TRANSPLAN 21 conference and rally for rail
June 14, 15 on Capitol Hill Washington, D.C.

Vol. 6 No. 11
March 14, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
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IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

Weather destruction

Two photos: Amtrak Ink

The roadbed along the Metrolink Ventura subdivision sinks into a newly formed river as torrential rains hit Southern California in late February. The story is below in “Amtrak West scrambles to recover traffic.”


House okays ‘TEA-LU’;
bill moves to Senate

By a staff writer

The House overwhelmingly approved H.R. 3, The Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy For Users on Thursday. “TEA-LU,” as it is called, is a six-year bill that provides $284 billion for the federal highway, transit and highway safety programs. The measure passed in the House 417 to 9, but now moves on to the Senate.

As a reporter for The New York Times put it, “The usually fractious members of the House of Representatives found something they nearly all shared: an appetite for millions of dollars for home-state road, bridge and transit projects.”

The $284 billion, six-year measure – nearly 800 pages long – would pay for transportation upgrades around the nation, including more than 4,000 projects sought by individual lawmakers at a cost of more than $12 billion.

Speaking on the House floor, Young remarked, “Continuing to under-fund and under-maintain our highways and transit systems insures more traffic fatalities and reduced economic opportunity for our citizens.

He also explained that USDOT and the highway, transit, highway safety, and motor carriers programs of DOT are all operating under an extension until May 31, 2005.

“After that date, the DOT can no longer reimburse the states for the funds that the states obligate and expend for highway, transit and other programs covered by this legislation” and his goal “is to complete work on this legislation and send the bill to the President for signature before the end of May.” Highways would get the lion’s share of cash, but on the rail side of the bill, newly added Title IX would “increase the authorization for an existing program of high speed rail corridor development and technology improvement grants at a funding level of $100 million a year through fiscal years 2006-2013,” according to a press release from Young’s office.

It would also add a new section to establish and implement a freight intermodal distribution pilot grant program to facilitate and support intermodal freight transportation initiatives at inland ports and freight facilities.

Multiple commuter rail projects would receive large cash infusions.

Starting on page 453, in Section 3037, the measure authorizes new fixed guideway capital projects, including existing full funding grant agreements.

Among the authorized projects for final design and construction is Baltimore’s Central LRT double-tracking plan, at $39.4 million for fiscal year 2004, $28,777,920 for fiscal 2005, and $12,655,664 for fiscal 2006.

The Chicago Transit Authority Douglas Branch Reconstruction project would get $83,655,202 for fiscal year 2004, $84,320,000 for fiscal year 2005, and $45,825,190 for fiscal year 2006 – and those are only two of many projects.

Nothing dealing with Amtrak was included in the bill.

The proposed law would also make technical changes to project descriptions under Sec. 1602 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21).

Four Representatives introduced the measure – Don Young (R-Alaska), Chairman, Transportation & Infrastructure Committee; James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.), Ranking Democrat, Transportation Committee; Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Chairman of the Highways, Transit & Pipelines Subcommittee; and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Ranking Democrat, Highways & Transit Subcommittee.

“Compared to the previous six-year bill, H.R. 3 represents a 42 percent increase in investment in highways, transit and safety programs,” Young said, “and the increased funding levels in H.R. 3 are supported by the Administration.”

Young said the bill, if it is enacted, “will put Americans to work by creating the kind of jobs that support families and increase our tax base. It is much needed legislation that will move our country toward a stronger economy.”

Petri said, “Now we need the Senate to move quickly so that we can get to conference to produce a long term program in support of our nation’s vital infrastructure.”

The measure stalled last year in a dispute with the White House over spending levels, but it stands a much better chance of becoming law this year. The bottom line is in accord with President Bush’s budget, which does not deal with specific projects, and lawmakers are eager to initiate projects that will create thousands of jobs, ease traffic congestion and rebuild crumbling roads.

“It’s estimated for every $1 billion we spend on road construction, nearly 48,000 jobs are created,” said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), “but it’s more than just jobs. We need an adequate infrastructure to move people and the materials they make efficiently.”

Authors of the measure said the amount of spending should have been even greater given the deteriorating state of the nation’s transportation network and increasing gridlock. They said they could be coming back for more money next year though the White House has threatened to veto any final bill that allows Congress to reopen the legislation in pursuit of additional dollars.

“This is just a small step forward,” said Young. He added the nation should be spending as much as $500 billion. He said he hoped to work out an agreement with the Senate, which is drawing up its own version of the legislation, and pass a final bill by June 1 in time for some of the money to be available for the summer construction season.

Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who is a persistent critic of federal spending, said, “Bipartisan porkfests like this bill make me long for the days of gridlock.”

Alaska received more than $204 million in special projects at a rate of $326.51 per capita – by far the largest amount when figured by population.

Without earmarking a specific amount, the bill also made a commitment to the continued construction of a rail link from Long Island to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, a project that New York lawmakers have argued will cut commuting time for tens of thousands of workers. The bill also authorized that work continue on the long-awaited Second Avenue subway line.

According to a House analysis, the measure represents an increase of 42 percent over the spending in the previous highway bill passed in 1998. Within the measure, $225.5 billion would go to the Federal Highway Administration; $52.3 billion to the Federal Transit Administration; $3.2 billion for the National Traffic and Highway Safety Administration; and $2.9 billion for the Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

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Amtrak West scrambles to recover traffic

Those heavy January and February rains in California bright so much devastation to California that trains were stopped for nearly two months – and now the carrier’s marketing department is scrambling to recover passengers.

Marketing and sales people are working hard to rebuild ridership and revenue in the aftermath. The winter storms caused mudslides, sinkholes and rockslides that resulted in significant disruption to three train services, and a revenue loss that could reach $3.5 million.

Amtrak Ink, the railroad’s monthly publication for employees, reports in its March edition the recovery plan for the Coast Starlight, Surfliners and California Zephyr relies on a combination of advertising, a special fare promotion, alerts to the news media, support from convention and visitors bureaus, outreach at travel trade shows and added financial support from the state of California.

“Amtrak and Caltrans shared the approximately $70,000 cost of the recovery advertising for the Pacific Surfliner,” said Carol Shannon, Amtrak West’s marketing director, “and because the railroad was shut down again in February, we were able to move some print ads and traffic advisories forward a month into March.”

The extra funding boost made it possible to create new print and radio advertising for the Pacific Surfliner in markets north of Los Angeles that trumpeted the return of the service with the headline, “The Pacific Surfliner trains are once again running between L.A., Santa Barbara and Goleta. So sit back, relax and let us get you reacquainted with a more simple way of travel.”

Debris on rails

Barely visible tracks are covered with debris and mud at Seacliff on the Santa Barbara subdivision. The entire subdivision was hit hard by the storms in Southern California, where Union Pacific crews worked to restore the tracks for Pacific Surfliner service.

Similarly, the California Zephyr’s return was promoted with a special ad in newspapers and on travel Web sites, announcing “The California Zephyr, once again traveling through the majestic Rocky Mountains.”

Revenue and capacity analyst Gene Rainear said, “Since the return of service of the California Zephyr at the end of January, we have recaptured much of the Emeryville to Reno business as displayed by the high-peak load factors (a measurement of ridership when the train has the most passengers) on the westbound Zephyr trains. However, the overall demand remains low, which is not uncommon for this time of year.”

Since the Coast Starlight was out of service for nearly two months, an added incentive is being promoted on California Convention and Visitor’s Bureau web sites, on a rack card distributed at trade shows, in newspapers insertions and at California Visitor’s Centers.

A 25 percent discount off the best available fare is being offered for travel through May 26.

In addition, convention and visitor’s bureaus in affected markets are including Amtrak’s return-to-service messages in e-mails to their memberships at no cost to Amtrak.

The resumption of the Coast Starlight on March 1 marked the end of the hundreds of departures that were cancelled for all three services during the last two months.

“This was the first time in our history that the San Diego to San Luis Obispo route had been shut down in both directions, and we recognize the hardship this had on our traveling public as well as our employees,” said Richard H. Phelps, the railroad’s Southwest Division general superintendent.

“We worked diligently with the Union Pacific, which had the task of restoring the railroad, but our primary focus was – and always is – on safety.”

“The cancellations were long and arduous for our employees, especially after the holidays,” said Lynn Berberian, superintendent of Passenger Services for the Southwest Division.

“Most of the affected train and engine employees were rotated into block training. However, on-board service and station employees that were impacted by the emergency annulments went through a difficult time, and I applaud their commitment and patience while the restoration of the right-of-way was in progress,” she added.

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Feingold takes up Amtrak’s case

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) is fighting the Bush administration’s Amtrak budget cuts, which he says would leave millions without passenger rail service.

Wisconsin currently has 20 Amtrak stops across the state including the popular Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee. Illinois also contributes state subsidies for the rail line.

At a time when Amtrak is improving its service, cutting costs and increasing ridership, we should be supporting these improvements with adequate funding, while continuing to help Amtrak with the enormous amount of work that remains, Feingold wrote in a letter to the chairman and ranking member of Senate Budget Committee.

Feingold said Amtrak carries more than 25 million people nationally and has made progress in controlling operating costs and improving service. He warned work on maintenance, infrastructure, cars and equipment cannot be put off indefinitely without endangering public safety.

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JetBlue plans $100 Boston-N.Y. service

It looks like Amtrak’s Acela Express is going to get some competition.

JetBlue Airways CEO, David Neeleman, reiterated his plans to start regular Boston-New York service while appearing at a tourism conference in Brazil on March 8, and said a round-trip ticket would likely carry a fare as low as $100, according to the Boston Globe.

At that price, JetBlue would undercut US Airways and Delta Air Lines, the two carriers that currently fly hourly shuttles between Logan International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York. The fare also would be cheaper than Amtrak’s Acela Express service, which charges $99 each way.

JetBlue’s plans could set off more cutthroat competition among airlines at Logan. Already, AirTran Airways’ CEO, Bob Fornaro, has said the airline is considering starting Boston-to-New York flights.

“The benefit is this low-cost carrier phenomenon which will now enter the Boston-to-New York market,” said Tom Kinton, director of aviation for the Massachusetts Port Authority, which owns Logan. “The shuttle has been isolated so far.”

The service may still be at least a year away because Neeleman has said that he won’t start the service until he has enough planes. The airline is supposed to get the first of 200 new regional jets in October and those planes would likely be used on Boston-to-New York flights.

JetBlue would fly between Logan and JFK, while Delta and US Airways’ shuttles go to LaGuardia.

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NTSB adds new officers

The National Transportation Safety Board had added two officers to top spots. Chairman Ellen Engleman Conners said they have added a new executive director and managing director. The appointments were effective on March 7.

Dan Campbell, who has served as the agency’s managing director for five years, is the new executive director. He will concentrate on planning, policy and transition issues. He joined the agency as general counsel in 1990 after 20 years with the former Civil Aeronautics Board and the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Joseph Osterman, currently the board’s Office of Highway Safety director, will be its new managing director. Osterman is a career officer with the NTSB, and has been with the agency for 19 years. He began as a highway accident investigator, later becoming Highway Division chief.

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Top execs see Amtrak as a requirement

The CEO Council for Growth, part of a new business-backed effort to draw jobs to the eastern Pennsylvania region, is throwing its weight behind fixing Amtrak.

Its focus is on the Northeast Corridor, which is vital to the region’s future, the council said in a March 8 Philadelphia Inquirer article. The organization is comprised of chief executive officers.

The council’s initiative is still taking shape, but its infrastructure working group already has met with Amtrak officials and members of Congress to plan its strategy.

“We believe interregional rail is critical to our region,” Thomas A. Caramanico, head of the working group, said March 7.

He added, “We can’t have an interruption in its service. We need a longer-term passenger-rail solution that may or may not be Amtrak.” Caramanico, president of McCormick Taylor Engineers & Planners, said the council planned to address all of the region’s transportation issues, including Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, New Jersey Transit, and Port Authority Transit Corp.

Amtrak financial crises have become almost annual events. The latest comes as the CEO Council, part of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, is launching a tri-state economic development program. The initiative includes high-profile marketing and assistance to companies that are considering a move to the region or expansion here.

“Our rail connections to New York and Washington are critical to what makes the region attractive to business and higher education,” said Amy Gutmann, president of the Univ. of Pennsylvania and a CEO Council member.

Passenger rail is important to the university’s research function, which requires frequent trips to Washington, and to the quality of life of students and faculty, Gutmann said.

Other CEOs on the council are equally outspoken.

“We need effective mass transportation to attract and keep employees and companies. If it gets too expensive or has serious problems, we lose our ability to attract industry,” said Dennis Flanagan, retired chief executive of Oki Data Americas, Inc., the printer company.

Flanagan now runs a sales, marketing, and leadership-consulting firm called SML Associates, of Medford, and is a frequent Amtrak passenger.

“We are very dependent on passenger rail,” said Hugh C. Long II, Pennsylvania/Delaware chief executive of Wachovia Corp. Air and highway transportation cannot be expanded enough to replace Amtrak, he said.

Amtrak has loyal passengers, public-policy gurus, and friends in Congress who have rallied when presidents since Jimmy Carter have sought to cut or eliminate its federal subsidies.

The CEO Council hopes to forge a long-term solution, Long said.

“We can’t continue to fund what we’ve got the way it now works. We’ve got to find some way to recraft our approach to deliver efficiency with good service... to be able to plan capital expenditures and enhancement of the service,” he said.

Some on the council applaud the White House for trying to force needed change by proposing to eliminate Amtrak’s $1.2 billion federal operating subsidy. Others say the administration’s plan would bankrupt Amtrak and that, unlike airlines, Amtrak would have no remaining borrowing power to keep trains running if that happened.

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CP crews to replace 34,000 ties

Canadian Pacific Ry. crews will replace 34,000 crossties beginning in May on more than 53 miles of track from east of Wadsworth, Ill., to Milwaukee, Wis. on the same line Amtrak uses.

The work, which will involve noisy diesel-powered machines, high-powered lights and a large crew, will be done from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., when most people are sleeping, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of March 5.

Laura Baenen, CP’s spokeswoman for the U.S. Midwest (the former Soo Line), said the work has to be done at night because 16 commuter trains and 20 to 24 freight trains travel that stretch of track during the day. During the hours when the work will be done, about four freight trains will pass through, she said.

“The work has to be done then because of the train traffic,” she said.

Sixty MW workers will be on the crew working in up to three-mile stretches each night from May 16 through July 13 in an effort to get the work done quickly, Baenen said.

“So there won’t be one area that will have it night after night after night,” she said.

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE), a division of the Teamsters, is concerned about safety issues associated with the prolonged night work and also about the disruption to people who live near the tracks.

“Safety is the biggest concern,” said Mark S. Wimmer, general chairman of the union.

Workers generally work between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m., so the late night and early morning work for three months will be a significant change, he said. Wimmer noted that CP met its contractual obligation to show the work could be done in less time at night.

“A person’s body clock needs to be readjusted to go from daylight work to night time work. A number of our members have expressed great concerns about that,” Wimmer said.

Baenen countered that the railroad operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week and crews are often called upon to work night shifts in emergencies, such as a derailment.

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STATION LINES...  Station lines...

Need for proposed rail station is disputed,
but Moynihan supporters say it’ll arrive

The proposed Moynihan Station has been called a “flagship transit facility,” a conversion of the Farley Post Office across the street from Penn Station to a commuting hub boasting soaring skylights and open-air platforms.

Just days after developers outlined three design proposals for the newly created station, some Long Island Rail Road commuters and advocacy groups are questioning the need for it Newsday reported.

“Basically, there is no benefit for the commuter,” said Gerry Bringmann, vice chair of the LIRR Commuter’s Council.

“Yes, it is going to be beautiful like Grand Central Terminal, but with the ticket prices going up, we just can‘t afford to pay for it.”

The state agency overseeing the project, the Moynihan Station Development Corp., which is a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corp., says the $600 million project will provide a “welcoming gateway for more than half a million daily users.”

Others agree with that corporation.

New York State officials are reviewing three proposed renovations for the Farley Post Office, the beaux arts building across from Madison Square Garden that will supplement the subterranean station now under the arena.

The winner is to be announced within three months, with the terminal opening in 2010, said Charles Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corp.

“It‘s going to happen,” Gargano said of the $600 million project to be paid for with a combination of state, city, federal and Port Authority funds.

The new station, to be named after its longtime champion, the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, would double the size of the current Penn Station – the nation’s busiest station, with 550,000 daily passengers. It would also give commuters a glimpse of the sky – like the old station – before boarding, unlike now when passengers are shrouded in artificial light.

When complete by 2010, Moynihan Station will provide 400,000 square feet of additional space for a new train station as well as hundreds of thousands of square feet for private development. Though the track and platforms at Penn will likely remain the same, LIRR riders will have new street entrances on the west side of Eighth Avenue and mid-block on 31st and 33rd Streets. The station will be easier to navigate, with broad concourses naturally lit by skylights above a high ceiling. It will connect underground to the existing Penn Station.

Three designs have been submitted and the final will be picked by June.

Construction is scheduled to begin this summer.

“The aesthetic experience for all passengers traveling through the new station will be radically different from that of the existing Penn Station,“ said Ron Jury, director of communications for the Empire State Development Corp.

Citing financial difficulties, Amtrak pulled out of occupying the station and the state is currently negotiating with New Jersey Transit to be the main tenant.

It‘s also possible the LIRR could move some of its operations there. Tracks run beneath the building.

“We have participated in exploratory meetings,“ said LIRR spokesman Brian Dolan, declining to elaborate.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is expected to contribute $35 million to the project, and that rankles some commuters who have just endured a 5 to 7 percent average fare increase.

“People don’t look at where they are going,“ said commuter Edwin Fabre of Kew Gardens. “They just want to get to work on time.“

Bringmann said if the LIRR were to move into the new facility, it would take riders farther from subway connections. Moynihan Station would be located between Eighth and Ninth avenues, while the existing Penn Station is between Seventh and Eighth, with subway lines just steps away.

Moynihan Station won’t add track or tunnel capacity for the LIRR, which uses four tunnels and the tracks owned by Amtrak into Penn Station.

The station handles more than 550,000 daily commuters. The current Penn Station, a three-level subterranean complex, was put together after the demolition of the original building in 1963. The LIRR section was renovated 11 years ago at a cost of $190 million.

“Penn Station is so crowded and overrun with people, the new station will... give them more space,“ said Kate Slevin, spokeswoman for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, a regional advocacy group. The transportation benefits may not be great.”

“Most commuters are connecting to the subways underneath or walking into midtown or north,” she said. The new station is “moving people west.”

The Permanent Citizens Advisory Council, which encompasses the LIRR Commuters Council and the New York City Transit Riders Council, opposes the plan, said executive director Beverly Dolinsky.

“It’s an economic development project and doesn‘t do a thing for LIRR riders or New York City transit riders,“ she said.

Maura Moynihan, the senator’s daughter, called the new station a “masterpiece,” with the current terminal “that hole under a basketball court.”

There are no planned changes to where Amtrak, LIRR and NJT trains will stop.

The proposals keep the original design to bisect the post office with a puffed-out, glass dome that developers have taken to calling “the chip,” for its resemblance to a snack. Also untouched is a plan to keep 400,000 square feet for the station and 250,000 square feet for a remaining post office. They differ in what they plan to do with 750,000 square feet; suggestions vary from a hotel, a large retailer, a museum and a banquet hall.

A decision hasn’t yet been reached whether to build on top of the terminal, Gargano said.

What won‘t change is the Farley’s signature colonnade, built by the same architects the old Pennsylvania Station: McKim, Mead and White.

“Only in New York could you tear down a beaux arts masterpiece only to find another one by the same architects across the street,” Moynihan said, quoting her father.

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CUS might get a new deal - again

Lincoln Property Co. is talking to potential tenants about a long-range proposal for a twin-tower office development on top of Chicago’s Union Station, a possible sign that the Dallas real estate firm will be Amtrak’s choice as the new developer of the historic structure.

The selection of a developer has renewed urgency for cash-strapped Amtrak, after the Bush administration threatened last month to push the national passenger railroad into bankruptcy in order to force a restructuring.

Amtrak is looking for a new developer, reports the Chicago Tribune, after a 2002 deal with Prime Group Realty Trust fell apart. A railroad spokesman declined to comment.

A final decision has not been made, and Amtrak could still turn to one of the Chicago-based finalists: residential firm Draper & Kramer Inc. or Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., which has a mixed-use proposal with about 500,000 square feet of office space, similar to a plan city officials have already approved.

Sources said Lincoln is proposing two towers of roughly 20 stories each on top of the station, which was designed by architect Daniel Burnham with upward expansion in mind. The towers, each with about 600,000 square feet of space, would be located along the north and south sides of the station, which occupies the block bounded by Jackson Boulevard and Canal, Clinton and Adams Streets.

Construction would not start until a tenant agreed to lease about half of a tower, with completion by 2009 at the earliest. The station’s existing upper floors would be redeveloped into rental apartments, sources said.

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SECURITY LINES...  Security lines...

LIRR security is lacking, says Schumer

The brown plastic garbage can atop the platform at the Hicksville Long Island Rail Road Station had at least three problems with it, explained Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

First, he said on March 7, it’s easy to access as he pulled it open wide. Then, it’s not made of bomb-resistant material. Plus, it’s not transparent – and that’s just one trash can at one station in the LIRR’s vast network, a system of stations woefully unequipped to prevent a terrorist attack, he said.

Newsday reported his staff had surveyed 30 of the most heavily trafficked stations in Long Island and Queens and found that none has blast-resistant garbage cans, only 10 percent had security cameras and only 10 percent had vehicle barriers – measures recommended by the federal Department of Homeland Security.

“It appears the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has made almost no progress toward following the security directives, leaving gaping holes and putting millions of commuters in danger,” Schumer said in a letter to LIRR President James Dermody.

MTA spokesman Tom Kelly said that the LIRR has removed the plastic garbage pails from “what we consider the most vulnerable locations, which are indoors.”

“We are working to obtain additional cans as well as cameras, as the senator is well aware,” Kelly said. “We are doing everything humanly possible to protect our customers, employees and infrastructure, but again would appreciate any additional funds he could secure.”

Schumer said the MTA is not fully to blame and that the Department of Homeland Security needs to provide the resources necessary.

Schumer’s staff members surveyed the 30 stations, including Mineola, Huntington, Brentwood, Ronkonkoma, Bellerose and Hicksville, twice in the past year.

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Civil engineers:

Nation’s infrastructure is crumbling,
including rail, transit systems, roads

Crowded schools, traffic-choked roads and transit cutbacks are eroding the quality of American life, according to an analysis by civil engineers that gave the nation’s infrastructure an overall grade of D.

A report by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released March 9 assessed the four-year trend in the condition of 12 categories of infrastructure, including railroads, roadways, bridges, drinking water systems, public parks, and the power grid, according to The AP.

The overall grade slipped from the D-plus given to the infrastructure in 2001 and 2003.

ASCE is assessing freight rail infrastructure, too.

U.S. freight railroads received a first-ever grade on the overall state of their infrastructure – and it wasn’t a particularly good one – a C-minus.

For the first time since World War II, limited rail capacity has created significant chokepoints and delays, ASCE said.

“This problem will increase as freight-rail [traffic] is expected to increase at least 50 percent by 2020,” the report states.

“In addition, the use of rail for intercity passenger and commuter-rail service is increasingly being recognized as a worthwhile transportation investment, [so] a combined investment of $12 billion to $13 billion per year is needed to maintain existing rail infrastructure and expand for future growth.”

Meanwhile, transit infrastructure was graded a D+ compared with a C-minus in 2001.

“Transit use increased faster than any other mode of transportation – up 21 percent between 1993 and 2002,” the report states. “Yet, many transit properties are borrowing funds to maintain operations, even as they are significantly raising fares and cutting back service.”

Overall, the nation needs to invest $1.6 trillion during the next five years to remedy current and looming infrastructure problems, ASCE estimates - an amount that doesn’t address infrastructure security needs. “Americans are spending more time stuck in traffic and less time at home with their families,” William Henry, the group’s president, said in a statement.

The report said $1.6 trillion should be spent over the next five years to alleviate potential problems with the nation’s infrastructure.

Transportation alone requires $94 billion in annual spending, the report said.

The report noted that many transit systems are borrowing money to maintain operations as they’re raising fees and cutting back service.

Grade: D-plus.

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BUILDERS LINES...  Builders’ lines...

New NJT Engines


Locomotive builder Alstom takes New Jersey Transit’s newest engines out for a test ride in February.


Alstom prepares to deliver NJT power
New Jersey Transit’s newest power is undergoing testing in New York State where they were assembled. PL42-ACs 4200 and 4201, designed and built by Alstom in Valencia, Spain and Hornell, N.Y., were out for a test ride on February 25 on the Western New York & Pennsylvania (WNY&P), a short line that runs west from Hornell. Alstom uses the WNY&P for shakedown runs before delivery to NJT. The prime mover is a 16-cylinder EMD 710 engine rated at 4,200 HP. Alstom says the contract value is $146 million for 33 locomotives and spares. The builder has completed all of them and is now putting them through the commissioning phase. They are fully compliant with 49CFR238 (passenger rail equipment safety standards) and they meet the EPA Tier I emissions requirements, including structural strength and crew protection. The original contract included options for additional locomotives but, due to funding constraints, NJT chose not to exercise the options.

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FEC on the move

File photo

Florida East Coast uses remote-controlled locomotives in some of its yards. Here, a unit passes another train working in the Bowden Yard facility in Jacksonville, Fla. in 2003. FEC limits its train lengths to 9,000 feet.


GE is on the world rail map

Technology being developed by locomotive builder General Electric in Melbourne, Fla., is allowing freight trains to have more cars. Company officials say the tradeoff of a longer wait for motorists at the railroad crossing is a more efficient and safer rail system that ultimately could lower shipping costs.

The product, being developed by GE Rail Transportation products, has caught the attention of not only U.S. railway giants like Union Pacific, but also the Chinese government, which placed a large order for GE’s equipment, called “Locotrol,” writes Florida Today of Melbourne, Fla. That deal will enable the Melbourne plant to increase its 200-person staff by 30 in the next few months.

This six-pound box contains all the electronics required to move a 130-ton locomotive.


GE officials say Locotrol will grant rail shippers the ability to double the cargo capacity of a train without adding “prohibitively” expensive track, which can easily cost $1 million a mile to lay.

GE Rail does this by distributing power at different points on the train. Rather than having two engines at one end of a train, Locotrol works by remotely controlling automated engines every, say, 50 cars, doubling the amount of cars you can use on that track, improving how the train handles and even lowering fuel costs by about 10 percent.

Locotrol – the idea of which has been around since the 1960s, but didn’t come into its own until the mid-1990s – has worked so well in the U.S., GE Rail recently won a contract to help ease railroad congestion in China.

Including the local award, GE Transportation has secured $300 million in contract work from China’s Ministry of Rail in the last six months. Local GE officials said they are under no U.S. government restrictions to sell this technology to China.

Experts say the timing for GE Rail in Melbourne, alongside the Florida East Coast Ry., couldn’t be better. With the economy chugging along and fuel prices spiraling higher for airlines and truckers, there is a renaissance for shipping by rail because it is more fuel-efficient, especially for long hauls of more than 1,000 miles.

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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

$31 billion transportation plan for Bay State

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said Thursday that the Commonwealth should spent $31 billion over the next 20 years to improve and expand a transportation infrastructure long neglected because of the Big Dig.

The proposal, unveiled by Romney and Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey at a series of events across the state, focuses on improving existing roads and bridges. The administration wants to spend $1.2 billion over the next five years to repair 600 bridges.

“This is one of the key areas where we have under-invested as a state over the last decade as the enormous expense of the Big Dig has gone through our system,” Romney said during a news conference at a visitor center in Springfield.

“It’s now time to return to the rest of the state and to recognize a number of the failures and errors in maintenance that need to be addressed,” he said.

The “Big Dig,” formally called the Central Artery and Third Harbor Tunnel project, was a $14.6 billion undertaking that buried Interstate 93 in tunnels underneath downtown Boston, and connected the Massachusetts Turnpike to Logan International Airport.

Romney’s plan – which he said will change as local officials and regional planning and transit authorities weigh in – makes bridge repair a top priority. He said 600 of the state’s 5,000 bridges are structurally deficient, and many require weight-load restrictions.

“When that happens, we affect commerce,” he said.

The governor’s plan also earmarks $670 million to build a commuter rail link between Boston and New Bedford and Fall River, something lawmakers from southeastern Massachusetts have long advocated.

Other mass transit projects include expanding commuter rail service between Boston and Worcester, Fitchburg and Lynn.

Absent, however, is the commuter rail link between Springfield and Boston for which western Massachusetts business and community leaders have long lobbied.

“That’s got to be a part of this plan,” said Springfield Mayor Charles Ryan, who otherwise called Romney’s proposal “intelligent and well presented.”

“A commuter rail from Springfield to Boston would be a dramatic opening up of the Pioneer Valley that we need to have,” Ryan said. “It’s like the Erie Canal.”

Romney said the $31 billion plan would be paid for with nearly $16 billion in federal funding. The rest of the money would come from various state sources, including $4.5 billion from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

He said the projects wouldn’t raise the state’s projected debt.

“We will not increase the amount of financial obligation as a percentage of the budget,” he said.

He also wants to spend about $9 billion upgrading the MBTA transit system, including buying new trains and buses and renovating stations.

Romney said the projects outlined in his plan should create about 30,000 construction jobs per year.

“We’re building roads and bridges,” he said, “and there are a lot of jobs associated with that.”

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Mulhern will retire as ‘T’ chief

Michael H. Mulhern, who in three years as general manager guided the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority through a controversial fare increase, painful cost-cutting, getting the Greenbush Line restarted and major events such as the Democratic National Convention, plans to retire from his post by the summer, state and MBTA officials said Thursday.

Mulhern, 46, a former bus driver who first began working for the authority more than 25 years ago, earned a reputation as more of a practical, detail-oriented manager than a visionary during his time in the top job. While opposing proposals that he believed would lead to an over-expansion of the transit system, he has been credited with cutting expenses, reducing payrolls, and making its operations more efficient.

Three high-ranking state and MBTA officials, who asked that their names not be used, told the Boston Globe that Mulhern told MBTA board members and top state transportation officials on Wednesday that he plans to retire. One official said the resignation would take effect June 1.

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APTA Highlights...  APTA Highlights...

Here is another transit headline, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at

Transit Business Leaders Push Urgency for Investment and Swift Reauthorization; Campaign Highlights Link Between Transit Funding and Economic Growth

Business leaders in the public transportation industry have launched a campaign, “We Make Communities Go,” to broaden public awareness about the importance of transit in the American economy and the need for Congress to pass a six-year surface transportation reauthorization bill. [See lead story in today’s D:F – Ed.]

To launch the campaign, a delegation of APTA business members delivered a letter to members of Congress highlighting the link between transit funding and economic growth, and urging swift passage of reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.

The delegation spent February 16 and 17 on Capitol Hill, meeting with members of Congress and key congressional staffers to make the business case for reauthorization. The delegation was led by Sharon Greene, chair of APTA’s Business Member Government Affairs Subcommittee and president of Sharon Greene and Associates.

Nearly 100 company presidents and CEOs signed the letter.

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FTA, FHWA Issue New Policy on Planning and NEPA

The Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration issued guidance February 23 to provide for coordination between the environmental analyses required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the planning process for federally funded transportation projects. The two processes “should work in tandem,” the document said, “with the results of the transportation planning process informing the NEPA process.”

The report stated, “When the NEPA and transportation planning processes are not well coordinated, the NEPA process may lead to the development of information during NEPA that is more appropriately developed in the planning process, resulting in duplication of work and delays in transportation improvements. The purpose of this guidance is to change this culture, by supporting Congressional intent that statewide and metropolitan transportation planning should be the foundation for highway and transit project decisions.”

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Lansing to Head First Transit’s Operation of Austin’s University Shuttle

The Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority in Austin, Texas, has entered into a contract with First Transit, Inc. to operate its Univ. of Texas at Austin bus service. Scott Lansing, executive director of the Chatham Area Transit Authority in Savannah, Ga., since 1995, has been named general manager for First Transit’s Austin operations.

First Transit will assume operation of the Univ. of Texas at Austin’s service from ATC/Vancom when ATC’s contract expires on May 31. Under the three-year contract with two one-year options, First Transit will operate 87 vehicles along 16 University of Texas at Austin Shuttle fixed routes and one “Flyer” fixed route.

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Canadian Urban Transit Systems to Benefit for First Time from Federal Gas Tax

Public transportation in Canada will be among the recipients of additional federal support in the 2005 budget released February 23 by Finance Minister Ralph Goodale.

The federal gas tax sharing plan, called “New Deal for Cities and Communities,” dedicates $600 million (Cdn.) in gas tax revenues to cities and communities for 2005-2006 through a transfer of 1.5 cents (Cdn.) of the federal 10-cent-per-liter excise tax on gasoline to municipalities. Transit will share this revenue from the existing federal gas tax with water, sewage, and community energy systems. Individual municipalities will decide how to divide the funds.

The plan in the 2005 budget is the first part of a pledge to share $5 billion (Cdn.) worth of gas tax revenue over the next five years, with the share eligible for transit use growing to half of the 10-cent per-liter tax by the final year. The funding levels will remain at $600 million in the second year, increasing to $800 million (2 cents per liter) in the third year, $1 billion in the fourth year, and $2 billion (5 cents per liter) in the fifth year. Goodale has pledged to extend the gas-tax program indefinitely at the final level.

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Rendell Provides Funding to Pennsylvania Transit Agencies

Pittsburgh’s Port Authority of Allegheny County has canceled its proposed fare increases and service reductions, scheduled for early March, following the February 28 announcement by Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell to provide as much as $412 million to the state’s transit agencies over the next two years if legislation providing other funding is not enacted during that time.

As Passenger Transport went to press, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority in Philadelphia was considering a two-week postponement of fare hikes as well as service cuts that had been scheduled to go into effect on March 6. The SEPTA board will make a final determination on the immediate future of fares and service levels following a review of the financing proposal.

The governor proposed the immediate “flexing” of $68 million in federal highway funds to SEPTA, $42.7 million, and the Port Authority, $25.3 million, to prevent the fare increases and service cuts scheduled for March 1 and 6 respectively in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

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James Burcham, Formerly at Metra, Dies

James W. Burcham Jr., who had a railroad career spanning 50 years and was probably best known for his work with Metra commuter rail in Chicago, died February 20.

Burcham began his railroad career in 1956 with the Illinois Central Railroad (now Canadian National Ry.). He served with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. (now Burlington Northern Santa Fe Ry.) briefly and moved to the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (now part of Canadian Pacific) in 1963. As manager of passenger services and then as assistant division manager, he played a key role in the transition of the intercity services to Amtrak. He was also central in the formation of local transit districts, and later, the Regional Transportation Authority in Chicago, and its commuter rail division, Metra.

He joined Metra in 1982 and, as director, real estate and contract management, negotiated and administered contractual relationships with the operating railroads, with Amtrak, which shares Chicago Union Station with Metra, and with all concessionaires and joint facility users.

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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Labor negotiators find bumpy track

The second bargaining session over changes in wages and work rules of the national rail carriers ended abruptly on March 9 when the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), representing the Class I freight railroads, “refused to entertain or even discuss ground rules for negotiations proposed by the Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition (RLBC),” the Brotherhood of locomotive Engineers and Trainmen reported on Friday. The union did not state where the negotiations were taking place.

The BLET represents seven rail unions comprised of 85,000 rail workers. The bargaining coalition proposed the ground rules after questions regarding the bargaining process were raised at the first negotiating session, held on January 24.

At Friday’s meeting, the rail carriers’ chief negotiator, Robert Allen, said, “There will be no ground rules for these negotiations.” He refused to discuss the issue and refused to point out what objections the NCCC had to the proposed ground rules, according to the BLET.

Union leader George Francisco said, “By refusing to even discuss the Rail Labor Coalition’s proposed ground rules, the rail carriers have gotten these negotiations off on the wrong track.” Francisco is the coalition’s coordinator, and President of the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers (SEIU).

The proposed Ground Rules covered eight issues, including who each side represents, who would participate in negotiations, the advance notification of presentations by experts, and negotiations schedules.

The other topics were alignment of common and craft-specific issues so the suitable representatives would be available, mutually agreeing upon negotiation locations and provisions for bargaining and caucus rooms and the sharing of expenses, provisions for information sharing and confidentiality agreements, and the finalization of contract language and the process for the ratification of the contract by the members of the coalition.

“Since the 1930s, the NCCC has assumed master contract bargaining on behalf of the majority of the carriers. For the first time in decades, rail unions are joining together in a coalition to make sure our members get a fair contract,” said Francisco. “For that reason, we felt a clear set of ground rules would help streamline the process. It is outrageous that the Rail Carriers dismissed our proposal out of hand.”

For the first time in two decades, seven major railroad unions joined together in the creation of the "Rail Labor Bargaining Coalition" to coordinate contract negotiations with the rail carriers. The seven unions of the coalition represent nearly 85,000 rail workers from American railroad corporations. The coalition has developed a coordinated contract negotiating strategy and each individual union will not sign off on any tentative agreements with the rail carriers until all the coalition members concur.

The unions are the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, American Train Dispatchers Assn., Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, National Conference of Firemen and Oilers, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Sheet Metal Workers International Assn., International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and.

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Three federal agencies concur:
freight rail ban in DC is wrong

The U.S Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Transportation, along with three key Congressional leaders, weighed in on the side of CSX Transportation (CSXT) and the railroad industry last week opposing the District of Columbia banning transporting hazardous materials.

The Association of American Railroads said on March 7 the federal agencies and Congressional leaders say the ban “makes it more dangerous to transport hazardous materials because it increases the time and distance the materials must travel.”

They made the case in separate filings in federal court and before the Surface Transportation Board, where CSXT is challenging the D.C. ordinance.

Justice and Homeland Security said the D.C. law would “result in a dramatic increase in the total miles over which such materials travel and the total time the materials are in transit,” and “increase their exposure to possible terrorist action.”

The ordnance “would negatively affect the United State’s interest in national security, public safety, public health, and a strong economy,” wrote DOJ and DHS attorneys in a brief filed with the federal court.

“The risks associated with the transportation of hazardous materials correspond to the amount of time in transit.”

USDOT agreed.

“The risk to the nation of transporting hazardous material is minimized by permitting railroads to carry such cargo on routes where time in transit will be minimized,” wrote DOT. “As a general matter, that is accomplished by using the shortest route having the best quality of track.”

When local governments ban hazardous materials from their communities “they shift the risk to others,” added DOT. “It raises everyone’s risk and clogs the transportation system.”

U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) and chairman of the Subcommittee on Railroads in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said rerouting trains “away from the District of Columbia adds hundreds of miles and days of transit times to the transportation materials.

Alternative routings increase the number of times a car must be handled and the time a car sits in a yard. Longer distance and transit times and increased handling and “dwell” times are factors that tend to decrease safety and security.”

Rep. Tom Davis, (R-Va.) and chairman of the Congressional committee with jurisdiction over the District of Columbia, also weighed in, noting that the District’s actions “carry their own security concern and increase the risk of transporting hazardous materials.”

The District’s ordinance would, “for the sole purpose of avoiding D.C., generate an additional 1.9 million car miles” a year for CSXT, more than doubling the route, said Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), who serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

More than 20 organizations have filed statements in support of CSXT at the STB. Others supporting the railroad included the National Industrial Transportation League, the Sulfur Institute, the American Chemistry Council, the Edison Electric Institute, the National Mining Assn. and the Fertilizer Institute. The Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security brief was filed in support of CSXT in U.S. District Court. Reps. LaTourette, Davis and Brown filed their comments with the STB.

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CSX, New York agree to $1.5 million settlement, grade crossing repairs

CSX has agreed to several safety measures for hundreds of street crossings across New York State under a $1.5 million settlement disclosed March 7 with state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in Albany.

Spitzer said the company and the FRA failed to protect the public, and he blamed the company for failing to repair a grade-crossing safety device for eight days last year until two people died in a crash in a Rochester suburb. That prompted a Spitzer investigation of other CSX crossings, which found more than 300 crossing malfunctions that required more than 24 hours to fix. Some of the malfunctions may have been partly repaired, but many were not reported to local police, said Spitzer spokesman Darren Dopp.

They included a Little Falls, N.Y. crossing that took 137 days to completely repair, a Buffalo crossing that took 151 days, a Troy crossing that took 78 days, and a Rochester crossing that took 69 days to repair, according to the report. The lines are also used daily by Amtrak trains.

“It’s astonishing,” Spitzer said, who also blamed the FRA for failing to more heavily fine and regulate the industry.

It’s a charge Spitzer has previously made about other Bush administration agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“These federal agencies have been asleep at the switch, they have become captives to the industries whom they are supposed to regulate and oversee and they have simply failed to protect the public,” said Spitzer, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor next year.

“The federal oversight of CSX was an abject failure,” he said.

FRA spokesman Steven Kulm disagreed. He said fines levied against railroads nationwide in 2004 totaled $10.3 million, up from $4.3 million in 2000.

Spitzer, however, said that after what he called “wonderful journalism” by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle last year detailing the problems with railroad crossings and government action following the 2004 fatal accident, CSX is making crossing safety a priority. He commended CSX for its cooperation and commitment.

Under the voluntary agreement, CSX will perform a series of safety monitoring and reporting changes and pay for a $500,000 pilot program that would reimburse local police for their costs in protecting railroad crossings identified as having malfunctioning safety equipment, Spitzer said. CSX agreed to pay $1 million to the state to end the investigation.

“It is critical that railroad companies maintain the highest safety standards possible,” Spitzer said.

“As a result of this agreement, CSX will undertake a number of reforms that will produce the quickest response possible to any potential crossing safety problems.”

In a statement, CSX said it has “in place processes that further enhance safety at rail-highway grade crossings, and will continue to work to restore the confidence of the citizens of New York in these crossings.” Over the last year the company has also rebuilt some crossings and implemented a safety plan.

CSX agreed to fix warning systems within 24 hours, notify police, improve testing and record keeping and update and improve maintenance instructions to employees, according to the agreement.

In June 2004, federal investigators found 12 CSX highway crossings in New York with defects from poor maintenance that could affect protective equipment, a report said. Last month, CSX agreed not to contest a $298,000 civil penalty by FRA, the largest fine any U.S. railroad has paid for a case in at least seven years, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle of March 7.

CSX, based in Jacksonville, Fla., maintains 550 rail crossings with signals along 1,250 miles of track in New York State.

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Thompson takes RRV&W post

The Red River Valley & Western has appointed Andrew J. Thompson to the newly created post of senior vice-president and general manager of the 517-mile regional railroad, effective March 1.

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WALL STREET LINES...  Wall Street lines...

NS prices $300 million of century notes

Norfolk Southern Corp. (NSC) on March 7 priced a $300 million issue of 6.00 percent senior notes due March 15, 2105. The offering closed March 11. Interest on the notes is payable semiannually on March 15 and September 15 of each year, beginning September 15. NS has issued 100-year notes in 1894 through its predecessor, Southern Ry., in 1896 through its predecessor, Norfolk & Western Ry., and most recently, in 1997, as part of the financing of its acquisition of Conrail.

“The receptivity of the market to this 100-year issue by Norfolk Southern is a reflection of the strength and resilience of our company,” said Henry C. Wolf, NS vice chairman and chief financial officer.

“The market has provided a unique opportunity to source long-term capital at favorable rates, and we have taken advantage of that opportunity,” he said.

Norfolk Southern said it plans to use the proceeds of the new debt offering for general corporate purposes.

Merrill Lynch & Co. is the sole manager of the transaction

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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...


  Friday One Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)53.1752.61
Canadian National (CNI)62.4862.74
Canadian Pacific (CP) 36.5537.27
CSX (CSX)42.5043.02
Florida East Coast (FLA)42.9044.11
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)25.5426.20
Kansas City Southern (KSU)19.9519.99
Norfolk Southern (NSC)37.7636.95
Providence & Worcester (PWX)15.4515.20
Union Pacific (UNP)66.1864.61

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Rail freight traffic up yet again

All three measures of rail freight traffic for U.S. railroads showed increases during the week ended March 5 in comparison with the corresponding week a year ago, the AAR reported on Thursday.

Intermodal volume for the week totaled 215,066 trailers and containers, up 7.6 percent from a year ago, with containers up 9.2 percent and trailers gaining 3.3 percent.

Carload freight totaled 343,546 units during the week, up 4.1 percent from a year ago with loadings up 6.5 percent in the West and 1.3 percent in the East. Total volume was estimated at 32.1 billion ton-miles, up 5.6 percent from 2004.

In the carload segment, loadings of petroleum products were up 12.5 percent; coal volume rose 9.2 percent; and crushed stone, sand and gravel gained 7.9 percent. Eight of 19 carload commodity groups declined for the week, with nonmetallic minerals down 6.8 percent and waste and scrap materials off 5.4 percent.

Cumulative volume for the first nine weeks of 2005 totaled 3,016,278 carloads, up 2.7 percent from 2004; 1,939,635 trailers or containers, up 10.3 percent; and total volume of an estimated 280.0 billion ton-miles, up 3.6 percent from last year.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended March 5 carload traffic totaled 69,609 cars, up 4.2 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 43,689 trailers or containers, up 14.3 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first nine weeks of 2005 on the Canadian railroads totaled 592,229 carloads, up 3.2 percent from last year, and 369,644 trailers and containers, up 6.0 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first nine weeks of 2005 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 3,608,507 carloads, up 2.7 percent from last year and 2,309,279 trailers and containers, up 9.5 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended March 5 totaled 9,046 cars, up 3.5 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,970 originated trailers or containers, up 7.0 percent from the ninth week of 2004. For the first nine weeks of 2005, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 78,005 cars, up 7.8 percent from last year, and 34,892 trailers or containers, up 16.0 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 88 percent of U.S. carload freight and 95 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 95 percent and 100 percent. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 90 percent of Canadian rail traffic. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of U.S. intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

The AAR is online at

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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

Spain marks March 11 attacks
on its morning commuters

Spain commemorated the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings on Friday with church bells and silent tributes to the 191 people who died in al-Qa’eda’s worst attack in Europe.

Relatives of some victims stayed home or left the country to avoid reliving raw memories of the attacks, which helped oust a conservative party from power and fueled a year-long political squabble over who was to blame.

Reporting from Madrid, Reuters reporter Elisabeth O’Leary noted, “The world mourns with you,” U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a news conference in Madrid, where other leaders gathered including Afghan President Hamid Karzai and King Mohammed of Morocco.

Flags flew at half-mast at NATO headquarters in Brussels, and a minute’s silence was held in the European Parliament, where schoolchildren took the floor to denounce terrorism.

Some 650 churches throughout the Madrid area rang their bells for five minutes from 7:37 a.m., the time that 10 bombs packed in sports bags began exploding on four commuter trains three days before a general election.

A year later, people left candles and flowers at Madrid’s Atocha station.

One woman collapsed, trembling, and was taken away.

“I think people grew much closer that day because we realized that it could happen to anyone,” Sonia Delgado, a 31-year-old office worker, said at Atocha station.

Trains packed with commuters continued to pull into the station, just as they had done on the fateful day a year ago.

Security was tight for the anniversary, with thousands of police on the streets and a NATO AWACS surveillance plane patrolling Spanish skies.

At midday on Friday, Spain’s King Juan Carlos led the nation in five minutes of silence at the “Forest of the Departed,” a monument where a tree had been planted for each of the 191 dead plus a police special agent who died in a later raid against seven prime suspects who blew themselves up.

The bombings rocked Spain just before the March 14 election, and angry crowds gathered outside offices of the ruling Popular Party the day before the vote, when campaigning is banned. The next day voters backed the Socialist party in an upset that political analysts attributed in part to the way the government at first blamed the Basque separatist group, ETA.

The attacks also reminded voters of the government’s unpopular decision to send troops to Iraq. Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ordered the troops home immediately after taking office.

More than 2,000 people were injured in the blasts and many others still bear psychological scars.

“I am going to pray for their souls and that this never happens again because so many bad things have happened to us and to the Muslims,” said Guillermina Estevez, 59, who lives opposite Atocha station.

Forty-two suspects are in jail in connection with the investigation, most of them Moroccans suspected of being affiliated with international jihad. In a videotape, the bombers claimed the attacks as revenge for Spain sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.

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OPINION...  Opinion...

Oil: our friend, our enemy

By Ken McGarry
Special to Destination:Freedom

Our nation is at crossroads like none other in its history.

Like it or not, world oil production is going to peak, maybe this year or maybe 10 or 15 years from now. When it happens is not as important as the certainty that it will. Oh, and forget about hydrogen.

It’s not an energy source; it’s merely an energy carrier (like a battery). It requires more energy to produce than it delivers, and most hydrogen is produced from natural gas, which is also in decline. Once produced, it does not pack the energy punch of oil and is maddeningly difficult to store, either cryogenically or as a compressed gas. Because of its atomic structure and vapor density, it’s always trying to combine with some other element and always trying to escape its container. Can you imagine “Joe Sixpack” routinely filling his car with liquid hydrogen at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit or as a gas pressurized to 5,000 psi? Part of my job at NASA is dealing with compressed gases. It’s not for the faint of heart or the careless.

What does this have to do with Amtrak and passenger rail in general?

A lot, because of rail’s unique position as the most fuel-efficient mode of transportation (save for walking, horses, bicycles, and wind-powered sailing ships).

So, does that mean that if Amtrak survives the efforts of Bush, Mineta, et al to “reform” it, that we could see a return of the passenger loads seen during the 1973-74 “energy crisis”? Remember, that was just the result of a temporary disruption in oil supply driven by geopolitical factors, i.e. the predominantly Muslim countries of OPEC “punishing” us for our support of Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

No, this time it’s much bigger than that – hugely bigger.

Bigger than the wartime rail traffic of 1944.

This time it’s not just a spigot that’s being turned off. Now, the well, planet earth, is reaching a production plateau. Indeed, there are rumblings that Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar oil field, the world’s largest and in production since 1948, has already peaked. From now on, oil is going to be increasingly harder to find and increasingly more difficult to extract and refine.

Think of the last century of oil production as the picking of the low-hanging fruit; we’re going to have to really stretch to get what’s left. Fossil fuels such as oil are like real estate; they’re not making any more of it. Eventually, you reach a point where the energy required to extract the oil equals or surpasses that contained in the oil itself. On top of that, ever-increasing worldwide oil demand shows little sign of abating.

What does the future hold? Driving, especially American-style, is going to become a luxury to be indulged in only by the well-to-do.


Forget about it!

Fuel is such a large percentage of the airlines’ cost there is no way they will survive. They’re not cutting it today and many weren’t cutting it pre-9/11, pre-$15 billion federal government bailout, and pre-TSA government-financed security.

Do you remember the hue and cry from the airlines when USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta recently proposed a surcharge on airline passengers to help defray just some of the cost of TSA airport security? Even with all this spending, just today (March 10) the Coalition of Airline Pilots Assn. gave the government an overall failing grade on aviation security. How can Mineta then say, with a straight face, it would be cheaper for the government to buy airline tickets for passengers instead of funding Amtrak? Commercial aviation for the masses could be dead within 10 to 15 years.

That leaves us with rail. How in the world will rail be able to shoulder the huge load left by the void of the airlines, the automobile, and the truck?

Unless our present course is changed, the answer is it won’t, especially if the right-wing ideologues currently in control of the White House have their way.

Let me clue you in on something.

President Bush and his ilk don’t want to kill Amtrak because it loses money. Hell, its cost to the treasury is chump change in the comprehensive ocean of federal spending.

No, they want it dead because it is not a private enterprise, just like they want to kill Social Security by chinking away at it with “private accounts.” They’re willing to have the government run up huge deficits to finance that scheme. In their eyes, everything the government runs is bad, and private sector, good. Hang the cost. It’s ideological. Cut taxes, create a deficit crisis, and starve the beast.

Privatization. Privatization. Privatization.

What should we be doing in the transportation arena in the face of ever-increasing oil scarcity?

Immediately begin a transition of our auto industry over to railcar manufacturing. Station capacity is going to have to be greatly expanded. New York’s Penn Station is already strained. How will it handle tomorrow’s traffic?

Atlanta? Peachtree Station is a joke for a city of over 4.1 million (MSA) that prides itself on being world-class.

Chicago? Used to have seven intercity passenger stations. Today, just One, Union Station, and it is near capacity due to Metra traffic.

Also, start rolling out 140-pound continuously welded rail instead of asphalt.

We need to begin adding multiple mainline tracks throughout the country and building entirely new rail lines to accommodate the coming crush of traffic.


Remember, the New York Central had a four-track mainline between New York and Chicago back in the 1940s when our population was just over 100 million. According to the latest U.S. census estimates, we are now hovering around 290 million. So much for America’s formerly low population density.

Every main line ought to be electrified.

Electrification is rail’s real trump card; it allows rail to operate on whatever energy source can be found to generate the electricity it needs, be it hydro, nuclear, gas, or coal. Hard to do that for autos – and impossible for airplanes.

As this new and renewed infrastructure comes online, service levels should be ramped up accordingly. Remember all the schedules in the old Official Guides? Think that and much more. Remember, back in those days most auto travel was on two-lane roads; now we have three times as many people, as anyone who has driven on an Interstate highway lately can attest. We are going to need to replicate the traffic density of NEC between nearly every major city pair just to begin to satisfy a modal shift from road and air to rail.

To borrow a line from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, just preserving the status quo for Amtrak is “Old Advocacy.” The New Advocacy needs to be aggressive in its goals. No more can we content ourselves with “saving” the Three Rivers, or the latest train-off of the day. If that means aligning ourselves in coalitions with the AARP, the Sierra Club, the NRA, or whomever (as long they are not wild-eyed radical fanatics), if they can help us, we must do it. We need to look at the big picture and save our future mobility by greatly increasing rail’s share of the pie.

Mr. McGarry, of Fayetteville, Tenn., has been a NARP member since 1977 and is a former Region 5 director.

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Rail remains vulnerable

By Jim Kouri
Special to Destination:Freedom

The recent discovery of sketches and data of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal on a disk in the home of suspected terrorist Mouhannad Almallah in Spain brought renewed interest in U.S. railway vulnerability and security measures. Grand Central is one of the largest railway centers in the world, with hundreds of thousands of commuters passing through each week.

Two leading experts in railroad security recently warned a rail industry conference of the prospect of future domestic terrorist attacks directed at both passenger and freight railroads. It was also pointed out that significant security vulnerabilities, coupled with funding shortfalls for infrastructure enhancements, combine to make the rail industry a potential target of transnational terrorist groups.

Kim E. Petersen and John P. Hart, both executives with U.S.-based RailSecure, a firm specializing in passenger and freight rail security and counter-terrorism consulting, were speaking before the Rail Industry Safety Conference, jointly hosted by the AAR and ASLRRA.

They described how hundreds of terror attacks have been leveled against the rail industry. There have been more than 181 attacks on trains and related rail targets worldwide between 1998 and 2003, in such countries as Colombia, India, Spain, Pakistan, U.K., U.S., and Venezuela.

The most recent major attack was directed against commuter trains in Spain on March 11, 2004 by persons with ties to al-Qa’ida.

In this most recent incident, 10 bombs placed on four separate trains killed more than 190 persons. U.S. authorities have warned that they have unconfirmed intelligence that terrorists operating in the U.S. have shown an interest in passenger rail operations, as well as freight trains carrying hazardous materials.

During a discussion of past terror incidents, Petersen pointed out that attacks against railroads are more numerous and deadly than those on airports and airplanes. Trains have seen deliberate derailments, attacks by gunfire, hostage taking, bombings, and even an attack with a weapon of mass destruction: the use of Sarin gas – a chemical warfare agent – by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in their attack against the Tokyo subway which killed 11 and injured over 5,500 people.

Petersen made several recommendations designed to mitigate some of the known risks. He suggested that railroad operators “repair or replace dilapidated fencing around rail facilities; install security lighting around facilities and critical infrastructure; replace garbage cans at passenger stations with blast-resistant, transparent trash containers to prevent their being used for concealing improvised explosive devices; install closed-circuit television systems to monitor facilities, tunnels, and bridges; install signs to increase awareness about unattended packages, evacuation procedures, and restricted areas; train railroad staff to identify suspicious behavior, as well as packages or luggage, and improve emergency response actions; and, educate passengers on the need for their vigilance in spotting suspicious persons or items that could represent a threat to public safety.”

Hart said, “In an industry that prides itself on its passenger and employee safety record, significant work is now underway to address emerging threats from terrorism and crime.”

Transnational terrorists have already demonstrated a preparedness to attack commuter, passenger, freight, and intermodal train operations. It is therefore essential that each component of our rail industry complete threat and vulnerability assessments, and begin the process of creating a strong security infrastructure that will provide deterrence to terrorist attacks. At the same time, the federal government must do a better job of allocating counter-terrorism resources to the rail industry.

Each day trains carry ten times more passengers than commercial airlines do, yet the rail industry has received only one percent of the security grant monies awarded to the aviation industry. In light of the tragic events of Madrid, quite clearly some changes in priorities are in order.

Jim Kouri is a vice-president of the National Assn. of Chiefs of Police

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WEGET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

I would have enjoyed your article about people who equip their trucks and SUVs with locomotive horns had I not been aware of a number of thefts of horns from museum locomotives and older units belonging to short line railroads in the last year.

Many of the horns these people are installing on their vehicles appear to be stolen. I can only hope police will rigorously enforce noise ordinances, confiscate the horns, and return them to their rightful owners.

Randolph Resor
Merchantville, N.J.

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End Notes...

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