Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 2, January 13, 2003
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update


AEM-7 and F40PH at Boston

NCI: Leo King

A year or two ago, we ran this photo with the caption asking, “Will Congress put Amtrak into the trashcan?” Once again, we ask the same question. In our view, this annual lunacy must end, and we urge the House and Senate to properly fund Amtrak before a national treasure and means of communication is forever lost. Much of rural America has no other service. D:F’s Washington correspondent, Wes Vernon, has the story below.

 

NCI makes ready for April conference

The National Corridors Initiative is preparing for its 2003 conference.

President and CEO Jim RePass said the title this year is, “Rail Futures: Building Secure and Successful Transit and Intercity Rail for America.”

This year’s conference will be held on Monday, April 28 and Tuesday, April 29 at The Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd St., NW, in Washington D.C.

Keynote Speakers include Gov. Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security (invited), American Public Transportation Assn. President William Millar, Amtrak Board Chair John Robert Smith, and Amtrak Board Vice-Chair Michael S. Dukakis (all confirmed).

NCI will also present NCI’s New Don Phillips Award for Excellence in Transportation Journalism to Don Phillips, Staff Writer of The Washington Post (confirmed).

There will be a special conference session for journalists and industry leaders – The News Media and Transportation – “Making News”

NCI’s intensive annual conference is for rail industry executives, the media, labor unions, economic development professionals, urban planners, designers, preservationists, environmental activists, transportation builders/operators, advocates, government leaders, and financiers. It is a place for transportation reporters to find out why NCI’s conferences are so unique.

The conference fees are the same as last year:

U.S. $475 (corporate); U.S. $375 (government); and U.S. $350 (non-profit, union).

Checks should be payable to NCI, Inc. 35 Terminal Rd., Suite 210, Providence R.I. 02905.

Arrange hotel accommodations at special low conference rates directly with the Washington Marriott 202-872-1500 fax 202-872-9899 and mention The National Corridors Initiative.


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Ammo is loaded for Amtrak’s
forthcoming battle on the Hill

By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

Republican Congressional leaders have agreed among themselves to land on the House figure of $762 million for Amtrak – far short of the $1.2 billion Amtrak President David Gunn said he needs to keep the railroad running. That, he said, is rock bottom.

The AP reported on January 10 that under this agreement, Amtrak would lose about one-third of the $1.2 billion figure. That would land America’s intercity passenger carrier at about the House $762 million figure, with Amtrak described as “a big loser” in the transportation budget for fiscal Year 2003, one of several appropriations bills that should have been but were not approved last year because the two political parties could not agree on the bottom lines.

Is a shutdown coming down the pike?

“If that’s the last chapter in the story,” NARP’s Executive Director Ross Capon told D:F.

Of course, you can expect many showdowns between now and that push-shove point.

The news came as the Senate last Friday (January 10) was still in the throes of organization negotiations. Traditionally, the majority party gets two-thirds of the committee staffs and the minority one-third, but this time, the minority Democrats want more than that. This could be the first gutsy test for the new Senate GOP Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.)

Word had it that the first hearing on Amtrak would come Tuesday at the earliest. Transportation Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) was already reported to be “leaning” toward the smaller Amtrak figure.

Gunn was warning that $762 million “would guarantee insolvency by spring and the shutting down of the railroad at that time. There are no easy options to any of us if the funding level falls below $1.2 billion,” he said.

If the Bush administration hopes Congress will adopt its proposal to franchise sections of the freight railroad track to multiple passengers operators other than Amtrak, it will meet stiff opposition from the freight railroad industry.

In answer to a direct question Friday from D:F, Association of American Railroads (AAR) President Ed Hamberger, the freight rail carriers’ point man in Washington, said the industry had informed the White House in no uncertain terms of its position.

“Any feedback?” we asked.

“None that I can report,” he responded, leaving the tenor of that closed-door meeting open to speculation.

He said, “We would prefer to deal with one entity, Amtrak, which understands that its [operations in one part of the country] impact the operations on a network [coast-to-coast] basis, and so it’s important, in our view that there be one operator [nationwide] and that operator should be Amtrak.”

Hamberger’s response at the Transportation Table at the National Press Club drew applause from exactly one person in the audience. He recognized or surmised that the lone applauder was from rail labor. (We’ll have a separate story on Hamberger’s remarks next week.)

Speaking of rail labor, leaders of that segment of the Amtrak constituency have been meeting to organize strategy for lobbying in the new 108th Congress. It is not clear, however, that they are all on the same page.

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, issued a statement by its president, Sonny Hall, saying that in order to get the economy rolling, you put people to work and that “somebody should tell the West Wing that 40,000 jobs are created for every billion dollars spent on our transportation system.”

He then suggested that would be “real economic stimulus” as opposed to President Bush’s “tax cuts for the wealthy.”

That class warfare rhetoric runs counter to the strategy outlined for D:F (See last week) by United Transportation Union (UTU) Legislative Director James Brunkenhoefer, who said pro-Amtrak lobbyists should impress upon the GOP Congress that many Republican voters ride Amtrak. Slamming the president’s tax policy, he believes, could be a turnoff for the laptop set riding the NEC or seniors with disposable income on long distance trains. Further, some strategists believe it might be counterproductive with the 92 million taxpayers (who are also eligible voters) who have been told they stand to save an average of over $1,000 of their own money through the tax cut program.

Hall is International President of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), with about 1,000 Amtrak workers. Brunkenhoefer’s UTU has about 2,500 members working for the passenger railroad.

At mid-week, Gunn issued a memo to his employees informing them of his plans to discontinue the Kentucky Cardinal between Louisville and Indianapolis (while continuing the main Cardinal from Washington to Chicago) and the Chicago-Pittsburgh leg of the Pennsylvanian (retaining the Pittsburgh-Washington segment at a better travel time). Gunn went out of his way to emphasize that these cuts “are not the start of major changes in services,” but resulted from Amtrak’s phase-out of the express business, which he has said is a money-loser for the company.

During the first week of the 108th Congress, the battleground was being prepared for decisions on the future of rail passenger service in the United States.

NARP set the table for this by warning its members to prepare for a major lobbying effort. Long distance trains, its “Action Alert” read, are threatened on several fronts:

The passenger rail organization said it was wary of a proposal in Congress to put a cap on funding for long-distance trains.

Add to all that the effect of the recession, post September 11, 2001 security expenses, and an increase in Amtrak’s financing costs, and NARP figures its members’ lobbying work is cut out for them.

Meanwhile, one of the first pro-Amtrak shots of 2003 was fired in the halls of Congress when Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (D-S.C.) introduced the National Defense Rail Act (S.104) aimed, the senator said, at providing “a long-term strategy to build and maintain an effective national passenger railroad system.”

Reflecting most of the features found in a similar bill the senator introduced last year, it would authorize an annual federal investment of $4.6 billion from Fiscal Years 2004 to 2008 “to develop a world-class, national passenger rail system…essential to achieve a balanced U.S. transportation system.”

The measure’s provisions include upgrading “security needs and assessments,” development of high-speed corridors outside the NEC, acquisition of rolling stock and track and signal equipment, developing short distance corridors between large urban centers, and preserving long distance routes in rural areas lacking adequate air service.

Thus, the curtain rises on the “Great Amtrak Battle of 2003” – the 33rd annual “Great Amtrak Battle” of the passenger railroad’s history. This is where I came in.


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COMMENTARY  Commentary...

Sense in the Senate

By Jim RePass

This week’s rumor that some Senate appropriations committee members want to cut back Amtrak’s appropriation from $1.2 billion to $762 million should be met with outrage – and phone calls, editorials, and letters to the editors.

The national transportation system is under enough stress as it is without disabling the passenger rail network, including the Northeast Corridor, which such an action would do. Amtrak’s President David Gunn has already stated that he will shut down the system if Congress continues with this game of financial brinkmanship, and most of us who know David believe what he says.

To those members of the news media who read Destination:Freedom, some explanation: Budgets may be tight, but Amtrak has been on starvation wages for its entire existence. From 1997-2002, for example it was authorized at $1 billion a year, yet often received half of that. No wonder it is in a hole.

People who think we can just kill the long distance trains and keep running the Northeast Corridor (which carries about half Amtrak’s customers) are badly mistaken: the NEC is $6 billion in arrears on infrastructure and maintenance, and has always required more support, not less, than the long distance strains, which operate over the tracks of the freight railroads. The NEC has never gotten it, and now is in rough shape.

We have got to get over the knee-jerk ideological urge to punish Amtrak because it requires a subsidy. The airline and highway systems have always required a far greater subsidy, yet no one threatens to cut the funding for those modes by 50 per cent, or anything approaching that ludicrous amount. Indeed, while the airlines have soaked up subsidies for years, lately they have been eating tax dollars at a prodigious rate.

Time to act (once again) and call the Senate Appropriations Committee 202-224-3471. Speak now, or forever regret it.


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Mayors to meet in D.C.

Some 300 mayors from across the nation will gather in the national capital later this month to discuss how to boost the economy, ensure homeland security, and address other major challenges facing cities. The mayors will gather at the 71st annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors on January 22-24, 2003.

The mayors’ conference has consistently voted to support Amtrak and its services.

They will hear from prominent Bush administration officials, members of Congress, and business and non-profit community leaders, including Amtrak president and CEO David Gunn.

The Transportation and Communications Committee’s session is expected to focus on issues related to key transportation bills scheduled for reauthorization in 2003 including Amtrak, the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), and the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR 21). The session will also focus on key telecommunications and cable regulatory and legislative issues challenging local government interest.

Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth L. Barr will chair the transportation meeting. U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), who is chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has been invited to speak, but has not yet accepted, according to conference officials.

A draft agenda for the meeting, list of pre-registered mayors, and related information are available online at http://www.usmayors.org/71stwintermeeting.

The meeting will take place at the Capital Hilton Hotel, 16th and K Streets, NW, where a working pressroom will be available.


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Burbank Wreck-KTLA-TV

KTLA-TV via Los Angeles Times

A truck driver died and 33 passengers and crew were injured on a Metrolink commuter train in Burbank, Calif., on January 6.

 

1 dead, 33 injured in Burbank Metrolink crash

A Metrolink train carrying morning commuters from Santa Clarita to downtown Los Angeles crashed into a pickup truck January 6 at a grade crossing in Burbank and derailed. A truck driver, who apparently ran around the crossing gates, died. At least 32 passengers and train crewmembers were injured, several seriously. One firefighter was also hurt.

Police said the driver, Jacek W. Wysocki, had attempted to run around a closed crossing gate as the four-car train bore down at about 70 mph, according to The Los Angeles Times. The impact severed the cab from the rest of the pickup, flinging shrapnel onto the Golden State Freeway, which runs parallel to the tracks.

The first two cars of the train overturned, sending passengers tumbling, one official said, like clothes in a dryer.

As the train pushed the severed cab of the Ford F-350, it ground the truck into a mangle of metal, leaving the engine block 600 feet from the charred remnants of the driver’s compartment.

Tanya Aguilar was stopped at a traffic light when she saw the truck make a left turn from San Fernando Boulevard onto Buena Vista Street, immediately in front of the train crossing.

“He slowed down and all of a sudden he turned right [around] the gates,” said Aguilar, 23, who said she began honking her car horn to warn the truck driver. “I don’t know how he couldn’t see the lights because they were flashing. I think he was trying to beat the train. When he hit the track, the train hit him right away and it was a big ball of fire.”

“It was awful,” she said. “That poor man.”

The accident occurred at 9:30 a.m., at the end of the morning rush. The 450-ton train’s locomotive pushed the trainset.

The engineer, in the control car, was among the four people who were most seriously injured, according to Sharon Gavin, a Metrolink spokeswoman. The four were taken to hospitals, as well as eight others who were less seriously injured.

Twenty people aboard the train suffered minor injuries, including the conductor, who was in the locomotive, authorities said. Also, one firefighter who was helping with rescue operations was reported hurt.

The train was Metrolink No. 210, and had begun its trip at 8:47 a.m. at the Via Princessa station in Santa Clarita. It had just left the Sun Valley station and was 20 minutes from its scheduled arrival at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles when the accident occurred, not far from Burbank Airport. There were 58 passengers and two crew members aboard.

After slamming into the truck, the train continued on about 1,000 feet before derailing. Several passengers said they saw a fireball, which was presumably parts from the truck, fly by their windows.

“I was reading a book and I felt a big jostle and flames went by my window,” said Ryan Schatz, 26, of Valencia. “Then we rolled over onto our side.” Schatz was on his way to his first day of class at Univ. of Southern California dental school and was sitting in the lead car.

“There was some screaming, but most people were just shocked,” he said. “We were very lucky. It was kind of empty.”

Another passenger, Brad Wohlenberg, said he had just taken a seat in the front car when “suddenly there was a bang and everything started shaking violently, and flipped over.”

He said he managed to lock his legs against the seat in front of him and rode out the estimated 15 seconds that the car screeched forward on its side.

Wohlenberg and about half a dozen other people in the car used hand-grip poles in the car, usually vertical but suddenly rendered horizontal, to pull themselves up and escape through a window.

Wohlenberg, a lawyer who commutes from Stevenson Ranch to his office in downtown Los Angeles, recounted his experience while walking out of Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, where he was treated for minor bruises. With him was his wife, Jennifer Wohlenberg.

“This is kind of my worst nightmare,” she had said earlier. “But obviously it came out much better than a nightmare.”

The crash brought out the best in many passengers and nearby motorists who stopped to help. Morning commuters, many in business suits, assisted fellow passengers off the train and onto the tracks. Two retired firefighters (old friends who happened to both be driving by) were among the first on the scene.

“Hey, Jack,” said Charles “Chick” Mokracek, 61, a 30-year Los Angeles Fire Department veteran, as he dashed past longtime buddy Jack Mitchell, the retired Burbank fire captain.

Stan Horst, an off-duty L.A. firefighter and paramedic, was dropping his daughter at Burbank Airport. He looked up, saw a dust cloud, and headed toward the scene.

A 26-year veteran of the department, Horst carries a first-aid kit in the trunk of his car. He grabbed it and headed for the toppled train car just as the first ambulance was arriving.

Horst said he climbed into the car through a door.

The scene inside was eerie, he said. Morning sun streamed through side windows that now faced skyward. The doors on the bottom were pushed upward.

Seat cushions, newspapers and broken glass were scattered. Horst said he found about a half-dozen passengers.

Horst said he helped one man who was suffering shortness of breath. Another woman had broken her arm, he said.

Metrolink service on the line resumed by afternoon.

Neighbors and passersby said they have worried about accidents at this crossing, especially after the intersection was reconfigured about six months ago.

They complained the timing of the traffic lights sometimes causes a backup at the crossing gate. Buena Vista Street leads to an onramp to the Golden State Freeway, and is frequently congested.

“This is a bad intersection,” said Lorna MacKay, 38, who lives nearby and saw the ball of flames from the crash.

“Everybody’s sitting right on top of the tracks trying to get on the freeway. I’ve been waiting for this to happen.”

Burbank Traffic Engineer Kenneth Johnson agreed the intersection is a problem, and said the city plans to add a left-turn signal and widen Buena Vista Street.

A railroad accident investigator for the regional office of the National Transportation Safety Board said the agency has sent three officials to assess the crash.


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Turboliners still on hold

Expect to see the first rebuilt Turboliner train carry passengers from Albany to New York City within three months – but track work that would allow the trains to run at top speed is on hold, New York State Transportation Commissioner Joseph Boardman said on January 7.

Boardman discussed prospects for moving the state’s high-speed rail program forward after meeting on January 6 with Amtrak President David Gunn and other rail officials, reports the Albany Times-Union.

Although the talks touched on many issues related Amtrak’s survival, the still-idle Turboliners were discussed, Boardman said, and “what it really got down to was that Amtrak believes they can get the turbos in service in the next 30 to 90 days.”

Boardman said he urged Gunn to get the Turbotrains rolling as soon as possible. Two of seven 1970s-era diesel-turbine trains being reconditioned by Super Steel Schenectady under a $74.4 million state contract have been delivered to Amtrak’s Rensselaer maintenance shop, and NYDOT contends that the first is ready for service.

Amtrak officials say they need more time to train crews, develop a stock of spare parts and obtain maintenance manuals before running any of the trains.

“I think they need to move faster, and I told them that,” Boardman said, but he trusts Gunn’s assurances the trains will be running in one to three months.

Some $140 million in work on tracks, bridges and crossings, needed to enable the trains to operate at a full speed of 125 mph is uncertain. Without a federal commitment to funding Amtrak at the $1.2 billion a year level Gunn says is needed, the national passenger railroad is in no position to pay its share of any track work or predict whether it will, Boardman said.

“Amtrak is like a train at night in the fog,” he observed.

“The headlights are on and they’re moving, but with the high beams on, they reflect back, and we don’t know exactly where the White House or Congress are on this. It was a very good discussion focused on what is needed to get Amtrak stabilized.”

Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel in Washington said, “It’s in the interest of New York State for Amtrak to be stable and have adequate federal support.”

Amtrak also announced a series of permanent fare reductions on many long-distance routes, including the Lake Shore Limited between Albany and Chicago. Amtrak is also offering annual winter specials that will further reduce fares on all routes.

“The goal is to entice travelers to travel on Amtrak by offering lower coach fares and, in some cases, reward people for booking early,” Stessel said.

Amtrak’s lower fares, with reductions of up to 25 percent, will be available for coach travel on most of the railroad’s long-distance routes. The price of a ticket from Albany-Rensselaer to Chicago, for example, now will cost $64 instead of $84.

Meanwhile, a winter promotion will allow passengers a free ticket for a companion or a 25 percent discount on a single ticket. Those discounts are available on tickets purchased through February 15 and are good for travel between January 10 and August 18.


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Solon would offer free train rides

A Connecticut state senator has a plan to lure commuters out of their cars and onto Shore Line East trains.

Sen. William Aniskovich (R) of Branford said he planned to propose laws this month that would offer free train tickets for the next 12 years, or until the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge (in New Haven) and the New Haven corridor of the I-95 construction projects are complete.

Aniskovich said he will also recommend that the state renegotiate its contract with Amtrak, which now operates the service, and allow Metro-North to run it, reports the New York Times of January 5.

A third element of his plan would increase service frequency so that commuters have more options of fitting the trains into their schedules.

“If we don’t resolve the traffic congestion problem, it’s a potential threat to the job base of the region,” Aniskovich said. “It’s not about that people are angry because it takes 10 minutes to get over the ‘Q’ bridge. The “Q” is a nickname for the Quinnipiac Bridge, also in New Haven.

“The less congestion there is on the highway, the easier it will be to move products into and out of the cities. The biotech industry, for example, will find the region more attractive and may locate their businesses here.”

The Shore Line East train service that runs between New London and New Haven has been a hard sell to many commuters.

On an average day, 129,200 highway vehicles travel into New Haven from the shoreline, according to the state DOT, and there are no signs of that letting up. The numbers are from 2001, the most recent year available.

Even though there is a $500 million deficit in the general budget, there is a $10 million surplus in the Special Transportation Fund, which Aniskovich proposes could be used to revamp the train service. The revenue from the fund comes from taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel and other motor vehicle fees. The fund, created in 1986 in response to the Mianus River Bridge collapse spanning the Connecticut River, was to be used to improve bridges. Now it is also used to pay DOT employees and for town road aid and other transportation-related costs.

Aniskovich said the fund was supposed to be self-sustaining, but now bonds are issued, which requires a portion of the fund to be paid as debt service. “That is the single biggest obstacle to a major investment in mass transit,” he said.

Aniskovich said that Shore Line East would cost a projected $8.1 million to operate in Fiscal Year 2002-2003, with $932,000 of the total cost coming from ticket sales.

Not everyone is convinced that his plan will work.

Harry Harris, bureau chief for the Bureau of Public Transportation, said there are numerous obstacles to increased service.

“There’s no new equipment to meet the service needs now,” he said, and noted, “The equipment we have is old and breaking down. To add more service would only exacerbate those problems.”

As for the financing, the state’s special transportation fund, because it issues the bonds, is required to have a surplus at all times and cannot be tapped, Harris said. He added that there are expenses expected in the next few years that would use up the surplus.

The idea to have Metro-North take over the service has been discussed in the past, but Harris said he has not seen hard data that it would actually work.

Metro-North conductors and engineers receive higher pay than Amtrak employees do and Amtrak owns the land over which the trains travel between New Haven and New London. Hiring Metro-North, it appears, would be more expensive.

If Amtrak no longer had the service contract with the state, the company would charge Metro-North a right-of-way fee. Amtrak does not charge the state for access to the property.

“If the state wants to change operators, that is their prerogative,” said Clifford Black, director of media relations for Amtrak.

“We’re not opposed to talking about the idea. It is not unprecedented for commuter railroads to be operated by other entities on Amtrak-owned property.”

Harris said he loves the idea of free tickets, and thinks it would increase ridership, but he cannot imagine the legislature voting for it in the current budget crisis.

Despite the worsening traffic on I-95 and over the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge into New Haven, people have clung to their cars and continued to drive to work, mostly alone.

The trains start in New London, go through Westbrook, Old Saybrook, Madison, Guilford and Branford and end in New Haven with stops at both State Street Station and Union Station

Aniskovich, who is the ranking Republican on the transportation committee, said the only way to make the service successful is to have a lot more trains coming and going, including nights and weekends. The service has exceeded ridership estimates each year that it has been in business, he said.

Commuters have mixed feelings about the train because it has not always been reliable or convenient in the past.

One former rider said she rode the train for about five months in 1994. She said the trip took her an hour and a half versus 45 minutes on the highway.

She had to drive to the train station, wait for the train, travel to New Haven, get off the train, board a bus, then walk several blocks to her building.


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Lancaster prepares for rail renaissance

Train travel, once considered a prime mode of public transportation, is experiencing a resurgence on the East Coast and beyond. Lancaster County, Penna., in the middle of one of Amtrak’s busiest corridors, is part of the renaissance, reports the Lancaster Sunday News.

In the next several years, government and business plan to invest tens of millions of dollars in the Keystone Corridor, which runs from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, to bring passenger rail service into the 21st century.

Lancaster is about 70 miles west of Philadelphia, and 150 miles west of New York City.

Ranging from the construction of an Amtrak station at Harrisburg International Airport to a switch to quicker, electric trains, these improvements are expected to boost Amtrak ridership along the 104-mile corridor, drawing additional commuters and tourists. A proposal for a regional rail system from Lancaster to Carlisle also is in the works.

Increased congestion on the roads and in the skies is prompting more people to travel by train, said Chris Neumann, deputy director of transportation planning for the Lancaster County Planning Commission.

The Amtrak projects “are a real opportunity to improve our transportation infrastructure,’ said Ron Bailey, executive director of the county planning commission, which is leading some of railroad improvements.

The Keystone Corridor “is PennDOT’s No. 1 priority” when it comes to Amtrak, Neumann said. Ridership on the corridor has increased from 400,000 in 1994 to more than 1 million.

“The demand is definitely there,” said Bailey, who notes 70 trains used to serve the Lancaster station, including the Broadway Limited. Neumann said, “It can grow more if we continue to make these improvements.”

In the first half of the 20th century, the Keystone Corridor, from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, “was the Pennsylvania Railroad’s main line,” Bailey said, but that was before competition from the automobile and the airplane, the close of the railway post office system, and construction of interstate highways – which caused steep declines in the numbers of railroad passengers.

Today, intercity train service is seeing a resurgence, Neumann said, adding, “More people take the train from New York to Washington, D.C., than fly.”

A high-quality rail corridor through Lancaster County will allow people to “take advantage of a tremendous resource, with connections to Harrisburg, Philadelphia and points beyond,” he said.

Joe Daversa, director of the Bureau of Public Transportation for the Pennsylvania DOT, said the Keystone Corridor is among the 25 busiest corridors in the country.

A new Amtrak station being built as part of a $222 million expansion at Harrisburg International Airport, scheduled for completion by 2004, will have a major effect on Lancaster County, Bailey said, “because over half the boardings at HIA come from Lancaster.”

Daversa said the station will cost $9 million to $10 million, and is part of a “multimodal” transportation center. It will be built next to a new 283,000-foot airport terminal.

When the downtown convention center is built, visitors will be able to fly into HIA, board the train to Lancaster and take a Red Rose Transit Authority shuttle straight to the complex, he said.

The HIA station “will have a great impact on the viability and feasibility of the convention center,’ Bailey said.

A train station at HIA wasn’t built earlier because government officials “didn’t think in terms of intermodal service and connection (combining different forms of transportation) for a long time,’ he said.

The station was originally recommended more than 10 years ago, Bailey said, but is only now being realized.

Another recommendation from the early 1990s coming to fruition is a $2.6 million Amtrak station in Paradise Township that should be under construction by the summer. Right now, there’s no station between Parkesburg, Chester County and Lancaster, Neumann said, which is the longest stretch on the Keystone Corridor without a stop, about 24 miles.

Continuous, welded rail that will replace jointed rail “will improve speed and give a smoother ride,’ Neumann said. “It’s a very secure track.’

A portion of the $140 million will pay for electric-powered locomotives, which can run on the welded track, Daversa said.

In the next few years, three at-grade crossings will be replaced by bridges, enabling trains to reach 110 mph. Currently, top speed is 90 mph.


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COMMUTER LINES...

Long Island Rail Road president leaving

Kenneth Bauer, the president of the Long Island Rail Road said last week he would retire after a 30-year career with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the railroad, a spokesman for the railroad said. Bauer was the railroad’s president for nearly three years.

Last year the railroad, which carries 279,000 riders a day, had its best year for on-time performance, the spokesman, Brian Dolan, said. In October, the authority announced plans to merge the historically troubled Long Island Rail Road with the more efficient Metro-North Railroad, according to The New York Times.

Peter S. Kalikow, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said he was indebted to Bauer for his efforts to make the railroad “one of the best commuter rails in the country.” The railroad is cleaner and more likely to run on schedule, and commuter complaints have been down during Bauer’s tenure, said Tom Kelly, chief spokesman for the authority.


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Sounders record gains; extension okayed

Sound Transit’s Sounder commuter rail service was even more popular than expected in 2002, exceeding the projection of 610,000 passengers. At the same time, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approved the environmental impact statement (EIS) for Sounder service from Tacoma to Lakewood.

“This is a double dose of good news,” said Sound Transit Board Chair Ron Sims.

“We were pleasantly surprised when we learned that 670,000 people rode our Sounder trains in 2002; that exceeded our projection for the year by 10 percent, or 60,000 riders.” That was a 19 percent increase over 2001.

“This, coupled with the federal EIS decision, is a major step forward. It will enable us to begin acquiring right-of-way and station property for this important addition to our service,” added Sims.

The recent decision completes the federal environmental process – a key step in obtaining final design approval from the FTA.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue with the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad regarding the Lakewood Extension and service between Seattle and Everett.

“We are making progress in the negotiations,” said Sims, and added, “We hope to have an agreement in principle this year so we can begin the track and signal improvements that will allow many more thousands to choose this time-saving option for their daily commute.”

The Sounder ridership numbers for 2002 received a boost in September when a third round-trip was added between Tacoma and Seattle. Special trains including Mariners Home Run Service, Seahawks Special, and the Holiday Special, also drew record numbers.

In 1996, voters approved funding for Sound Transit to provide a regional system of transit improvements, including Sounder commuter rail, ST Express regional bus service, numerous capital improvements (including park-and-ride lots, transit centers and direct access ramps) and Link light rail.


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Illinois solon sees trolleys ahead

In their heyday, long before being phased out in 1958, trolleys had 2,000 miles of track in Chicago. If an influential Southwest Side congressman has his way, trolleys, also known as streetcars, will return to select Chicago and suburban roads in less than a decade, perhaps on some of the same rails used years ago.

U.S. Rep. William O. Lipinski (D-Ill.) said January 3 he will push to get money from the next surface transportation bill to help pay for a trolley line from the North Riverside Park Mall to the West Loop or Navy Pier, according to the Chicago Sun-Times of January 5.

The streetcar route, as he envisions it, would run largely on Ogden Avenue and Cermak Road. It would be geared toward commuters, as opposed to being solely a tourist attraction. He said he hopes it would spur housing and business development along the corridor, much of which is economically depressed, and little if any of which is in his Congressional district.

”Back when I was attending Blessed Sacrament Grammar School, I was a patrol boy at Ogden and Central Park,” said Lipinski, whose late father was a streetcar operator and bus driver in the same Lawndale neighborhood.

“Ogden Avenue was such a wide street… I always believed that should be a main thoroughfare… because of its close proximity to the Loop, its direct access to the Loop, and because the housing stock was so substantial.”

Major stops, according to a preliminary map drafted by the CTA, would include existing transit stations, Douglas Park, the West Side Medical District and the United Center. There would be two strips of track so trolleys could simultaneously travel in each direction.

For several months, Lipinski has consulted with CTA and city officials. Although he characterized those officials as cooperative, for now they back an alternative for the corridor: a so-called bus rapid transit system with dedicated lanes for public buses.

Because of his position in Congress, Lipinski will play a key role in crafting the multibillion-dollar transportation bill, and he will help push Mayor Daley’s transportation agenda, which for the CTA might include a new circular L line. So mayoral aides are treading gently with Lipinski, even as they differ with him over the trolley proposal.

“The fact that Congressman Lipinski is as interested as he clearly is, is exciting,” said CTA President Frank Kruesi, a Daley adviser.

Kruesi acknowledged he likes the bus plan because it’s cheaper and could be converted to a rail line “at a later date,” but he added, “It’s still very preliminary. It could be proven that I’m wrong... It’s way early to be able to make informed judgments about what would make the most sense along that corridor and how those alternatives would stack up to other alternative projects.”

Lipinski wants to seek federal funds under a special category for test projects that could serve as models for other cities. As such, he believes the trolley concept has a better chance of securing federal money. The state, city and maybe some near west suburbs also would need to kick in cash to make the project work, he said, adding, “I’m presuming both of those entities [the city and state] will look favorably on putting some money into this project because they want to make sure I look favorably” on their needs.

Neither Lipinski nor Kruesi could provide cost estimates, but the veteran congressman believes funding to design and build the trolley line would have to be spread over the next two surface transportation bills, which are renewed every five years or so.

The CTA is researching whether old trolley track remains below the pavement on parts of Cermak and Ogden, officials said. If the track is still there, it might be able to be reused, Lipinski said. As for the streetcars, he wants them to look historic.

In Chicago, trolleys, which were powered by an overhead electric line, date to 1890, according to the CTA. Trolleys eventually became so popular that cable cars, which were introduced in 1882, were phased out by 1906.

Pullman became a big manufacturer of streetcars, which were operated in the early days by private companies. The CTA, which was created after World War II, eventually took over trolley operations, phasing out the last route, the Clark-Wentworth, in 1958.

“They were Green Hornets,” said the Illinois Railway Museum’s Richard Schauer, referring to the nickname of those streetcars.

“Really they went out of service because the CTA... didn’t see a future for them in their surface transportation plan. They saw buses,” and the L trolleys required too much infrastructure, too much labor, too much maintenance. Trolley buses, which also tapped the overhead wires, ran until 1973.


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Anchorage gets new passenger station

A new $28-million, federally funded rail station at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport was dedicated on December 4, providing a direct connection from trains to airline ticket counter. Although the facility will initially be used by cruise passengers between May and September, local officials hope it will someday be a stop on a commuter rail line linking the city to suburban Wasilla and Girdwood. For now, the Alaska Railroad Corp. will run shuttle trains between the cruise ship dock in Seward and the Anchorage International.

– Thanks to Rail transit Online, www.railtransitonline.com


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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.


FTA’s top security notion is to write it down

The Federal Transit Administration recently released a list of the “Top 20 Security Action Items for Transit Agencies,” describing elements that public transportation agencies are advised to incorporate into their System Security Program Plans. The list includes issues of management and accountability; security problem identification; employee selection; training; audits and drills; document control; access control; and homeland security.

The top item on the agenda is for transit agencies to establish a written security program and emergency management plans.

FTA Deputy Administrator Robert Jamison presented the list at the December 6 meeting of the APTA Executive Committee Security Task Force, chaired by APTA Secretary-Treasurer Richard A. White.

Members of the task force, including APTA Chair Celia Kupersmith and APTA President William W. Millar, called the list a valuable resource that will be circulated and communicated to APTA members, and will be incorporated into a special “Security Initiatives” presentation at the APTA General Managers Seminar later this month in Tampa.

In addition, the “Top 20” list will be discussed at a session of the Transportation Research Board’s Annual Meeting on January 14 in Washington. The session, titled Diagnosis for Transit Security: A Prescription for Program Priorities, runs from 8 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. and will be led by Jamison.

Topics at the TRB session will include establishing a system approach to transit security management; regional coordination and communication for emergency response; training front line employees; and security awareness for transit passengers.


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WMATA cops focus on enforcing ordinances

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Police have created a new squad of officers called the Rail Anti-Crime Target Squad which focuses on the enforcement of WMATA’s public conduct. The newly formed squad began its new role in mid-December. Their focus is increased enforcement of littering, smoking, eating, and drinking violations inside Metrorail stations. Additionally, fare evaders, pickpockets, and disorderly juveniles are being targeted.


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Cleveland dedicates transit center

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and the City of North Olmstead recently dedicated a $1.7 million transit center and park-n-ride lot in one of the area’s busiest corridors, Interstate 480. The new facility includes 300 lighted parking spaces, an enclosed 900-square-foot passenger waiting building, new traffic signals, landscaping, and a new roadway.

The transit center and park-n-ride lot is for commuters from Cleveland’s western suburbs and Lorain County, with non-stop bus service to downtown Cleveland.


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Agency earns $419 million in MetroLink bond sale

The Bi-State Development Agency in St. Louis reports that net proceeds to fund the Cross County MetroLink extension project totaled $419 million.

Bi-State entered the market at one of the lowest interest rate levels in the last 40 years. Bonds were structured to take advantage of this interest rate level by deferring principal payments and taking advantage of prior expenditure reimbursements, providing the agency with a new source of capital to fund critical projects. An additional agency contribution from local sales tax revenues had brought the final deposit for the construction fund to $484 million.

The Cross County Extension, one of the largest publicly funded projects ever undertaken in the St. Louis region, is an eight-mile, nine-station extension of the MetroLink light rail system. Beginning at the existing Forest Park Station, it will serve several St. Louis County municipalities as well as the city


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Illinois county adopts transit benefits plan

The second most populated county in that nation has joined a growing list of state and local governments providing pre-tax commuting benefits to their employees. Cook County, Ill., named WageWorks to administer a new pre-tax commuter transit and parking program. The three-year contract, approved by the Cook County Board of Commissioners, makes services available to 26,000 eligible employees, and allows employees to save on commuting costs by using pre-tax income.


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Aspen dumps trolleys, plans

Six historic trolley cars purchased from Portugal 25 years ago and intended for operation in the streets of Aspen, Colo., have been sold. One car was manufactured in 1899 and the other five were assembled from kits in 1925. The cars had been stored in the open near Aspen, partially protected by tarpaulins, awaiting a decision on their fate, according to Rail Transit Online.

That decision came in November when voters and the city council separately rejected plans for a heritage streetcar system. The city already had offers in hand to take the cars for free and the deals were immediately sealed without notice or public bidding.

One car that had been cosmetically restored after an anonymous donor contributed $20,000 was hauled off to Issaquah, Wash., where a short line is already operating and planning is underway for an extension.

The other five cars will go to Issaquah, Tucson and Wanganui, New Zealand. Local trolley enthusiasts protested the swift action by the city, claiming officials had no right under the state constitution to give the cars away unless the city got some benefit. Further, the anonymous donor reportedly stipulated that his gift required the restored trolley to remain in Aspen. However, City Manager Steve Barwick told The Denver Post that it “…is a done deal. We directed the city staff to proceed,” and there are no plans to reconsider.


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FREIGHT LINES...
NCRR Map

NCRR

North Carolina is planning to install continuous welded rail and CTC.

 

NCRR looks to upgrade its tracks

The North Carolina Railroad Co. (NCRR) board okayed three track projects on January 7.

The directors, in Raleigh, approved installing continuous welded rail on the NCRR’s main line to add about six miles of double-track between Raleigh and Goldsboro, and install centralized traffic control the railroad between Raleigh and Goldsboro to improve speed and reliability and accommodate more freight and passenger trains.

NCRR has committed $24.5 million for the improvements. The funds for the three projects come from rent paid to NCRR by Norfolk Southern Ry. Co., which uses and dispatches the 317-mile NCRR line.

Spokesperson Kat Christian said, “We have not yet chosen a signal system designer or manufacturer, but we will be talking with Norfolk Southern regarding track design.”

She added, “The rail replacement project will allow heavier freight trains to move faster and more efficiently and promote better service in eastern North Carolina. The track and the signal projects will improve the railroad’s capacity to eventually carry commuter trains such as those being considered by Eastrans.”

“Eastrans” is a coalition of advocates for commuter rail from a four-county region in North Carolina “east of the Triangle, including Wake, Johnston, Wilson and Wayne,” she said.

The CTC project will raise this part of the corridor to the same standard as that between Raleigh and Charlotte.

“Infrastructure is expensive so we cannot move as quickly as we’d like, but we have a plan for upgrades that will give us a steady increase in rail speed and capacity,” said Scott Saylor, NCRR president.

“To help the state compete with other Atlantic Seaboard and southern states in recruiting new businesses and industries to replace the ones we’ve lost, we are improving the railroad.”

NCRR owns and manages the 317-mile rail corridor that extends across the state from Morehead City to Charlotte. The railroad carries more than 60 freight trains operated by Norfolk Southern and eight Amtrak passenger trains daily. The NCRR’s mission is to manage, improve and protect the state’s rail properties and corridors in a manner that will enhance freight and passenger service and promote economic development.


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Rail freight traffic up sharply as new year begins

Rail freight traffic on U.S. railroads was up sharply during the week ended January 4 in comparison with the first week of last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on January 9.

Carload freight totaled 271,050 cars, up 9.4 percent from last year, with volume up 11.2 percent in the East and 8.2 percent in the West. Intermodal traffic, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 126,772 trailers and containers, up 9.8 percent from last year. Total volume was estimated at 23.8 billion ton-miles, up 9.2 percent from last year.

Sixteen out of 19 commodity groups were up in comparison with last year, with farm products other than grain; metallic ores; crushed stone, gravel and sand; lumber and wood products; pulp, paper and allied products; chemicals; stone, clay and glass products; metals and products; and waste and scrap materials all registering double digit gains. Loadings of motor vehicles and equipment were down 22.7 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 90 percent of U.S. carload freight and 97 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 99 percent. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nation’s intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

Intermodal freight was up sharply but carload freight was down on Canadian railroads during the week ended January 4. Intermodal traffic totaled 28,675 trailers and containers, up 22.4 percent from last year. Carload volume was 45,094 cars, down 2.0 percent from last year’s first week.

Combined volume for the first week of 2003 on 16 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 316,144 carloads, up 7.6 percent from last year and 155,447 trailers and containers, down 11.9 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) totaled 6,676 cars originated, up 13.6 percent from last year. TFM reported originated intermodal volume of 1,583 trailers or containers, down 47.4 percent from the first week of 2002.

The AAR is online atwww.aar.org.


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OFF THE MAIN LINE...

ALSTOM contributes to Smithsonian trolley project

ALSTOM says it has contributed to the restoration of a 1959 Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) car which was placed last week on the floor of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington D.C. The car will be one of the objects in the museum “America on the Move” exhibition, scheduled to open November 19.

The work performed by ALSTOM was carried out in its Hornell, NY, facilities, and ALSTOM donated the necessary man-hours and materials. The car was first stripped bare, and then repainted by ALSTOM inside and outside with the color scheme it historically had: from light green on the ceiling to medium and dark green on the walls for the interior, and dark green and cream with an orange stripe for the exterior.

Stephan Rambaud-Measson, an ALSTOM vice-president, said, “It is a great honor for ALSTOM to be associated with the prestigious Smithsonian Institution in contributing to this major exhibition which will enable visitors to broaden their knowledge of the key role transportation has played in the nation’s history.”


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LETTERS...

Dear Editor:

I greatly enjoy your informative newsletters and normally agree fully with Jim RePass. However, his huffing at Union Pacific [D:F January 6] over Bakersfield-Los Angeles service seems a little misplaced. I understood UP’s objection was to Sacramento-Los Angeles overnight service, tried once before with the Spirit of California. UP’s quote was presented as unreasonable given that few people would drive that route all night.

If you consider only the Bakersfield-L.A. segment, surely Jim knows that bus services have been there many years because the rail route is very roundabout; the bus basically goes “over the mountain,” and there you are. We found this out in 2000 when we used it Pasadena-Sacramento; the service is convenient, right to trainside in Bakersfield, our bags were unloaded from bus and checked by an attendant right on the Bakersfield platform. We found the entire trip a pleasant experience.

Is UP objecting to any night train service to L.A.? Certainly, it would seem okay to run via Oakland, San Jose, and the Coast Line, which would serve more population and is not (at least below San Jose) overcrowded with trains.

I wish we had such problems back here in Allentown, Penna. Norfolk Southern is currently tearing out the old direct passenger line into Bethlehem from Philadelphia; passenger supporters are trying to save rights to use a roundabout freight route around the east side of the old Bethlehem Steel plant site, but there is very little general interest here in doing anything but driving to Philadelphia.

Passenger advocates have had difficulty in getting Philadelphia-Bethlehem service restored (gone since 1981) since SEPTA’s service area stops at Bucks County Line, a 20-minutes drive south of here, and there is great apathy here about Philadelphia service, especially by counties and the transit authority which might have to spend some money on it.

James E. Bradley
Allentown, Penn.


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MEETINGS...

January 14, 16

Florida High-Speed Rail Authority workshops

Orange County on the 14th at Sheraton World Resort, Orlando
Osceola County on the 16th at Celebration school cafeteria, Celebration
5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. both days. Open to the public.


January 25-29

APTA General Manager’s Seminar

Tampa Marriott Inn

Contact Tom Urban, turban@apta.com


February 9-11

APTA Legal Affairs Seminar

Savannah Marriott Riverfront
Savannah, Ga.

Contact: Kristen O’Grady, kogrady@apta.com


April 28, 29

The National Corridors Initiative 2003 conference.

“Rail Futures: Building Secure and Successful Transit
and Intercity Rail for America.”

Washington Marriott
1221 22nd St., NW, in Washington D.C.

U.S. $475 (corporate); U.S. $375 (government); and U.S. $350 (non-profit, union).

Checks should be payable to NCI, Inc. 35 Terminal Rd., Suite 210, Providence R.I. 02905.

Arrange hotel accommodations at special low conference rates directly with the Washington Marriott 202-872-1500 fax 202-872-9899 and mention The National Corridors Initiative.

Additional details to be announced.


Looking Ahead...

June 4-9

APTA International Rail Rodeo

San Jose, Calif.
Hotel to be announced

Contact Anitha Tharapatla, atharapatla@apta.com


June 8-12

APTA Rail Transit Conference

Fairmont Hotel
San Jose, Calif.

Contact Heather Rachels, hrachels@apta.com.


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THE WAY WE WERE...

The Pere Marquette

Leo King collection: Pere Marquette

Are you old enough to remember the Pere Marquette Railroad? Have you even ever heard of the Pere Marquette? The PM was made up of an extensive number of Michigan railroads in the late 1800s and incorporated on September 20, 1899 as the Pere Marquette Railroad Co. It was reincorporated Mar. 12,1917 as Pere Marquette Ry. and merged into Chesapeake & Ohio in 1947. It operated over tracks stretching from Buffalo, N.Y. to Chicago, and from Bay View Mich., to Toledo, Ohio, with other tracks in Indiana and Ontario. In addition to its rail operations, the PM also operated railway car ferries on the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers, and a car ferry fleet from Ludington, Mich. across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, Kewaunee and Manitowoc, Wis. Nearly all of the tracks CSX operates in Michigan today is former PM iron.

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.

Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

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" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.

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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