Vol. 7 No. 3
January 23, 2006

Copyright © 2006
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Molly McKay
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Seventh Year *

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

  News Items... 
New Metro-North commuter rail cars will be able
   to operate to Penn Station and east of New Haven
Morning Chaos on NJ Transit
  Commuter lines… 
NYC Transit Pact Voted Down By Seven Votes
Innovative joint agreement will provide western
   transit agencies with 157 hybrid buses
“Emerald Mole” Drills for Transit Gold in Seattle
  Business lines… 
CSX Plans Terminal, Business Facility
Canadian National Railway, Burlington Northern Santa Fe
   in trackage agreement
  Freight lines… 
CSX Rail Returns to New Orleans
  Past and Future lines… 
New Orleans Streetcars’ limited runs give hope
   to beleaguered city
  Friday closing quotes… 
  We get letters… 
  End notes… 

New Metro-North commuter rail cars
will be able to operate to Penn Station
and east of New Haven, ConnDOT reports

From the Internet and by DF Staff

NEW HAVEN --- The New Haven-New York segment of New York’s Metro-North Railroad will provide new destination flexibility for commuters, the Stamford Advocates reports, because of design requirements issued by the Connecticut state DOT (ConnDOT) as part of a new commuter railcar procurement contract.

For the first time in at least four decades, electrically-powered Metro-North trains on the New Haven line will be able to terminate in Penn Station, in addition to Grand Central Terminal.

Also, in a move highly significant for Connecticut’s increasingly congested Shore Line region, the new cars will also be able to operate east of New Haven, bringing electrified commuter rail service to the Shore Line Route (New York-New Haven-Providence) to Boston. While no routes have been designated yet, electrified commuter rail service East of New Haven has been a goal of transportation advocates, including the National Corridors Initiative, for many years.

“To provide flexibility, the state Department of Transportation will require the contractor selected to build new rail cars for the New Haven Line to make them compatible to points east of New Haven and along Amtrak’s Hell Gate route,” reports the Stamford Advocate’s Mark Ginocchio.

There had been concern among transportation experts that the new cars would be built only to operate from New Haven to New York’s Grand Central Station, because of the expense of providing the additional electrical equipment needed to operate on the various track segments on the route.

Because the Northeast Corridor was once the province of several different railroads, it was electrified in different sections, at different times, with incompatible voltages, over the past 100 years. As a consequence, Amtrak trains are required to work under all three voltage systems, while ConnDOT has resisted until now making their cars compatible along all of the route.

The Hell Gate route, which is named for the water passage that divides the Bronx from Queens via Ward Island, is covered by a 1000-foot bridge built in 1916-1917 that provides dramatic views of the Manhattan skyline to Amtrak passengers heading into of from Penn Station. The bridge is owned by Amtrak, which owns most of the right of way on the Northeast Corridor from Washington to Boston. The major exception is the New Haven-New York line, which is owned by the State of Connecticut, and used by Metro-North trains as well as Amtrak. Metro-North will be required to negotiate with Amtrak for access to the Hell Gate route and for trackage rights East of New Haven.

“We wanted these cars to provide us with the most flexibility we can get,” the Advocate quotes ConnDOT’s Jim Boice as saying. Boice is interim rail bureau chief for the agency. “We potentially have some exciting things ahead of us,” he said.

The first cars are expected to be delivered in late 2008, and are part of a 342-car order that will replace the existing Metro-North commuter rail cars, which are well past their design lifetime

“Rail advocates are excited about the possible expansion of the New Haven Line,” said the Advocate. The line “makes only one stop in the Bronx, at Fordham, before heading into Manhattan. Having access to the Hell Gate route, which only is used by Amtrak and some rail freight lines, could give commuters access to new points in the Bronx such as Co-op City, and to parts of Queens that have never seen a Metro-North train,” reports the Advocate

“This a very positive development for the state,” said Joseph McGee, vice president of public policy for the Business Council of Fairfield County, an organization that has been pushing for Hell Gate access for years, as quoted in The Advocate. “The growth of reverse commuters has been well documented. Opening up this route will give us access to a larger labor pool.”

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Morning Chaos on NJ Transit

From the Internet and by DF Staff

NEW YORK CITY -- Signal failure suspended three NJ Transit lines this past week, setting up a chaotic morning commute for tens of thousands of commuters, ABC and other news outlets reported

The signal problems on the Amtrak-owned lines started on the tracks between Elizabeth and Newark at around 5:30 a.m. NJ Transit quickly suspended service on its Northeast Corridor, North Jersey Coast and Raritan Valley lines, so as to not have more trains interfere with the Amtrak restoration efforts.

Amtrak was reporting up to 45 minute delays on its trains into Manhattan.

Amtrak’s maintenance and state of repair improved markedly under former President David Gunn, but its NYC-DC infrastructure is more than 70 years old and has been due for complete replacement for decades. Congress has failed to appropriate the monies despite many requests by Amtrak, although the most recent budget approved by Congress does include some funds for capital improvements. Its NYC-New Haven segment is owned by the State of Connecticut rather than Amtrak, but is likewise decrepit at 100 years-old this year. (Prompted by steam locomotive accidents in the tunnels of New York City, the New York City-New Haven line was electrified between 1906 and 1912. It still uses 100-year-old catenary (wires and supports) in much of its length. Connecticut’s Department of Transportation owns the line, but dedicates most of its capital funds to highway construction.

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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

NYC Transit Pact Voted Down By Seven Votes

From the Internet and by DF Staff

NEW YORK CITY --- TWU members, whose Christmas-season strike shut down New York City and angered friend and foe alike, narrowly voted down a proposed transit pact this past week, raising again the threat of more service disruption on the nation’s largest bus and subway system.

By a margin of only seven votes out of more than 22,000 cast, members of Local 100 of the Transit Workers Union voted down a pact that had been negotiated by its leaders.

Local President Roger Toussaint had asked his members to ratify the agreement. Now, both the status of the system, and his own as leader of the union, are in doubt. The proposed agreement was virtually the same as that which triggered the three-day December walkout that crippled the city at the height of the Christmas season, disrupting the plans of millions of people and damaging the Christmas season for New York’s tourism and merchant community, still struggling to emerge from the economic damage of 9/11

The sticking point was pension contributions, an increasingly contentious issue in municipal negotiations around the country as business and government seek to reign in soaring pension liabilities that could sink some cities. San Diego is already on the verge of bankruptcy, for example, because of overly generous pension agreements for municipal workers that were reportedly kept secret from the voters until passed.

At the same time, rising costs of food and energy are impacting those on a fixed income, driving current union members to demand protection against inflation.

The agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was reached last week and approved by the executive board of the union, but all bets are now off and many local leaders feel a repeat of the strike is possible.

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Innovative joint agreement will provide
western transit agencies with 157 hybrid buses

Source: just-auto.com editorial team

CALIFORNIA, NEVADA, NEW MEXICO --- A hybrid bus consortium consisting of 11 transit agencies in California, Nevada and New Mexico has awarded a contract to Gillig Corporation for the purchase of up to 157 diesel-electric hybrid buses powered by General Motors’ advanced hybrid propulsion system, reports the just-auto.com editorial team.

“The purchase contract is the second largest since GM’s hybrid diesel-electric system debuted in 2003 and was spearheaded by the San Joaquin Regional Transit District (RTD) in California. San Joaquin RTD formed the consortium with other transit agencies to boost purchasing power and reduce per-vehicle costs through bulk ordering. San Joaquin RTD plans on buying 50 hybrid buses, while the remaining 107 buses will be available for other consortium members,” reported just-auto.com.

“Our board of directors’ commitment to the diesel fuel path led [us] to purchase two GM hybrid-powered buses manufactured by Gillig in June 2004,” said Bobby Kuhn, director of maintenance for San Joaquin RTD. “Since that time, we have experienced firsthand the reductions in fuel consumption, noise levels and emissions offered by this technology. These fantastic results convinced us to purchase additional buses, and to share our experience with GM’s hybrid bus propulsion system with other transit agencies. The interest in acquiring the fuel-saving technology was amazing, so a purchasing consortium was formed,” just-auto.com reported.

Joining San Joaquin RTD in the hybrid bus consortium are other California transit agencies: Benicia Transit, Fairfield/Suisun Transit, Golden Gate Transit, Humboldt Transit Authority, Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority (LAVTA), Monterey-Salinas Transit, SamTrans (San Mateo County), and Santa Barbara MTD. Citifare of Reno/Sparks, Nevada and ABQ RIDE in Albuquerque,

New Mexico also joined the consortium. Deliveries will begin in mid-2006 and conclude in late 2007.

The California consortium members are purchasing hybrid diesel-electric technology in part to help meet California’s stringent clean-air requirements for urban buses. The GM hybrid system provides transit agencies the option of a clean-air technology solution that has been reviewed and certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), reported just-auto.com

Transit buses with GM’s hybrid propulsion system deliver significantly better fuel economy than traditional transit buses, cut certain emissions up to 90 percent and have operating sound levels approaching that of passenger cars. Other benefits of the GM hybrid system include reduced maintenance costs resulting from extended brake, engine oil and transmission oil life, superior torque, and better acceleration. The hybrid diesel-electric drive system is manufactured by GM Allison Transmission. Gillig Corporation of Hayward, California, will manufacture the buses.

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The Emerald Mole tunnel digger

Photo: Sound Transit

Dubbed the “Emerald Mole”, this new machine by Mitsubishi will bore a new transit tunnel in Seattle.


“Emerald Mole” Drills for
Transit Gold in Seattle

From the Internet and by DF Staff

SEATTLE --- A massive Mitsubishi-made drilling machine will be mining for transit gold starting this week in Seattle as one of the biggest challenges of Sound Transit’s light-rail project begins next week, when a behemoth drill starts burrowing through the soggy soil of Seattle’s Beacon Hill, The Seattle Times reports.

European and Japanese rail construction companies have mastered the art of tunneling, and reduced costs well below what they are in the United States. While Boston’s “Big Dig” cost over $14 billion for a [relatively] short tunnel under the city and a new airport tube, similar projects in Europe have been accomplished for $1 billion per mile and under.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels christened the machine this past week, along with U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). It will tunnel under Seattle’s Beacon Hill for Sound Transit’s new light-rail line. The Mitsubishi custom-built the machine, nicknamed “Emerald Mole,” will dig into loose earth.

Reported Mike Lindblom in The Seattle Times, “The machine’s circular nose contains rotating teeth that grind through the dirt only twice a minute, instead of a speedier drill bit that would chip through solid rock, explained Paul Zick, project director for lead contractor Obayashi. As the device disappears into the hillside, a conveyor belt will pull out the dirt through the rear. Meanwhile, a robotic arm will install concrete rings behind the drill, forming the permanent tunnel -- quickly, before the wet dirt caves in. Since last March, crews have been digging vertical shafts for a station atop Beacon Hill, where elevators will take people 165 feet down to the train tracks. The soil there was so unstable that grout had to be injected into it. Much of the rail line is being built on the surface or elevated. By building a $280 million tunnel through Beacon Hill, the agency avoids putting tracks at street level along congested Rainier Avenue South near the north end of the hill.”

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BUSINESS LINES...  Business lines...

CSX Plans Terminal, Business Facility

From the Internet and by DF Staff

WINTER HAVEN, FL -- CSX rail officials announced plans this week for a “Winter Haven Integrated Logistics Center” to be an intermodal terminal and a business park with warehousing and manufacturing space, on property currently owned by the city. The plan requires local approval, reported the Lakeland (FL) Ledger.

Reporter Joy Cochran wrote that the plans call for CSX to purchase 1,250 acres of property for $21.8 million. “We’re hopeful this property transaction will take place Monday,” said Gary Sease, a CSX spokesman. “This is the first step in a lengthy process,” reported the Ledger.

Like most U.S. railroads, the growth of intermodal shipping, where containers are moved from one mode of transportation to another without off-loading contents, has been a crucial part of the economic mix. However, the privately-borne costs of terminal construction, coupled with massive taxpayer-funded highway construction over the past decades and the railroads’ inability to respond adequately to demands for “just-in-time” shipping arrangements, has continued to hamper development of this potential profit area. As a consequence, despite intermodal rail growth, most American ground-based shipping in terms of dollar value/ton goes by truck. Low-margin commodity shipment (coal, wheat, chemicals) still goes largely by rail.

The facility is eventually expected to employ more than 2,000 people working in 3 million square feet of warehouse space, 1.5 million square feet of industrial space and 500,000 square feet of office space. The average wage of those employees is projected at $43,000. Those employees will work for the industrial park and in warehouses, industrial plants and in administration, reported the Ledger.

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Canadian National Railway, Burlington Northern Santa Fe
in trackage agreement to boost flow, capacity of both

From the Internet and by DF Staff

CHICAGO AND WEST --- The Associated Press reports that Canadian National Railway Co. and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. on Thursday have agreed to trackage agreement “to improve flow and capacity over rail lines between Vancouver and Chicago”

The pact includes track and rail infrastructure exchanges, and Canadian National will grant Burlington access rights to some of its rails, the AP reported. “Under the deal, Canadian National obtains operational control over 12 miles of joint track between New Westminster, British Columbia, and ocean ports. In Chicago, Burlington gains operational control of Canadian National’s Corwith Tower interlocker.

“Burlington also obtains the rights to travel Canadian National rails for 30 miles between Corwith and Joliet, Ill., and trackage rights on lines between Memphis and southern Illinois,” the AP reported

Freight rail mergers and consolidation in North America since deregulation of the railroads in 1980 has reduced capacity in some places to the point where congestion is endemic. Also, Chicago is struggling with a skein of 19th century track in interchanges that delay coast-to-coast freight shipments – and passenger trains. Freight shipments can take days to interchange through Chicago, a matter of just a few miles.

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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

CSX Rail Returns to New Orleans

From the Internet and by DF Staff
By Timothy J. Gibbons, The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville

NEW ORLEANS -- CSX Corp.’s rail service into New Orleans is resuming, following nearly one quarter billion dollars in repairs, the railroad announced this week.

By early next month, the company said, service should be restored throughout the area, which is one of the largest transfer points for freight going between the eastern and the western United States, reports the Florida-Times-Union of Jacksonville

“Everything has worked out very well and we’re extremely excited,” Times-Union Reporter Timothy Gibbons quoted company spokesman Gary Sease, as saying, adding that construction on the two-mile-long Bay St. Louis bridge, perhaps the most difficult part of the restoration from an engineering standpoint, was being wrapped up.

“CSX lines, which ran along the coast, as well as its Gentilly Yard, which sits between Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi River, were devastated by the hurricane: Tracks were ripped up and covered with debris; the yard was flooded by waters from the lake; shipping containers were left strewn about the site; locomotives sat askew, tilted off their tracks,” wrote Gibbons. “Between the cost of repairs and the loss of business along the route, the company estimated a total price tag of $250 million. All but $25 million would be covered by insurance, company executives said,” he reported.

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PAST AND FUTURE LINES...  Past and Future lines...

A St. Charles Avenue Streetcar on the Riverfront Line in New Orleans

Two Photos by DF Staff

A St. Charles Avenue Streetcar on the Riverfront Line in New Orleans heads onto Canal Street.


New Orleans Streetcars’ limited runs
give hope to beleaguered city

By DF Staff

NEW ORLEANS --- Ridership on the Canal Street streetcar line put back in to service using St. Charles Avenue cars has continued to grow, although slowly, as the service runs from the Riverfront to Canal only as far as just beyond Basin Street.

However, this route does cover the full riverside length of the French Quarter and the entire Canal Street frontage of the Quarter, making it useful for tourists.

But The St. Charles Avenue Line, upon which millions of riders had depended, is still out of service, the new City Park service down Canal Street does not yet run, and local officials have said a one-to-year wait may be in store before full service is restored. Others have rejected such a delay as potentially devastating to the City’s recovery.

While the St. Charles Avenue Line is usually seen as a tourist attraction by visitors, with it’s 1920’s era Perley-Thomas streetcars built in North Carolina providing a picturesque and very inexpensive tour of downtown, the Garden District, Uptown, and Carrolton, the route in fact is the central spine of the New Orleans transportation system. Unlike many American cities, whose trolley systems were purchased and torn up in the 1930’s and 1940’s by the infamous National City Lines bus conspiracy, New Orleans kept its most important route, the St. Charles Avenue Line.

Recently, before Katrina, New Orleans had begun re-opening old trolley lines such as Canal Street, where diesel buses running since 1964 were removed last year, and the tracks re-installed, using streetcars with modern chassis and controls housed in hand-built replica streetcar bodies built in New Orleans by the skilled craftsmen who work there.

You can still get to Bourbon Street by Streetcar in New Orleans, but the traffic is still snarled.

Many traffic lights remain out, although the city is working “one block at a time” to bring them back, and this past week alone a number of key intersections on Carrollton Avenue, which extends from the uptown end of St. Charles Avenue at the “Riverbend” of the Mississippi to Canal Street and then on the City Park, were turned on for the first time since August.

Nevertheless traffic remains snarled much of the time on main arteries, and New Orleans natives have taken to finding their own routes to work through back streets that in other times would have been avoided as too pot-holed and crime-ridden. New Orleans is an 18th century city which “urban renewal” largely bypassed. It is laid out on a in a series of angled grids that follow the course of the Mississippi River. The finest and largest homes are on the main avenues; the father one gets from them, the smaller the houses become, until the next large avenue is approached, when the houses again grow larger and more elaborate.

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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)70.4268.53
Canadian National (CNI)80.3578.15
Canadian Pacific (CP)43.9340.83
CSX (CSX)51.6150.78
Florida East Coast (FLA)47.3446.68
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)37.6337.37
Kansas City Southern (KSU)25.3525.42
Norfolk Southern (NSC)44.2742.48
Providence & Worcester (PWX)15.4915.50
Union Pacific (UNP)83.8278.73

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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor

In response to Mr. Alexander’s suggestion of detour routing for the Savannah wreck problem, I have a shorter routing that would only have precluded stopping at Savannah. It would require cooperation from NS and CSX, but it could be done perhaps adding only 5 or 6 hours.

Instead of detouring at Jacksonville, to save mileage, go to Jesup and take the former Southern routing to Macon, then former C of G to Madison, former Georgia RR to Augusta and the former C&WC to Yemassee regaining home rails there. The option of Macon to Millen to Augusta is also a possibility if interchange trackage doesn’t exist at Madison.

To maintain good speed and an all CTC routing, leave JAX and, turning left at Folkston, go to Waycross and then to Atlanta via the old AB&C route. At ATL, two CTC routes can be chosen from. The Crescent Route to DC is one and the old SAL routing to Hamlet, NC regaining home rails at Pembroke is the other. Of course, to go back to home rails via the GA/C&WC routing is still an option though not a CTC routing even though it would bypass only Savannah.

Perhaps Amtrak has to learn again that keeping the train moving is better than sitting too long. Those host railroads can also provide pilot locos to save fuel during the detour too.

Rick Shivik
Pax Rail Advocate
Conyers, GA

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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 editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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

Photo submissions are welcome. NCI is always interested in images that demonstrate the positive aspects of rail, transit, and intermodalism, as well as of current newsworthy events associated with our mission. Please contact the webmaster in advance of sending images so we can recommend attachment by e-mail or grant direct file transfer protocols (FTP) access depending on size and number. Descriptive text which includes location, train name, and something about the content of the image is encouraged. We will credit the photographer and offer a return link to your e-mail address or web site.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images by Leo King and other photo journalists should contact our webmaster@nationalcorridors.org for additional information.

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 transportation initiative 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 link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) our webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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