Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 11, March 17, 2003
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update


April 28, 29

The National Corridors Initiative’s 2003 Conference

Rail Futures:
Building Secure and Successful Transit and Intercity Rail for America

The Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd St., N.W., Washington, D.C.

Keynote Speakers:
Hon. Gov. Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security (Invited)
Amtrak Board Chair John Robert Smith
Amtrak President and CEO David Gunn
Amtrak Board Vice-Chair Michael S. Dukakis
American Public Transportation Assn. President William Millar

Special Conference Session for Journalists and Industry:
The News Media and Transportation – “Making News”

$475 (corporate); $375 (government); $350 (non-profit, union)

Checks should be payable to NCI Inc., 35 Terminal Road, Suite 210, Providence RI. 02905

Arrange hotel accommodations at special low conference rates directly with the Washington Marriott 202-872-1500 fax 202-872-9899 and mention NCI.

Click HERE for more information and registration materials. Register On-Line! (Secure Server!)

Return to index


Iraq map

Iraq is about the size of California, and its railway crosses a great deal of desert.


If war comes, what will Iraq’s railway do?

By Leo King

If the U.S. goes to war in Iraq, the State Enterprise for Iraqi Railways, as the Iraqi State Ry. is formally named, may play a role – but how much of a role remains to be seen. If war comes, look for railroads, roads, bridges, and ports to be ruined, making it extremely difficult to deliver relief supplies.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nation Security Council about a month ago that Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, was storing and hiding weapons of mass destruction in freight cars and trucks. He did not specify which kinds of freight cars, but, most likely, boxcars.

The Turkish Press in Ankara reported on March 6 that U.S. and Turkish officials “agreed to transport military supplies from Iskenderun Harbor to southeastern Anatolia by the Turkish State Rys.”

If the Turkish government gives permission to dispatch the materials – including weapons and ammunition, equipment, caravans, mobile kitchens and toilets, American officials will carry them “35 wagon [freight] trains for each 300 locomotives and to be hired from the Turkish State Rys.”

The jury is still out on whether American soldiers will be permitted to use Turkey’s southern border with Iraq as a place to open a northern front.

Even though potential war looms in Iraq, railroaders and politicians in Iraq and Iran are making plans to move freight.

The Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) – Iran’s state-run news service – reported on March 13 from Tehran that the secretary of the country’s free trade zones (FTZs), Hossein Nasiri, said on Tuesday (March 12) that “The establishment of the Minoo Free Trade Zone and the link-up of the Khorramshahr railroads to the Iraqi railway network will shorten the usual transit time for goods to reach the Mediterranean region.”

The story was reported in its English language online website.

He said Minoo’s “favorable environment, significant oil industry, geographical proximity to Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia make it an ideal place for establishment of a free trade zone.”

Nasiri noted the “Lack of the needed infrastructure” to supply water and electricity “and absence of a railroad transport system are some of the problems faced by the Minoo FTZ,” adding that establishing the zone “will begin soon after feasibility studies are completed.”

Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly (the Majlis) approved a bill on March 9 to establish the country’s fifth free trade and industrial zone on the island of Minoo. According to the bill, the Minoo FTZ will be located between the cities of Abadan and Khorramshahr and in the neighborhood of Iraq and Kuwait.

Iraq RR system

This simplified map shows the Iraqi State Ry. surrounding Baghdad, the nation’s capital.


Information about Iraqi State Ry. is hard to come by, but an Internet search on Thursday gleaned some details –, part of, yielded a few facts via the U.S. Library of Congress.

For example, the total railroad length is 1,262 miles, all of which is now standard gauge (56-1/2 inches or 1.435-meters). Another tidbit is that a rail link between Iraq and Syria was restored in 2000 after 19 years.

Details from May 1988 –some of which is the most recent information available – explained that Al Jumhuriyah al Iraqiyah, as the nation is formally named (Locals simply call it “Al Iraq”), possessed two separate railroads at independence, one standard gauge and one-meter gauge. Iraq gained its independence from Great Britain on October 3, 1932 through a League of Nations mandate.

The standard gauge line ran north from Baghdad through Mosul to the Syrian border and to an eventual connection with the Turkish railroad system, and the meter gauge line ran south from Baghdad to Basra.

Because the two systems were incompatible until the 1960s, cargo had to be transloaded at Baghdad to be transported between the two halves of the country.

The Soviet Union helped extend the standard gauge Iraqi State Ry. system to Basra, and by 1977, fully 702 miles of Iraq’s 988 miles of railroad were standard gauge. By 1985, some 930 miles were standard gauge.

In that year, 440 standard-gauge locomotives that moved more than 1 billion tons of freight per mile were traveling the railroad. Contractors from South Korea in 1987 completed a 157-mile line linking Kirkuk and Al Hadithah after five years of work.

Built at a cost of $855 million (in U.S. dollars), the line was designed to carry more than 1 million passengers and more than 3 million tons of freight annually. The system included maintenance and dispatching centers and more than 30 bridges crossing the historic Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

By the end of the century, Iraq planned to triple the line’s passenger capacity and to double its freight capacity. A 160-mile line, built by a Brazilian company and extending from Baghdad to Qusaybah on the Syrian border, opened in the same year. In 1987 Indian contractors finished work on a line between Al Musayyib and Samarra.

Iraqi plans also called for replacing the entire stretch of railroad between Mosul and Basra with modern, high-speed track, feeding all lines entering Baghdad into a 70-mile loop around the city, and improving bridges, freight terminals, and passenger stations. In addition, Iraq has conducted intermittent negotiations over the years with Turkey, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia concerning establishing rail links to complete a continuous Europe-Persian Gulf railroad route.

The total area of the Middle Eastern nation measures 271,584 square miles, of which 268,532 is land, and the rest is water. It borders the Persian Gulf between Iran and Kuwait. It also borders Iran along 906 miles; Jordan, 115 miles; Kuwait, 151 miles; Saudi Arabia, 506 miles; Syria, 177 miles; and Turkey, 206 miles. Baghdad is its capital.

The country’s population, according to a July 2002 estimate, was 24,001,816 people, of whom most were Muslim 97 percent (Shi’a 60-65 percent, Sunni 32-37 percent), Christian or other denomination totaled about 3 percent.

The country spends “dinars.”

Its terrain is mostly broad plains, but with reedy marshes along its Iranian border in the south with large flooded areas, but also mountains along its borders with Iran and Turkey. It is mostly a desert climate, ranging from mild to cool winters with dry, hot, cloudless summers. Its northern mountainous regions along the Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters with occasionally heavy snows that melt in early spring, sometimes causing extensive flooding in central and southern Iraq.

Looking around some other parts of the region, we learned from the pages of the Kankakee, Ill., Journal News of March 3, that Kuwait is not quite the size of New Jersey and has 10 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. That means a nation whose desert climate forces it to import almost all of its food, and which has no railways or inland waterways, records unemployment and inflation below 2 percent in recent years.

The Pakistan Daily Times, another English language online publication, reported on February 22 from New Delhi that soliciting India’s support for an attack on Iraq, the U.S. “offered to dish out $2.5 billion, which Baghdad currently owes the Indian government.”

The article added, “India has also been offered a major chunk of the reconstruction-of-Iraq pie after war, taking into account the fact that India railways and construction companies had worked in Iraq earlier.” The Times was quoting a news report published by a national daily in New Delhi, The Asian Age, also published on February 22.

The newspapers noted, “Oil, of course, remains a major lure with Washington, making it clear to all countries in the world that the proceeds of war would be shared with those who take a clear stand supporting the U.S. today,” added the report.

“India has been assured its oil supply from Iraq will be protected although no one is willing to guarantee the barrels will be sold at the earlier throwaway prices,” according to the report.

President Bush said in a televised news conference a fortnight ago that the oil is Iraqi property, and will remain so after a war with the U.S.

Purdue Univ., in Indiana, reported on February 19 through the pages of its student newspaper, The Exponent Online, a new history professor at the university is from India. Dr. Tithi Bhattacharya grew up in India and Britain, and her mother and father are both historians. Her aunt is also in academia and was a minister of Parliament in India.

Bhattacharya said she does not support a war, but that if the U.S. had smart bombs that could eliminate only Saddam, that would be fine with her. She said she was opposed to bombing Afghanistan, lamenting, “They don’t even have railways.”

Return to index
Union charges Amtrak diverts funds

Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D) of Massachusetts has asked federal auditors in the USDOT to examine the commuter rail contract between Amtrak and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority after union officials alleged that Amtrak has used money for workers’ pay increases to help cover a $2.1 million budget miscalculation.

“It’s pretty serious in that you’re talking wages here,” said Capuano, who serves on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which has oversight over railroads.

According to the Boston Globe of March 12, officials from the Transport Workers Union of America (TWUA) said last week that they want the audit to focus on what happened to the 5 percent annual increase in how much the MBTA pays Amtrak to operate the T’s commuter lines, which it has done since 1986.

Amtrak employees who work on the T’s commuter rail lines have been without a contract since December 1999 and have not had a raise, outside of cost-of-living increases, in 3-1/2 years.

The yearly 5 percent increases in what the MBTA pays Amtrak, which labor leaders said they did not know about, were revealed last December when MBTA general manager Michael H. Mulhern told a legislative panel the T had been paying Amtrak the annual increase to help cover “increased labor costs.”

Union officials said last month they fear that Amtrak will leave Boston when the MBTA contract expires in June without giving raises to T workers. They also said they believe Amtrak officials are using the money to make back about $2.1 million in underestimated costs.

“Amtrak has allegedly taken the position that, if they do not have a new collective bargaining agreement with commuter rail workers in Massachusetts by the time their contract with the MBTA expires, they owe those workers nothing in the way of retroactive pay for the years in which the MBTA has been giving them money for these increased labor costs,” TWUA railroad division manager Charles Moneypenny wrote to Capuano February 27.

Capuano said he had already given the USDOT’s inspector general an outline of the issue.

Amtrak officials said on March 11 no pay had been withheld. The profit margin on the T contract is minimal, Amtrak spokesman Clifford Black said. He said the agreement paid for cost-of-living pay increases for employees and unforeseen higher costs for things such as overtime, fringe benefits, and medical coverage.

“The other issue is did Amtrak pay our employees according to the collective bargaining agreements that we had with them? We did and continue to,” he said.

“There’s no money sitting anywhere,” Black added and declared, “We’re not leaving Massachusetts with our workers’ money. Not at all, and we welcome an audit.”

Amtrak’s contract to run the MBTA’s commuter rail lines ends June 30 when a new contractor, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad, takes over the nation’s fifth largest commuter rail system under a $1.07 billion five-year contract.

Return to index
VRE searches for new operating company

Virginia Railway Express is threatening to end its contract with Amtrak unless it gets assurances that Amtrak’s financial problems will not interfere with the Northern Virginia commuter rail service.

VRE officials said they would seek a different contractor to operate the commuter trains in June if they do not reach a new agreement, according to the Washington Times.

Amtrak provides maintenance, crewmembers and access to Union Station for VRE under the $13.5-million-a-year contract. It provides personnel or service to 11 commuter rail agencies nationwide.

“We just don’t want to be surprised because of the pending changes to Amtrak that could force the VRE to operate in a less than acceptable manner,” said Pete Sklannik Jr., VRE’s chief operating officer.

He was referring to a move in Congress to reorganize Amtrak because of its persistent operating losses. The railroad ran a $1.2 billion deficit last year.

An alternative being considered among Senate and House Republicans leading the restructuring drive would end all Amtrak’s cross-country and long-distance routes.

Instead, the railroad would oversee a series of high-speed regional networks. The Northeast Corridor would be one of them. Others would operate between major cities in California, Florida and the Midwest.

In July, when Amtrak came within days of stopping all passenger service, the near shutdown shook the confidence of commuter rail systems that depend on Amtrak for service or infrastructure.

“When this whole shutdown scenario almost happened, we found out how vulnerable we were,” Sklannik said, then asking, “What will the story be a couple of years from now?”

Sklannik said a private company is a possibility as a replacement for Amtrak in Virginia when the current contract expires in May.

Connex, one of the world’s largest contract transit operators, is a possible bidder on the VRE contract. Other bidders could come from freight railroad companies, most of which operated passenger rail service before Congress privatized railroads in the early 1980s.

Maryland Rail Commuter’s contract with Amtrak expired last year and has been extended on a month-to-month basis. Amtrak operates MARC’s Penn Line between Union Station in Washington and Penn Station in Baltimore under a $22 million-a-year contract. MARC is negotiating a new contract but has no plans to replace Amtrak.

“We have a solid working relationship with Amtrak,” said Suzanne Bond, Maryland Transit Administration spokeswoman.

Amtrak officials said they are confident the VRE contract will continue.

“I’m not aware of that contract being in jeopardy,” said Amtrak’s Cliff Black in Washington.

“Amtrak feels that it is the best operator for VRE because Amtrak owns Union Station and can be the vehicle through which VRE and MARC can coordinate their services,” Black said.

He also said Amtrak saves VRE money by providing the most qualified railroad operating personnel.

The $1.05 billion appropriation by Congress for Amtrak in fiscal year 2003 eliminated any risks of a shutdown soon, Black said. He added, “We feel this year we are in good shape to finish out the fiscal year,” he said. “We are hopeful that next year’s budget request will be better.”

Return to index
Amtrak extends Toronto, Grand Rapids service

Amtrak will continue its Chicago-Toronto service and its Chicago-Grand Rapids, Mich., service past the March 31 expiration of its contract with the state, according to state Rep. Lauren Hager.

Hager said Thursday that Amtrak agreed to keep operating both lines for 45 days beyond its contract expiration in response to efforts by legislators and state officials.

On Friday, Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black confirmed to D:F that the service would, indeed, be extended.

“Amtrak and Michigan DOT agreed to operate Pere Marquette and International at least 45 days after March 31,” he said.

Black added, “Sufficient state funding exists to cover the cost of this extension, and one or more additional extensions, if necessary – although no agreement beyond May 15 is currently in force.”

Amtrak had been meeting with Michigan DOT officials and the state legislature about the future of Michigan train service.

The railroad says it needs $7 million annually to continue operating the two routes, but a state cap allows MDOT to give the railway no more than $5.7 million. The legislature created the cap in 2001.

Hager introduced a bill to remove the cap and allow the MDOT to work with Amtrak for the rest of this fiscal year.

“We’re very encouraged by the actions” of Reps Lauren Hager and Bill Huizenga, both Republicans, “who introduced legislation to remove the operating spending cap so that these trains may finish out the fiscal year,” Black said.

Return to index
Bombardier’s JetTrain tours Canada

Bombardier JetTrain gas turbine high-speed locomotive was unveiled to invited guests in Montreal on March 12. Similar showings will occur on March 19 in Toronto and on April 7 in Calgary. The carbuilder conducted a limited showing at its La Pocatière facility around the end of January. The trainset was formally unveiled at a major event at Washington, D.C.’s Union Station on October 15.

A spokesman for Transport 2000, a Canadian pro-rail organization, said the locomotive is “probably a key part of the strategy for the fast travel times between Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec and other corridor cities described in VIA Chairman Jean Pelletier’s talk to the Canadian Club on March 10 and in the Minister of Transport’s press conference on 25 February.

The locomotive and a former Amtrak Metroliner car used for test instrumentation were in Ottawa a fortnight ago between test runs on VIA Rail’s improved 100 mph (160 km/h) Alexandria subdivision. The train is capable of 150 mph sustained speeds.

The JetTrain avoids the need for electrification when upgrading or building new track for moderately high-speed rail, some half as much again faster than VIA’s conventional operations. It uses a Pratt & Whitney turbine aircraft engine. A Q-400 70-seat turboprop aircraft, for example, carries two.

Return to index
LEGAL LINES...  Legal lines...

Railroads deemed liable for ‘mental torment;’
asbestos is at heart of high court’s decision

Railroad workers who have a non-cancerous illness because of exposure to asbestos on the job can recover damages for mental torment over the prospect of actually getting cancer itself, the Supreme Court ruled March 10.

In a 5-to-4 decision that was anxiously awaited by insurance and business interests for its potential impact outside the railroad industry, the court upheld a jury award of nearly $5 million for six former railroad workers from West Virginia who had developed a non-cancerous lung disease, asbestosis, after being exposed to asbestos dust.

Asbestosis itself does not lead to cancer, reported The New York Times, but people who have the condition are statistically vulnerable to cancer, including a deadly form called mesothelioma, which attacks the chest cavity and causes excruciating pain that is relieved only by death.

“Heightened vulnerability to cancer, as one court observed, ‘must necessarily have a most depressing effect upon the injured person,’” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority, quoting from an earlier decision. Invoking the metaphor of the sword of Damocles, she continued, “he knows it is there, but not whether or when it will fall.”

The decision contained what Justice Ginsburg called “an important reservation.” That is, the person suing for damages must prove that “his alleged fear is genuine and serious.”

The case, Norfolk & Western Ry. Co. vs. Ayers (No. 01-963), is among a multitude of legal actions arising from the use of asbestos. Once widely and openly used for fireproofing and other industrial purposes, asbestos was found decades ago to cause several serious illnesses. The latency period for some cases has been 30 to 40 years, accounting for many instances in which factory workers exposed during World War II became ill in late middle age.

A conductor currently working for Amtrak observed, “Until litigation started about the disease, railroad brake shoes were made with asbestos. Trainmen often working out of a caboose behind a 100-car freight train inhaled the brake shoe smoke containing asbestos. There was no way to avoid inhaling the fiber. As a result, newer shoes were created without using asbestos, although they don’t last as long. Of course, you could extend that argument even further about a member of the public riding in old-style passenger cars as well.”

Negligence claims against employers are still increasing, with thousands of new ones filed each year, including a significant number by people who are currently healthy and may never become ill.

The Bush administration had joined the West Virginia case on behalf of the railroad, since it involves the application of the 1908 Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), which governs the rights of railroad workers. While rail workers are the only people immediately affected by the recent ruling, there could be a wider impact in years to come, since interpretations of the 1908 law often influence the evolution of state negligence law, as well as the application of other federal liability statutes.

Justices John Paul Stevens, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter and Clarence Thomas agreed with Ginsburg. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote a dissent joined by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen G. Breyer.

All nine justices agreed on a separate issue: that the 1908 law allows the affected workers to collect their entire damages directly from the railroad, thus placing the burden of seeking money from other negligent parties on the railroad.

In his dissent, Justice Kennedy noted that all but one of the six railroad workers had a long history of tobacco use. He worried, too, that compensating people like the plaintiffs in the West Virginia case would exhaust resources for payment, thus denying damages to people whose injuries were real rather than speculative.

“Today’s decision is not employee-protecting,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “It is employee-threatening.”

The court ruled several years ago that mere exposure to asbestos was not sufficient to establish liability under federal law. When the justices heard the West Virginia case on November 6, the plaintiffs’ counsel argued – successfully, as it turned out – that the plight of the six workers was different, because they were actually sick and had good reason to fear they might get cancer.

The Supreme Court is online at

Return to index

Fat highway bill, and – oh, yes – transit too

By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON-- The bipartisan leadership of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee announced a bill this past week that would raise the gasoline tax to generate revenues that would “substantially increase the nation’s investment in highways and transit projects to $375 billion over the next six years.”

However, most of the outline in a four-page release put out by the Republican committee chairman and the ranking Democrat dealt with the case for pouring more concrete for roads. Transit’s share was unclear.

Traffic congestion is “the single largest obstacle to transportation and economic efficiency,” Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) declared.

“More importantly, families are losing what precious little time they have together because they are stuck in traffic on their way home from work,” added ranking Democrat James Oberstar (D-Minn.).

The lawmakers produced a poll showing “voters will support a tax hike if the issue is important to them and they are convinced the money will be spent wisely.”

Young and Oberstar have a selling job on their hands. Congress is in no mood to raise taxes right now. Hiking taxes when the economy is not exactly going full tilt is considered in many precincts very much like pouring water on a drowning man.

Add to that the fact that states are running short or money. Unlike the feds, most states are required by law to balance their budgets, and more than a few of them are considering, wisely or unwisely, the possibility of raising state gas taxes. For the feds to add yet another tax on top of that could have political consequences.

Behind the scenes, the above-mentioned rebellious junior colleagues on the committee are getting the “carrot and stick” treatment. The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reports Young is leaning hard on reluctant colleagues in the House, reminding them of certain pet projects in their districts, and wouldn’t it be nice if “we could all just get along.” As the late House Speaker Sam Rayburn once put it, “Around here, you’ve got to go along to get along.”

According to the Zogby poll released by the committee, 87 percent of Americans support new highway and transit projects in their districts. 67 percent feel that America is facing a transportation capacity crisis on our roads, airports and mass transit systems. 64 percent would go along with a two-cent per gallon increase in the gas tax if the money was used exclusively to improve roads, bridges and mass transit. 70 percent tell pollsters that highways, bridges, and mass transit should be considered important to homeland security and national defense.

Zogby has a good reputation amongst pollsters in an inexact science whose accuracy record has been questioned in recent years. The entity that commissions the poll usually has a strong voice in framing the questions the pollsters ask.

For example, when the poll shows 81 percent say increased transportation investment will strengthen the economy, the question that is apparently not addressed is whether many of those polled had actually given much thought or focus on the relation of the transportation spending to the nation’s economic health. That has usually been a matter of concern to professionals and think tanks.

As polls have proliferated in recent years, they have become more controversial.

On the outer jacket of the book, Mobocracy by author and journalist Matthew Robinson, there is this statement: “Never before in the history of our nation have public opinion polls played such a central role in the way policy is molded and conceived, and at no time has there been a more dangerous and misleading abuse of public opinion than now.”

The book, according to the jacket promo, “reveals how our country’s democratic process has been corrupted by the mob rule of an ill-informed electorate whose opinions are trumpeted at the expense of thoughtful reporting.”

That is a reference to the way the presumably disinterested media handles the polls. It does not begin to address the way polls are handled by a government entity (such as a Congressional committee) with an agenda.

D:F contacted the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), which had just concluded a legislative conference prior to the committee’s news conference.

“With public transportation ridership at the highest levels in forty years, and with documented transit needs in excess of $43 billion a year APTA proposes to double the federal transit program to a $14.3 billion program level by FY 2009,” reads the APTA statement.

Neither the committee nor APTA was able to give us a clear answer as to exactly how much money is involved in the “transit” element of the committee’s $375 billion legislation. An APTA spokeswoman did tell us there are many proposals out there on the table.

In suburban Maryland, just outside Washington, there is a plan for a light rail project known as the inner Purple Line. It would connect several important lines of the rapid transit Metro “subway” from New Carrollton to Silver spring to Bethesda.

The project has the backing of high profile business, labor, and civic associations, but county and state officials are pushing alternatives that are more expensive and would take far longer to build, but would attract more marginally more riders. The latest idea thrown into the stew of local debate is a “bus rapid transit” line, which would be even less expensive than light rail.

One thing that is holding up a decision on federal involvement here is the inability of key state and local players to come to an agreement. The light rail inner Purple Line has undergone thorough study and review. The alternatives, including “bus rapid transit,” have not.

There are projects like this all over the country – some as controversial, some with a better local consensus among policy-makers. APTA has recommended 40 proposals “to improve program delivery and project oversight in key areas.”

The House Transportation Committee places its heaviest rhetorical emphasis on highways and roads.

The Wall Street Journal is skeptical.

“Thought last year’s $173 billion Porky Pig farm bill was bad?” the WSJ asked rhetorically in a Wednesday editorial. “Better sit down for this one.”

“Mr. Young,” the newspaper stated, “needs all this tax revenue to finance a transportation bill that would be the biggest public works spending measure in modern times, and maybe going back to ancient Rome. The price tag is $375 billion over six years, a whopping 60 percent increase over the last highway bill that was itself a big budget-buster.”

Whether one agrees with that analysis, the heaviest emphasis by the committee leadership appears to be on highways and concrete. Little is specified about mass transit in general and even less on rail transit. Some transit backers are scratching their heads wondering if what they believe to be the unmet needs of mass transit fit into legislation that a major national newspaper calls “the biggest public works spending measure in modern times.”

On Thursday, a subcommittee of Congressman Young’s panel held a hearing on the TEA-21 transit bill up for reauthorization by fiscal year 2004, which begins October 1. At that session, there was some possible hint as to the highways-transit ratio. A committee release mentioned that DOT estimates a cost of $106.9 billion to improve highways and bridges and $20.6 billion for transit.

That is just for starters. It is DOT’s emphasis. It does not say that ratio plays out in the Young bill, much less what will happen after both the House and Senate have dealt with this matter.

Return to index
Berms shield commuters from blight

Gazing at one of the huge mounds of dirt NJ Transit has erected near his East Camden home, Juan Marrero smiles, shrugs and says it’s not the worst thing that’s ever happened to his neighborhood.

The barrier should help with the noise from the South Jersey light rail trains, the 51-year-old native of Puerto Rico said through an interpreter.

But Marrero suspects that’s not the only reason the dirt was trucked in, wrote the Camden Courier-Post on March 8.

On one side of the berms are the newly laid tracks of the 34-mile, Camden-to-Trenton passenger service that is expected to start running this summer.

On the other side are abandoned houses, junk-strewn lots and potholed streets.

“It’s like covering an ugly person’s face,” Marrero said of the berms, which run for more than a quarter-mile.

Workers added a chain-link fence on the neighborhood side of the berms after children took to climbing the piles, Marrero observed.

Camden City Councilman Frank Moran said he’s worried New Jersey Transit (NJT) is trying to “camouflage” his district.

“Absolutely not,” said Richard Sarles, NJT’s assistant executive director.

“This was an opportunity to use excavated soil to create both a visual and noise separation from the Conrail switching yard.”

If it’s noise NJT is addressing, Moran said, he’s appreciative, “but with piles of dirt? Aren’t we worthy of the kind of sound barriers the state put up along Interstate 295?”

He said he’s still concerned the berms amount to a shield in reverse.

“We don’t want to hide this,” he said, standing in a blighted area. “We’ve got issues here. People coming from Trenton need to see what’s happening in Camden.”

There are no sound barriers along other parts of the line, such as Palmyra, Riverton and Burlington City, where houses are just as close to the line and where residents have raised concerns about noise and safety.

Just north of the berms in Pennsauken, fir trees have been planted between the tracks and a residential area. There are berms near the line in Florence Township, NJT spokeswoman Penny Bassett-Hackett said.

For the Camden stretch, 123,760 cubic yards of dirt was used, she said.

Sarles said both the dirt and the vacant land to put it on were available in Camden.

“There was formerly a lot of junk on the land (where the berms now sit in East Camden),” he said. “We cleaned that up and brought in soil.”

He said the berms were meant to shield neighborhoods from Pavonia Yard, a freight yard that begins near Federal Street and River Road in Camden and extends north to Pennsauken.

He couldn’t speak on the lack of a shield during the decades when Conrail owned the tracks and the yard, only on what NJT did after it bought them, he said.

Most of the dirt came from work in the city of Camden, he said, with “maybe a little bit from Burlington County.”

Sarles said NJT worked with what it had.

“We didn’t have to haul the dirt too far and we used it to improve the neighborhood.”

“We’re going to plant grass on it, and shrubs,” Sarles said.

Return to index
High costs put BART extension at risk

A Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) extension from Fremont to San Jose will cost $2.6 billion more than voters were told in late 2000, according to a report released Thursday by a transit advocacy group that opposes the extension.

The overruns threaten to scuttle voter-approved South Bay bus and light rail service and jeopardize the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s plans to electrify Caltrain, suggested the Transportation and Land Use Coalition, reports the Oakland Tribune.

“VTA does not have sufficient funding for both the BART to San Jose project and to fulfill the basic mission of it’s (long range plan),” the report said.

It’s an old argument, but for the first time opponents have attached an estimate to their claims. The report cites unaccounted loans, inflation and reimbursements to BART for bumping the cost by $2 billion. Unforeseen operating expenses could squander – their term – another $528 million, bringing the total cost of building and running a 20-mile extension from Warm Springs to Santa Clara to more than $7 billion.

Construction costs alone would be 50 percent more than the $4 billion figure that Santa Clara County voters accepted when they overwhelmingly passed a sales tax to pay for it. Project supporters from transit agencies such as BART and VTA to politicians in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties all say that it is too early to project real costs.

Preliminary design work has only just begun and environmental studies are still under way. A decision to build may be two years off and the earliest the line could be finished is 2012.

“In a soft economy, this is a pretty soft target,” said Fremont BART Director Tom Blalock. “This is 10 years out. How can anybody say that other transit will suffer and that we can’t do anything about it?”

San Mateo County Supervisor Mike Nevin agrees.

“I’m not threatened by BART,” he said, referring to the claim that Caltrain improvements are in jeopardy. “We’ll watch our interests very closely on the Peninsula.”

David Vossbrink, spokesman for San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales said, “You don’t make half-century decisions based on the immediate economy. You don’t plan your summer vacation with your bank balance in December.”

He and others said it’s too early to break faith with voters, who chose to build BART.

“Let’s not kill this thing too early. San Jose is the biggest city in Northern California and BART is the biggest transit system. Connecting the two just makes sense,” said Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman Randy Rentschler, promising the agency would not let South Bay transit suffer at the expense of BART.

Return to index
Ottawa council okays light-rail overhaul plan

Ottawa, Ontario city councilors unanimously passed a plan to significantly overhaul the city’s urban transit system February 26.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported the new plan would build dual-line light rail across the city, and will include expanding electrified light rail and bus Transitway services as far as Barrhaven and Cumberland, over a period of 20 years, and at a cost of $150 million per year.

The plan is to make the entire line dual track and run it right through the downtown.

“We now have the golden opportunity of implementing, at a time of our growth when it’s the [most] prudent to do so,” says Ned Lathrop, the general manager in charge of the city’s rapid transit plan.

Lathrop says the plan is the most effective way to move a population that’s expected to grow to more than 1 million over the next 20 years – but the question of funding the plan remains.

The federal government has put $3 billion on the table over the next decade for projects like Ottawa’s rapid transit system, but only $100 million is up for grabs this year, and Ottawa will be competing with every other city in Canada for that money.

The city will use the plan as a priority when applying for infrastructure money from provincial and federal governments. Such emphasis means roads will have to take a back seat, said Mayor Bob Chiarelli.

“In the course of the last two years most of our priority projects have been roads. Now we’re saying it’s time to turn around and put the priority on transit,” the mayor said.

The city could also try to pay for a portion of the transit plan through loans, however, city hall is moving to a pay-as-you-go approach to capital spending.

Private-public partnerships are also a possibility, and are regarded as attractive in the city’s draft official plan.

Pushing ahead with the transit plan doesn’t mean the city can forget about the needs of people in cars, said Chiarelli.

“I think it indicates a dedication to public transit, but it’s not to the elimination of new roads,” he added, noting, “What’s unclear is whether there will be enough money available from senior levels of government to effectively do both. I think it indicates a dedication to public transit, but it’s not to the elimination of new roads.”

Still unclear is whether there will be enough money available from senior levels of government to effectively do both.

Return to index
AG says using road funds for rail is okay

New Hampshire Attorney General Peter Heed’s office said March 11 that the use of state highway fund money to support a commuter rail project in Nashua is legal, according to a report by Kevin Landrigan that appeared in The Telegraph of Nashua.

Assistant AG Craig Donais asked a Merrimack County Superior Court judge to dismiss the lawsuit that the New Hampshire Motor Transport Assn. brought in December to halt spending.

The relevant part of the state constitution permits spending highway fund money for such projects, Donais wrote in his filing for NHDOT Commissioner Carol Murray.

“It is the state’s position that Part II, Article 6-A allows for expenditure of funds related to and necessary for highway improvement projects including the Nashua Rail Extension project,” Donais wrote.

A structuring conference between the lawyers for both sides will be scheduled soon. The lawsuit is expected to come before Associate Justice Edward Fitzgerald, who has handled the case in the past. Robert Sculley, executive director of the trucking lobby, said nothing in the state’s response changed his optimism about prevailing in court.

“I feel really good with our position based on how we viewed the state’s response,” Robert Sculley said.

The lawsuit claims that spending $1.5 million in highway fund money for the rail project violated the state constitution because it requires that gasoline taxes and motor vehicle fees must be spent only in support of roads and bridges. Donais argued the truckers failed to state a claim, lack a controversy that is ripe and have failed to exhaust administrative remedies to block the project. The state response also asserts certain immunity from liability for such a claim.

The truckers countered in their lawsuit that the state legislature killed legislation three times in the 1990s amending the Constitution to permit the use of highway fund money to support public transit.

Nashua Mayor Bernie Streeter has predicted the lawsuit will fail. Recently, Streeter took steps to revive a $79,000 consultant’s contract that would complete the environmental study of the desired site for a rail station on property off East Spit Brook Road. The Executive Council voted last fall, 3-2, to deny the contract. The majority cited the impending lawsuit as a reason not to spend additional highway fund money until this legal dispute is settled.

Gov. Craig Benson has included in a proposed two-year state public works budget $3.5 million to buy a south Nashua site for a rail station and adjacent parking spaces. Streeter has said the project cannot receive building permits without the environmental study contract.

Murray proposes to use highway fund money as the 20 percent state match for this project, which ultimately could cost $60 million to $75 million.

The remainder would come from federal grants. The plan was to commit up to $13 million over the next three years, according to DOT administrator Christopher Morgan. The state’s Congressional delegation, led by U.S. Rep. Charles Bass, has obtained millions in aid, including a recent $3 million grant contained in a federal budget bill. The lawsuit notes there is discussion about a commuter rail line down the middle of a widened Interstate 93 from Salem to Manchester and there are calls to bring rail riders from Concord to Lebanon, too.

Return to index
Faster trains going through Canada

Central Canada eventually will have faster train service even though Ottawa didn’t include the funding in last month’s federal budget, Via Rail chairman Jean Pelletier said Last week.

“Our project is reasonable and responsible,” Pelletier said March 10 following a speech to the Canadian Club in Montreal.

Pelletier, who is Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s former chief of staff, said circumstances – including difficulties faced by airlines to provide short-haul service and efforts to improve the environment – ultimately will push the government to act.

The crown corporation has requested about $3 billion to acquire trains that will be faster, although they won’t achieve European high-speed standards, the Canadian Press reported.

Pelletier said Via’s request represents about a quarter of the $12 billion to $15 billion cost for a system similar to France’s high-speed TGV.

“I’m confident that this mandate we have asked for will be granted (by the government),” he later told reporters.

Upgraded trains would cut the travel time between Montreal and Toronto by one to three hours. Toronto to Montreal is about the same distance as Chicago to Cleveland.

Transport Minister David Collenette recently said he expects a high-speed rail corridor from Quebec City through Montreal and Toronto to Windsor will be a reality this decade.

Pelletier said he supports intermodal service using trains, planes and buses, and doesn’t want to start a war of words with Air Canada or providers of other modes of transportation.

“We have no interest in engaging in a game of tug o’ war and squabbling with the other carriers over who is entitled to what based on resources, infrastructure and sector of operation,” he said as Montreal-based transportation giant Bombardier unveiled its new turbine-powered train, dubbed JetTrain.

Via’s commitment to intermodal service could, for example, allow Ottawa residents to take a train to Montreal before catching a flight to Europe.

Via Rail boosted ridership last year by 10 per cent over 2001 in the important Quebec-Windsor corridor. Preliminary year-end results showed revenues increased to a record $270 million, marking the 12th consecutive year of revenue growth for the train operator.

Return to index


APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

Here are some other transit headlines, 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


APTA Stresses Importance of Research Funding at House Hearing

At a March 4 hearing before the Highways, Transit and Pipelines Subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, APTA President William W. Millar testified about the sizable returns from a relatively small federal investment in transit research and training, and called for an increase in funds aimed at solving the industry’s many unmet research and education needs.

Millar joined other representatives of the federal government and public and private sector transportation agencies at the hearing, chaired by U.S. Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.). The speakers described the need to increase funding for future transportation research, development, and education programs in the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which expires in September.

Petri said surface transportation research, technology, and education programs conducted at the federal, state, and university levels “are critical components in the successful development, construction, and operation of a national transportation system.”

TEA 21 provided funding between Fiscal Year 1998 and FY 2003 for research, development, training, and educational efforts related to highway and transit safety, Intelligent Transportation Systems technologies, technology deployment, and workforce development issues. U.S. DOT agencies direct the use of TEA 21-funded research funds, which are used by research organizations including the Transit Cooperative Research Program, National Transit Institute, National Planning and Research Program that include Easter Seals Project ACTION, Rural Transportation Assistance Program, and University Transportation Research programs.

Return to index


Congressional Staffers Lay Out Reauthorization Process to AASHTO

U.S. House and Senate authorizing committees plan to complete legislation to reauthorize the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century before the act expires on Sept. 30, according to staffers from the authorizing committees who spoke at a Feb. 27 session during the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials’ annual Washington Briefing.

Two panels of congressional staffers, representing views from authorizing committees in the U.S. Senate and House, presented timetables for drafting a TEA 21 reauthorization bill and discussed other TEA 21 issues.

Ruth Van Mark, majority deputy staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said that committee has already begun drafting a bill, and hopes to have it marked up by Memorial Day.

On the House side, Joyce Rose, majority staff member for highways, transit and pipelines with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the committee’s chairman, U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), wants the chamber to pass its reauthorization bill before the August recess, with the House-Senate conference committee convening after Labor Day. She highlighted the importance of getting a bill done on time, saying that the budget guarantees would expire along with TEA 21 at the end of September.

Return to index


Gov. Patton Addresses NGA’s TEA 21 Reauthorization Policy

Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton, chairman of the National Governors Assn., presented the National Governors Association’s policy on reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century in his comments February 26 before the American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation Officials in Washington. NGA approved its policy position during its Winter Meeting, Feb. 22 to 25 in Washington.

“We strongly believe that TEA 21 created an important framework and precedent that must be continued and built on in the next federal authorization bill,” Patton said. “TEA 21 significantly increased investment in our nation’s transportation system by increasing funding levels to help meet our transportation needs. The governors believe this trend must be continued and strongly oppose efforts to reduce program levels.”

The NGA proposal, as described by Patton, calls for the continuation of flexibility among federal, state, and local agencies, and the guarantee that all highway user fees deposited into the Highway Trust Fund be invested in the federal transit and highway programs. This policy, Patton noted, “has provided states with improved funding stability…and has allowed us to do a much better job of planning and managing our long-term capital investments.”

Return to index


Canby Is New President of STPP

The Surface Transportation Policy Project in Washington announces the appointment of Anne P. Canby, former head of state DOTs in Delaware and New Jersey, as its president, effective April 1. She succeeds David Burwell, who was made a senior fellow at the Prague Institute for Global Urban Development in January.

Canby served as secretary of Delaware DOT from 1993 to 2000, presiding over the transformation of a traditional highway agency into a multi-modal mobility provider. She is a member of APTA’s Land Use and Development Subcommittee, and APTA honored her with the State Distinguished Service Award in 2000.

Earlier, she was a deputy assistant secretary of USDOT, commissioner of the New Jersey DOT, and treasurer of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston. Canby also led a consulting practice focusing on institutional and management issues with particular emphasis on implementation of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991.

Return to index



FEC intermodals

NCI: Leo King

USDOT is tracking where freight moves around the nation, and when.


USDOT tracks freight moves

The USDOT is tracking freight movements.

“State Freight Profiles” is a series of short reports that provide a snapshot of freight flows, including maps, and expected forecasts of tonnages and traffic patterns in each state – and the USDOT is making them available to the states.

“America’s freight network is a lifeline for our nation’s manufacturers, farmers and businesses,” said Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta on March 13.

“Understanding the nature of freight flows will help ensure our ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace and to continue to meet the economic and transportation challenges of the 21st century.”

USDOT estimates that America’s transportation system by 2020 will handle cargo valued at almost $30 trillion, compared with $9 trillion today. Volumes, in tons, will increase by almost 70 percent over current levels of 15 billion tons. The department also says that international freight volumes will almost double by 2020. As a result, each state will experience large freight volumes on its transportation infrastructure over the next 20 years, with the potential for increased congestion and greater inefficiencies throughout the nation’s transportation system.

By using the freight profiles, state and local decision-makers can determine which transportation corridors are experiencing, or will experience, large freight volumes. State and local agencies then can select the appropriate congestion alleviation strategies or develop targeted multi-state or regional approaches to help reduce bottlenecks and improve freight operations.

Mineta said the information in the profiles was developed using “Freight Analysis Framework” databases created last year in a collaborative effort of the department’s three administrations – FRA, Highway, and Maritime as well as the Bureau of Transportation Statistics and DOT’s Office of Intermodalism.

The analysis framework is a policy analysis tool aimed at helping decision makers to understand the geographic relationships between domestic and international trade flows and the nation’s intermodal transportation system. It examines four key transportation modes – railroad, highway, water, and air.

The work includes economic forecasts for 2010 and 2020 to evaluate the effect of expected volumes on the transportation network. It translates these economic data into transportation demand and then assigns that demand to the networks.

The state profiles are posted at Not all are online yet.

Return to index
All rail freight traffic register gains

Both carload and intermodal freight registered gains on U.S. railroads during the week ended March 8, in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Thursday.

Intermodal volume totaled 180,359 trailers and containers, up 10.5 percent from the comparable week a year ago. Container traffic was up 14.9 percent, while trailer volume was virtually the same as last year.

Carload freight, which does not include the intermodal data, totaled 316,790 carloads during the week, a 2.9 percent increase from the corresponding week last year. Loadings were up 4.4 percent in the East, and 1.6 percent in the West.

Total volume was estimated at 28.4 billion ton-miles, up 2.9 percent from last year.

Showing large increases were three commodities associated with the steel industry: metallic ores, up 47.7 percent from last year; coke, up 34.3 percent; and metals and products, up 12.7 percent. Pulp, paper and allied products were up 14.2 percent and coal was up for just the second time this year, gaining 1.9 percent from last year. Eight out of 19 commodity groups were down, with lumber and wood products off 10.0 percent; motor vehicles and equipment, down 4.0 percent; and grain off 3.9 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first ten weeks of 2003: 3,130,831 carloads, virtually the same as last year; intermodal volume of 1,778,621 trailers and containers, up 8.6 percent; and total volume of an estimated 279.0 billion ton – miles, down 0.3 percent from last year’s first ten weeks.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 90 percent of U.S. carload freight and 96 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 100 percent. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of the nation’s intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

On Canadian railroads, intermodal volume was up while carload traffic was down during the week ended March 8. Intermodal traffic totaled 38,293 trailers and containers, up 2.0 percent from last year. Carload volume of 60,407 cars was down 3.5 percent from the comparable week last year.

Cumulative originations for the first ten weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 610,894 carloads, down 0.9 percent from last year, and 389,532 trailers and containers, up 11.5 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first ten weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 3,741,725 carloads, down 0.2 percent from last year and 1,778,621 trailers and containers, up 8.6 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended March 8 totaled 9,770 cars originated, up 15.5 percent from last year. TFM reported originated intermodal volume of 3,897 trailers or containers, up 35.1 percent from the tenth week of 2002.

For the first ten weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 87,524 cars, up 12.6 percent from last year, and 35,134 trailers or containers, up 52.1 percent.

The AAR is online at

Return to index

Bombardier stock falls on S&P downgrade

Shares of Bombardier, Inc. tumbled nearly 9 percent on March 11 after Standard & Poor’s cut the transportation group’s debt rating to just one notch above junk status.

Bombardier’s widely held class B shares fell 32 Canadian cents to C$3.28 on the Toronto Stock Exchange, near its October low of C$3.13, according to Reuters.

S&P cut Bombardier’s long-term corporate credit rating two notches to BBB- from BBB+, the lowest rating of all the three major rating agencies. S&P also warned that Bombardier’s credit rating would stay on its CreditWatch list with negative implications.

“Bombardier’s recent earnings warning, and the potential for significant charges relating to a contemplated change in accounting policy, indicates a financial profile that has weakened materially,” Kenton Freitag, credit analyst for S&P, said in a press release.

Freitag added that the Montreal-based transportation and aerospace group, which is the world’s largest maker of railway rolling stock and the third largest civilian aircraft maker, could be crippled by delays in airplane orders as U.S. regional airlines could suffer from the bankruptcies of major carriers.

If Bombardier’s ratings were to fall below investment grade, the company could be cut from some off-balance-sheet borrowing conduits and face repayment of advances to aerospace clients. It would also have to provide standby letters of credit to support liabilities linked to off-balance-sheet aircraft financings.

Such moves would increase Bombardier debt burden, increasing the risks of putting the company in violation of the covenant passed with its bank lenders calling for a debt to equity ratio below 50 percent.

This key ratio stood at 48 percent at the end of the third quarter and analysts expects it could be damaged if Bombardier takes on big charges in the fourth quarter. Many analysts expect Bombardier to shore up its balance sheet through an equity issue.

A Bombardier spokeswoman said the company was not surprised by S&P’s credit downgrade as the transport group warned last week its profit for the latest fiscal year would be half less than forecast.

“There will be no major impact on our financing costs,” Dominique Dionne said.

The spokeswoman added that Bombardier’s new chief executive, Paul Tellier, will announce moves to improve the company balance sheet when he discloses the fourth quarter results on April 3.

Return to index

After record loss

Alstom selling units, issuing shares

Alstom SA, whose power equipment generates a fifth of the world’s electricity, plans to sell its power-transmission and distribution unit and issue new stock to raise cash after posting a record loss this fiscal year.

Bloomberg reported on March 12 the Paris-based company estimates it lost as much as €1.4 billion (euros) ($1.5 billion) in the year ending March 31, hurt by a faulty design for some turbines and contract delays. Alstom said it aims to raise €3 billion from disposals in the coming year and €600 million from selling new shares.

Alstom ran into unexpected costs over the past three years because of an engineering fault on two models of heavy-duty gas turbines. It was also hurt by delayed train deliveries to the U.K. and the bankruptcy of a cruise-ship client.

CEO Patrick Kron, who took over on January 1, is expanding a reorganization plan as he seeks to raise funds and return the company, which is building the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner, to profit. He was named chairman March 11.

“We are taking strong action to improve our inadequate profitability,” Kron said in a faxed statement. “We have renewed the management team.”

The stock couldn’t trade in Paris because it fell below stock exchange limits.

Alstom plans to cut costs by €500 million a year over the next two years and is changing the management of its power generation unit, the company’s largest. The division that makes industrial turbines, used in power plants, will also be sold.

The estimated loss for fiscal 2003 is the largest since the company first sold shares to the public in June 1998. Alstom had a shortfall of €139 million in the previous fiscal year.

More Provisions

Return to index
STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...


Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)24.17024.670
Canadian National(CNI)41.75041.450
Canadian Pacific(CP)19.73020.070
Florida East Coast(FLA)23.61023.350
Kansas City Southern(KSU11.17011.450
Norfolk Southern(NSC)18.41019.050
Union Pacific(UNP)53.18054.900

Return to index
OVERSEAS LINES...  Overseas lines...

Bomb aboard Bombay train kills 12

Police combed trains and searched passengers in India’s financial capital, Bombay, on Friday after a bomb blast ripped through a packed rush-hour train killing 12 people and wounding 75.

The attack on Thursday evening came a day after the 10th anniversary of a wave of bomb blasts in Bombay that killed 250 people. Those blasts were blamed on groups avenging Muslim deaths in Hindu-Muslim riots.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Nervous commuters pored anxiously over newspapers, while in Bombay’s main railway station, the public address system blared messages to passengers to report any suspicious packages.

“I’m now frightened...even to just live,” said Naveen Shetty, a survivor of the blast.

Kumar, a salesman, said, “We’re nervous because if a bomb goes off in a moving train we can’t run away, but it can happen even here on the platform. So we just have to be extra careful.”

Usually jammed trains and buses were half-empty because of a public holiday on Friday for a Muslim festival. Police checked bags and frisked commuters while guards searched trains.

Police had said 10 people, including three women, were killed in the blast. The toll rose to 12 after two wounded people died.

The blast coincided with the start of excavations in the northern town of Ayodhya in search of a Hindu temple that Hindu zealots say was buried under a mosque built in the 16th century by Muslim Mughal invaders. The dispute over the site has inflamed tension and sparked intermittent clashes between the two communities for years.

Police said sniffer dogs detected a suspicious package in a suburban Bombay bus and they had cordoned off the area.

“The bomb disposal squad is now at work but we are not in a position to confirm whether it is a bomb or not as yet,” Bombay police commissioner R.S. Sharma said.

Return to index
COMMENTARY...  Commentary...

Travels with Wendell Cox

It helps if you read the schedule

By Jim Furlong

It’s easy to curse the darkness when studying the newspaper quotes and website pronouncements of Wendell Cox, the globe-trotting transportation guru who makes a career of bashing such uplifting concepts as public transit and smart growth.

Here’s a sampler of opinions from Cox, who also was a member of the now-defunct Amtrak Reform Council:

Yes, the urge to curse this darkness is strong. Many of us are looking for transportation alternatives that could offer a way out of worsening traffic congestion and the galloping consumption of our country’s once abundant and beautiful open space by new roads and their camp followers – helter-skelter fast food villages, big box stores and treeless, cookie-cutter housing developments. But let’s try, as the old saying urges, to light a single candle.

In that spirit, we’ll examine here “The Public Purpose Number 54,” dated January 2003, and entitled “Auto-Competitive Transit Service? Not Even in a Snowstorm.” In this paper, Wendell Cox recounts his drive through a snowstorm from his home in Belleville, Illinois, to Lambert International Airport, St. Louis, to catch an 8 p.m. plane on Wednesday, January 22. He says this experience illustrates how driving beats transit handily, except in downtown districts of large cities.

Here’s his version:

By savvy navigation through city streets and the avoidance of congested freeway areas, he drove through the snow to a Lambert International lot, parked and arrived at the main terminal by shuttle bus in 1 hour and 30 minutes – “nearly 30 minutes faster than would have been possible” by taking a MetroLink rail trip. That implies, of course, that his door-to-door time from his home in Belleville, “a few miles beyond” MetroLink’s easternmost College Station, would have taken about 2 hours. If MetroLink can’t beat cars in the snow, then the superiority of cars over light rail in all but dense downtown urban areas is proven in spades, right? Case closed.

But no! An Internet reader—exemplifying Missouri’s “show-me” spirit—had the temerity actually to look up the MetroLink schedule on the Web ( This reader found out that the rail trip from College Station to the main terminal takes just 1 hour and 9 minutes. That main terminal is the same place where the airport shuttle bus dropped off Cox.

In order for Cox’s public-transit math to work out, he would have had to spend 51 minutes driving the few miles from his home to College Station, parking, buying a ticket and boarding the train for a 1 hour, 9-minute trip to the main terminal. Given Cox’s personal pride in his driving ability, which shines so brightly through The Public Purpose Number 54, that’s just not credible.

Indeed, it’s an apparent error of fact. Cox’s interpretation of his experience also shows weaknesses. For one thing, Cox apparently doesn’t count as part of what might be called his “trip time cost” the 1-hour-early departure that he said he made because of the snow. MetroLink runs frequent trips to the airport. Its right-of-way is exclusive and therefore is less prone than highways to tie-ups caused by the driver caution, spinouts and fender benders that are seen in snowstorms. A train trip would not have required such expensive “time insurance.” Increased reliability – and MetroLink boasts a 93 percent on-time record – saves time.

In addition, Cox spent his car ride feverishly improvising his route to avoid getting caught in traffic. Here’s a quote from his account:

“I looked at Interstate 64 and it failed the test – it was time for the ‘arterial strategy.’ Following along city streets, I checked the freeway from time to time, and at one point entered for three miles. As I approached the Poplar Street Bridge…across the Mississippi River, I feared that my luck might have run out, so diverted to the only other choice, the lower-volume Martin Luther King Bridge…”

In short, it was a vehicular slalom race.

If Cox had traveled by rail, he wouldn’t have had to worry about switching routes and about his “luck” running out, but would have had time to contemplate at leisure the speech he was on his way to Raleigh-Durham to deliver concerning rail and “smart growth.” (Those are his ironic quote marks.) Given his well-known points of view on these topics, of course, the choice of a train would have been politically incorrect, but who would have had to know?

D:F tried to discuss these and related matters with the transportation guru of Belleville, leaving a recorded voice message for him March 10, but we received no response.

Return to index

GP-7 Locomotive

NCI: Collection of Leo King; Atlantic Coast Line

Y’all come on down to Jacksonville where those pretty purple and silver GP-7s work. They were first-generation EMDs, developing 1,500hp. “GP” meant it was “General Purpose,” according to the Atlantic Coast Line cutline taped to the back of an 8-by-10-inch print, ca. 1950. “This locomotive, “ it states, “representing the latest addition to the ACL’s motive power department… weighs approximately 239,000 pounds. These locomotives can be operated singly or in multiple, or with any diesel freight units. With a 62 to 15 gear ratio, it will reach a speed of 65 mph.”

End Notes...

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

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

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

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

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

|| Home Page || Destination: Freedom Past Editions || Contact Us || Article Index || Top of Page

This edition has been read by || || people since date of release.

Copyright © 2003, National Corridors Initiative, Inc. & Leo King.