Vol. 7 No. 9
February 13, 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... 
President’s Budget Recommends $1.5 Billion
   for Major Transit Projects
Fiscal Year 2007 New Starts Highlights
Amtrak Responds to President’s FY07 Funding Proposal
Black-owned Ad Agency picked by Amtrak
Flexible Fares emulate airlines
  Safety lines… 
Engineering Advances State of Good Repair
  Commuter lines… 
Proposed new route for MBTA Silver Line could
   save money, shorten construction
  Environmental lines… 
Smog Rules Toughened
Thinking Regionally Watery solutions offered
  for transportation challenges
Containerization Marks Its 50th Year
  Service lines… 
Acela First Class Service Improvements Launched
Traditional Uniforms To Return to Northeast Corridor
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Freight lines… 
Two companies blamed in fatal blast: Designer,
   maker of fuel tank made errors, led to the accident
Freight Rails add jobs in St. Louis region
New short-line railroad starts in northeastern North Dakota
  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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President’s Budget Recommends
$1.5 Billion for Major Transit Projects

By DF Staff, and from Internet sources

WASHINGTON –”Fighting congestion on America’s roadways is the goal of a massive new investment in subway, light rail and commuter rail projects,” according to a statement released by U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, who this past week announced a plan to spend $1.5 billion on transit programs in cities like Dallas, Denver, Portland and Salt Lake City.

The spending plan, included in President Bush’s budget submitted to Congress yesterday, provides for multi-year funding for 23 existing projects, and five new projects eligible for funding based on progress in the months ahead, the FTA stated

“As a nation choked with congestion, we must turn to transit as one way to make it easier and faster to get to work, relieve crowded roads, and keep our economy moving,” said Secretary Mineta. “An investment in transit is an investment in fighting congestion.”

However, one key new program authorized for 2007 by Congress at $200 million, the Small Starts program designed to provide funding for smaller towns’ and cities’ transit projects, was cut in half in the President’s proposal

“The proposal would fund the overall federal transit program at $100 million less than the authorized and guaranteed level for FY 07 by funding the new small starts program at $100 million, rather than the $200 million authorized for the program,” noted American Public Transportation Association President William Millar last week. “If adopted, this would mean $100 million less than the $8.97 billion authorized and guaranteed for the federal transit program in FY 07.”

“APTA is disappointed that the Administration did not honor the level guaranteed by Congress and signed into law by the President just six months ago,” stated Millar.

National Corridors Initiative President Jim RePass commented on the FTA announcement: “It is instructive that 60 years after the National City Lines conspiracy destroyed the trolley and light rail systems in over 100 American cities, and half a century after America committed the bulk of its spending priorities to the massive Interstate Highway System and National Highway Systems, that American cities are line by line and block by block rebuilding what was so thoroughly wrecked. The FTA and, to the surprise of many transit advocates but certainly following the lead of the Congress, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have both shown a new willingness to work with cities in helping to replace or build new light rail and related transit systems that do so much to make a city livable, and which have such a positive impact on the real estate values and overall quality of life near their routes.”

The recommendations are part of the Annual Report on New Starts for FY2007. The New Starts report includes $572 million in annual funding for 16 projects to which the federal government has already made long-term funding commitments, known as Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGAs).

New this year is $303 million in funding recommended for five new projects in four states.  Of that, $35 million is set aside for Denver’s West Corridor Light Rail project for a 12-mile extension along the city’s second busiest traffic corridor.  Another $80 million is slated for a 21-mile extension to the Dallas Light Rail system to fight congestion in and out of the city’s central business district.

Oregon has two new projects recommended for funding.  First, $80 million is planned for an eight-mile extension of Portland’s “MAX” light rail line.  Another $27.6 million is recommended for a 14.7-mile commuter line long the fast-growing Wilsonville-Beaverton Corridor in Washington County, Ore.  And in Utah’s Weber County, another $80 million is recommended for a 43-mile commuter rail line to provide surrounding communities with direct access to downtown Salt Lake City. 

Under the plan, $355 million is available for two projects in New York City and Pittsburgh that are pending execution of FFGAs this year.  Additionally, five projects based in Northern Virginia, Norfolk, New York City, Seattle and Washington, D.C., could be eligible for $102 million based on their progress this year.

“Because the FTA’s New Starts program requires proof of each project’s cost-effectiveness and benefits to the public, taxpayers can be assured that federal dollars are wisely invested in public transportation,” said FTA Deputy Administrator Sandy Bushue.

A complete list of projects recommended under FTA’s Annual Report on New Starts is available online at www.fta.dot.gov.

Fiscal Year 2007 New Starts Highlights

 

Proposed Full-Funding Grant Agreements (5)

Denver, CO – West Corridor Light Rail – $35 million in FY 2007

This 12-station light rail extension begins at the existing Auraria Station in downtown Denver and extends 12.1 miles west, parallel to West 6th Avenue, which carries the second highest traffic volume in the region. The West Corridor will serve Lakewood and other Westside activity centers, and will provide connections to the Denver Tech Center, the second largest employment center in the Denver metropolitan area. It will also facilitate development opportunities along the corridor. It will carry 28,700 average weekly riders, including 4,700 daily new riders by 2026. The project will cost a total of $593 million.

Portland, OR – South Corridor I-205/Portland Mall – $80 million in FY 2007

An 8.3-mile new light rail transit line consisting of two segments connecting to the existing “MAX” system. The first segment of the proposed project is a 6.5-mile line that runs north and south and parallel to I-205, connecting the Clackamas Regional Center in southeast Portland with the Gateway Transit Center east of downtown on TriMet’s existing light rail transit system.  The second segment of the project is a 1.8-mile extension which would begin at the existing Rose Quarter Transit Center and terminate at Portland State University in south downtown Portland. This segment would run along the existing downtown bus mall on 5th and 6th Avenues. The new line will serve 46,500 weekday riders, including 9,400 daily new riders, by 2025. The project will cost a total of $557.4 million.

Washington County, OR – Wilsonville/Beaverton Commuter Rail – $27.6 million in FY 2007

This 14.7-mile, five station commuter rail line will connect to Tri-Met’s existing Westside light rail line at the Beaverton Transit Center.  The project will connect the rapidly growing suburban communities in the Wilsonville-Beaverton Corridor and alleviate existing and future traffic congestion in western Washington County. The line will carry 3,000 weekday riders, including 1,900 daily new riders, by 2020.  The project will cost a total of $117.3 million.

Dallas – Northwest/Southeast Light Rail – $80 million in FY 2007

This 21-mile extension will provide fixed guideway transit service in heavily traveled transportation corridors.  From Dallas’ central business district, the line will extend northwest 10.9 miles along I-45 to the city of Farmer’s Branch, and southeast 10.1 miles to Buckner Boulevard. The project will provide an alternative to congested highway facilities, increase transit capacity, improve connectivity to regional activity centers, and provide economic development opportunities.  The line will carry nearly 46,000 average weekday riders, including 10,700 daily new riders, by 2025.   The project will cost a total of $1.4 billion.

Weber County/Salt Lake City, UT – Commuter Rail – $80 million in FY 2007

This 43-mile, eight-station commuter rail project will provide the areas of Pleasant View, Ogden, Clearfield, Layton, and Bountiful with direct access to downtown Salt Lake City.  The commuter rail line will serve nearly 12,000 weekday riders, including 6,100 daily new riders, by 2025.  The project will cost a total of $611.7 million.

 

Pending Full Funding Grant Agreements (2)

New York, NY Long Island Rail Road East Side Access – $300 million in FY 2007

The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) are proposing a commuter rail project that will link LIRR passengers to a new passenger concourse in Grand Central Terminal on Manhattan’s east side.  The 3.5-mile East Side Access (ESA) project, using an existing rail tunnel under the East River, will increase LIRR tunnel capacity across the East River and significantly relieve over-crowded conditions throughout the LIRR network.  The project will provide direct access to the east side of Manhattan for users of the LIRR, who must currently transfer to other transit lines or walk to get to the east side from Penn Station.  The ESA project will serve a portion of the strongest transit market in the country.  By 2030, through reducing travel time to Manhattan’s east side and relieving overcrowding conditions on existing LIRR service to Penn Station, the East Side Access will carry more than 171,900 average weekday riders, including 27,300 daily new riders by 2030. The project will cost a total of $7.78 billion.

Pittsburgh, PA – North Shore Connector – $55 million in FY 2007

This project sponsored by the Port Authority of Allegheny County is a 1.5-mile extension of the region’s 25-mile light rail transit system, which would connect downtown Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle area to the city’s North Shore area.  The project is expected to cost $393 million.  It will carry 15,800 average weekday riders, including 4,100 daily new riders by 2025.

 

Other projects to be considered for funding (5)

The President’s budget sets aside a total of $102 million to be available for additional projects. The following projects will be considered for funding contingent upon further progress and continued qualification under New Starts criteria and other requirements.

New York – Second Avenue Subway

This 2.3-mile project on Manhattan’s east side will provide extended Broadway subway service between Brooklyn, Lower Manhattan, West Midtown, and East Harlem.  The project is expected to serve 213,000 riders each day by 2030.  The project is estimated to cost $4.9 billion.

Northern Virginia – Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project Extension to Wiehle Avenue

An 11.6-mile extension of the region’s Metrorail system from the existing East Falls Church Metrorail station through the large Tysons Corner employment and retail center to Wiehle Avenue in the town of Reston.  The extension will serve more than 77,000 passengers a day by 2030.  The project is estimated to cost $1.8 billion.

Norfolk, VA – Norfolk Light Rail

Hampton Roads Transit is proposing to construct a 7.4-mile light rail transit line within the city of Norfolk that is intended to serve as the initial segment of a regional rapid transit system.  The project is expected to serve 6,500 riders each day by 2025.  The project is estimated to cost $203.7 million.

Seattle – University Link

Sound Transit is proposing to implement an extension of the Central Link light rail transit Initial Segment currently under construction from the segment’s northern terminus at Westlake Station in downtown Seattle to the University of Washington, 3.1 miles to the northeast.  The University Link corridor is the most densely developed residential and employment area in the Central Puget Sound region and the state of Washington.  The extension will serve more than 40,000 weekday riders by 2030.  The project is estimated to cost $1.7 billion.

Washington, DC – Largo Metrorail Extension

Sections 3043(a)(31) and 3043(j) of SAFETEA-LU authorizes the inclusion of an additional 52 rapid rail cars in the Largo Metrorail Extension.  FTA included proposed funding for the cars in this section even though the original Full Funding Grant Agreement has been completed and revenue service for the 3.1-mile, two-station extension from Addison Road Station to Largo Town Center in Prince George’s County, Maryland, has begun.

 

Existing Full Funding Grant Agreements (16)

Continued investment in projects that have successfully passed the FTA’s standards and for which Full Funding Grant Agreements have been put in place:

Phoenix, AZ – Central Phoenix East Valley Light Rail – $90 million in FY 2007

The Central Phoenix East Valley Light Rail project is a 19.6-mile light rail system running from the Spectrum Mall area in Phoenix, through the downtown areas of Phoenix and Tempe, to Mesa.  The project, overseen by Valley Metro Rail, will provide access to major employment centers including the Phoenix and Tempe central business districts, Sky Harbor Airport, and Arizona State University (ASU); and large special event venues including Civic Plaza Convention Center, Bank One Ballpark, America West Arena, and ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium.  The project will cost $1.4 billion, with a federal New Starts share of $587 million.

Los Angeles – Metro Gold East Side Extension – $100 million in FY 2007

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is constructing a 5.9-mile light rail line in the East Side Corridor, connecting downtown Los Angeles with East Lost Angeles.  The project will cost $898.8 million, with a federal New Starts share of $490.7 million.  It is expected to carry 23,000 daily riders by 2020.

Denver – Southeast Corridor Light Rail – $80 million in FY 2007

The Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) and the Colorado Department of Transportation are constructing the Southeast Corridor Light Rail project, dubbed T-REX.  T-REX is a 19.1-mile double-track light rail transit (LRT) extension to the existing system, which follows I-25 from Broadway in Denver to Douglas County, with a spur along I-225.  The total project cost is $879.27 million, with a federal New Starts share of $525 million.  It is expected to carry 38,100 daily riders by 2020.

Chicago – Ravenswood Line Extension – $40 million in FY 2007

The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is reconstructing platforms and stations on the existing Ravenswood (Brown) Line to accommodate eight-car trains, along with other related capital improvements.  The Brown Line extends approximately 9.1 miles from the Kimball Terminal on the north side of Chicago through the “Loop Elevated” in downtown Chicago, and includes 19 stations.  The total project cost is $529.91 million, with a federal New Starts share of $245.52 million.  It is expected to carry 68,000 daily riders by 2020.

Charlotte, NC –  South Corridor Light Rail Transit – $70.7 million in FY 2007

The project sponsored by the Charlotte Area Transit System is a 9.6-mile light rail transit line extending from the city’s central business district to Interstate 485 in south Mecklenburg County near the South Carolina state line.  It will carry 18,000 weekday riders by 2025.  This is the area’s first light-rail line. The total project cost is $426.8 million, with a federal New Starts share of $192.9 million.

New Jersey – Hudson-Bergen (Second Segment) – $100.0 million in FY 2007

The New Jersey Transit Corporation is constructing an extension to the Hudson-Bergen Waterfront Light Rail Transit System.  The project includes a 5.1-mile, six station extension from Hoboken Terminal to the Tonnelle Avenue park-and-ride lot in North Bergen and a one-mile, one-station extension south from 34th Street to 22nd Street in Bayonne. The total project cost is $1.21 billion, with a federal New Starts share of $500 million.  It is expected to carry 34,900 daily riders by 2020.

Seattle – Central Link (Initial Segment) – $80.0 million in FY 2007

The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) is constructing a 13.9 mile light rail line that will run from Convention Place through downtown Seattle to South 154th Street in the city of Tukwila.  The total project cost is $2.44 billion, with a federal New Starts share of $500 million.  It is expected to carry 42,500 daily riders in 2020.

San Francisco – BART Extension to San Francisco Airport – $2.4 million FY 2007

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and San Mateo County Transit District have completed an 8.7-mile heavy rail extension from BART’s Colma Station through Colma, San Bruno to Millbrae, with a station at San Francisco International Airport.  The total project cost is $1.55 billion, with a federal New Starts share of $750 million.  Daily riders in October 2004 totaled 27,000.

San Diego – Mission Valley East Extension – $806,654 in FY 2007

The Metropolitan Transit Development Board is constructing a 5.9-mile light rail transit extension, from its current terminus east of I-15 to the City of La Mesa.  The line will include a connection to the existing Orange Line near Baltimore Drive.  The project will cost $430.96 million, with a federal New Starts share of $329.96 million.  It is expected to carry 10,800 daily riders by 2015.

San Diego – Oceanside-Escondido Rail Corridor – $684,040 in FY 2007

The North County Transit District is converting an existing 22-mile freight rail corridor into a commuter rail running from the coastal city of Oceanside, through the cities of Vista and San Marcos, portions of unincorporated San Diego, to Escondido.  The project will cost $351.52 million, with a federal New Starts share of $152.1 million.  It is expected to carry 19,000 daily riders by 2020.

Chicago – Douglas Branch Reconstruction – $1.6 million in FY 2007

The Chicago Transit Authority is reconstructing 6.6 miles of the existing Douglas Branch of CTA’s heavy rail Blue Line.  The total project cost is $482.68 million, with a federal New Starts share of $320.10 million.  It is expected to carry 6,000 daily new riders by 2020.

Chicago – Union Pacific West Line Extension – $1.3 million in FY 2007

Metra, a commuter rail operator in the Chicago metropolitan region, is constructing an 8.5-mile extension to the existing 35-mile Union Pacific West Line.  The project would extend the line approximately 8.5 miles west from Geneva to Elburn, Illinois. The project will cost $134.6 million, with a federal New Starts share of $80.8 million. It is expected to carry 4,300 daily riders by 2020.

Baltimore – Central Light Rail Double-Track – $482,822 in FY 2007

The Maryland Mass Transit Administration is upgrading 9.4 miles of designated areas of the Baltimore Central Light Rail Line.  The project includes double-tracking eight sections of the existing 29-mile line and new platforms at four existing stations.  The total project cost is $153.7 million, with a federal New Starts share of $120 million.  It is expected to carry 44,000 daily riders by 2020.

Cleveland – Euclid Corridor Transportation Project – $693,013 in FY 2007

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is constructing a 9.4-mile, 35 station bus rapid transit line along Euclid Avenue from Public Square in downtown Cleveland to the Stokes-Windermere Rapid Transit Station (Red Line) in East Cleveland.  The total project cost is $168.4 million, with a federal New Starts share of $82.2 million.  It is expected to carry 39,000 daily riders by 2020.

Portland – Interstate MAX Light Rail Extension – $542,940 in FY 2007

The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon completed construction of a 5.8-mile extension of its light rail transit line known locally as the Interstate Metropolitan Area Express (Interstate MAX).  The Interstate MAX line extends existing light rail service north from the Rose Quarter and the Oregon Convention Center to North Portland neighborhoods and the Metropolitan Exposition Center.  The project commenced operations in 2004. The total project cost is $350 million, with a federal New Starts share of $257.5 million.

San Juan, PR – Tren Urbano – $2.7 million in FY 2007

The Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority completed construction of a 10.7-mile heavy rail system between Bayamón Centro and the Sagrado Corazon area of Santurce in San Juan.  The total project cost under a planned budget revision will be $2.25 billion, with a federal New Starts share of $307.41 million.  The system began limited weekend service in December 2004 and full daily revenue operations in June 2005.  It is expected to carry 113,000 daily riders by 2010.


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Amtrak Responds to President’s FY07 Funding Proposal

Compiled from sources

WASHINGTON ---Amtrak Acting President and CEO David Hughes made the following statement on the Administration’s funding proposal for FY07 announced this past week:

“The Administration’s proposal serves in part as recognition of the strategic reforms currently underway at Amtrak to reduce costs and make us more efficient. It is imperative that we continue to pursue these measures with urgency and energy. While the growth in our operating deficit has been halted and ridership continues strongly, we must seize the opportunity presented by the growing demand for passenger rail service around the country and make improvements to our customer service. If we can do this, and do our jobs well, we will have made the best case for continued public support for Amtrak.

“This is the first step in a nine-month process. Last year, Congress voted and the President signed an appropriation for Amtrak of $1.3 billion for FY06. This year, we again look forward to working with Congress and the Administration as we make the case for federal support.”

[Editor’s note: Hughes replaced ousted President David Gunn, who was fired for refusing to implement what he saw as an Administration plan to break off the Northeast Corridor into a separate company and make other changes that would threaten the operation and safety of the railroad]


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Black-owned Ad Agency picked by Amtrak

From the Internet

WASHINGTON---Amtrak has contracted with Atlanta-based IMAGES USA to handle advertising and marketing in the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions. The agency will handle creative media planning and buying and also some public relations duties.

The target market is the Hispanic and black populations in the Southeast

as they address the reasons why people travel.

IMAGES has been given a full marketing/communications account, which could be worth up to $4 million over four years.


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Flexible Fares emulate airlines

From Combined Wire Services

Amtrak passengers on the East Coast corridor routes can get a price break if they book in advance, while those who wait until the last minute will be charged more, as the rail carrier takes a cue from airlines in trying to increase its revenue.

Beginning Monday, passengers of Amtrak’s Acela and Metroliner trains running between Washington and Boston could pay as much as 15 percent more or less than standard fare depending on when they book.

The popularity of the route would also figure in ticket price. For example, early morning and late-afternoon trains could be more expensive, because they often are the most crowded. Midday and night trains would be cheaper.

“The more flexible you are with travel time and earlier you book, the more likely you might be able to get the lower fare,” said Amtrak spokeswoman Tracy Connell. For schedules, fares and information, call 800-USA-RAIL or visit www.amtrak.com.


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SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

Engineering Advances
State of Good Repair

Source: Amtrak Ink

Completion of the Keystone Corridor Improvement Project, start-up of the Thames River Bridge span replacement and continuing fire and life safety improvements on the New York tunnels are among the major projects the Engineering department is undertaking as part of its $450 million infrastructure investment program for this fiscal year.

“The purpose of the Engineering capital program is twofold: make significant progress to meet the customer service needs and to invest in technology that will deliver safety, performance and reliability goals while reducing the cost of maintenance,” said acting Chief Engineer Bruce Willbrant. “We have worked hard toward bringing the railroad to a state of good repair and it shows in the progress we have made on key projects such as rail renewal, inter-locking upgrades and the Keystone Corridor.”

The largest single construction project in the FY ’06 capital program is the replacement of the 87-year-old moveable bridge over the Thames River in Connecticut. The total cost of the bridge project is $76 million over three years with $23 million set for this year’s budget.

In the end, a more efficient vertical lift bridge that rises between two towers will replace the aged drawbridge.

In the most dramatic phase of the construction project to occur over 12 days during the fall of 2007, the bascule lift or movable center portion of the bridge will be removed, and a 188-foot long, 35- foot-wide, and 1,250-ton vertical lift will be floated into place on barges from Long Island Sound and then connected to the bridge.

Lasting until early 2008, the Thames River Bridge project involves a range of activities, from the fabrication of the lift towers to the installation of underwater communications systems and signal cable.

“A malfunction could either stop the operation of trains on the Northeast Corridor or restrict vessel access to and from the Navy base at Groton and Coast Guard base at New London, Conn.,” said Amtrak Project Manager Peter Finch.

Catenary and Electrical Upgrades

Major elements of the capital program designed to upgrade catenary and electrical systems are the replacement of the aged 138 kV oilistatic (oil insulated) cable in Baltimore, and phase one of a three-year catenary project between New York’s Hellgate Bridge and the junction with Metro North at New Rochelle, N.Y.

Installed in the B&P Tunnel in Baltimore over 80 years ago, the oilistatic cable is the principal distribution source of electric power for trains operating between Washington and Baltimore.

“The failure of this cable would seriously reduce the capacity required to run trains between these points, which would cause havoc on train schedules throughout the Washington to New York corridor,” said Bob Verhelle, deputy chief engineer, Electric Traction. The total cable replacement program will cost $20 million, with $9 million budgeted this year, and will virtually eliminate the operational risks associated with the oil-insulated cable.

The new catenary on the Hellgate line replaces the old “floating beam” catenary installed during the 1920s, and is designed to minimize the impact of a failure to adjacent tracks. Part of a multi-year $35 million project, the upgrade is budgeted at $11 million this fiscal year.

Communications & Signals

Much of the $30 million Communications & Signals investment program is dedicated to inter-locking replacements, the bulk of which occur between New York and Washington and along the Harrisburg Line.

The most critical interlocking project is the replacement of signal cables and equipment at Dock Interlocking in Newark, N.J., to be completed over a five-year period ending in FY ’09 at a cost of $26 million.

Dock Interlocking in New jersey

Photo: Amtrak Ink

One of Amtrak’s most complex interlockings, Dock is on the books this year to be replaced with new electric switches, signal system and signal control houses. A key choke point for all Amtrak and New Jersey Transit traffic to and from New York, Dock Interlocking includes the operation of three movable bridges (background).

Dock Interlocking, a large multi-track interlocking including three movable bridge spans over the Passaic River, is one of Amtrak’s busiest interlockings handling all Amtrak trains operating between New York and Washington and all NJT trains operating over the Northeast Corridor through Newark.

It is controlled by a mechanical interlocking machine, installed in 1929 that uses interlocking bars and levers to mechanically lock routes cleared for trains. Dock is one of two remaining manually operated interlocking towers on the Northeast Corridor.

The signal equipment at Dock has far exceeded its life expectancy and fails frequently. “The most persistent problem at Dock is the deterioration of the insulation on the old wiring installed in the 1950s and old cables from 1929,” said Keith Holt, deputy chief engineer, Communications & Signals. Consequently, ground currents often exceed FRA limits, requiring switches to be blocked and spiked to prevent the unintentional movement of switch points. “When this occurs, it has a huge impact on the on-time performance of both Amtrak and NJT trains operating to and from New York,” said Holt.

In addition to replacing miles of wire and cable, new signals will be installed, less dependable air switches will be replaced with new electric switch machines, electric switch heaters (snow melters) will replace natural gas heaters and fail-safe microprocessor controllers will replace the old interlocking machine. Also included in the project is a re-design of the signal detection equipment associated with the three movable bridge spans. The new equipment will be installed in new signal houses and cases located throughout Dock.

“Once the work is done, Dock will be a more reliable interlocking and that will help improve on-time performance for the Northeast Corridor. It will be remote-controlled from the dispatching center in New York (Penn Station Central Control), providing greater operational flexibility and efficiency, and eliminating the need for the on-site block operators that are now required 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” added Holt.

Fire and Life Safety

Approximately $85 million in fire and life safety improvements are being made this year as part of the first phase of the five-year $400 million New York Tunnels program. The majority of the work, which is funded in part by the Long Island Rail Road, will occur on the vent and evacuation shafts at Long Island City and on First Avenue in Manhattan. Phase one is scheduled for completion in 2008.

“When we’re finished, all 13 miles of the six New York tunnels will have been brought up to 21st century fire and safety standards,” said Frank Vacca, deputy chief engineer, Construction.

A second major undertaking in this budget category is the installation of security fencing and lighting throughout the Northeast Corridor. Two critical areas of improvement are the south end of the First Street Tunnel in Washington, D.C., and the Bergen Portal to the Hudson River tubes.

Track Upgrades and Investment

With a $46.6 million investment in new rail and ties this fiscal year, Engineering will complete the three-year Keystone Corridor Improvement Project this fall, leading to trip-time reductions of 15 to 30 minutes, top train speeds of 110 mph and as many as four additional weekday roundtrips between Philadelphia and Harrisburg.

“Amtrak and the Pennsylvania DOT partnered on this multi-year, jointly funded program of infra-structure improvements that will result in a number of service improvements, including reliability and ride quality,” said Willbrant.

In total, the project price tag is $145.5 million, including the replacement of concrete ties, installation of continuous welded rail, and bridge, signal system, and catenary upgrades, among other improvements.

Overall, track investment this year includes approximately 117,000 concrete ties, 37 track miles of rail, 7.6 miles of track undercutting, 51,500 wood ties and 96 new turnouts.

Investments in the rehabilitation and replacement of interlockings include the Cork and Roy interlockings on the Harrisburg Line, the County, Manor and Merck interlockings in the New York Division, and construction of a new interlocking at Crescent in New England. These projects are major milestones toward improving the condition of the more than 140 interlockings owned and maintained by Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor.

“Four hundred fifty-million dollars is a significant amount,” said Willbrant referring to his department’s total capital budget. “But in order for us to catch up with the years of deferred maintenance, the level of funding that we are investing now needs to continue and ultimately increase over the next five to 10 years to guarantee we meet our state-of-good-repair infrastructure goals and provide more reliable train service to our customers.”


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Proposed new route for MBTA Silver Line
could save money, shorten construction

By DF Staff and
from internet reports

Back of Silver line trolley-bus

Photo: Boston Globe Staff Photo / Wendy Maeda

A Silver Line bus makes its turnaround on Temple Street outside the Downtown Crossing station area.
Massachusetts State Transportation Secretary John Cogliano has proposed a new plan to complete the linking of Boston’s now-disjointed Silver Line bus rapid transit system. The suggested plan could save as much as $700 million in costs and shorten the completion time of the project by several years.

The plan has however, managed to ruffle a few feathers in state and city government as well as with local environmentalists who say they were not consulted very much in advance of the announcement.

The MBTA Silver line presently exists in two parts. The surface section runs mostly within a marked bus lane in city traffic, and operates from Boston’s Dudley square to the Downtown Crossing station, a temporary terminus. The second part which was recently completed, operates from Boston’s South Station to Silver Line Way in the South Boston district via a subterranean bus way. In South Boston, the route splits and returns to the surface to serve the waterfront district, South Boston, and a direct connection to Logan Airport by way of the Ted Williams Tunnel. The final phase would connect the Dudley-Downtown section with the subway at South Station.

While operating underground, dual-powered, extra-long articulated busses operate on overhead power lines much like an electric trolley-bus (trackless trolley), and when operating on the surface they switch to a diesel powered generating system.

What has been at odds however is the route that will link these two. Secretary Cogliano’s plan will add a fourth proposed route to those already on the drawing board. Putting forward another plan at this time raises concerns of possible further delays in winning approvals from federal transportation officials and financing from Washington, DC.

Proposed location of Silver line portal in Boston Cogliano’s proposal, as drawn up by state planners was done with the hopes of breaking an impasse on the existing plans. The new plan skips an intersection with the Green line subway at Boylston Station in favor of one with the Orange and Red lines near Downtown Crossing station. The Green line is already ‘connected’ there via an underground city-block long walkway to Park Street station.

The previous proposals called for a deep tunnel under the city’s Chinatown district, but Cogliano said that travel times, as well as transfers to subway lines, under the new proposed route are comparable at one-eighth the cost, or $94 million instead of $800 million.

Cogliano’s plan would also extend Silver Line service from Dudley station into Grove Hall, Mattapan, and Ashmont, with connections to the Fairmount commuter rail line which is under renovation and expansion in Mattapan and Dorchester.

In addition, the proposal calls for a new Silver Line spur from Copley Square to the proposed Essex Street portal, offering what could be a transfer-free, one-seat ride from the Back Bay to South Boston and Logan.

“This new option presents an opportunity to improve service and meet our transit commitments in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible,” Cogliano wrote this week to MBTA General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas. 

Over time, however, the Dudley-Downtown branch of the Silver Line has come under harsh criticism from riders who say it has become just another bus route, because the dedicated bus lanes have not been kept free of traffic or double-parked cars.

“This may meet transit commitments, but it does not meet the commitment that the T made to provide ‘equal or better’ service when the Orange Line was torn down,” said Sierra Club spokesman Jeremy Marin. “According to T studies, it took eight minutes from Dudley to downtown [via the old elevated Orange line], but the [Silver line] bus currently takes 20 minutes.”

In the mid-80s the old elevated Orange line was demolished and replaced with a new service about one mile to the west, operating adjacent to the existing commuter rail lines that pass through the city. Dudley station had been a major terminal with numerous feeder bus lines that brought passengers to the Orange line El. When the Orange line was relocated, Dudley station remained a major bus terminal but bus routes in the vicinity were extended or altered to meet the Orange line at new stations. Area residents have been pressing the MBTA for some kind of replacement light rail service (such as a trolley line) since then.

House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, a Democrat from the North End, whose district is in the bus route and who opposed previous plans, said yesterday he is in “full agreement” with the Cogliano plan.

Mark Slater, president of the Bay Village Neighborhood Association, said the new plan appears to meet the transit needs of the city while protecting the fragile homes in Bay Village, which were built on poor soil and sit on pilings whose stability needs ground water levels to remain unchanged. The earlier proposed tunnels, he said, could have played havoc with those levels.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES...  Environmental lines...

Smog Rules Toughened

By Andrew Silva, Calif.

SAN BERNADINO COUNTY, CA---“Locomotives won’t be allowed to idle longer than 30 minutes under rules adopted Friday by the region’s smog-fighting agency, a move that could trigger a showdown between local regulators and the railroads,” the San Bernardino County Sun reported this past week.

“San Bernardino County is the worst-polluted area in our purview. I’m sure by the close of business Monday we’ll have a lawsuit on these two rules,” said Chino Mayor Dennis Yates, who sits on the board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District based in Diamond Bar,” reported Andrew Silva of The Sun.

“Yates joined a unanimous vote to require locomotives to shut down if they idle longer than 30 minutes and force railroads to keep records of all periods of idling that exceed that length, The Sun reported, “The rules are meant to cut down on pollution from the massive diesel engines at rail yards throughout Southern California, including Union Pacific’s Colton yard, and BNSF Railway’s yard in San Bernardino.”

“Officials estimate that eliminating unnecessary idling by the hundreds of locomotives in the region each year will cut 23 tons of fine particles from the air, particles that have proven to be the most deadly form of air pollution. It would also reduce the annual pollution of oxides of nitrogen by 493 tons,” The Sun reported.

“Railroads oppose the rules because they’re stricter than requirements in a widely criticized agreement that Union Pacific and BNSF struck with the state Air Resources Board in June” The Sun said.


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Thinking Regionally

Watery solutions offered for transportation challenges

By Neal Peirce and Curtis Johnson / The New England Futures Project

(For the complete series and related information go to www.newenglandfutures.org)

Before roads, before railroads, New England traveled by sea and up its rivers. And waterborne trade has been a regional strength ever since Yankee clipper ships raced around the world and opened the first China trade.

Can water transport solve some of the region’s modern-day transportation challenges? The answer should be yes. Take the issue of paralyzing congestion exacerbated by thousands of trucks along I-95 in southwestern Connecticut. Connecticut has been working for years on the idea of feeder barge service from Newark to New Haven or Bridgeport, allowing freight to bypass the most crowded Connecticut-New York freeway stretch. After prolonged political wrangling, Bridgeport was finally selected, but advocates are asking impatiently when the Connecticut Department of Transportation will finally get the service launched.

Also still to be resolved: What’s New England’s ocean freight plan for the century? Shipments from around the world must now come in from remote points -- either the Port of New York and New Jersey or Halifax, Nova Scotia. Is that satisfactory? Maybe so -- but maybe not. New England’s apparently never had the serious discussion it should about deepwater facilities at Rhode Island’s Quonset, a site potentially able to offload double-stacked containers onto rail for region- and continent-wide distribution.

And what of passenger service by water? Historically, it played a big role from New York all the way up to Maine. A dozen or so ferry services do still operate -- Boston-Gloucester and Boston-Provincetown, Providence-Newport, New London and Bridgeport across Long Island Sound, for example. The MBTA offers Boston Harbor service including connection to Logan Airport. Ferries run across Lake Champlain, connecting Vermont and New York State. New high-speed catamaran service connects Bar Harbor with Yarmouth in Nova Scotia in just three hours.

But the potential is far greater -- serious high speed ferry service from Fairfield County to Manhattan, for example. Former Maine Transportation Secretary John Melrose says he’s enthusiastic about water transport because “it fosters development in core communities, has a low cost (which is zero) for maintenance of way, and has an extensive track record elsewhere in the world.”

For all the wonders of modern technology, the basic old-fashioned idea of personal travel by sea and river connection seems like a natural fit for New England’s character, tourism, and economic future.


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Containerization Marks Its 50th Year

From the San Francisco Chronicle

“Globalization is having an anniversary,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “It was 50 years ago that Malcolm McLean, an entrepreneur from North Carolina, loaded a ship with 58 35-foot containers and sailed from Newark, N.J., to Houston.”

“He wasn’t the only one to suggest that containers might make shipping more efficient. But he was the first to design a transportation system around the packaging of cargo in huge metal boxes that could be loaded and unloaded by cranes,” the Chronicle reporter George Raine wrote.

“Container shipping eventually replaced the traditional “break-bulk” method of handling crates, barrels and bags, and stowing them loose in a ship’s hold, a system in use since the days of the Phoenicians. Replacing break-bulk with cargo containers dramatically reduced shipping costs, reinvigorating markets and fueling the world economy,” said the Chronicle. “McLean, who died in 2001 at 87, shares the credit with the Bay Area’s Matson Navigation Co., a longtime force in Pacific shipping. Two years after McLean loaded his ship, the Ideal-X, Matson’s Hawaiian Merchant inaugurated container shipping in the Pacific, carrying 20 24-foot-long cargo holders from Alameda to Honolulu.”


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SERVICE LINES...  Service lines...

Acela First Class Service
Improvements Launched

Source: Amtrak Ink
Amtrak Food Service Galley

Photo: Amtrak Ink

Acela Express Lead Service Attendant Lelia Holmes prepares lunch for the First class passengers aboard #2110.

 

Several improvements to Acela Express First class service were added last month, including a menu of hot entrées, better wine selection and the addition of a second attendant when warranted by high load factors. The changes, in addition to refresher service training, were made to ensure that the service met passenger expectations aboard Amtrak’s premier service.

Meeting the expectations of First class passengers aboard Acela Express is crucial, as the ticket revenue is sizeable. If First class were a service by itself, it would out-earn all 15 long-distance trains and 26 corridor services —trailing only the Regionals and Acela Express Business class — in ticket revenue.

Last fall, Amtrak instituted a different service model for First class service as part of its focus on reducing food and beverage and First class service costs. For Acela, this included the elimination of hot entrées and downsizing of the crew to one from a maximum of three.

But, according to Customer Service Vice President Emmett Fremaux, “We analyzed the numbers and solicited feed-back from our passengers and crews that confirmed that we were losing customers because of the change in service.”

Based on what Amtrak was seeing, it estimated that the losses might add up to $1.6 million or more on an annual basis if the trend was allowed to continue.

Part of the solution was a new menu that costs only a little more to deliver, but delivers on passengers’ expectations. In the mornings, passengers may pick a continental breakfast or hot entrée, such as a Southwest omelet. Lunch includes hot soup and a choice of a fresh sandwich or entrée-sized salad. The dinner menu offers a choice between two hot entrées or lighter fare option. The lighter fare includes bite-sized hors d’oeuvres-type items such as cheeses, salami and crackers that have become very popular with evening travelers.

For the cost of a First class ticket, which is 50-percent higher than the Business class fare, passengers anticipate exceptional service. “Passengers should feel that they are getting the value they expect from our premium service both in the quality of the food and from those who are delivering it,” said Fremaux. “So, we also initiated targeted training sessions for First class attendants to provide them the tools to enhance the service.” The new training for lead service attendants began on Jan. 3. The training puts special emphasis on food preparation and customer interaction.

What’s at stake may be large and complex, but what it takes is small and simple: greeting the passengers at the door, assisting with luggage, addressing the passenger by name, keeping areas neat and clean, and providing hot towel service.

Is it paying off? Time — plus passenger ridership and revenue — will tell, but initial feedback has been very positive.


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Traditional Uniforms To Return to Northeast Corridor

Source: Amtrak Ink

Amtrak will begin transitioning to an “all-blue” railroad on March 1 when Northeast Corridor employees — from ticket agents to conductors — will be outfitted in traditional railroad blue uniforms.

The new uniforms will replace the Acela Express gray uniforms, which were introduced in 2000.

“As the phase-out of the gray uniforms was coming to a close, it was time to move toward a more consistent uniform system-wide and our employees in the East are excited about the move back to blue,” said Vice President of Customer Service Emmett Fremaux. He added that it is important for Amtrak passengers traveling across the system to experience consistent service “and that includes seeing our employees in a single style of uniform reflecting the Amtrak brand.”

Northeast Corridor employees will be receiving their new uniforms by April 1 will don the navy blue. According to Amtrak Uniform Programs Manager Dianne Ross, employees are thrilled with the change. “I have received an overwhelmingly positive response to the new uniforms,” said Ross. “A good uniform makes employees proud to be part of a team, and now we will be wearing blue across the board.”

One exciting update to the blue uniform for the entire system is the introduction of the Amtrak epaulet slides, which are color-coded to reflect the job function of the employee,” said Ross. An epaulet is a small ornamental strip of fabric that is worn on the shoulder, used primarily on military uniforms. An epaulet with a gold background and a blue Amtrak logo will signify a conductor and a navy blue background with a blue Amtrak logo will denote an assistant conductor. On-board service and station employees will wear epaulets with a navy blue background with a white Amtrak logo and red caps’ epaulets will feature a red back-ground with a blue Amtrak logo.

The uniform’s blue gabardine-blend fabric holds its shape, is durable and can be worn year-round. Jackets and vests have custom pewter buttons, and metal hat emblems will change from gold to pewter.

In addition, all train, on-board service and station employees, excluding red cap and baggage employees, will be issued five short-sleeved shirts with the appropriate epaulets in time for summer uniform requirements.


Photo at right: Amtrak Ink

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New NEC uniforms starting March 1

New NEC Uniforms

STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)79.5578.75
Canadian National (CNI)90.1289.90
Canadian Pacific (CP)48.2347.54
CSX (CSX)52.7451.85
Florida East Coast (FLA)47.8648.15
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)39.2439.26
Kansas City Southern (KSU)23.5024.50
Norfolk Southern (NSC)49.0049.24
Providence & Worcester (PWX)16.4015.84
Union Pacific (UNP)86.3185.67


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Two companies blamed in fatal blast: Designer, maker
of fuel tank made errors that led to the accident

From the Des Moines Register
By Jennifer Jacobs
Register Staff Writer

COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA---No single factor was responsible for last year’s fuel tank explosion at Union Pacific’s Council Bluffs machine shop that killed a sheet metal worker with 27 years’ experience, but federal investigators from the Federal Railroad Administration blamed both the manufacturer of the tank and an engineering firm that designed it, according to a report carried in The Des Moines Register.

“Thinking the fuel tank posed no threat because it was new and had never contained flammable liquids, Union Pacific sheet metal worker Daniel Weinert strapped a pad on his left knee and, at 9:35 a.m. on Feb. 15, 2005, switched on a grinding tool,” wrote Register reporter Jennifer Jacobs.

“A spark ignited vapors trapped inside and caused an explosion powerful enough to toss Weinert into the air higher than the top of a nearby rail car, according to a 340-page report by the Federal Railroad Administration, which looks into all railroad employee fatalities,” she reported.

Six other workers were knocked down or struck by debris, according to the report, which The Des Moines Register obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

”Federal investigators said Union Pacific had rejected the 1,200-gallon tank once and had shipped it back for redesign and remanufacture,” reported The Register. “The new tank was flawed, too - the manufacturer, Mid-America Car of Kansas City, Mo., failed to properly dry and “cure” a chemical coating on the inside of the tank, according to the report. And the engineering firm, Starfire Engineering and Technologies of Lawrence, Kan., didn’t give Mid-America Car proper instructions for applying the coating, the investigators found.

“As for Union Pacific,” wrote The Register, “officials there told investigators no safety rules were violated. They said the tank was new, so rules for cleaning and venting the tank weren’t applicable, the report states. The report doesn’t dispute Union Pacific’s claim.”


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Freight Rails add jobs in St. Louis region

From The St. Louis Business Journal

Union Pacific Corp. plans to hire about 150 new employees in the St. Louis area this year, as age takes a toll on the railroad industry’s work force and demand for freight transportation by train reaches an all-time high, reports The St. Louis Business Journal.

Reporter Patrick L. Thimangu wrote, “The other two big railroad companies with a large local presence -- Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. and Norfolk Southern Corp. -- also plan to add jobs. The three rail firms, including Union Pacific, already employ more than 700 people in the region.”

“In 2005, the railroad industry had a record-breaking year by hauling more than 17.2 million carloads of freight, an increase of 0.9 percent over 2004, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), a trade group for freight railroads and Amtrak. During the year, coal, chemicals, crushed stone, gravel and grain were among the highest volume commodities carried in carload service by U.S. railroads,” wrote the Journal.

“Capacity will be a key issue for railroads going forward,” Craig Rockey, vice president of AAR, said in a statement Jan. 6. “They will continue to spend massive amounts to help ensure that adequate rail capacity exists,” the Journal reported.

“According to Stephen Brown, director of finance in Fitch Ratings Inc.’s Chicago office, railroad companies are hiring because they’ve posted strong profits the last two years and now can invest in expanding their companies. The companies are buying more locomotives and making improvements to railroads, efforts that require more manpower, he said,” the Journal said.


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New short-line railroad starts
in northeastern North Dakota

From the internet

NORTH DAKOTA---A new railroad is taking over about 80 miles of track from BNSF in northeastern North Dakota, the Associated Press reports.

Dakota Northern Railroad is leasing the track from Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. One stretch runs about 60 miles from Grafton to Walhalla, while the other goes about 22 miles from Grafton north to Glasston, said Thomas Kotnour, one of the three partners in KBN Inc., reports the AP.

KBN owns Minnesota Northern Railroad based in Crookston, Minn., of which Dakota Northern is a part. It is KBN’s first track in North Dakota, the AP said.


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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.

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