Vol. 7 No. 4
January 30, 2006

Copyright © 2006
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
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 *

This page is best viewed at 800 X 600 screen resolution

 

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

  Registration info for February 21 
  U of Deleware / NCI Conference
 

  News Items… 
Minot 2002 rail accident blamed on
   lax inspection procedures
Amtrak to charge variable fares on Acela / Metroliner
Acela has company in Czech rail intro
  Safety lines… 
Son hopes crossing deaths will end
  Environmental lines… 
Center for Clean Air Policy calls for big $$$
   for High Speed Rail Corridor construction
  Business lines… 
Management restores “controversial” provisions to
   proposed New York City transit contract
New York’s Sun comments on health care’s true cost
  Commuter lines… 
NYS DOT, MTA, Amtrak and Rail Partners announce
   long-awaited Hudson River Plan
A transit agency owning artwork? Boston’s MBTA
   has some treasures
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Freight lines… 
P&W could boost coal business
  We get letters 
  End notes… 

 

“Building Inter-Modal Metropolitan Rail Corridors: A Public Policy Forum”

 

Attention DF Readers and NCI Members:

Registration for February 21, U of Delaware / NCI Conference

The University of Delaware February 21 Conference “Building Inter-Modal Metropolitan Rail Corridors: A Public Policy Forum” featuring former Amtrak CEO David Gunn is designed for the leadership of and active participants in the American transportation debate, and is by invitation. If your work puts you in this category, and you wish to be a part of this conference, email NCI President & CEO Jim RePass (jprepass@nationalcorridors.org) , to obtain registration information. There is no charge for registration.

Presenters at the conference will be (so far) David Gunn; Jim RePass; Jerome R. Lewis, Director, Institute for Public Administration; Beth Osborne, Office of U.S. Senator Thomas Carper (DE); Jean-Paul Rodrigue, Department of Economics and Geography, Hofstra University; Bruce Agnew, Cascadia Center, Seattle; Howard Learner, Environment Law & Policy Center, Chicago; Eugene Skoropowski, Capital Corridor Joint Powers Authority, Sacramento, CA; Allison L.C. De Cerreno, Co-Director, Rudin Transportation Center, New York University; U.S. Congressman Michael Castle (DE) (INVITED).


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Minot 2002 rail accident blamed
on lax inspection procedures

Rail Experts Worry About Much Greater Tragedies to Come

From the Internet and By DF Staff

MINOT, ND --- A lawsuit brought by victims of one of America’s worst rail accidents begins shortly in Minneapolis, U.S. headquarters of the railroad involved, but transportation safety experts wonder if ongoing rail safety practices will be cause far more serious accidents in the future.

In January 2002 a Canadian Pacific freight train derailed in the outskirts of Minot, North Dakota, a town of 37,000. Of the 31 cars that derailed, 15 were tank cars carrying anhydrous ammonia, and five of these – one third --- “failed catastrophically” according to a July 2002 hearting of the National Transportation Safety Board. One resident of the town was killed and scores injured, some seriously.

Minot crash site

Photo: NTSB

Accident Scene, Minot

The NTSB blamed CP Rail’s track maintenance and inspection program for the derailment, which occurred when a track connector, called a “joint bar” broke, allowing the ends of rail to separate, derailing the train (see illustration).

According to the July 2002 post-accident report, “The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the probable cause of the derailment of CPR train 292-16 was an ineffective CPR inspection and maintenance program that did not identify and replace cracked joint bars before they completely fractured and led to the breaking of the rail at the joint.”

“Contributing to the severity of the accident,” the NTSB continued, “was the catastrophic failure of five tank cars and the instantaneous release of about 146,700 gallons of anhydrous ammonia.”

While the accident which occurred in January 2002 took place in a relatively rural area and killed and injured only a few, experts are concerned that continued failure of the freight railroads to implement comprehensive safety programs will ultimately lead to an accident causing high numbers of death and injuries. One of the few sizeable towns in America that is not on an Interstate Highway, Minot is still a major rail interchange for several rail systems. It was founded in the nineteenth century during construction of the Great Northern Railroad, and is still a stop on Amtrak’s newly refurbished “Empire Builder” a long distance train with both sleeping cars and coaches that runs daily from Chicago to Seattle along the route of the former Great Northern Railroad.

Despite the “robber baron” image earned by American railroad in their earliest incarnations, present day U.S. and Canadian freight railroads earn a relatively poor return on capital investment compared to other industries, and are increasingly unable to provide the kind of comprehensive safety inspection programs needed to prevent derailments, Of the several hundred major rail accidents that occur each year (not counting grade crossing accidents) most would have been prevented by better maintenance procedures. Yet the railroads, unlike the highways or airline systems, receive little or no Federal help in either capital or operations. Some members of Congress, and transportation experts, are calling for Federal support for infrastructure for freight railroads, both to improve safety and to increase transportation capacity.

The five tank cars that were breached in the derailment contained anhydrous ammonia, a caustic substance, used as fertilizer and in refrigeration, that freezes tissue when in liquid form and then burns it on contact. The ammonia was released “catastrophically” into the air. One man in the neighborhood of the accident died at once, and others were injured. Experts believe that it is only a matter of time before a similar accident, in a populous area, kills hundreds or thousands of people, unless better safety programs are implemented.

Close up of cracked rail from Minot accident

Photo: NTSB

Broken Rail Connector from Minot accident

The NTSB report states: “At approximately 1:37 a.m. on January 18, 2002, eastbound CPR freight train 292-16, traveling about 41 mph, derailed 31 of its 112 cars about 1/2 mile west of the city limits of Minot, North Dakota. Five tank cars carrying anhydrous ammonia, a liquefied compressed gas, catastrophically ruptured, and a vapor plume covered the derailment site and surrounding area. The conductor and engineer were taken to the hospital for observation after they complained of breathing difficulties. About 11,600 people occupied the area affected by the vapor plume. One resident was fatally injured, and 60 to 65 residents of the neighborhood nearest the derailment site were rescued. As a result of the accident, 11 people sustained serious injuries, and 322 people, including the 2 train crewmembers, sustained minor injuries. Damages exceeded $2 million, and more than $8 million has been spent for environmental remediation.

The National Transportation Safety Board “…determined that the probable cause of the derailment of CPR train 292-16 was an ineffective CPR inspection and maintenance program that did not identify and replace cracked joint bars before they completely fractured and led to the breaking of the rail at the joint. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the catastrophic failure of five tank cars and the instantaneous release of about 146,700 gallons of anhydrous ammonia.”

“According to CPR maintenance-of-way employees,” the NTSB continued, “most inspections of joint bars were visual inspections made from a moving Hy-Rail vehicle. They would also listen for telltale sounds to indicate a loose joint. But neither of these methods is as accurate at detecting defects in the joint bars as a visual inspection from the ground. The sound as the vehicle traverses a joint is both nonspecific and subjective. Inspectors simply cannot ‘hear’ the presence of small hairline cracks at a rail joint location. A wide gap at the rail ends may be detected as a thud,’ but these gaps are more closely associated with pull-aparts.’” Stated the NTSB report.

“Visual inspection from a moving vehicle is inadequate because,” stated NTSB, “…a track inspector checking the accident location from a vehicle traveling west to east would be able to see only the tops of the joint bars on the north rail, and the outside joint bar on the south rail would not be visible at all. Even those joint bars that can be partially seen by an inspector may have small fractures or fatigue cracks that are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to see from a moving vehicle. Instead, to adequately visually inspect joint bars, an inspector must dismount the vehicle and conduct an up-close, on-the-ground inspection of both the field and gage side bars for small hairline cracks. The joint bar fatigue cracks that eventually fractured and led to the Minot derailment were externally visible over a length of 1.9 inch on the gage-side bar and 0.8 inch on the field-side bar. An on-the-ground, visual inspection of this joint bar would almost certainly have detected the larger crack, which should have led to replacement of the joint bar before it failed and caused a derailment. A secondary benefit of on-the-ground rail joint inspection in Continuously Welded Rail territory is that the inspector could assess the rail joint gap as well as look for evidence of bent or loose bolts,” said NTSB.

“At the time of the accident, the CPR’s inspection program required an on-the-ground inspection of joint bars only once per year. Given the increase both in tonnage and in the number of joints on the accident subdivision and the minimal amount of specific guidance provided for joint bar inspection, the Safety Board concluded that CPR inspection procedures before the accident were inadequate to properly inspect and maintain joints within Continuously Welded Rail, and those inadequate procedures allowed undetected cracking in the joint bars at the accident location to grow to a critical size,” concluded the NTSB.


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Amtrak to charge variable
fares on Acela / Metroliner

Source: Bloomberg

Amtrak plans to adopt a pricing plan on its popular Northeast trains, similar to ones used by airlines, with fares varying by as much as 15 percent depending on passenger demand and train size.

Prices will be as much as 15 percent lower for passengers on the Acela Express and Metroliner trains during less-crowded, off- peak times, while riders of rush-hour trains may pay as much as 15 percent more. The current fare for a Washington-to-New York trip ranges from $135 to $168, and will now vary from $115 to $193, Amtrak spokeswoman Tracy Connell said.

The move, effective Feb. 6, is part of Amtrak’s attempts to cut costs and revamp operations after Chief Executive Officer David Gunn was fired last November. Amtrak has never had an annual profit, with recent net losses exceeding $1 billion a year, including what the Government Accountability Office estimated was annual $80 million losses on food and beverages.

The railroad said it carried a record 25.4 million riders in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, an increase of 1.3 percent. Approximately 2.54 million people rode the Acela and the Metroliner last fiscal year, Connell said. She didn’t immediately have a number for total ridership in the Northeast Corridor.

The national passenger railroad has lost almost $30 billion since it was founded in 1971, after freight railroads such as Union Pacific dropped their own money-losing passenger trains.

Amtrak said it began testing the price plan last October on some regional service trains between Boston and Newport News, Virginia.

U.S. President George W. Bush last November signed into law a $1.3 billion Amtrak subsidy for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, up from $1.2 billion the previous year. The bill also requires Amtrak to look for ways to reduce the federal subsidy through steps such as cutting food and beverage costs.

About 40 percent of the railroad’s costs are covered by government subsidies.


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Pendolino Train-loco end

Pendolino train interior


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Acela Has Company
In Czech Rail Intro

From The Internet

PRAGUE --- Coverage from this past week’s Prague Post details on-going problems integrating the new Italian made high-speed Pendolino train into the Czech rail system. In short, very much like the Acela on the east coast of the US--which suffered from now-corrected brake problems and is speed-limited by track deficiencies on part of its route--it doesn’t run as it should. But the system’s problems are compounded by a language barrier.

Aside from a host of delays on the single route that the train covers--from Prague to Ostrava in North Moravia--the biggest difficulty is in communication. The Pendolino expert that the Italians sent to address the problems doesn’t speak Czech, and the Czech train operators don’t speak Italian. As a result of the delays, the Czechs are seeking 600,000 Euro in compensation. Luckily, the Post reports, trams the Czechs have bought to replace the stalwart red-and-white models in Prague are made by Porsche.

The Italian-designed Pendolino is an older passive-tilt suspension system that permits the trainsets to lean into a curve. It has been largely successful in Italy and elsewhere when implemented. Amtrak’s Acela uses a computer-driven tilting mechanism designed by Bombardier, which has been limited in use because of infrastructure problems and because Amtrak specified car bodies several inches wider than the effective cross-section profile of the car yields when at “full tilt”.

 

Two Photos at right: Alstom Co.

The new Italian-made high-speed Pendolino train


SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

Son hopes crossing deaths will end

From the Internet

NORRIS, SC — “Gregory Wilson returned to the rural crossing where his mother died after her car was hit by a train,” reports The State newspaper

“He hopes officials will use the tragedy of his mother’s accident, along with others, as reason to improve safety at railroad crossings. On Jan. 21, 2005, Carolyn Carnes Owens died when an Amtrak passenger trail hit her Ford Escort at a crossing along S.C. 137,” reported The State

“As Wilson suggested, a short road leading to the deadly crossing was closed. But a short distance away is another rural rail crossing that Wilson thinks is another accident waiting to happen. ‘This (intersection) has caused a death,’ Wilson said, standing near a wooden cross with his mother’s name. ‘That one will, too, unless they do something.’” The State reported.

The Federal Railroad Administration says 20 people have died in accidents like the one that killed Owens. The crossing where Owens was killed had gates and warning lights. The nearby crossing at Cook Road does not.

The National Corridors Initiative has called for Congress to enact legislation to close, bridge, or tunnel all at-grade highway crossings. There are 240,000 at-grade crossings in America, many unprotected even by crossbucks or stop signs.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES...  Environmental lines...

Center for Clean Air Policy Calls for Big $$$
For High Speed Rail Corridor Construction

By DF Staff

LOS ANGELES AND CHICAGO --- Two of the nation’s leading independent research firms have called for investment in high speed rail corridors as one way to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Center for Clean Air Policy in Los Angeles, and the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago report that if given the opportunity to travel on high speed rail, “…passengers would take 112 million trips on high speed rail in the U.S. [by] 2025, traveling more than 25 billion passenger miles. This would result in 29 million fewer automobile trips and nearly 500,000 fewer flights,” the report stated. “We calculated a total emissions savings of 6 billion pounds of CO2 per year (2.7 MMTCO2) if all proposed high speed rail systems studied for this project are built.”

Savings from cancelled automobile and airplane trips are the primary sources of the emissions savings; together these two modes make up 80 percent of the estimated emissions savings from all modes.

Certain emissions are held responsible by scientists for global warming, a recent meteorological trend that most reputable scientists believe is due to environmental changes wrought by industrial and transportation-generated pollutants and gases, particularly carbon dioxide. The Bush Administration dismisses claims.

To estimate high speed rail’s net emissions impact, the two firms’ study “…calculated the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions saved from passengers switching to high speed rail from other modes (air, conventional rail, automobile and bus) and subtracted the estimated emissions generated by high speed rail. Our calculations were based on passenger projections and diversion rates for each corridor and typical emissions rates for each mode of travel, including several different high speed rail technologies.”

“Our modeling shows that high speed rail,” the report continues, “if built as planned, will generate substantial GHG savings in all regions. The total emissions savings vary greatly by corridor, however, as do the source of those savings. In some regions, such as the Midwest, the impact on air travel is likely to be modest; our analysis shows just a 7 percent decrease in flights from today’s levels. In California, on the other hand, 19 million passengers are projected to switch from air -- a volume that would result in 114 percent of today’s 192 million annual direct flights in the corridor being cancelled. Such ridership levels may be an overestimate, or may be possible if projected growth in air travel and indirect flights, including those from outside the corridor are included. To draw so many air passengers to rail will certainly require that high speed rail ticket prices be competitive with air and that service be as convenient and time-efficient. It is worth further study to see if such high levels of mode shifting are likely. In some respects, the California system, as it is currently planned, represents what will be the second generation of high speed rail in many of the other corridors. While areas like the Pacific Northwest may increase ridership sooner with an incremental approach to high speed rail that uses existing rail routes, the success of a new high speed rail system like California’s could prove the value of faster trains with higher upfront capital costs.

One key finding of the report is that the greatest success would come by building a network of corridors as part of a system (much as the Interstate Highway System was built as a system, rather than as a series of independent roads), and “…that sustainable financing mechanisms for high speed rail be developed”.

The entire report can be found at http://www.ccap.org/trans.htm


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BUSINESS LINES...  Business lines...

Management restores “controversial” provisions
to proposed New York City transit contract

From the Internet

NEW YORK CITY---Management has made a new contract offer to New York City bus and subway workers, but it is one that is likely to provoke opposition.

The “new” proposal is actually less remunerative than that rejected last week by a slim seven-voted margin, despite Transit Workers Union Local 100 union leadership support for it. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has now re-inserted a provision that calls for greater pension contributions from new hires, and it also requires that workers contribute a percentage of their salaries for health insurance [see related story below].

Management in both the public and private sector is confronting mounting future pension and healthcare liabilities, and acting to curtail growth in those two areas. Union membership has angrily resisted these attempts to reduce or “give back” benefits won over many years of negotiation and strike. Management counters that the money simply won’t be there in the future, unless those items are cut back in future contracts.


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New York’s Sun Comments
on Health Care’s True Cost

From the Internet

NEW YORK CITY --- The New York Sun took a bead on the real issue behind the transit strike in New York, and other labor problems elsewhere: health care costs.

Reporter Randy Daniels of The Sun wrote this past week:

“The vote last week by Transport Workers Union members to reject the contract deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was largely motivated, it now is clear, by the contentious issue of health insurance, and how much union members would have to contribute to its cost. As this plays out, the dispute has devolved into charges of disinformation and internal union conflict. Time will tell what impact this has on negotiations.”

“Curiously, though,” he continued, “what has been consistently absent from the discussion so far has been a clear-headed recognition that in the case of dollars and cents, it makes little difference how the cost of health insurance is divided between employer and employee. Money that goes to pay for health insurance simply becomes money that is no longer available to pay for salary increases or other benefits. All forms of compensation come from the same source, which in the case of the MTA is a combination of tax subsidies and the fares that transit riders pay on a daily basis.”


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

NYS DOT, MTA, Amtrak and Rail Partners
announce long-awaited Hudson River Plan

Joint Study Recommends Improvements To Rail Line
On New York City to Schenectady Corridor

ALBANY, NY – Commuters and employers in the New York City-Schenectady corridor got some long awaited news this week when the New York State Department of Transportation, along with the railroads that serve it, announced plans for improvements to both freight and passenger service.

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Metro-North Railroad, CSX Transportation, Canadian Pacific Railway, and Amtrak this week released the “Hudson Line Railroad Corridor Transportation Plan,” a cooperative study that provides “...a sweeping outline for proposed improvements to the Hudson Line, the 160-mile stretch of railroad from New York City to the City of Schenectady, Schenectady County.”

The study is available for review at www.dot.state.ny.us/fedd/fedd.html.

“The projects recommended in the Plan offer numerous benefits for both passenger and freight train operations, including improved capacity, enhanced safety, more timely and reliable service, and the ability to sustain higher train speeds for longer periods, said NYSDOT in a release. “These benefits are critical as passenger service on the Hudson Line is expected to increase 22 percent in the next 20 years and the volume of freight moved on the line is expected to double.”

“The Hudson Line Railroad Corridor Transportation Plan is one of the most comprehensive proposals for improving rail transportation between New York City and upstate New York ever devised,” said NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Thomas J. Madison Jr. “Working with our passenger and freight rail partners, we have developed recommendations designed to facilitate safer, more efficient and convenient travel along this important rail corridor.”

Peter A. Cannito, president of Metro-North Railroad, which owns and operates the 74-mile segment of the Line between New York City and Poughkeepsie, said, “Metro North’s Hudson Line is used for moving commuters, intercity travelers, and freight goods. These proposed infrastructure improvements would support NYS’s High Speed Rail initiatives while improving the capacity, reliability, and utilization of the Hudson Line.”

The NYSDOT statement noted, “the Hudson Line infrastructure has not been significantly altered for decades, and its current configuration limits the ability of the railroads to improve and expand service. The plan recommends 15 specific projects that NYSDOT and the railroads jointly determined would help both passenger and freight interests. The projects lie within existing railroad rights-of-way and are designed to ensure that each of the users will be able to effectively share the right-of-way and expand service.”

Maurice O’Connell, resident vice-president of Public Affairs for CSX Transportation in New York State said, “As the demand for efficient, environmentally beneficial freight and passenger rail service increases, so too does the need for increased track capacity. CSX Transportation appreciates the combined efforts of the public and private sector to address this need and looks forward to enhancing its role - and the role of rail in general - as a critical part of the region’s economic infrastructure.”

Ronald Bilodeau, vice-president of Government Affairs for Canadian Pacific Railway said, “Canadian Pacific Railway is satisfied that the Hudson Line Study shows that targeted investment will support the expected rise in passenger rail demand and will continue to provide a sound, efficient and safe rail freight alternative for moving goods to the greater New York City area for the next 20 years. The plan is the result of a remarkable collaboration between rail providers in New York State and identifies solutions that benefit the participants as well as their freight and passenger rail customers.”

“The Hudson Line Railroad Corridor Transportation Plan will serve as a guide for MTA Metro-North Railroad, the State Department of Transportation, Canadian Pacific Railway, Amtrak, and CSX Transportation in developing strategies to pursue federal, state, and private-sector funding for the recommended projects, NYSDOT stated.

NYSDOT further reports:

The study prioritized projects based on their potential to improve existing conditions for both freight and passenger operators and on their projected future usefulness. Priority initiatives that are recommended to be implemented in the near term include:

Five projects to improve the operation of the Albany-Rensselaer Rail Station in the City of Rensselaer, Rensselaer County. These improvements, costs of which have yet to be determined, include: installing additional station tracks; constructing new platforms or extending existing platforms; expanding the capacity of the existing rail yard; improving mainline routing through the rail yard; and providing two new crossover locations to improve operational flexibility and schedule reliability.

The $900,000 study was performed by SYSTRA Consulting and Engineering of New York City. NYSDOT contributed $300,000 towards the study using State Dedicated Funds for Rail Service Preservation. MTA Metro-North Railroad and Amtrak each contributed $250,000, and CSX Transportation and Canadian Pacific Railway contributed $100,000 combined.


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A transit agency owning artwork?

Boston’s MBTA has some treasures
and wants to improve, add to them

From the Internet
Partisans’ by Andrew Pitynski

Photo: MBTA

Partisans’ by Andrew Pitynski depicts five downcast Polish patriots on horseback returning from a series of battles.

 

BOSTON ---Massachusetts’ largest transit agency already has a large collection, but now wants to add a famous sculpture now in storage.

The Boston Globe reports that “An unlikely curator has stepped forward in hopes of acquiring ‘‘Partisans,” the sculpture of five downcast Polish patriots on horseback that the city uprooted from Boston Common and placed in storage two weeks ago: the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.”

“Perhaps better known for primary-color maps than for fine art,” writes The Globe’s Lisa Wangsness, “the MBTA contends that it has the oldest art collection of any public transit system in the country, and General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas said yesterday that he has spoken to Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s staff about snapping up the displaced horsemen.”

“Grabauskas said he has not pinpointed a location for the sculpture, but his first inclination is to consider Courthouse Station, a new, ultramodern Silver Line station on the South Boston Waterfront with plenty of space for the 3,500-pound aluminum statue,” said the Globe.

“‘‘We’re always looking to expand the look and feel of our facilities by incorporating art into our stations, and here we have a piece of art that has, for many, I think, become one of the hallmark pieces of sculpture in this city,’” the Globe quoted Grabauskas as saying, “‘If folks are looking for a home for it, we would love to see if we can’t find one somewhere in the MBTA system.’”

Established in 1967, the MBTA’s art collection includes some 78 murals, decorative benches, sculptures, and carvings, ranging from children’s drawings on ceramic tiles to a 46-foot-tall steel kinetic sculpture by Susumu Shingu, an internationally acclaimed Japanese artist, in Porter Square, Cambridge, reported The Globe.

The Globe reported that a South Boston arts group has contacted state Representative Brian P. Wallace, a Democrat from the neighborhood, to see whether he could help them find a place for the sculpture. South Boston has historically been home to a large sector of the city’s Polish community.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)77.14 70.42
Canadian National (CNI)89.8580.35
Canadian Pacific (CP)47.6943.93
CSX (CSX)53.6251.61
Florida East Coast (FLA)49.8047.34
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)39.2937.37
Kansas City Southern (KSU)25.7725.35
Norfolk Southern (NSC)49.4844.27
Providence & Worcester (PWX)15.3015.49
Union Pacific (UNP)87.1683.82


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

P&W could boost coal business

From the Internet

WOONSOCKET, RI--- Increased demand for coal for an upstate New York power plant may soon be boosting Providence& Worcester revenues, The Call of Woonsocket, Rhode Island reports, but some are concerned about the traffic.

The Providence and Worcester Railroad may soon be running more trains through the Blackstone Valley to ferry coal to an upstate New York power plant, a positive economic sign for the freight line that has also sparked concerns about public safety, reports The Call of Rhode Island.

Staff Writer Russ Olivo writes, “Rail traffic through the area could be getting even busier if, down the road, P&W wins a contract to ship motor vehicles out of the Port of Davisville in North Kingstown. The company has already begun modifying facilities in order to accommodate the large, car-hauling ‘autorack’ trains, including the overhaul of a bridge in Millville.”

In the near term, P&W is expected to begin transporting large quantities of coal this month to the Westover power plant in Johnson City, N.Y., operated by the worldwide energy company AES Corp, The Call reported.

According to Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports, an industry trade publication, P&W has reached an agreement to move 40,000 tons of coal from the Port of Providence for a test-burn at the Westover plant. If the burn is successful, the AES Corp., a worldwide power-generating company, could sign a contract to receive 300,000 tons of coal per year for three years along the same route, said The Call.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor

Perhaps if the new Metro North train sets are capable of operating along most, or all, of the Northeast Corridor it would be prudent to restructure passenger service along the line. Commuter rail is provided along the entirety of the line from Boston to Washington with the exception of a minor gap in Rhode Island and Connecticut and a smaller one in Delaware and Maryland. Commuter trains could serve as both express commuter trains near the cities and as intercity routes in between. Not only would this greatly expand transportation options, it could also compete with the popular, but rather dodgy, Chinatown buses, more than one of which has burst in to flames in recent months. The infrastructure is there - in most places the costs could be mitigated by replacing current commuter runs with such through trains.

Ari Ofsevit
Newton, Mass.

The writer refers to Boston-to-New York express busses operated by a private company that has come under criticisms for not paying customary fees and operating from designated transportation terminals in Boston proper. By avoiding the usage fees and taxes of the terminals the company has been offering the route at a very low rate. There have been some safety and legality issues however in their operation reported in the regional press.

Interestingly enough, The State of Rhode Island has recently paid for a set of passenger coaches that will be utilized by the MBTA. In return, the MBTA will expand its present service to Providence, RI. from Boston. Presuming various operational factors such as dispatch, etc. can be worked out - not a bad idea from the writer. - DMK, webmaster


Dear Editor:

Another major benefit, often overlooked, of passenger rail is emergency management. Consider that:

1. Passenger trains can move large number of people easily and efficiently. This very important when evacuation of elderly and the impoverished are necessary.

2. A 3,000 horse power diesel-electric locomotive can generate enough electricity (1.6 megawatts) to power 1,000 homes in the event of a grid failure.

3. Railroad infrastructure provides a redundancy that can keep commerce moving in the event floods or earthquakes disable highway bridges.

4. Mobile hospitals can set up quickly on industrial sidings or team tracks to provide urgent medical care and contagion prevention.

Passenger rail doesn’t cost. It pays!

Sloan Auchincloss
Harrisburg, PA


Dear Editor:

Governor Schwarzenegger in his recent State of the State speech called for massive investment to improve California’s infrastructure. Unfortunately, his vision does not include high-speed rail. His finance director, in justifying the Governor’s opposition to a bond initiative to fund high-speed rail, had this to say in an Associated Press article of January 6, 2006:

“We could not afford the entire package of infrastructure (in the governor’s plan) if we did the $10 Billion for high-speed rail,” state Finance Director Mike Genest said Friday. “We did not see it being affordable in a 10-year cycle.” He called high-speed rail “ a visionary idea (that’s) kind of far in the future.”

Somebody needs to clue him in that the Japanese inaugurated their bullet trains in 1964. The governor’s idea of clear-minded transportation policy apparently is to build more carpool lanes. Typical wooly-headed political foolishness.

Paul Carlton
California


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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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