the current railroad operator find the funding to make up for these decades of neglect,” said Development District Trustee H. H. Hardee.


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Portec Rail offers IPO

Portec Rail Products, Inc. has set the terms of its initial public offering (IPO) at 2 million shares, to be sold between $11 and $13 each, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The railroad product supplier and distributor said it would use about $7.5 million of its IPO proceeds to repay debt and the remainder will go toward general corporate purposes, which might include future acquisitions, according to the amended prospectus filed January 6, Reuters reported from Washington, D.C.

Underwriter Ferris, Baker Watts has an option to purchase an additional 300,000 shares, according to the filing.

Portec manufactures, supplies and distributes railroad products like rail joints, rail anchors and spikes, the company said in the SEC filing. It also makes material handling equipment through its wholly owned United Kingdom subsidiary Portec Rail Products, Ltd.

About 8.5 million shares will remain outstanding after the offering.

Portec said it had applied to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol “PRPX.”


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AAR publishes 2003 Railroad Facts

Class I U.S. railroads moved almost 1.8 billion tons of freight in 2002.

Texas has more rail mileage and employees than any other state.

Class I railroads operated a fleet of more than 20,000 locomotives in 2002.

Those are some of the facts contained in the 2003 edition of Railroad Facts, just published by the AAR’s Policy and Economics Dept.

The pocket-sized reference focuses mainly on Class I railroads and contains statistics and graphics for 2002 and selected prior years, which in some cases, goes as far back as 1929.

Railroad Facts contains more than 80 pages of facts and statistics on finance, traffic, operations, plant and equipment, employment and compensation, fuel consumption and cost, and loss and damage. It also contains a profile of each Class I railroad, Amtrak, the two major Canadian railroads, and the two largest Mexican railways.

Copies are $15.00 for non-AAR members; $12.00 for two to ten copies; and $10.00 per copy for orders over 10 copies. The cost for AAR members is $5.00 per copy. They can be purchased online at www.aar.org.


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Intermodal sets record

Carloads up in December, quarter

U.S. rail traffic rose 1.6 percent (24,255 carloads) in December and 1.1 percent (46,364 carloads) in the fourth quarter of 2003 compared to the same period in 2002, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Thursday. For the full year 2003, U.S. rail carloadings were up 0.1 percent (9,505 carloads) to 16.934 million carloads.

U.S. intermodal traffic, which consists of truck trailers and containers on freight cars and is not included in carload figures, rose 8.5 percent (69,377 units) in December, 12.0 percent (277,356 units) in the fourth quarter, and 6.8 percent (631,002 units) for 2003 as a whole. Total U.S. intermodal traffic of 9.94 million trailers and containers marked a new record high, the seventh time in eight years that has happened.

“2003 was a very challenging year for industries across the economic spectrum, including freight railroads,” observed AAR vice president Craig F. Rockey.

He said, “The new intermodal record is, in large part, a reflection of the tens of billions of dollars in intermodal-related infrastructure and equipment investments railroads have made to accommodate faster, more frequent, and more reliable intermodal trains. We are also obviously pleased by the trend in carload traffic. The 1.1 percent gain in fourth quarter carloadings, and an even greater increase during the final month, come after quarterly declines in the second and third quarters of this year. We look forward to continued traffic expansion as the economy continues to adjust.”

U.S. rail carloadings in December were paced by crushed stone and gravel (up 20.6 percent, or 13,659 carloads), grain (up 10.7 percent, or 10,930 carloads), waste and scrap materials (up 16.6 percent, or 6,153 carloads), and coke (up 27.8 percent, or 5,767 carloads).

Commodities showing carload declines in December included metallic ores (down 25.4 percent, or 20,893 carloads) and coal (down 1.1 percent, or 7,238 carloads). All told, 12 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload increases in December 2003 compared with December 2002.

For the fourth quarter of 2003, U.S. freight rail carload gains in crushed stone and gravel (up 12.3 percent, or 28,047 carloads), grain (up 6.4 percent, or 18,751 carloads), and coke (up 34.0 percent, or 18,322 carloads), among others, offset declines in metallic ores (down 20.3 percent, or 42,911 carloads) and coal (down 1.7 percent, or 28,929 carloads). All told, 14 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload increases in the fourth quarter of 2003 compared with the fourth quarter of 2002.

For the full year 2003, gains in carloads of coke, waste and scrap, and chemicals, among others, overcame a significant decline in coal carloadings (down 1.6 percent, or 110,747 carloads.

Canadian rail carloads were up 14.9 percent (39,724 carloads) in December, up 9.8 percent (78,473 carloads) in the fourth quarter, and up 1.5 percent (49,811 carloads) in 2003 compared with 2002. Commodities showing year-over-year carload gains for Canadian railroads in 2003 include chemicals (up 4.5 percent, or 31,100 carloads), farm products excluding grain (up 23.3 percent, or 16,415 carloads), and grain (up 3.8 percent, or 14,448 carloads). The gains in agricultural commodities reflect a much better harvest in 2003 compared with 2002. Commodities showing carload declines for Canadian railroads in 2003 include motor vehicles and equipment (down 4.0 percent, or 16,057 carloads) and coal (down 3.4 percent, or 13,867 carloads).

Canadian intermodal traffic was down 4.0 percent (7,485 trailers and containers) in December, down 0.1 percent (536 trailers and containers) in the fourth quarter, and up 5.3 percent (109,245 trailers and containers) for the full year 2003 compared with 2002.

Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, were down 5.6 percent (2,245 carloads) in December, while intermodal originations were down 8.9 percent (1,196 trailers and containers). For the full year 2003, TFM carload originations were down 2.8 percent (12,458 carloads), while TFM intermodal traffic was up 10.9 percent (17,486 units).

For just the week ended January 3, 2004, U.S. railroads originated 280,407 carloads, up 2.9 percent from the corresponding week 52 weeks earlier (which was the first week of 2003); intermodal volume of 140,079 trailers and containers, up 10.5 percent; and total volume of an estimated 23.6 billion ton-miles, up 5.8 percent. Canadian railroads originated 50,654 carloads, up 13.4 percent, and 27,214 trailers and containers, down 4.3 percent, from the corresponding week 52 weeks earlier.

Combined cumulative volume for 52 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 20,207,480 carloads, up 0.3 percent (59,316 carloads) from 2002; and 12,107,578 trailers and containers, up 6.5 percent (740,247 units) from 2002.

The week ended January 3 was the 53rd reporting week for 2003, so the AAR said in order to provide statistical comparability with other years, “week 53 data will not be included in AAR’s annual data for 2003.”

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: CBSMarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)32.0132.00
Canadian National(CNI)63.4063.92
Canadian Pacific(CP)28.4928.40
CSX(CSX)34.9435.88
Florida East Coast(FLA)33.0833.35
Genessee & Wyoming(GWR)34.5032.49
Kansas City Southern(KSU)14.0514.62
Norfolk Southern(NSC)22.9223.93
Union Pacific(UNP)66.5369.09


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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

Malaysia Monorail

Kuala Lumpur’s monorail opened last August 31. It runs five miles through the Maylay city, and is an operator-controlled line using two-car articulated trainsets. It is entirely above ground.

 

Far East offers different rails

D:F contributor Todd Glickman recently spent time in Southeast Asia, and in between business appointments, rode the rails. In this series of reports, he provides an update on the urban rail transit scenes in Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. An article about Singapore appeared in the December 8 (2003) edition.

Story and photos by Todd Glickman
Special to Destination:Freedom

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia –Most people are aware of NYC’s transit “system” pre-World War II – when private companies owned everything, and there was little, if any cooperation. Such is how we find Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s transit system today, even though most of it is new build.

There are three urban mass transit lines, the “STAR LRT,” “PUTRA LRT,” and Monorail. Each is private and independently owned and operated, but using different technologies. Separate fares are required for each line (with one exception), even when transferring.

STAR (“Sistem Transit Aliran Ringan”) is an elevated, driver-operated line. It initially opened in 1996 after six years of construction, and was completed two years later. There are 25 stations, and is 17 miles (27km) long (about two-thirds at grade and one-third elevated). Maximum speed of the trains is 45 mph (70kmph), but they rarely exceed 22 mph.

Fares are distance-based, and range from “RM” 0.70 to “RM” 2.80. One RM is equal to about 30cents, U.S. Stored value cards are used, and can be purchased from machines or agents. A Monthly Travel Card is RM70.

“RM” is the currency in Malaysia. I'm not sure what it stands for though. It’s likely a word in Malay.

PUTRA (Projek Usahasamam Transit Ringan Automatik) is an automated (non-attended) line operated by two-car unitized and articulated trains that began operation in 1998, and was completed in 2001. Total length is 18 miles, all of which is elevated except 2.5 miles that is underground.

The entire system is accessible, and underground stations are air conditioned, featuring platform screen doors.

Fares are distance-based here, too, and range from RM0.70 to RM2.40. Stored value cards are used, and can be purchased from machines or agents, and the RM70 Monthly Travel Card is available as well.

While the PUTRA and STAR lines interchange at “KUALA LUMPUR Sentral Station,” there are no free transfers. The exception is that commuters can purchase a monthly travel card, good for unlimited rides on both systems, for RM125.

Bankok Monorail

Bangkok’s Sukhumvit Line has 17 stations along its 10.5 mile length, and the Silom Line contains seven stations along its four-miles. Both routes meet at Siam Station.

 

The most interesting line is the monorail, which opened August 31, 2003. It runs five miles through Kuala Lumpur, and is an operator-controlled line using two-car unitized and articulated trainsets. Entirely above ground, fares here are also distance-based, ranging from RM1.20 to RM2.50.

Stored value cards must be purchased from agents, and there are no unlimited card options. While the monorail intersects the PUTRA and STAR lines in a few places, there are no free transfers.

Curiously, the monorail terminal at Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station is about a block away from the station itself, making transfers difficult, especially with luggage. Yes, that spelling is correct.

Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station is curious in its own way, in that it’s not “central,” but on the edge of the main business district. It is not to be confused with Kuala Lumpur Center City (“KUALA LUMPURCC”), where the Patronas Towers are located – that’s a few miles away via mass transit or taxi.

The lines are what can be classified as “standard urban mass transit.”

Kuala Lumpur also has a number of commuter rail lines, similar in operation to European systems. The most recent, the Kuala Lumpuria Ekspress, opened in April 2002, and is a 20-mile line joining Kuala Lumpur International Airport with the central station. The journey takes 28 minutes, and the four-car unitized and articulated trainsets are operator-controlled and outfitted for airport travelers, with luggage racks and video entertainment. Cost for a one-way ride is RM35.

Monorail

A trip by car or bus from On Nut, on Sukhumvit Road, to Mo Chit (home of the “Weekend Market”) can take two hours, but is only a half-hour by rail.

 

Thailand offers a different view of commuter rail.

Until the late 1950s, Bangkok had a thriving, complex, and efficient streetcar system, but like most cities around the world, diesel-powered buses replaced the system. As the population grew, so did the traffic.

For years now, it has been the same old story – traffic so awful that it can take hours to get to a destination that could be reached more quickly on foot.

For example, the trip by car or bus from On Nut on Sukhumvit Road, to Mo Chit (home of the “Weekend Market”) can take two hours, but is only a half hour by rail.

Opening day for the Bangkok Transit System (BTS) Skytrain was December 5, 1999, the King’s birthday (he was born in Cambridge, Mass.).

It meant a new way-of-life for the people of Bangkok. There are two lines: the Sukhumvit Line with 17 stations along its 10.5 mile length, and the Silom Line, with seven stations along its four-mile run. The two lines meet (with free transfers) at Siam Station. Together, there are 35 trains that operate from approximately 5:00 a.m. to midnight daily.

Both lines are on elevated concrete structures about 45 feet tall, and supported by pillars spaced some 100 feet apart. Tight financial constraints originally ruled out any elevators or escalators; one must climb the equivalent of four stories to reach the station platforms. No ADA compliance here. Some key stations have been retrofitted with up-only escalators.

Top speed of the third-rail powered trains is 50 mph (80 kph). Each car has 42 fiberglass seats, and numerous polls and overhead handholds for standees.

Cars measure about 10 feet wide by 65 feet long. There are four door sets per side, and excellent air conditioning (vital with Bangkok’s tropical climate).

Fares are collected automatically using magnetic strip cards. Uniformed guard patrols each platform at every station, and stepping on, or over the yellow safety line is not tolerated. Also, 128 train operators – motormen and motorwomen – have been hired. Two are women.

In October, 2000, BTS instituted various discount and multi-ride programs, and this seems to have helped increase patronage after a weak start. At 30-40 Baht (about 75 cents to one dollar in U.S currency) for single rides, many Thais were not able to afford commuting daily on the system, which is about four times the cost of a bus ride. Thirty-day passes are available, ranging in price from 250 Baht for an adult 10 trip ride with a 38 percent discount 540 Baht with a 55 percent discount.

Student rates range from 160 Baht to 360 Baht depending on rides purchased.

In another part of the world, they have a different take on how things should be done.

In November 2003, Thailand’s Prime Minister announced a six-year, multi-hundred million dollar program to improve mobility in Bangkok, including extensions of the existing BTS lines.

The Bangkok “Metro” subway system will open its first underground line in April 2004, providing another way for the people of Bangkok to travel through the city. The Metro will operate separately from BTS (different technologies and fare system), however there will be interchange stations permitting convenient transfers.

Todd Glickman is a Senior Industrial Liaison Officer in MIT’s Office of Corporate Relations. He’s also a part-time meteorologist for WCBS Newsradio-880 in New York City, and volunteers as an Instructor/Inspector for streetcars, rapid transit, and buses at the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, Maine.– Ed.


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Bechtel gets Iraqi rail contract

Bechtel National Inc. has been selected as contractor for Iraq Infrastructure II, a program to rehabilitate and repair Iraq’s infrastructure, an official with the Agency for International Development said in Washington on January 6.

Bechtel is teamed with Parsons of Pasadena, Calif., and Horne Engineering Services of Fairfax, Va., for the $1.8 billion contract.

Gordon H. West, acting assistant administrator in AID’s Asia and Near East Bureau told reporters in the Pentagon “It will include such major infrastructure sectors as rail systems,” along with other entities, including electrical power systems, municipal water and sanitation services, road networks, selected public buildings, ports and waterways, and airports.

The contract basically will follow the contract currently under way.

“It will be implemented over 24 months in partnership with the Coalition Provisional Authority and in cooperation with Iraqi contractors,” West said.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

Your article about Thomas DiLorenzo (D:F, January 5, “Opinion, ‘Is “history” bunk? – The silliness of ignorance” by Wes Vernon) and his book on Abraham Lincoln was an interesting read. As relates to railroads, Mr. DiLorenzo’s work echoes that of Robert William Fogel, the Nobel-winning University of Chicago economist (see The Union Pacific Railroad: A Case in Premature Enterprise [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1960]). Fogel makes exactly DiLorenzo’s argument: there was no need to subsidize the Union Pacific and Central Pacific. Given time, transcontinental railroads would be built without subsidy, as demand warranted. This is not a new argument.

It applies to highways as well. It is plausible to assume that either state-sponsored or private entities would have eventually given us some part of the Interstate Highway System. In fact, by 1956 (date of the Interstate and Defense Highway Act), toll roads already connected Boston, New York, and Washington, as well as New York and Chicago by two routes. Had this trend continued, we would have, I think, a nearly national network of toll highways by today.

It can be argued that the U.S. government over-invested in interstate highways and contributed mightily both to the growth of trucking and to the dispersal of manufacturing by providing “free” highways. There is no obvious need for limited-access four-lane highways in, say, Montana.

Given the “scrambled egg” quandary, though, I believe the only policy alternative now remaining is to invest in railroads. Otherwise, we are going to lose our national rail network entirely. The Class I railroads are conducting a giant “going out of business” sale, such that in 20 years there will no longer be a national network.

Randolph Resor
Merchantville, N.J.


Dear Editor:

Apparently an old piece of news resurfaced somehow (D:F, January 5, “Supreme Court stiffens suing rules”), because the Supreme Court reached its decision in the Shanklin case on April 17, 2000, not last December 22, according to one of our lawyers. I showed him the piece you had on it in your current issue and he said that was a good description of the Supreme Court's decision… just that it was handed down almost four years ago.

Actually, I've noticed when I research things on the internet that old news somehow resurfaces with a current date on it, so I am quite understanding how this happened.

Tom White
AAR, Washington


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THE WAY WE WERE...  The way we were...

Conductor and engineer comparing watches

NCI: Erie Railroad; Leo King Collection

I can’t recall seeing a conductor and engineer comparing watches like they did in this classic Erie Railroad pose from the 1950s, but it sure is nice to see it once in a while. – Ed.

End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we'd like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at leoking@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

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Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination:Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. “True color” Joint Photographers Group (.jpg) images average 1.7MB each. Print publishers can order images in process color (CMYK) or tagged image file format (.tif), and are nearly 6mb each. They will be snail-mailed to your address, or uploaded via file transfer protocol (FTP) to your site. All are 300 dots-per-inch.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.

If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI's webmaster in Boston.


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