In this edition...
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 (firstname.lastname@example.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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Presidents Budget Recommends
WASHINGTON Fighting congestion on Americas 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 Bushs 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 Presidents 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 Denvers West Corridor Light Rail project for a 12-mile extension along the citys 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 citys central business district.
Oregon has two new projects recommended for funding. First, $80 million is planned for an eight-mile extension of Portlands 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 Utahs 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 FTAs New Starts program requires proof of each projects 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 FTAs 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
Pending Full Funding Grant Agreements (2)
New York, NY Long Island Rail Road East Side Access $300 million in FY 2007
Other projects to be considered for funding (5)
The Presidents 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.
Existing Full Funding Grant Agreements (16)
Continued investment in projects that have successfully passed the FTAs standards and for which Full Funding Grant Agreements have been put in place:
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Amtrak Responds to Presidents FY07 Funding Proposal
WASHINGTON ---Amtrak Acting President and CEO David Hughes made the following statement on the Administrations funding proposal for FY07 announced this past week:
The Administrations 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.
[Editors 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]
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.
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 Amtraks 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.
State of Good Repair
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 years 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 Yorks 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.
Photo: Amtrak InkOne of Amtraks 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 Amtraks 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 were 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 departments 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.
Proposed new route for MBTA Silver Line
could save money, shorten construction
Photo: Boston Globe Staff Photo / Wendy MaedaA 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 Bostons 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 Bostons Dudley square to the Downtown Crossing station, a temporary terminus. The second part which was recently completed, operates from Bostons 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.
What has been at odds however is the route that will link these two. Secretary Coglianos 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.
Coglianos 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 citys 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.
Coglianos 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.
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.
Smog Rules Toughened
SAN BERNADINO COUNTY, CA---Locomotives wont be allowed to idle longer than 30 minutes under rules adopted Friday by the regions 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. Im sure by the close of business Monday well 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 Pacifics Colton yard, and BNSF Railways 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 theyre 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.
Watery solutions offered for transportation challenges
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 regions 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: Whats New Englands 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 Englands apparently never had the serious discussion it should about deepwater facilities at Rhode Islands 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 hes 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 Englands character, tourism, and economic future.
Containerization Marks Its 50th Year
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 wasnt 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 ships 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 Areas Matson Navigation Co., a longtime force in Pacific shipping. Two years after McLean loaded his ship, the Ideal-X, Matsons Hawaiian Merchant inaugurated container shipping in the Pacific, carrying 20 24-foot-long cargo holders from Alameda to Honolulu.
Acela First Class Service
Photo: Amtrak InkAcela 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 Amtraks 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 doeuvres-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.
Whats 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.
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 uniforms 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 InkReturn to index
New NEC uniforms starting March 1
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||79.55||78.75|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||47.86||48.15|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||39.24||39.26|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||23.50||24.50|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||16.40||15.84|
Two companies blamed in fatal blast: Designer, maker
of fuel tank made errors that led to the accident
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA---No single factor was responsible for last years fuel tank explosion at Union Pacifics 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., didnt 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 werent applicable, the report states. The report doesnt dispute Union Pacifics claim.
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 industrys 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 theyve 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.
New short-line railroad starts
in northeastern North Dakota
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 KBNs first track in North Dakota, the AP said.
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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 email@example.com 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, governors 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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