In this edition...
HARTFORD, CT, March 2 Senator Don Williams, President Pro Tempore, announced the Senate Democrats transportation plan featuring an emphasis on mass transit, connecting Northeastern Connecticut to Central Massachusetts, moving freight to rail and utilizing the states deep-water ports.
At a press conference in the Senate press room of the State Capitol, immediately following an hour-long meeting with representatives from the freight rail industry, environmental groups, and the municipal sector, Senator Williams set forth the three major components of his plan.
1. Improving Connecticut Rail Transit - $995 MillionNCI president, Jim RePass, who was present at the meeting, said this was the most innovative transportation plan set forth by a top level state legislator that we have yet encountered. I am particularly pleased that Senator Williams vision includes a broad regional scope that would coordinate Connecticuts projects with urban and suburban centers in New England and upper New York State.
2. Improving Connecticut Bus Transit - $625 Million
- Create commuter rail connecting New London and Worcester,
ultimately connecting with the T in Boston
- Start the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail service
- Expand branch line service Norwalk, Danbury, New Milford
- Make funds available for more parking at Metro North stations
- Create large commuter station and ample parking at
West Haven/Orange Rail station
- New Britain-Hartford Busway: plan transit-oriented development
- Bradley Airport: create mass transit connector from New Haven-Hartford-Springfield train
- Tourist Transit System for Southeastern Connecticut: purchase buses and design system
connecting New London, Mystic, Stonington and the two casinos
- Manchester Bus Rapid Transit: create system to connect Hartford, East Hartford, Manchester, Vernon
3. Support for Freight Rail and Utilization of Ports - $240 Million
- Freight Rail: establish new fund in Dept. of Economic Development
to improve rail infrastructure and raise bridges
- Provide funds for businesses to connect with freight rail and create industrial zones that would be served by freight rail
- Upgrade Bridgeport, New London (State Pier) and New Haven ports with direct access to rail lines
- Create Intermodal port connections to tie existing rail lines, ports and truck terminals.
Check out the Senators web site for audio/visual recording of the press conference: www.senatedems.ct.gov/Williams.html
One commentator called it A Great Day for New Jersey!
On Monday, February 20, senior Senator from New York, Chuck Schumer publicly endorsed the project known as Access to the Regions Core (ARC). Standing next to George Warrington, Executive Director of New Jersey transit, the New York Senator made his announcement at the Metro-North Station in Pearl River, New York, which borders Bergen County, New Jersey.
According to the Record article, ARC is New Jerseys No. 1 transportation priority and is estimated to cost $6 billion. Schumer promised to fight for the federal money to make it happen, and he is in a key position to do so, being on the Senates powerful Banking Committee, which decides on appropriations for public transportation projects.
ARC calls for building a second rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York, and a new station beneath 34th Street. The tunnel and the station would supplement Amtraks century-old tunnel and cramped Pennsylvania Station - giving commuters from Orange and Rockland counties a one-seat ride to Midtown, and NJ Transit room to grow, the article continues.
Suddenly, ARC has been transformed from pie-in-the-sky to shovel-in-the-ground.
I now believe it will be built, said Martin Robins to Record writer Judy Rife. Robins is director of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University and an adviser to generations of New Jersey politicians, including Gov. Jon Corzine.
Schumer really thinks ARC is a regional project that will benefit New York as much as the bridge-and-tunnel crowd, the article continues and perhaps more when the citys economic development plan for the West Side kicks in. Its a breakthrough in thinking that is bound to influence city and state politicians and agencies, including Iris Weinshall, the citys transportation commissioner and the senators wife.
Schumers endorsement was huge - capital letters, boldface type, exclamation marks, said Floyd Lapp, an adjunct professor of urban planning at Columbia and a former transportation director in New Yorks Department of City Planning.
The problem for New Jersey, for ARC, has always been getting New Yorks attention, cutting through New Yorks myopia, Lapp continued.
Warrington standing with Schumer was a great coup for NJ Transit, said Jeff Zupan, the transportation expert at Regional Plan Association.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has now pledged $1 billion toward ARC and is selling it as hard as Warrington because its own bridges, tunnels and bus terminal are at or near capacity.
In just the past five years, west-of-Hudson rail travel (to Penn Station) has grown 40 percent, said Warrington from Schumers side. Yet, demand will only continue as 72 percent of the regional suburban household growth in the next 20 years will take place to the west of the Hudson, including Rockland and Orange counties. Thats three times more growth than Long Island, Westchester and suburban Connecticut combined.
NJ Transit is barely staying ahead of demand for service to Penn Station. Six months ago, when ARCs future was still uncertain, Warrington jumped at the chance to become the primary tenant at Moynihan Station after Amtrak backed out and New York was casting around for somebody, anybody, to save the project.
Moynihan will not only give NJ Transit a high profile in a city showpiece but also extend its platforms from Penn Station - where there simply arent enough elevators, staircases and escalators to get the hordes off the train and out to the street in short order.
Money will continue to be an issue.
New Jerseys transportation trust fund is overextended. NJ Transit is sometimes forced to use capital dollars for operating costs. In addition, no one knows if the next governor of New York will endorse ARC as Governor Pataki did, Robins pointed out.
The bright side is that New Jersey politicians of both parties, in Trenton and in Washington, have been able to remain in remarkable agreement about NJ Transits agenda as they have come and gone over the years. Robins continued.
Now the trust fund is broke, and Robins is as anxious as the next person about how Corzine will propose to fix it when he presents his first budget on March 21.
Can New Jersey really afford to keep its gasoline taxes the second lowest in the country with so much at stake?
We still have a great deal to do, said Robins. Thats why New Jersey is so restless. Were only in the middle of a 40- to 50-year plan to connect and expand our commuter rail system.
More people are getting out of
cars and onto Amtrak trains
March 1An editorial in the Fresno Bee, California, talks about the recent rise in ridership on Amtraks long distance trains during the past year despite Californians deep attachment to their cars. A confluence of forces is apparently causing a small number of us to begin to question [our] love affair [with the car]. Rising gasoline prices are chief among them. As the cost of operating a vehicle goes higher and higher, the relative bargain of a train ticket looks better and better.
The convenience of the private automobile is increasingly trumped by the inconvenience of driving. People who are forced to use Highway 99 for their long-distance travels know very well how inconvenient -- in fact, how nightmarish -- that rutted washboard of a major artery has become.
The contrast of white-knuckle motoring in and out of an endless line of big rigs with the comfort and quiet of a train ride is enough to push more and more of us out of our cars and onto the rails.
The result has been a 17.6 increase in ridership last year in the Fresno-Bakersfield area and, overall, a 3.2% rise on the San Joaquins connecting Fresno to Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Sacramento.
This is a good thing, the editorial continues, the more people use trains the fewer vehicles there are jamming our increasingly congested and dilapidated highways and the less polluted Fresno Valley air will be.
The train is the perfect way for the family to travel. Books, games, admiring the view, enjoying food and drink all serve to make a pleasant journey out of what is often a nerve-wracking drive. You can even sleep on the train. Thats not recommended behind the wheel of a car.
It was Americans who brought passenger rail travel to an early peak. Then we ceded the field to other nations as our infatuation with the automobile took hold. Now were far behind the rest of the world when it comes to train travel. If thats changing -- and it appears that it is -- then its all for the good.
February 27--Three Northeastern state governors are complaining to the Bush administration about the prospect of paying extra fees to run commuter trains on Amtraks rails, according to a recent Associated Press report.
Three Northeastern state governors have written to the Bush administration to voice their objections to the prospect of increased fees to run commuter trains on Amtraks rails.
They want clarification on the new cost sharing policies being developed for use of the Northeast corridor.
The governors Ruth Ann Minner of Delaware, Jon Corzine of New Jersey and Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania have asked for a meeting with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta to discuss the broad principles to be used in allocating costs and the process to b used for reaching the consensus Congress calls for.
Federal transportation officials have said that the fees are part of a new congressional mandate that was included in the transportation bill passed last year. This mandate calls for an open and transparent process to get to a consensus on distribution of costs between all the stakeholders.
The amount of the increase is not yet known since no formula has been set, but President Bushs budget for the fiscal year beginning on Oct. 1 calls for $59 million from commuter rail agencies.
Amtrak train hits woman in Ridgeland, South Carolina
February 25- - A Tillman woman died Friday after she was struck by an Amtrak train while attempting to cross the tracks in Ridgeland.
Police say Aretha Scott was walking toward downtown Ridgeland around 9:00am with her head down when she crossed the tracks.
Police say she could not hear well and did not realize a train was coming.
Witnesses said Scott, who was hard of hearing, didnt realize the train was coming toward her.
Jasper County Coroner Martin Sauls said passenger trains typically run as fast as 80 mph. The exact speed of the train will be determined by railroad investigators, authorities said.
It was a pretty severe impact, Stevers said.
Scott was declared dead at the scene.
Although railroad crossing bars prevent vehicles from crossing the tracks when a train is passing, the neighboring crosswalk had no barriers.
The train that runs from Savannah to New York stopped about a mile up the tracks and left the scene before noon, said Tracy Connell, an Amtrak spokeswoman. The 25 passengers were not injured and did not exit the train, she said.
Man killed by passenger train
From the Internet
WATERTOWN, WI, February 27--A 24-year-old Watertown man was killed when his car was hit by a train in Jefferson County.
The accident happened at around 4:30 Sunday afternoon on County Highway F and Marietta Road.
Witnesses told the state patrol the driver drove around the gates and onto the tracks.
That is when the car was hit by an oncoming Amtrak passenger train.
No one aboard the train was hurt and the train was able to continue once the car and debris were cleared from the tracks.
The train was headed to Seattle, Wash., reported WISC-TV.
The crash remains under investigation by the Wisconsin State Patrol and railroad officials.
Mass transportation advocate pulls
no punches at downtown lecture
Transit advocate Dr. Elizabeth Deakin, Director of the University of Californias Public Policy Center, laid out in bold terms just what it takes for transit-oriented development (TOD) to succeed. Dr. Deakin was speaking at a forum entitled Can Transit-Oriented Development Be Successful in California? at the Pat Brown Institute in Downtown Los Angeles.
In an article by Andrew Moyle of Downtownnews.com, Dr. Deakins message was clear - development designed for walking and bicycling in a safe, attractive atmosphere is the key to making TOD successful..
A thriving downtown may be a local elixir, but to commuters sitting in traffic, it can taste more like a bitter pill. With the number of car trips to, from and past Downtown Los Angeles increasing every year, commuters are still wasting a lot of time in gridlock.
Transit, combined with an entire neighborhood that is friendly to the pedestrian, the bicyclist and to children, can go far in alleviating automobile choked city centers. But many cities are doing TOD wrong, said Deakin, usually it isnt the transit system itself - be it rail, light rail or dedicated bus line - but rather a failure to integrate the TOD into the real world.
Too often, the design emphasis has been too much on the building designs and not whats around it, she said. There hasnt been enough attention paid to pedestrian comfort.
Walkable streets are something Downtown Los Angeles workers and residents take for granted, but in many other places they have been shelved in favor of the automobile. Deakin noted that suburban streetlights exist for the benefit of cars, not foot traffic on the sidewalks. Stoplights on multilane thoroughfares give pedestrians only a few seconds to make it across, sometimes marooning the most vulnerable on the median.
Part of the problem is an outmoded sense of walking distance. Planners often get people across the street from the train station, then leave them effectively stranded, Deakin said. Instead of the quarter- to half-mile walking distance assumed by most TOD planners, Deakin advocates ensuring pedestrian and bicycle right-of-way in a 2/3- to 1-mile radius around the station.
Walking distance is not as short as people thought, she said. Even if its raining, people will still walk, as long as the walk is nice.
Another of Deakins key talking points was density. How much density do we really need? The scale were talking about is much larger than the cities are thinking of, she said.
Noise is a major problem in some areas. At a Metro Green Line station above the median of the 105 Freeway, one of Deakins researchers measured a noise level of 85 decibels. It was enough to cause hearing damage with prolonged exposure, she said.
The audience also pointed out that the Metro Gold Line, which connects Pasadena with Downtown Los Angeles, has consistently underperformed since opening in 2003. The Mission Station in South Pasadena, while picturesque, is still underutilized.
There are a lot of projects... that on further examination arent really transit-oriented developments at all, said Michael Woo, an L.A. planning commissioner and a former councilmember. You see it all the time.
Follow up of Meeting of Virginia Railway
Express passengers, CSX executives
February 26 Jay Westbook of CSX faced some tough but polite questions from commuters two Saturdays ago at a town-hall meeting in Stafford County, Virginia. Westbrook is an assistant vice president of CSX who was recently appointed to manage passenger operations on this busy stretch of track.
CSX is responding to complaints from VRE passengers who are experiencing frequent delays during their commute and are getting increasingly angry because they cannot get to work on time.
VREs chief executive, Dale Zehner, stated that he recognizes CSX is committed to improving the situation. Very few corporations would have created a position like Westbrooks, he said. CSX is committed to making this better.
In a presentation to the audience, Westbrook explained how, through immediate and long-term changes, CSX plans to do that.
CSX will do less track maintenance during peak travel months. Instead, work will shift to summer months, when more passengers take vacation.
More night work is planned. Crews will wait until 9 p.m. to begin work to avoid disrupting evening trains, he said.
And a person at CSXs main communications desk in Florida has been charged with waking up VRE staff in the middle of the night to inform them of significant problems that could snarl service. This will help avoid passengers being stranded because they boarded the train not knowing that delays were already happening.
A major problem is the need for a third track, which normally would have been built before commuter service was started, but the need for the service was so urgent, trains began running with a pledge to build the extra track later.
The VRE commuter service started in 1994. VRE is responsible for building the third track since CSX handed over its excess track capacity in lieu of receiving a cash payment.
This track is at capacity now, Westbrook told the audience.
Stafford Supervisor Bob Gibbons, who arranged the Saturday meeting, said the cost for building a third track from Fredericksburg to Washington is $451 million. Extending that track from Richmond to Baltimore would cost $1.8 billion.
Gibbons compared that with the cost of the Springfield Interchange Improvement Project on Interstate 95, which the most recent figures put at $676 million.
Early steps have been taken for a third track. $2.5 million has been approved by the Commonwealth Transportation Board for preliminary engineering for the 11.4 miles between Arkendale on the Widewater peninsula in Stafford and Powells Creek in Prince William.
Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, has submitted a budget amendment providing $17.6 million to fund the first year of building the track. The total cost of the Arkendale-to-Powells Creek track is expected to reach $70 million.
Long-term improvements on the Fredericksburg corridor will take years and millions of dollars, Westbook said.
News from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a non-profit group based in lower Manhatten that advocates transportation reform in the greater New York, New Jersey and Connecticut metropolitan region
Source: North Jersey Media Group
An editorial in The Record takes the middle road on the New Jersey trucking case. (See D:F February 27.) The State Supreme Court overturned a ruling passed under former Governor Christie Todd Whitman barring out-of-state big rigs from using state roads.
The editorial supports the recent court ruling but recognizes the need for new safety regulations for all big trucks whether or not they are just passing through New Jersey or not.
THERES no question that New Jersey needs to bar huge trucks from using Routes 4, 17 and other state roads to avoid tolls and traffic on interstates.
But theres also no question that the state must impose such trucking restrictions fairly.
Thats why its hard to argue with a federal appeals court decision last week that struck down rules which barred only out-of-state truckers from New Jerseys smaller highways while exempting those from inside the state. The courts view that the uneven restrictions violated the U.S. Constitutions interstate commerce clause is understandable.
Whats much harder to understand is why the state drew up such discriminatory rules in the first place.
One possibility is that New Jerseys trucking industry exerted influence when the Whitman administration drew up the regulations in the late 1990s. Sadly, in this state, such undue pressure from lobbyists wouldnt surprise us.
But the unfortunate result now is that, following the court ruling, New Jersey has no protection against giant tractor-trailers barreling down state roads. The effect will probably be greatest in Central Jersey, where trucks use state roads to connect to I-287 and bypass I-95.
The state plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the editorial continues, but meanwhile it is commendable that New Jerseys acting commissioner of transportation, Kris Kolluri, is establishing a task force to consider new regulations for ALL big trucks.
The state should follow the advice of the non-profit Tri-State Transportation Campaign and draw up new regulations that apply to all big trucks, no matter whether the drivers of these vehicles begin or end their trips within New Jersey borders or without.
No doubt the American Trucking Associations, which sued the state over its initial regulations, would also fight against such new rules. The association is worried other states may follow New Jerseys lead in banning big rigs from non-interstate highways.
But New Jersey has every right to try to improve road safety.
As The Records Road Warrior reported in 2004, overall truck traffic in New Jersey rose by 1.5 billion vehicle miles between 1991 and 1998. In 1997 alone, there were 20,000 accidents involving trucks. And truck accident rates in general are about twice as high on state and county highways as on interstates.
Clearly, the biggest trucks belong on the biggest highways. But New Jersey must write rules that apply to all big trucks.
Return to index
Selected Friday closing quotes...
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||79.43||78.97|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||51.58||51.40|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||47.30||44.91|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||23.56||23.66|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||15.84||16.48|
Eastern Massachusetts suffers because of its over-dependence on highways for long distance transportationboth passenger and freight. The U.S. Federal Highway Administration calculates that one long-haul trucking rig takes up the space of two and half passenger cars on the highway. Redirecting long-haul freight traffic from trucks (and off highways) to rail is the quickest, least expensive and most environmentally friendly way to alleviate the regions notorious traffic congestion. However, a major impediment to better freight rail service in the area is a lack of rail to truck transloading terminals close to the largest, most concentrated market in the regionMetropolitan Boston.
New England Transrail has proposed development of a well-located rail transloading terminal on a brownfields site within 11 miles north of downtown Boston, and 2.5 miles from the interchange of I-93 and I-95, in the Town of Wilmington. This terminal would take a wide variety of materials, such as salt, sand and gravel, coal, steel, lumber and liquids, from rail cars to be loaded onto local trucks for distribution, and would take other materials, mostly waste products and tree trimmings, from local trucks to be loaded onto rail cars for long-haul transport out of the area. It is projected that this facility would handle about 25 railcars per day, which would eliminate the need for over 250 one-way long-haul truck trips daily
In addition to reducing transportation costs for local businesses and consumers, a report commissioned by NET shows benefits of over $170 million annually from reductions in congestion; decreased pavement wear, reduced air pollution; and reduced noise impacts, accidents, and user costs. Presently, these costs are borne by the general population and local governments throughout the Commonwealth.
The report estimates annual reductions in key diesel emissions, depending on average payloads, in the following ranges:
|Carbon Monoxide (CO)||165-391 tons|
|Nitrogen Oxides (NOx)||1,005-2,404 tons|
|Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)||13-38 tons|
|PM 10||24-59 tons|
|PM 2.5||20-49 tons|
|Carbon Dioxide (CO2)||79,712-196,988 tons|
Annual reduction in diesel fuel ranges from 7.6 million gallons to 18.8 million gallons. (The emissions and fuel reduction numbers are conservative since they are based on steady speed rural driving conditions and lower than speed-limit speeds of 55 mph).
This project will be privately financed, which means that the transportation infrastructure benefits will not detract from public funding for other freight and passenger transportation programs in the region. To the contrary, the air quality benefits of building the facility could enable the Commonwealth to address critical transportation needs by helping to satisfy federal clear air requirements in the region.
Unfortunately, like many infrastructure projects which benefit an entire region, the project has been opposed by the usual NIMBY factions, and that opposition has been fueled by private interests that benefit from long-haul trucking, as well as the solid waste and incinerator industries and local quarries, all of which are threatened by the competition posed by allowing a new rail freight facility.
The Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation & Construction, we believe, should address the need for incorporating freight rail and local rail transload facilities such as that proposed by New England Transrail in its studies, planning, and funding of transportation improvement programs. EOTC has not in the past linked economies of rail freight to support economic development and reduce congestion and its adverse environmental effects just now being recognized as a serious issue in EOTCs draft Long Term Transportation Plan.
We believe EOTC needs to initiate federal and state funded transportation projects to improve the movement and distribution of freight. It is sad to note that despite pronouncements to alleviating congestion in the region, the Executive Office of Transportation has just begun to address the needs for projects such as NETs as part of its agenda.
The overwhelming majority of infrastructure projects face local opposition of one sort or another. Transportation projects like this one, which provide broad but diverse benefits for the population of the entire State, need support from those government officials responsible for the entire State. Otherwise we will never solve our transportation congestion problem with its attenuate economic, environmental and social impacts.
(Frank S. DeMasi has 34 years experience as a Professional Acquisition and Logistics Specialist at the US Department of Defense (retired-2002), and is a member of the Freight Committee of the Regional Transportation Advisory Council for the Boston area. Ronald A. Klempner, is a member of the Transportation Research Forum and is Managing Principal of New England Transrail, LLC
Every so often I like to invite the readership to send us images from the field that punctuate a positive rail or transportation initiative. It is those positive stories that we need to bring to government and the masses. We hear all too often about accidents and delays and those need to be balanced with the many more positive aspects of rail and forward-thinking initiatives.
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