Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 3 No. 9, March 4, 2002
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
James P. RePass, President
Leo King, Editor

A weekly North American rail and transit update



Acelas in the yard

NCI: Leo King

The car cleaners have finished their work; mechanical's forces have fixed whatever problems they found. Now it is On-Board Services turn to restock a pair of Acela Express trains in Southampton Street Yard as they prepare for their next run from Boston to New York City or our national's capital.
Key chairman to Bush camp:

Stop dragging your feet on Amtrak

By Wes Vernon
Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON - A powerful congressional committee chairman has told the Bush administration to submit a report with its vision of passenger rail's future in the U.S. in two months or else.

"There just might not be an appropriation (for Amtrak) this year," Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) warned Federal Railroad Administrator Allan Rutter Wednesday.

As chairman of the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Rogers holds the purse strings to Amtrak's future.

His challenge came at a hearing where, after nearly 31 years of operating on the politically palatable fantasy that passenger trains can "make a profit," Capitol Hill appeared ready finally to face up to the fact that the "make a profit" line is and always was purely a political game of "Let's pretend."

The passenger railroad, he warned, would have to be restructured. The present system, lawmakers, government and Amtrak officials agreed, was broken from Day One. There must be changes.

By leaning on the Bush administration, Rogers is trying to smoke out the White House from its state of indecision over Amtrak's future. He is also prodding President Bush to make up his mind how to resolve a fierce internal debate in his administration between Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson (former Amtrak board chairman) who wants an expanded and robust Amtrak and White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels who does not.

Every transportation specialist in this town knows the administration would like to "kick the can" on this issue until after the November elections.

"We've been kicking the can for over thirty years," an Amtrak Reform Council official told D:F.

As we reported last November, Deputy FRA Administrator Mark Yachmetz told D:F that the Bush administration planned to introduce its own vision for passenger service in late January or early February concurrent with the release of its Fiscal Year 2003 budget. Then, he said, the administration hoped that Congress would quickly debate the issue and formulate a plan by Memorial Day.

Of course, Congress doesn't do things that way. The lawmakers, if for no other reason than that a majority of them must sign off on it, take their time veering from the status quo.

But that's not the point. Congress expects any administration to present its own proposals so that the lawmakers can then study them and decide what to do.

Instead of unveiling a bold new plan for passenger trains, the White House merely requested a "placeholder" appropriations request for $521 million in fiscal 2003, as opposed to $1.2 billion, which Amtrak says it needs.

Rogers sees that as a copout.

How can Amtrak get along on the administration request?

"Not long and not well," said DOT Inspector General Kenneth Mead.

In his testimony, Amtrak President George Warrington said Amtrak had "just run out of tools in the tool box to hold this together," and that in deciding to discontinue 18 long-distance trains in October if he doesn't get his requested $1.2 billion, he was merely laying out the facts and was simply being "honest and straightforward."

Profitability?

"We in Congress deluded ourselves," said Rogers.

"Amtrak also deluded itself," said Warrington. "The backlog finally caught up with us," a reference to Amtrak's huge debt.

Warrington appeared to regret his repeated assurances that operational self-sufficiency by 2002 was attainable. Some pro-Amtrak critics have said he should have said from the beginning there was no way that goal could be reached.

Three factors played apart in bringing this whole situation to a head, the Amtrak CEO said - weakened economy, the September 11 terrorist attacks forcing Amtrak to spend more on beefing up security, and the Amtrak Reform Council's vote in November that triggered a liquidation process (later blocked by Congress), which, in turn, caused the financial markets to evaporate. In the past, this was a source of funding for capital and equipment needs.

The desperate straits in which Amtrak finds itself was never more clearly demonstrated than in its decision to mortgage Penn Station in New York merely to continue for a short period of time. That too was a point of criticism among the members of the House subcommittee.

The 1997 Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act, Warrington added, forced Amtrak to focus all its efforts on the "glide path" to hoped for operational self-sufficiency by late 2002, a goal that has been abandoned as impossible to achieve.

Amtrak Reform Council chairman Gil Carmichael said the present structure has forced Amtrak into the position where it "has too much to do and does not do it well."

The ARC chairman said freight railroad CEO's had told him they would be willing to contribute to a bond program similar to the one provided in the $71 billion high-speed rail legislation by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) to upgrade the nation's rail infrastructure, provided it results in better and faster freight service.

Freight railroads don't want to do a lot of public talking about this because, according to sources, they fear that they might be subjected to additional regulation and get stiffed on the "open access" issue, a long-standing thorn in the industry's side.

"If you don't get something (a rail passenger program) up here in a couple of months, you're D-O-A," Rogers warned the FRA's Rutter.

"Will you do that? The chairman asked.

"I hear what your expectations are," replied the FRA administrator.

"If you want a (rail passenger) system, you'd better get busy," the powerful committee chairman warned, "We expect a report by the end of April. This train is leaving the station."

After 31 years of band-aids and pipe dreams, Amtrak's Warrington told the lawmakers, "We can no longer carry everyone's ambition on our back."

"You owe us a report," chairman Rogers reiterated to Rutter, "We expect a plan from you. We're waiting for the money. We want your plan."

Thus, Wednesday's hearing may have signaled the "moment of truth" for Amtrak.

No more band-aids. No more pipe dreams - and also no kicking the can down the road for another year to paper over a White House family fight. Congress has challenged the administration to lead.


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A clarification regarding the ARC and franchises
Last week, in this space, we listed entities that had contacted the Amtrak Reform Council about possibly bidding on franchises for passenger trains in the U.S. The list was incomplete. ARC's Deirdre O'Sullivan supplied us with the following who had made such inquiries:

  • Peter Picknelly, President, Peter Pan bus Lines-Springfield, Mass.
  • Scott Spencer, President, Railway Service Corp., Wilmington, Del.
  • Dr. Mike Mitchell, First, Macmillan House, London-England.
  • James Stoetzel, Vice President-Contract Operations-Rail Connex North America, Georgetown Mass.
  • Graham Eccles, Executive Director, Stagecoach Group, Scotland, UK
  • Michael Schabas, Director, GB Railways Group Plc., London, England.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Also:

In our Feb. 25 report, we alluded to Senator McCain's membership on the Senate Armed Services Committee. While the senator is in fact a high-ranking member of that panel, his influence on transportation and Amtrak issues, of course, is exerted in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, of which he is former chairman and now ranking member.

   - Wes Vernon


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Who's the money 'hog,' anyway?

To our journalist readers, House and Senate members and staff, and other interested parties: for many years the highway lobby has stated that highways pay for themselves through user fees, while Amtrak is a government-funded subsidy hog. That turns out to be the opposite of the truth, as D:F Media Outreach Director and former Dow Jones reporter Jim Furlong documents in the following story. Please take a look, and feel free to inquire of Jim Furlong about the story. - Jim RePass, Publisher

America's highways do not
self-finance, D:F check shows

By Jim Furlong
NCI Media Outreach Director

Despite a widespread impression to the contrary, the nation's highway system doesn't support itself.

There's a large shortfall between highway-user revenues generated by tolls, fuel taxes, excise levies, and other charges-and highway spending, on a combined federal-state-local basis, interviews and document searches by Destination: Freedom show.

In the year 2000, latest for which figures are available, the gap amounted to 21 percent, or $26.87 billion, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The FHWA document that lays out these figures is Funding for Highways and Disposition of Highway-User Revenues, all Units of Government, 2000. The document, known as "Table HF-10" for short, tracks highway spending on federal, state and local levels.

Taxpayers subsidize a sizable portion of this difference between highway user-generated revenues of $100.59 billion and spending of $127.46 billion.

The revenue-to-spending figures take on special significance now, when Amtrak is threatened with dismemberment because it isn't on track to break even. The figures raise the question of whether Amtrak is being measured against an unattainable standard that the nation's well-established highway system doesn't meet.

The huge highway numbers place in dramatic perspective the relatively small size of Amtrak's $1.2 billion budgetary request for the year 2003, and the fact that the Bush administration's tentatively proposed $521 million is less than half of even that relatively small amount. An additional measurement: the HF-10 lists the mere cost of collection of state highway user revenues at nearly $3 billion in 2000, more than twice the size of Amtrak's fiscal 2003 request.

The $26.87 billion highway funding gap in 2000 alone compares with $22 billion in operating and capital subsidies that Amtrak received in total during the first 26 years of its existence. Congressional impatience with this level of passenger railroad subsidy resulted in 1997 in the legal requirement that Amtrak achieve operating self-sufficiency by December 2, 2002.

The 21 percent overall highway shortfall for the year 2000 isn't an exception attributable to temporary economic conditions-unlike the current shortfall in motor fuel tax receipts that does result from recession. The 2000 gap is part of a longstanding pattern. Here are some representative historical revenue-to-spending percentages (with gaps shown in parentheses):

1981: 62.6 percent (37.4 percent); 1985: 73.4 (26.6); 1989: 76.6 (23.4); 1993: 82.6 (17.4); 1996: 88.2 (11.8); 1997: 88.8 (11.2).

The figures are not controversial within the government, even though the public myth persists that roads are self-funding. In fact, the figures are taken from the USDOT's massive study, submitted to the Senate in May 2000, called Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit: Conditions and Performance Report.

A page-sized box in that report extracts the bottom line from a potentially puzzling array of intergovernmental payments and a mix of highway and non-highway deployments of revenues generated by highway users. The box is headed:

Q.
If all "highway-user revenues" collected were used for highways, would they be sufficient to cover all highway expenditures?

Of course, the answer, based on data current through 1997, was "no."

Though a new edition of the Conditions and Performance Report isn't scheduled until later this year, an FHWA employee confirmed that the corresponding revenue-to-spending figure for 2000 was 78.9 percent, leaving the previously mentioned 21 percent gap.

How was the gap filled?

It was bridged using property taxes, general fund appropriations by state and local governments, other taxes and fees, investment income, and bond issues. Most such bond issues are linked to future user revenues, but a minority were tied to sales taxes and general revenues.

Creating a reasonable estimate of the additional bill footed by taxpayers-beyond what they pay in highway-related taxes and fees-requires that some "Kentucky windage," or informal adjustment, be applied to the published figures.

This produces a conservative unofficial estimate of the added taxpayer tab at $9 billion to $12 billion. The estimate treats all but $1 billion of the $11.2 billion raised with bonds as ultimately deriving from highway-user revenues. It assumes-generously to those who would minimize the gap-that the investment income of $7.5 billion was built exclusively on highway-user revenues. Adding this $17.7 billion sum to the $100.6 billion of highway-user revenues produces a total of $118.3 billion attributable to highways. That leaves an adjusted $9.2 billion gap from the $127.5 billion of spending, this gap to filled by the taxpayers. The chasm widens to more than $12 billion if total user revenues are reduced by the roughly $3 billion in state revenue collection costs. The undoubtedly substantial federal collection costs are not included on the HF-10 because they are paid from general funds. If they were included, they would stretch the gap. (Local revenues are reported net of collection expenses.)

The HF-10 covers an impressively spelled-out variety of revenues and expenses. Though some significant factors get left out of the accounting, let's start with what the numbers do capture.

Revenues include the 18.4 cent-a-gallon federal tax on gasoline, as well as the 24.4-cent tax on diesel and kerosene fuel. Other federal taxes apply to liquefied petroleum gas, and other special fuels, compressed natural gas and gasohol. Federal money also is generated by taxes on tires, sales of trucks and trailers, and use of heavy vehicles. This is paid into the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF). State and local highway-user revenues come from such sources as state motor fuel taxes, auto registration fees and tolls.

Main items on the expense side include capital expenditures on road and bridge rehabilitation, widening and relocation of roads, and new construction. Classed as non-capital spending are routine maintenance of highways and associated equipment, plowing, sanding, litter control, landscaping and beautification, and similar activities. Also taken into account is at least a portion of highway traffic law enforcement on state and local levels, though highway law enforcement doesn't include auto-theft investigations or court and jail expenses related to traffic and criminal charges. (The HF-10 does offer figures on the Highway Trust Fund's contribution to mass transit, but that sum is accounted for in a way that avoids widening the revenue-to-expenditure gap for highways.)

Not recorded in the figures are what might be called "underspending" and "hidden subsidies" to autos and roads. These have the effect of playing down the true gap between revenues and expenditures.

Underspending is money that should be laid out but isn't. A poorly illuminated, lightly policed road with littered edges and junk-cluttered lanes offers an example of underspending. If money were spent to correct these unsafe or unsightly conditions, the revenue/expenditure gap would widen.

Beyond this lie many environmental and social costs of highways and cars that are not either paid for or are paid by non-highway funds. Such costs include national losses of open space, geographic, biological and architectural diversity and scenic beauty due to highway fragmentation of land and its accompanying suburban and commercial sprawl.

Pain and suffering caused by crippling or fatal accidents must be counted as an unpaid cost-at least that huge portion for which insurance payments can't compensate. Some researchers would even chalk up a portion of the nation's military expenses to highways on grounds that such layouts are necessary to assure enough fuel for our auto-dependent society. Other costs that have been imputed to autos are health effects of air pollution, work time and personal time lost due to traffic congestion, and "free" parking that gets bundled into prices of business establishments that operate big parking lots.

Two researchers who've helped shine light on hidden subsidies are Mark A. Delucchi, of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the Univ. of California/Davis, and Todd Litman, of the Victoria, B.C. Transport Policy Institute.

Even while recognizing the large and partially unpaid costs of roads and autos, no sensible person would contend that the nation can do without a highway system to promote mobility and commerce. A look at the costs reinforces two fundamental points: (1) Transportation systems don't pay for themselves, and that includes highways. (2) By encouraging transportation balance, government subsidies to intercity rail and transit can mitigate the current and future costs of autos and highways.

These fairly simple underlying ideas need to be kept firmly in mind during the current complex debate over the future of Amtrak.


The above article may be reprinted with credit to Destination: Freedom, the electronic newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative. Listed below are some sources and websites for further research. If you write about this topic, we'd appreciate a copy of or link to your article. Please send it to JimFurlong@nationalcorridors.org.

Funding for Highways and Disposition of Highway-User Revenues, All Units of Government, 2000, (the HF-10) Federal Highway Administration, October, 2001. www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/hs00/pdf/hf10.pdf

Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit: Conditions and Performance Report, U.S. Department of Transportation, May 2000 (see especially Chapter 6) www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/1999cpr/1TOC.pdf

Amtrak Statement on its "Proposed Federal Grant within President Bush's Fiscal 03 Budget Proposal," February 5, 2002, Amtrak news release www.Amtrak.com

Primer, Highway Trust Fund, Federal Highway Administration, November, 1998 www.fhwa.dot.gov/policy/primer98.pdf

The Costs of Automobile Dependency and the Benefits of Balanced Transportation, by Todd Litman, Victoria, B.C. Transport Policy Institute www.vtpi.org

The Annualized Social Cost of Motor-Vehicle Use in the U.S., 1990-1991: Summary of Theory, Data, Methods, and Results, by Mark A. Delucchi, The Univ. of California Transportation Center, June 1997 http://socrates.berkeley.edu/~uctc/papers/papersuctc.html

[Webmaster note: Some of the above files will require the Adobe Acrobat viewer plug-in for your web browser if you do not already have it. It can be obtained free at: http://www.adobe.com - DMK]


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If not Amtrak, then who?
Union Pacific and CSX are publicly saying "No, thanks," so far, while Norfolk Southern isn't saying much at all. The topic?

Running their own passenger trains.

Amtrak's revenue reached $2.1 billion in Fiscal Year 2001, as reported earlier in these pages, but has never come close to eliminating the need for subsidies, and last year, Amtrak lost a record $1.1 billion.

A report by Tom Ramstack in The Washington Times showed that U.S. regional carriers and commuter rail systems might have a say in American rail service.

"We would certainly be interested in any compact situation," said Leo Bevon, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

"We have a very active high-speed rail service proposal that we've been working on for the Richmond-to-Washington corridor. We've also been working with the state of North Carolina for the line that would run between Washington to Charlotte." The rail service could be magnetically levitated trains or traditional wheels-on-steel, but Maryland transportation officials are taking a wait-and-see approach.

"They're looking at the Amtrak situation as one that is continuing to evolve," said Jack Cahalan, Maryland DOT spokesman. "It's too early to tell which way it is going to go."

Any state interest would need to be shared by private companies that would operate the rail service.

Union Pacific Railroad spokesman John Bromley explained the concerns of railroads: "Money. There's no money in it."

Another issue is government oversight.

"We're extremely unlikely to get involved in anything involving government support because there are always a lot of strings that come with it," he said.

"We're not studying the possibility of operating passenger service, but we are studying the impact of what might happen with Amtrak could have on us," he said. "We don't know yet. We know there's a lot of activity this year."

A likely immediate impact would be the loss of Amtrak's right-of-way leases over Union Pacific tracks, which, Bromley said, made little money for his company.

All three carriers, plus Burlington Northern Santa Fe, currently host Amtrak trains on their lines.

Norfolk Southern officials will say only that they are looking into the situation but have not announced plans to resume passenger service. Until 1971, Norfolk Southern operated several passenger rail routes, including one between Washington and New Orleans. Like other railroads, Norfolk Southern gave them up as money-losers. Industry-wide, passenger rail lost about $1 billion a year before 1971.

"All the railroads are looking to see what ramifications it might have on their business," said Susan Terpay, spokeswoman for the Richmond, Va.-based railroad.

CSX Transportation officials said flatly they are not considering operating passenger rail routes.

Leaders of the United Transportation Union, which represents 65,000 railroad workers nationwide, say major railroads that deny they are considering a return to passenger service are doing something between playing their hand close to the vest and fibbing.

"We do have inside information they are looking at it," UTU spokesman Frank Wilner said. He said the information came from "senior management" at the railroads who do not want to be identified.

He mentioned Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern as two railroads considering passenger service.

Both railroads lease thousands of miles of rights-of-way on their tracks to Amtrak. Union Pacific, for example, leases rights of way for Amtrak's Sunset Limited from Los Angeles to New Orleans, with an interchange to CSX tracks from New Orleans to Miami; the California Zephyr, operating between Los Angeles and Chicago; and the Texas Eagle, from St. Louis to San Antonio.

The railroads would take over passenger service if they receive a substantial federal subsidy and if the alternative were that some other company wins the right to operate trains on their tracks, Wilner said.

The freight railroads consider Amtrak an "interloper" on their systems, he said.

"They are even more terrified that Peter Pan Bus Lines could wind up with a franchise to operate passenger trains on freight railroad tracks," he said. Freight railroads would operate passenger trains only as a "last resort decision" to avoid giving control of their tracks to someone else.

"It doesn't mean that it's something they want to do. It's just one of a panoply of alternatives they're looking at," he said.

Wall Street financial analyst Anthony Hatch said the federal subsidies for the freight railroads would need to be high enough to avoid the kinds of losses they incurred before 1971. Otherwise, any chances they might return to passenger service are "slim."

"It makes sense for them to study it, but I wouldn't say it's likely," Hatch said. "They got out of it for good reason in the past. I'm not sure that freight railroading and passenger railroading really fit together under the same roof."


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Bush gets low marks with labor
By Leo King
Editor

The AFL-CIO is unhappy with President Bush's transportation budget for next year, and said so at their annual convention, held this year in New Orleans.

"The Bush Administration's 2003 budget submission neglects major transportation needs, fails to offer serious assistance to the unemployed, and embraces misguided privatization schemes," said Michael Buckley, communications coordinator for the Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO, which is headquartered in Washington. He said that was the opinion of leaders from 34 transportation unions on February 25 when they met at their winter Executive Committee meeting.

The Executive Committee expressed outrage that "this Administration seems indifferent to the needs of the unemployed," and that the President's budget is a "major disappointmentä by not providing extended unemployment benefits and serious health care assistance to laid-off workers."

The transportation union leaders issued a strong rebuke of the President's almost $9 billion cut in highway spending that will claim, union leaders said, thousands of jobs "at a time when the economy is reeling and workers are suffering from massive job cuts."

TTD President Sonny Hall said, "The last thing the Bush budget would do is put people back to work." He added, "Transportation workers across the country will mobilize in favor of a better budget, one that understands that Americans are hurting and invests in jobs and rebuilding our nation."

USDOT Secretary Norman Mineta told the gathering, "I know that another top priority for all of you is resolving the ongoing fiscal challenges at Amtrak. It is a top priority for me, as well. Intercity passenger rail service is a critical link in our transportation network. We need to take action to restore it to long-term health and stability."

The DOT chief, recovering from hip surgery, said "Amtrak's current financial difficulties call for an early reauthorization of Amtrak and formulation of a national rail passenger policy. Some ideas have already been put on the table, and we are examining all of them. We are looking forward to working with Congress, the industry, and all of you to develop a solution."

Those most recent ideas came from the Amtrak Reform Council, which many railroaders have dismissed as bad ideas. The Executive Committee pledged to shore up the failing finances of Amtrak by endorsing a $1.2 billion appropriation for the passenger rail carrier in the next fiscal year.

Buckley said transportation labor, through the executive committee, pledged to "redouble its effort to deal with Amtrak's current government-inspired fiscal crisis, a result of years of anemic federal funding, that last month claimed 1,000 jobs and is threatening the future of the passenger carrier's entire long-distance train network."

The policy resolution stated that if Amtrak is funded at $521 million as proposed by the President, 7,000 Amtrak workers could lose their jobs and service to 8 million passengers could be eliminated. Layoffs for 700 rank-and-file workers and 300 managers have already begun.

TTD leaders also said that the budget's support for breaking up and privatizing Amtrak was "downright dangerous," adding that the British experience with privatized rail has been a tragic failure, with accidents, chronic delays and system failures, and high fares leading to the overall breakdown of that nation's passenger rail system.

TTD represents 34 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, trucking, highway, longshore, maritime, and related industries.

In union business, the TTD leaders unanimously adopted a resolution pledging to stand together in "an aggressive and unified" response to thwart raids against their membership by the independent United Transportation Union (UTU), which primarily represents freight and passenger train conductors.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) "is facing raids by UTU that, if successful, could force workers on a path of isolation at a time when the labor movement must be stronger and more unified than ever before given the politically hostile environment in Washington," the leaders stated in a press release.

"This action by UTU violates the very principles on which this movement was founded more than a century ago and misdirects energies from the real mission of the AFL-CIO and its affiliates: to organize the unorganized under the banner of solidarity," the Executive Committee declared.

TTD's Hall argued, "This dispute should be settled peacefully inside the House of Labor, and we must not lose focus on our mission to give millions of new workers a voice on the job, in their communities and in the political process." He added, "At the same, time we must be unified against senseless raids that could result in denying thousands of railroad workers the right to be represented by strong unions."

The UTU is petitioning the National Mediation Board (NMB) to rewrite the rail industry's craft and class system in order to frustrate the union representation rights of locomotive engineers and thousands of other railroad employees, Buckley explained.

The TTD resolution urged the NMB to continue to enforce the craft and class system, saying that for over a century it has been the cornerstone of representation and collective bargaining in the rail industry and has led to the recruitment of highly skilled and specialized railroad employees.

Noting that late last year the BLE's rank-and-file overwhelmingly voted to reject a proposal to merge with the UTU, the TTD leaders called upon the UTU to "honor the wishes of BLE members, suspend raids against the BLE, withdraw the case before the NMB, and reclaim its seats at the AFL-CIO and the Transportation Trades Department."


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MBTA redraws layover yard map
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has revised its plans for how trains will enter and exit a layover yard at the end of its proposed Greenbush rail line in Scituate, Mass.

The layover yard will be north of the Driftway on a site roughly between where the Greenbush post office and Scituate Tennis Club are located, reports the Quincy Patriot-Ledger.

Early MBTA plans showed four train tracks coming out of the yard and crossing over the Driftway. Trains would have had to cross these tracks before pulling into the Greenbush station. As proposed, the plan promised to hold up Driftway traffic each time a train entered or left the layover yard, but now the MBTA says the trains will enter and exit the layover yard in the opposite direction, utilizing the track that will run from the proposed station in North Scituate into the proposed Greenbush station. The MBTA proposes to park four trains overnight at the layover yard.

The original plan called for the trains to make a reverse move after exiting the yard. Now, they will simply go straight ahead out of the yard to the station.


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Disabled officer wins case to sue MTA
A federal appeals court in New York has made it easier for railroad workers to file negligence suits by ruling that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is a common carrier under federal law.

In a ruling issued on Feb. 11, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the MTA's argument that it was "merely a holding company" that did not operate the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.

By rejecting the MTA's argument, the court allowed Sean Greene, an injured M.T.A. police officer, to sue the authority for negligence under the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

Greene sued after suffering disabling injuries in a 1998 collision that occurred when he was rushing in an LIRR jeep to the Ronkonkoma train station to investigate a reported car theft. In his lawsuit, which has yet to go to trial, he asserted that the MTA was negligent in failing to furnish the jeep with adequate emergency lights.

Greene had been a police officer with the LIRR until 1998 when that railroad's police department was phased out, and he began working directly for the M.T.A.

If the court had ruled that the authority was not a common carrier, Mr. Greene would have been limited to help under the state's workers' compensation system and would not have been allowed to sue the MTA for negligence under state law.


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Corridor lines...

Missouri slashes Amtrak funding

Missouri Gov. Bob Holden's budget proposal "is a death sentence for Amtrak," according to Missouri State Rep. John Griesheimer, Washington, the Washington Missourian reports.

Unless the legislature is able to move Amtrak and other transportation programs out of the Rainy Day Fund, where the Holden budget has put them for financing, Griesheimer said Amtrak "will die" Friday, May 10, at 6 p.m. when the General Assembly ends this session.

"Amtrak would be able to run to June 30 before halting service in Missouri. It will run out of money by then. June 30 will be a memorial day service for Amtrak," the Republican lawmaker said.

The problem with funding from the Rainy Day Fund is that it takes a two-thirds vote of both chambers to use that money, he explained, and added that he doesn't think it would be possible to get a two-thirds vote.

Griesheimer asserted that in the last five years nearly 100,000 people have arrived and departed on Amtrak trains at Washington.

"The governor has killed Amtrak by moving it out of MoDOT's budget and putting funding through the Rainy Day Fundãthat's the kiss of death," Griesheimer charged.

The governor also slashed other statewide transportation programs.

The state appropriated about $6.4 million for Amtrak in the last fiscal year, of which about $4.8 million comes from general revenue. It is estimated that Amtrak loses about $2 million a year in Missouri with the two daily trains between St. Louis and Kansas City.

Griesheimer said the state constitution requires that any money taken out of the Rainy Day Fund must be paid back with interest within three years.

"Since I was first elected to public office in 1982 and during my ten years in the Missouri House, one of my goals was to get Amtrak to stop in Washington and that dream was realized October 29, 1995. More importantly, had it not been for the Amtrak stop, our beautiful former MoPac passenger station on the Washington riverfront would not have received funding for renovation and restoration," Griesheimer said. He added that he will do everything he can do to restore funding for Amtrak.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported a group of local rail advocates traveled round-trip via Amtrak to Jefferson City on Saturday, enduring long delays to protest Holden's rainy day fund plan.

Under the plan, Amtrak funding would be part of an appropriations bill that would use $137.9 million from the reserve fund to pay for programs that otherwise would be cut to balance the budget. The appropriation would include funding for elementary and secondary education, mental health, health and senior services, social services, and transportation.

The American Association of Railroaders, which organized the protest, opposes using the "rainy day" fund to finance Amtrak.

Without state help, Amtrak service in Missouri would cease, according to the proposal. Last year, 207,928 people rode Amtrak in the state.

"It doesn't seem fair to put a needed state program under an iffy funding proposal which is unlikely to gain the required majority (vote)," said Rich Eichhorst, the organization's president.

He was one of 130 rail advocates who made the train trip, which started with a 7:30 a.m. departure from the downtown station.

The group had hoped to speak with Holden or a representative in the capital, but Eichhorst said no meeting took place. Holden attended the Super Bowl in New Orleans on Sunday; his spokesman, Jerry Nachtigal, could not be reached.

Eichhorst said the train, which also picked up protesters in Kirkwood, was an hour late arriving in Jefferson City because Amtrak had to yield the right of way to a freight train, which is a persistent problem with rail travel. The return trip to St. Louis also was delayed, pushing a scheduled return time of 1:15 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.


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Freight lines...

DM&E expands growing empire

Weeks after getting approval to expand its own line, the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad plans to buy an operation that will improve its ability to ship grain and other products. The Brookings, S.D.-based railroad has an agreement to acquire I&M Rail Link, president and chief executive Kevin Schieffer said February 21. He said he expects no regulatory trouble and hopes the deal can be approved and financed by midyear.

"This is a hands-down winner. It is pro-competitive. It is the little guy getting bigger for a change, instead of the bigger swallowing up the little guy," he said.

Schieffer said it was a cash transaction but refused to give an amount. Some industry executives told The Wall Street Journal they believe it is in the area of $150 million.

The DM&E plans to keep its name, but change its parent company and the name of the IMRL. The new parent company will be called Cedar American Rail Holdings Inc. The IMRL will be known as the Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad Corp. and be a sister company to DM&E. The Midwestern railroad operates in five states that connects Chicago with St. Paul, Kansas City and Missoula, Mont.

Besides increasing access to coal-burning power plants, the new line would create a new way to ship grain and other agricultural products from the region, Schieffer said.

Two farm groups that are often on opposite sides endorsed the deal.

"This is another incredible leap for this 'little railroad that could' and we appreciate DM&E's aggressive leadership to provide a first-class transportation infrastructure for our region," South Dakota Farm Bureau President Richard Kjerstad said in a joint news release with his counterparts in the South Dakota and Minnesota Farmers Unions and Minnesota Farm Bureau.


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Vermont moves to move yard
A plan to relocate the Rutland, Vt. freight yard was one of nine transportation projects that state legislators included in a $165 million federal funding request on February 20.

Vermont House Transportation Committee members presented U.S. Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.), with a list of projects and price tags that legislators rated "high priority projects" for federal funding over the next six years, according to the Rutland Herald

The plan to move the rail yard out of the city's downtown to a 77-acre site south of the city was on the list as a $10 million request. It's a fraction of what it would take to complete the project, which could cost as much as $100 million, but Jeffords said after the meeting that he believed the federal government could be of more assistance down the road.

"I'm optimistic," he said. "It will take time, but obviously, Rutland is my hometown and I want to take care of it."

Still, it will take some time for federal legislators to decide how much funding Vermont's projects will get.

Congress is in the process of gathering similar priority lists from every state to decide on a six-year transportation funding plan. The previous six-year plan, known as T-2100, ends this year.

The rail yard request was less than most on the state priority list, which also included $18 million to continue work on a passenger rail line connecting Burlington, Rutland, Bennington and Albany, N.Y.

Highway programs were also included. The priority projects were picked from a list of candidates with a total price tag of just under $1 billion.

"We have a backlog of projects right now," said the committee Chairman

Rutland officials have been counting on federal and state officials to finance the rail yard move. Last month, they asked Senate Transportation Committee members for $400,000 to help the project through the state and federal permit processes.

They made the same request to House Transportation Committee members Wednesday.

An hour before legislators would hand Jeffords their list, city officials told committee members that state funding would help position the project for federal funds.

"A project that has permits ready to go and preliminary engineering work started have the best chances for federal funding," said Matthew Sternberg, executive director of the Rutland Redevelopment Authority.

The project has already received some federal help from Jeffords, who secured $1.5 million for the project last month.


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Dormant ex-Conrail freight line reopens
Here's a switch: a railroad line unused for more than a decade is going back to work. The long-dormant rail line between Jamestown, N.Y. and Corry, Penn. was slated for reactivation on Friday.

The Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad line had been out of service for about 11 years. Conrail was its last operator, which deactivated it in 1991. It passed to Norfolk Southern ownership in 1999, which leased it last April to the WNY&P for 30 years.

WNYP presently operates freight service between Falconer and Olean, N.Y. serving several industries in the local area. The reopening of the line to Corry will allow a connection to Norfolk Southern in Meadville, Penna., resulting in more direct routing of freight shipments for local industry.

After brush, weeds and trees are cleared and the track resurfaced, the reactivated rail line passes though Jamestown, Celoron, Lakewood, Ashville, Watts Flats, and Niobe, all in New York, as well as Lottsville and Columbus in Pennsylvania before entering Corry.

Temporary improvements have been made at many of the rail highway crossings in the area. Some crossings now require the train to stop and be flagged by a crew member, while other crossings allow the trains to proceed with the usual "whistle and bell" warnings. In addition, a spokesman said the railroad will be applying for funding to upgrade many crossings at grade.


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Transit lines...

Gotham ponders mixing commuter, subway traffic

The Long Island Rail Road is considering using an existing subway tunnel into Manhattan instead of building a new one. The idea is to get to the financial district, from either Midtown or Brooklyn.

Tight-lipped transit officials have begun drawing up plans to rebuild the transit lines around the World Trade Center site.

At least one downtown real estate company, Brookfield Financial Properties, which controls the World Financial Center, has commissioned an engineering firm to examine whether LIRR service could be extended from Brooklyn into Lower Manhattan. Substantial physical, technical and regulatory obstacles would have to be overcome.

Officials from the company would not comment last week, but two people familiar with the study said that it is looking into using the Cranberry Street tunnel, now used by the A and C subway trains, for LIRR trains as well, to send LIRR trains from the Atlantic Avenue terminal in Brooklyn, under the East River and to a new terminal in lower Manhattan.

The extension would require a new connection between the commuter rail tracks and those of the subway, possibly near the defunct Hoyt-Schermerhorn station that now serves as the home of the Transit Museum in downtown Brooklyn. It would probably also require rerouting A and C trains onto the F line for several stops into Manhattan or figuring out a way for the commuter and subway trains to share the Cranberry Street tunnel, which would be extremely difficult.

Besides the engineering difficulties - the bottoms of the doors, for example, on LIRR trains are higher than those on the subway cars - it is unclear whether the political will exists to cede precious subway-tunnel space to suburban commuters.

The decision would rest largely with Gov. George E. Pataki, who controls the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which oversees both New York City Transit and the Long Island Rail Road.

Elsewhere in the Boroughs, the City Planning department is looking for ideas to developing a patch of earth bounded by Clinton and Chelsea west of Eighth Avenue between West 24th and 42nd Streets.

The area is zoned mainly for manufacturing, but the city's plan, called Far West Midtown: A Framework for Development, alters the zoning to add at least 30 million square feet of offices, housing and pedestrian walkways, along with an expansion of the Javits Convention Center.

The plan hinges on a proposal to extend the No. 7 subway line to Pennsylvania Station and west to 11th Avenue. Residents have been warily optimistic about extending the 7 train, but this latest study is the first to spell out exactly what kind of development the city hopes an extended 7 train could attract.

"With the right investment and planning, this area could be ripe for change," said Richard Barth, director of the department's Manhattan office, "but this study is only a framework. Our job over the next year is to hear everyone and turn it into specifics."

residents have already expressed concern about the emphasis on office space over housing. Under the plan, new housing would be funneled into 7 of the area's 59 blocks, and the rest would be commercial.

Meta Brunzema, co-chairwoman of the urban planning committee of the Hell's Kitchen Neighborhood Association, also questions the plan to build a row of office towers that would line a pedestrian walkway near 10th Avenue, north of 34th Street.

"People keep asking the same question: 'Why all these tall offices?'" she said. "That was a fine idea during the dot-com boom. But now, and especially since September 11, it's cheaper and better for the area to have more housing and buildings with a mix of uses."


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Tandy closes Fort Worth subway
The Leonards Subway, which has shuttled customers and employees between the Charles D. Tandy Center and their automobiles for the past 39 years, will stop operating.

Radio Shack will shut down the subway, between the company's Tandy Center headquarters and nearby parking lot on the Trinity River, when the company begins construction on its new corporate campus, spokeswoman Jill Lain said last week, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She did not state a specific date.

Lain said Radio Shack plans to use the parking lot as a staging area for construction. The company plans to build the headquarters complex on the site of the former Ripley Arnold housing project, adjacent to the parking lot.

Radio Shack plans to have covered parking for all headquarters employees as part of its development, Lain said.

"So we won't need the subway" once the new headquarters opens, she said.


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Meetings...

March 9

Emergency Membership Meeting
Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition

Despite growing support for an interstate network of faster, more frequent trains, Congress has failed to provide adequate funding. If Congress does not act quickly, 40 percent of the trains serving the Midwest will be discontinued on October 1. This will be a major blow to the efforts to develop a crucial transportation asset. Join us to learn what you can do to protect the future of rail travel in the Midwest.

Hosted by the Chaddick Institute, DePaul University DePaul University, Lewis Center, 25 E. Jackson, Room 342, Chicago, Ill.

Agenda:

1:00-2:00 p.m. Background on current events
2:00-3:00 p.m. What you can do
3:00-4:00 p.m. Discussion

Cost is $5.00 to cover materials. RSVP by leaving name, address and phone number at 312-409-7723, or for more information on fast trains, go to www.midwesthsr.org.


March 10-13

APTA
Legislative Conference

Marriott Hotel
Washington, D.C.
Contact Margaret Mullins, 202-496-4827


April 14-18

ASCE Second international conference on urban public transportation systems

Washington, D.C.
Contact Walter Kulyk
kulyk@fta.dot.gov
703 295 6300
Fax 703 295 6144


April 18

Supply Chain Expo

Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
Chicago
Contact Brian Everett 952 442 5638


April 28-30

ASLRRA annual meeting and exhibition

World Center Marriott
Orlando Fla.
Contact Kathy Cassidy
kcassidy@aslrra.org
202 628 4500
Fax 202 628 6430


May 13-14

NCI 2002 Conference
Uniting America:
Building a national rail system that works

Washington, D.C. Marriott Hotel

This conference will feature a major debate about the future and direction of passenger rail in America, conducted by the people who will actually determine that outcome.

Conference speakers will include Amtrak Board Chair Michael Dukakis, Amtrak Reform Council Chair Gil Carmichael and Executive Director Tom Till, DOT Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson, Author Tony Hiss, Barron's magazine editor Tom Donlan, Florida rail activist and businessman Doc Dockery, Janelletech President Janellen Riggs, rail consultant Randy Resor of Zeta-Tech Associates, Inc., Railway Age magazine editor Bill Vantuono, attorney and rail activist James Coston, and many other of the top thinkers and "doers" in American rail and transit industries.

Further details regarding advance registration will be announced in upcoming issues of Destination: Freedom.


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The way we were... Eddie - The editor's boyhood friend

NCI: Leo King

Around 1956, Eddie Levine and the editor were the best of friends. We went to Hope Street High School, were in many of the same classes, and loved chasing trains on our bikes, especially at Charles Street Roundhouse in Providence R.I. The New Haven¼s last steam engine was stored there ‚ serviceable ‚ and we spent a summer day taking photos of each otherä Then Vietnam came along. We lost touch for thirty years, until in early December 2001 when these school chums discovered they were both on a high school classmate finder list and site on the web. Levine lives in New Jersey, and the editor hoped to meet Ed and his family in January.
End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we'd like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at leoking@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

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

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination: Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. "True color" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.

In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.

If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI's webmaster in Boston.


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