April 28, 29
The National Corridors Initiatives 2003 Conference
The Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd St., N.W., Washington, D.C.
Hon. Gov. Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security (Invited)
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.
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NCI prepares for Rail Futures conference;
first Phillips Journalism Award to be given
The National Corridors Initiatives Year 2003 Conference, Rail Futures: Building Secure and Successful Transit and Intercity Rail for America, will be headlined this year by Amtrak President David Gunn, APTA President William Millar, Amtrak Chairman John Robert Smith and Vice-Chair Michael S. Dukakis on Monday, April 28 and Tuesday, April 29, at the Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd Street NW, in Washington, D.C.
At the conference, Washington Post reporter Don Phillips will receive the first Donald Phillips Award for Excellence in Transportation Journalism, which will be presented from time to time by NCI to general (i.e., non-trade) news media reporters. Phillips, who is considered by his peers to be the dean of American transportation writers, will be honored for the body of his work.
Following a year in which new Amtrak President David Gunn succeeded in pulling Amtrak from the brink of bankruptcy, and then persuaded Congress to fully fund the companys operating shortfall, President Gunn launched a systemwide restructuring of the railroad that eliminated three-fourths of the companys vice presidents, and streamlined operations, maintenance, and procurement.
Joining Gunn at the 2003 conference as keynoter will be William Millar, President of the American Public Transportation Assn., whose multi-year public affairs campaign, Public Transportation: For Wherever Life Takes You has had a growing effect on the publics understanding of the importance of public transportation not only for city dwellers, but in many of the smaller towns and cities of America.
Rounding out the keynote spots will be Amtrak Chairman, Mayor John Robert Smith (R) of Meridian, Miss., a national leader for more than a decade in the fight for intercity passenger rail, and Vice Chair Michael S. Dukakis, a former Massachusetts governor and a transportation activist for many decades, and the Democratic nominee for President in 1988.
Featured speakers at the conference will be newly named Surface Transportation Policy Project Chair Anne P. Canby. She is a former Delaware Secretary of Transportation.
Also speaking will be Environmental Defense Transportation Director Michael Replogle, legendary transportation designer Cesar Vergara of Jacobs Engineering, and California High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Rod Diridon.
Also, Railway Age magazine Editor William Vantuono, Texas Rail Advocate Paul Mangelsdorf, National Association of Railroad Passengers Executive Director Ross Capon, Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition President Rick Harnish, Railway Supply Institute Intercity Passenger Rail Chair Michael Pracht, and many others.
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House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Youngs proposal to hike gas taxes is running up against determined resistance in his own Republican ranks.
Reports persist that the House leadership plans to introduce a much less expensive alternative to the Alaska Republicans $375 billion highway and transit proposal, which itself has not yet been formally introduced.
Some of the younger lawmakers are not waiting for the leadership to weigh in with a scaled down package.
Rep. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, says forget about raising the gas tax. He thinks its time to cut it.
The gas tax was imposed over 50 years ago to build the interstate highway system, the Congressman said. He added, Last time I checked, we finished building the interstate highway system years ago, but the tax continues to increase. This makes no sense at all.
Why send this extra money to Washington in the first place? he asks.
Since the Highway Trust Fund was established, it has been opened up to mass transit but with Amtrak excluded and the Young plan, according to the American Public Transportation Assn. (APTA), would net mass transit systems about 20 percent of the take, the rest going to highways.
(This writers perspective on the gas tax proposal, the ratio of highways and transit, and the exclusion of Amtrak was laid out in the Opinion section of last weeks (March 24) D:F.
So severe has been the criticism that Young and the ranking Democrat on his committee, Minnesotas James Oberstar, wrote a letter to the editors of The Wall Street Journal, which earlier had referred to the six-year, $375 billion proposal as a Porky Pig plan.
Highway funding comes from the Highway Trust Fund, Young and Oberstar argue, The revenues are dedicated solely for highway and transit programs. Not a single penny of this increased highway and transit funding would come from the general treasury...
Ross Capon of the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) said thats not the whole story.
In an e-mail to D:F, Capon wrote, In terms of the federal program, Chairman Young is generally correct if we do not consider externality costs (e.g. such as impact of pollution and social costs of creating a system that does not serve a growing number of people who do not drive). Most use of non-user funds comes at the lower levels of government.
The NARP executive director then cited the 2000 Table of Highway Statistics, which reads as follows:
Partially offsetting the above, added Capon, it appears that $8.2 billion in highway user payments went to non-transportation purposes; $8.3 billion to mass transit.
The passenger train advocates bottom line: However, NARP has always argued that the biggest subsidy of all is having the government recognize all air ticket tax payments as votes for more aviation investment (big fight required just to get occasional use for landside transportation improvements at airports) and most gasoline tax payments as votes for more highway spending. Irrespective of what the user might want and of what investments would best help create a sustainable transportation system.
In addition to the letter to the Journal, Young defended against criticism of his plan by putting out a press release claiming the measure would create 1.3 million new jobs all across America. Further, he said, one should factor in the congestion crisis which the lawmaker claims is costing the U.S. $67 billion each year, with an average cost per commuter of $1,160 a year, and that drivers now waste an average of 62 hours per year stuck in traffic jams.
This gets back to the old question: Who or what creates the longest lasting wealth government or the private sector? Two schools of thought are playing out here on a smaller scale than in the overall tax debate.
The Young-Oberstar idea of creating new jobs by pouring taxpayer revenues into more public works projects has been called priming the pump.
The House leadership is more inclined to keep taxes as low possible as a better road to creating new jobs through stepped up investment and a resultant improved economy.
Here is how the politics of the gas tax works in the current Congress:
Supporters of President Bushs overall tax cut package would consider themselves vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy if they end up cheerleading the way for a gas tax hike, i.e. cutting taxes through the front door and raising them through the back door. Rightly or wrongly, many of them see this as a political liability. The fact that a gas tax is a more targeted means of raising revenue, they fear, would get lost in the heated rhetoric of a future campaign.
Even with so powerful an old bull as Young pushing for it, getting it through is going to be a daunting task for those who believe the tax hike is sorely needed.
The Washington Post reported on Sunday Amtrak canceled several runs of its high-speed Acela Express trains on Saturday after inspectors found indications of substandard maintenance practices, officials of the passenger railroad corporation said.
Amtrak canceled nine of 44 scheduled runs between Boston, New York and Washington, and used other equipment to fill in on four other passenger runs, wrote the Posts Don Phillips. That included three early-morning cancellations from Washingtons Union Station and substitution of other equipment on one trip.
Company spokesman William Schulz said enough trains were available to cover weekend schedules, but beginning Monday, only 36 of the 44 regular weekday East Coast departures will operate. In Washington, that means the 5 a.m. and 6 p.m. Acela departures will be canceled; the noon Acela will be replaced with Metroliner service; and the 5:30 Metroliner will be canceled. Schulz said it is not yet clear how long the reduced schedule will remain in effect. Amtraks regional trains, which cover the same East Coast routes as the Acela and are more numerous, will not be affected.
William L. Crosbie, Amtraks senior vice president of operations, said the problems found over the past week are not safety related, but involve maintenance that is not in compliance with recommended practice. Most of the problems involve leaking shock absorbers on passenger cars and grooves worn in disc brakes, he said.
The core problem, Crosbie said, is that the Bombardier-Alstom team did not keep up an orderly flow of spare parts to maintenance centers in Boston, New York and Washington.
We certainly arent happy, Crosbie said, adding that Amtrak is working with the consortium to fix the problems.
David Slack, a spokesman for Bombardier, acknowledged that some problems had been found during the week, but said, We think were doing the best job we can. He said the consortium is providing quality maintenance and is working with Amtrak to smooth out the spare-parts issue.
Amtrak and the consortium are suing each other over damages for late delivery of the trains and other quality issues.
In routine inspections a fortnight ago, the FRA noted the maintenance problems and recommended they be fixed, but did not directly order the trains out of service. However, last Tuesday, Amtrak itself took three trains out of service for repairs and four more on Saturday.
Ali Ahmad Al-Omari, a Jordanian air marshal missing since March 15 and the subject of a nationwide search by the FBI, was found in Jacksonville, Fla., on an Amtrak train bound for Miami, according to FBI officials.
On March 17, the FBI repeated its earlier assertions that there is no evidence that Al-Omari was involved in any criminal or terrorist activities, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
Al-Omari, 30, was one of four Jordanian military officials assigned as air marshals to a Royal Jordanian Airways flight scheduled to return on the 17th from Chicago to Amman, said Thomas J. Kneir, special agent in charge of the Chicago FBI office. Instead, Al-Omari called the airlines officials and said he was going to stay in Chicago.
After being detained, Al-Omari said he was on his way to visit friends and was going to seek U.S. asylum.
Elsewhere, Connecticut state troopers riding Metro-North Railroad trains are now be equipped with gas masks. They are protecting nearly 100,000 Connecticut residents who commute to New York City daily, reports the Hartford Courant of March 25.
Union officials requested the masks last week, after learning New York and New Jersey state police had the equipment, the newspaper stated.
Jerry McGuire, principal labor agent for the Connecticut state police, said he raised the issue with commanders on March 17, and by that afternoon, troopers riding the trains on the evening shift had them, he said.
I didnt see it as a problem, McGuire said. Once the troopers asked for them, the department responded immediately. I was very pleased.
Since March 20, about 50 state troopers have been riding the trains, and will continue to for the time being. New York Gov. George E. Pataki has issued an executive order extending the law enforcement jurisdiction of Connecticut and New Jersey state police into New York.
Authorities boosted security at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, searching every vehicle that entered the airport, tying up traffic for more than three hours March 25.
Brian Doyle, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said there was not a specific reason why every vehicle was checked. Random vehicle checks continued Wednesday, but Doyle declined to say whether all vehicles were being checked.
Occasionally, well go 100 percent, just as another tool in the toolbox to keep the potential bad guys off balance, Doyle said.
The searches caused traffic to back up several miles from the airport terminal.
As a result of the war in Iraq, the federal government is issuing a single point of contact phone number to report suspicious activity or potential threats involving maritime and surface transportation.
Richard Bennis, the Transportation Security Administrations assistant administrator for maritime and land security, said last week the hotline numbers are being issued in the interest of maintaining comprehensive domain awareness of the transportation system.
The Transportation Security Administration requests that its stakeholders utilize the phone numbers below to notify the TSA of potential threats or significant security incidents involving maritime and surface transportation. Notifications to TSA should be made in the first round of notifications made outside your company or association.
The TSA said examples of potential threats include, but are not limited to, bomb threats, suspicious activities and suspected sabotage. Examples of significant security incidents include, but are not limited to, sabotage, violent attacks on or destruction of property and people, and hijackings.
TSA requested that notification originate from a company or associations security office through a single point of contact. The Transportation Security Administration 24-hour Command Centers numbers are (571) 227-1881 and (571)-227-1882.
The TSA says these numbers should only be used in serious situations and are not intended to supersede the normal notification channels.
New England Rails Photo Archive: Mike DupreyAmtraks No. 683, enroute from Boston to Portland, passes Scarborough Marsh in Maine. Amtrak trains are expected to soon be moving at 79 mph over Guilford Rail system tracks following the latest STB ruling.
STB order Guilford to operate
The Surface Transportation Board spelled it out clearly and hopefully, for the last time that Amtrak trains may operate up to 79 mph in Guilford Rail System tracks between Plaistow, N.H., and Portland, Maine.
The STB issued its final ruling on March 19, but didnt notify the public until March 25.
The board explained that GRS filed a petition last February 20 requesting the STB to clarify our decision served in this proceeding on January 31, 2003 (Weight of Rail III).
That decision ordered that, subject to the track safety requirements of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Guilford must allow Amtrak to operate over Guilfords line at speeds of up to 79 miles per hour.
Guilford asked them to clarify that nothing in Weight of Rail III is intended to render the [FRAs] regulatory framework for railroad safety inapplicable to Amtraks operation over Guilfords line... and that FRA, rather than this board, has jurisdiction over any safety-related issues that might arise in respect of such operation.
On March 12, Amtrak filed a reply opposing Guilfords petition arguing the STBs decision was clear.
In its latest decision, the STB agreed with Amtrak that our decision in Weight of Rail III was clear.
In that decision, the board stated Amtrak had completed the line rehabilitation, according to the terms set out in Weight of Rail I [decision issued October 22, 1999]. Therefore, it has complied with our conditions, and our analysis of this matter is complete. Accordingly, subject to FRAs safety jurisdiction, Guilford must permit Amtrak to operate over the line at issue at FRA Class 4 speeds.
Both board members also stated that the FRA had indicated... that Amtrak should not be prevented from operating at speeds of up to 79 mph as long as the line is maintained in accordance with FRA Class 4 track safety standards. So, the board agreed Amtrak had met its commitments, and the board ordered Guilford to permit Amtrak to operate at FRA Class 4 speeds.
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports Downeaster ridership has slipped.
After a highly successful inaugural year, the train experienced a sharp drop in ridership in the first two months of 2003, prompting renewed emphasis on the need to boost the trains speed.
Uncertainty about the economy, bad weather, terrorism alerts and prospects of war in the Middle East all contributed to a 22 percent drop in ridership in January and a 32 percent drop in February, officials said.
The Northern New England passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA), which operates the Portland-to-Boston service, had anticipated a decline after the first-year luster faded.
Its the service maturing. Were steadying out, said John Englert, NNEPRAs executive director.
The transportation industry across the board was hurt by those additional factors, ranging from heavy snowfall to terrorism to fears of a U.S.-led war in Iraq that materialized last week, Englert said.
The rail authority has launched a promotion allowing kids to travel free and seniors half price this spring, a slow time for travel. After Memorial Day, passenger traffic is expected to grow.
The drop in ridership demonstrates the importance of boosting the speed from 60 mph to 79 mph, said Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel in Washington.
The rail authority was mired in a dispute with the owner of the track between Portland and Plaistow, N.H., over whether its safe for the Downeaster to operate at the higher speed.
Amtraks experience in other markets shows that higher speeds would boost the Downeasters ridership, Stessel said.
The objective of the service is to offer an attractive option to driving or taking a bus. Seventy-nine miles per hour would allow us to do that. Sixty is just a little too slow, he said.
David Fink, Guilfords vice president, declined to comment. In documents, Guilford continually repeated its assertion that the 115-pound track used in a $48 million upgrade was insufficient to support Amtrak trains traveling at 79 mph, but Amtrak, the FRA and the rail authority said Amtrak trains operate safely on 115-pound rail across the country.
Englert, from the rail authority, said the factors that hurt the Downeaster have affected all carriers, including airlines and buses. He said that the Downeaster is actually doing better than the industry average.
Its a real tough time out there right now and everyones feeling the squeeze, he said.
For now, Englert said hes not too concerned because the Downeaster already is seeing an improvement in March and the spring promotions should further help boost ridership before the busy summer season.
The train is here to stay, Englert said, and these issues of the economy, the weather and terrorism are all business problems that well work through.
Downeaster service began on Dec. 15, 2001, with four daily trips in each direction between Portland and Bostons North Station. Stops include Saco and Wells in Maine; Dover, Durham and Exeter in New Hampshire; and Haverhill and Woburn in Massachusetts. Seasonal stops in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, will restart on May 1.
Michigans DOT has offered a six-month contract to Amtrak to keep two of its passenger rail lines open in the state, but a railroad spokeswoman indicated the offer was not enough.
Amtrak receives $5.7 million a year from the state to operate two of its three Michigan routesthe Chicago to Toronto line and the Chicago to Grand Rapids line. Amtrak officials have said they need $7.1 million a year to continue operating the two lines, according to an AP report of March 24 from Lansing.
Amtrak has been operating the lines under a six-month contract for half of $5.7 million or $2.85 million. That contract expires March 31.
The states second six-month contract would dedicate the remaining $2.85 million to Amtrak for the year, Gloria J. Jeff, director of the Michigan DOT, said in a written statement.
The six-month contract will allow potential passengers to make summer travel plans with confidence, she said, but its also important to remember the State of Michigan is experiencing a severe budget crisis that requires a complete reexamination of funding priorities.
Karina VanVeen, a spokeswoman at Amtraks headquarters in Washington D.C., said of the states offer, We need $7.1 million to continue service. VanVeen said the carrier is watching a bill that has the potential to raise annual rail funding above $5.7 million.
If there are no changes in the states offer, VanVeen said, We will have to have a serious discussion with the state on the future of passenger rail service in the state of Michigan.
If Amtrak accepts the six-month contract, the transportation department will evaluate funding demands and make recommendations to the state legislature. Amtraks third line in Michigan, Chicago to Pontiac, would remain without a new contract because its not subsidized.
Ellen G. Engleman was sworn in on March 24 as a member and tenth chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. She formerly was administrator of USDOTs Research and Special Programs Administration from September 2001 until last week. She has no railroad background, and is a lawyer by training. She has held various governmental posts over the last decade. She will serve a five-year term as a member, which expires on December 31, 2007. Her two-year term as chairman, which required separate nomination by the President and confirmation by the Senate, began last week.
March 24 was a big day for Chris Fussell his newly acquired F-40PH No. 231 has left Beech Grove, Ind., and is enroute to its permanent home in Oregon. Also moving, he said, were sister locomotives 237, 239, 295.
One week ago today, he wrote via the Internet, They are in CSXs Indianapolis freight yard. 231 will be shipped to Chicagos BNSF interchange for the final journey to its new home.
Fussell said Work on the locomotive began in January to rebuild the air brake system in order to transport it. This involved installing a new brake valve, and pipes underneath the locomotive.
An East Coast snowstorm drove volunteers out for three weeks, he said, after which work resumed. He removed 231s horn and bell, and shipped them separately.
He added, All the doors have been welded shut, an air-leak test proved successful, and 231 bid a final goodbye on Friday, March 21 to Amtrak, where it worked for in the past 26 years.
He paid $10,000 for the engine, which is still in running condition, paying scrap price.
His Long-term plan is to donate it to Friends of 4449, in Portland, Ore.
We are eager for 231s arrival, which will receive much fanfare once it gets here. Everybodys invited for the barbeque, he exclaimed.
He said he does not know what the exact plan is for routing, or dates, but he will try to keep everybody informed as much as possible. Itd be nice to get some photographs of 231 in transit on CSX from Indianapolis to Chicago, and on BNSF from Chicago to Portland.
Fussell noted Doyle McCormack, of steam engine fame, helped me through this process. He even went out to Beech Grove last week to ensure final projects were completed. We also sent the shipping payment on Friday.
A brand new website for the locomotive containing photographs and project status has been created, at http://www.f40phr231.org.
He had questions for people who had been following his journey like what to do when it arrives? How does the original delivery Phase II paint scheme, with the SDP40F No. 552 markings below the window sound?
More rail equipment needed, report states
Connecticut needs to take action now to head off insufficiencies in the states rail operations as record numbers of people take to the rails, according to a report released March 24 by a commuter watchdog group.
The Connecticut Metro North-Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council published its annual report and stated that maintenance facilities, station parking, bus and shuttle service and the states rail fleet are insufficient to meet the demand confronting Connecticuts two main rail lines, reports the Connecticut Post.
Metro-North Railroad operates the New Haven Line and its feeder branches, and Amtrak operates the Shore Line East service. Both lines run along the Connecticut coast.
The council found that ridership on both rail lines reached near all-time highs last year. The New Haven Line carried more than 33.1 million passengers in 2002, up 1/2 of 1 percent from 2001. Shoreline East carried 345,206 riders during the year. On-time performance for both rail lines was better than 94 percent.
With ridership increasing, the council called on the state legislature to immediately order new rail cars to meet existing and anticipated growth, expand rail maintenance facilities and station parking, and increase the number of buses and shuttles connecting rail stations with homes and jobs.
The council also asked that the state improve its efforts to keep trains and stations clean to attract and keep more riders.
We can delay no longer, the report stated. If we are to rely on passenger rail to reduce highway congestion and air pollution, we must offer adequate trains and schedules to encourage commuters to leave their cars.
The government-appointed council has been in existence for 17 years. It has not received any state funding since 1995, but the council is asking that funding be given to support the publication of its annual report and other expenses. The individual council members now cover those costs.
The Department of Transportation, which is responsible for ordering and maintaining the equipment for both railroads, said it cant order new cars until it completes a study on the type of train configurations that will best serve the needs of the system. There are two possible types of train configurations under consideration. One set would use two electric engines and eight double-deck coaches; the other would be made up of eight self-propelled electric cars.
It is unclear at this time if the double-deck cars can fit into Grand Central Terminal, but DOTs Public Transportation Bureau Chief Harry Harris said he should have that answer this summer. The DOT is expanding its maintenance facility in New Haven to accommodate more cars and agrees that the state will need a fleet of about 500 cars to meet commuter demand by 2030.
The current fleet totals 341 cars. More than 200 of the cars are more than 25 years old. The council contends that the state cant delay because it takes four years from the date of order to get a new rail car. There is also concern that Gov. John G. Rowlands proposal to raise train fares for interstate travel by 15 percent and overcrowded trains will encourage people to drive their cars.
Two Massachusetts legislative leaders are reiterating their support for the Greenbush commuter rail restoration project, a $470 million undertaking under review by the Gov. George Romney administration.
House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran and the new House chairman of the legislatures Transportation Committee predicted March 24 that the rail line will be completed, according to The Quincy Patriot Ledger.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority last month slapped a six-month construction moratorium on Greenbush, to give the Romney administration time to review the projects growing price tag.
Meanwhile, the South Shore Chamber of Commerce has hired a Boston lobbying firm and is conducting a telephone survey to gauge support for the project on the South Shore.
Finneran, in a recent meeting with newspapers editorial board, cited unworkability of [other] options or the alternatives to revive the 17.5-mile, Braintree-to-Scituate line.
Im comfortable that the right decision was made by the legislature with regard to its authorization of Greenbush, its support of Greenbush, Finneran said. I suspect that there continues to be a very strong basis of support in the legislature.
Finneran said he would resist efforts to scrap the project.
I suppose the best thing that we can do now is to play an intelligent defense. If there is an initiative or a move to try to deauthorize what has been already been legislatively authorized, or to do something else that would involve a diversion of funds, wed have to be vigilant about that type of maneuver and try to quell it.
State Rep. Joseph F. Wagner, (D), who took over earlier this year as House chairman of the Transportation Committee, emerged from a meeting on March 24 with the South Shore Chamber of Commerce saying he wants the Greenbush project to go forward.
There are commitments made and the value of the project has been determined, and for that reason the project should move forward, Wagner said. If you look at the history of the project, its very clear as to why were at the point of putting a shovel in the ground.
With the MBTA working to obtain needed permits and finish negotiations to lease a 1.4-mile portion of the rail line in Braintree from CSX Corp., delaying the project by six months is justified, Wagner said.
If taking a pause is good reason to put the pieces in order, thats something we ought to be doing, but I dont think it should be viewed that the pause is an attempt at delay or prevent the project from going forward, he said.
The South Shore Chamber of Commerce hired Regan Communications, a lobbying firm, to push the Greenbush project, and Atlantic Marketing of Boston to conduct a telephone survey to gauge support for it. A similar chamber-commissioned poll in 1995 found strong support for the rail restoration.
Were revisiting what we did almost 10 years ago, in the belief that there was a very loud minority group of people that was making all the noise, and that there was a majority in favor, chamber President Ronald Zooleck said, and, of course, it was proven, 61 percent to 18 percent. So we decided to do it again.
The $12,000 poll involves a random telephone survey involving close to 500 people in seven South Shore towns that would be served by Greenbush, with a 5 percent margin of error. The poll results are expected by the end of March.
A big eastern Nevada delegation seeking state funds for a historic railroad restoration project got encouragement on March 24 from state Assembly leaders.
At the conclusion of an Assembly Ways and Means Committee hearing on two bills providing $1 million for the effort, Speaker Richard Perkins (D) praised the delegation for not looking for a handout but a hand up.
Im hopeful well be able to find some way to accomplish this, said Perkins, adding that it would be good for our entire state.
Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick (R), and Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani (D), also were encouraging although Giunchigliani was a little more cautious.
The checks not in the mail, she said.
When Assemblyman Pete Goichoechea (R) said he wanted the committee to see how many people made a 320-mile trip from Ely to back the railroad bills, almost everyone in the crowded hearing room stood up.
Bob Hadfield of the Nevada Association of Counties said the railroad project was an incredible treasure and really part of the states overall economy.
Ways and Means is considering AB180, which would appropriate $500,000 to help White Pine County buy and restore 120 miles of Nevada Northern Railroad track connecting Ely to Union Pacific track near Wells.
The panel also is considering AB181, which appropriates $500,000 to the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation to renovate historic buildings and the foundations steam locomotive No. 40.
The state of Virginia is asking Congress for $600 million for a new leg of the Washington D.C. areas rapid transit Metrorail subway system.
The money would be used to extend service to Tysons Corner, a huge shopping mall that, in some instances, has been regarded as not being particularly hospitable to mass transit. That would change if Metro goes there. Traffic jams at Tysons at times have been such as to force auto-bound shoppers to take as much as an hour of their time just to get out of there.
This extension is envisioned as the first leg of what will ultimately be a $4 billion line to Dulles International Airport and beyond that, into Loudoun County. This is the first time the state has publicly conceded that the Dulles project will have to be built in stages, largely because the Bush administration has balked at providing enough money to build it all at once.
Metro CEO Richard White says the agency has concluded in recent months that building the line in increments is more realistic.
Moving a project of this size is a difficult task given the competition for funding, he told the Washington Post.
The Worcester, Mass. station is beginning to show signs of civility it now has a restaurant.
The leased 6,000-square-foot location is in the same area that the former Boston & Albany (New York Central) operated its restaurant. Joseph Petrou, owner of Primos Restaurant on Shrewsbury Street in Worcester, has leased the space for 15 years, and he becomes the first major tenant in the art deco structure. His daughter, Courtney Petrou-Bateman, will run the eatery, which will have wood-smoked ovens and seat 175 with an additional 45 in the lounge.
Some 30 people will work there, and will initially be open for dinner only, seven days a week, due to limited parking during the day. In the evening, parking for the Boston commuter lot (285 spaces) will be available, as will valet parking, reports the Worcester Business Journal.
Las Vegass state-of-the-art transit system began test runs in Las Vegas this week.
The Las Vegas Monorail is, its builders say with pride, a rarity among big public works projects. It is ahead of schedule and under budget, reports the Las Vegas Sun for March 21.
The $650 million, four-mile privately funded project is not due to begin carrying passengers until January, but the new blue and white, custom built monorail cars moved on their own for the first time when they begin making test runs.
Its going to be the most up-to-date and advanced transit system in the world, said Rick Lerette, project director for Bombardier, the Canadian company building the cars and most of the system.
Monorail supporters began pounding the pavement in King County, Washington last week, reports the King County Journal of Bellevue, Wash.
Citizens for King County Monorail filed an initiative asking voters to design a monorail system around and across Lake Washington. Current road improvement plans by the state dont focus on problems facing commuters, said Cleveland Stockmeyer, monorail chairman.
The problem is delay, and the answer is fast transit, he said on March 24. Conceptually, monorail could carry people from Redmond to Seattle in 23 minutes. No other proposals provide rapid mobility like that.
Once filed, the group must collect 45,000 signatures within 90 days for the measure to appear on the November ballot. To be safe, they plan to collect 60,000 signatures.
Conceptually, the possibly $5 billion, 59-mile monorail plan will pick up where Seattles Green Line monorail and Sound Transits Link light rail leave off.
Some routes might include SR 520 from Redmond to Seattle, around the north end of Lake Washington from Seattle to Woodinville, and then south along Interstate 405 through Kirkland and Bellevue to Renton.
However, voting yes on the measure in November doesnt raise taxes nor build a system.
As in Seattle two years ago, the initiative would begin a two-year, $8.8 million grassroots effort to choose popular monorail routes that voters will support, pay for and ride.
King County government would foot the bill, Stockmeyer said.
If voters endorse the monorail measure, city officials around the county will create a citizens caucus of 66 people in January 2004. From that group, an 11-member panel will lead the monorail planning effort, but theyre not full-time elected officials, and dont already have another job with an interest or commitment to roads, Stockmeyer said.
They cant be a (DOT) employee who happens to live in Bellevue; theyll be open-minded citizens, he added.
That smaller panel will help choose the routes and the tax boundaries, but only after hundreds of public meetings. Within two years, a subsequent ballot measure would ask voters to approve a formal county monorail plan and the taxes to build it.
The group is drawing on the momentum Seattle voters created last fall when they approved the $1.8 billion Green Line by an 877-vote margin. Contractor bids to build that system are scheduled for spring 2004, and the route will open for business in 2007. If successful, county monorail supporters believe their system will be running in 2009.
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
N.C. DOT Approves Unprecedented Grant for Raleigh Area Rail
The proposed regional rail system linking the North Carolina cities of Raleigh, Cary, Research Triangle Park, and Durham has received an unprecedented form of support from North Carolina DOT: the states first-ever Full Funding Grant Agreement.
The North Carolina Board of Transportation, the body responsible for policy decisions for N.C. DOT, has authorized state Secretary of Transportation Lyndo Tippett to execute the state FFGA, which will formally pledge the departments intention to contribute 25 percent toward the total cost of the construction of TTAs rail system. State officials believe this action will give the TTA an advantage as it seeks competitive federal funds.
This Full Funding Grant Agreement formalizes our support of TTAs efforts to bring regional rail to the Triangleand will help us get our share of the federal funds needed to make it a reality, Tippett said. Regional rail will play a crucial role in the states transportation system, offering transportation alternatives and relieving congestion in urban areas like the Triangle, Charlotte, and the Triad [Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point].
Once the agreement is approved, N.C. DOT will enter into an agreement with TTA to pledge, subject to legislative appropriation, about $200 million toward the $813 million total cost of the 35-mile system. TTA will use this agreement in its effort to secure funds from the federal government.
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Senate Banking Leaders Probe Administrations 2004 Budget Plan
Leaders of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs aired their concerns about holding public transportation funding at the Fiscal Year 2003 level of $7.226 billion in President Bushs FY 2004 budget at a hearing March 13, where Federal Transit Administrator Jennifer L. Dorn testified on the Administration proposal.
In his opening statement, U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), chair of the committee, criticized the elimination of the bus discretionary program included in the budget proposal, which would move the funds from the discontinued program into formula programs, and the effort to change the federal/local match ratio from 80-20 percent to 50-50.
I think there are a few clever ideas in the Presidents proposal for transit, although on balance, I think it is a current services budget, and I do hope it will evolve significantly in some areas, Shelby said.
The ranking member of the committee, U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), went further, criticizing the Administrations flatlining of the transit program. He said the federal government needs to grow the program, as the budget does not even keep up with inflation or reflect an increase in ridership growth. He also agreed with Shelby on both the bus discretionary program issue and the proposed change to a 50-50 match for transit while retaining the 80-20 levels for highways, adding that local officials are likely to fund highways instead of transit projects if the matching levels are different.
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Spokane Transit Names Zentz Interim CEO
The Spokane Transit Authority Board of Directors in Spokane, Wash., announces the hiring of Kim D. Zentz as the systems interim chief executive officer.
She succeeds Allen Schweim, who has accepted a position with the Sacramento Regional Transit District in Sacramento, Calif.
According to the STA, Zentz will serve until the board hires a permanent chief executive officer. The search process is expected to take six to eight months.
Zentz comes to STA with 20 years of experience in leadership positions in the utilities and energy technology industries. Most recently, she served as president and chief operating officer of Avista Labs, with responsibility for strategy and daily operations of the company.
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Brookings: Keep Framework of TEA 21, Strengthen Local Components
The Brookings Institution calls on Congress to retain the framework of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century and the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act in its reauthorization of TEA 21, while also seeking the transfer of additional control to local areas.
Enactment of the first major federal transportation bill of the twenty-first century should become the seminal moment when Washington truly gets transportation policy right for metropolitan America, authors Bruce Katz, Robert Puentes, and Scott Bernstein state in TEA-21 Reauthorization: Getting Transportation Right for Metropolitan America, a report recently released by the Brookings Institutions Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy.
ISTEA and TEA 21 for the first time embedded in law the principle that Americas metropolitan reality required and integrated, balanced, and regionally designed transportation system. As a framework the laws are sound, the report says. Unfortunately, implementation of the new federal statutes has been seriously flawed. Most notably, most states have failed to utilize the tools and discretion afforded them to meaningfully address the worsening transportation problems bogging down their metropolitan regions.
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NCI: Leo KingAmtraks David Gunn took CSX to task last week for delaying Virginia Railway Express and Amtrak trains. CSX reports it is increasing passenger train speeds during bad weather.
CSX to keep trains at higher speeds
Washington CSX Corp. says it is willing to allow trains to go faster during flash flooding.
The new rule on operating procedures that is envisioned follows complaints from Amtrak and commuter rail operators about the carrier's slowdown or halting of passenger service in recent extreme weather. Commuters were unhappy with trains that were down to a crawl
The Washington Post Thursday quoted Virginia officials as saying the Class I carrier has agreed to install new switch heaters along the tracks to Fredericksburg to keep the trains rolling during severe snowstorms such as those that hit the nations capitol in February.
In the D.C. area, CSX tracks are used for passenger trains operated by Amtrak, Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC), and Virginia Railway Express (VRE).
Within a few weeks, CSX will also formulate a new policy on speed limits during the extreme heat of summer. This results from the derailment of Amtraks Capitol Limited last July due, it is believed, to track misalignment.
The new proposed policy apparently grew out of meetings between CSX brass and federal and local officials in the Washington area.
The railroad says it would allow passenger trains to travel at a maximum conditional speed of 50 mph during flash flood warnings. Freight trains would continue at 40 mph. High water or obvious dangerous conditions would slow the trains to 15 mph.
Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black told the Post that the passenger train operator would welcome any effort to promote a rational operating plan for adverse weather conditions, and will work with CSX to accomplish that.
CSX Vice President John M. Gibson told Amtrak President David Gunn that the new policy would require additional training for conductors and engineers.
CSX has started adjusting its fuel prices more closely, and its keyed to how East Texas Intermediate crude closes at the end of each trading each day. The freight railroad said last week it had started modifications to its fuel cost recovery program but not intermodal.
CSX boss Michael J. Ward said after the transition to the new program, CSXs fuel surcharges will be applied in smaller increments, on a more real-time basis, consistent with increases or decreases in fuel prices.
He said, With the changes, CSXT will no longer only adjust surcharges in 2 percent increments for every $5 per barrel change in crude oil prices.
Instead, Ward explained, The surcharge will be adjusted up or down 0.4 percent for every dollar increase or decrease in oil prices above $23 per barrel.
The charges will be determined monthly based on the 30-day average price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil, he pointed out.
When fuel prices drop below $23 per barrel, no fuel surcharge will apply.
Ward, who is CSXs CEO, chairman and president, said, Given the continued instability in oil prices we must, like most American companies, implement better ways to manage fuel price changes and market volatility. As a result of this new program, CSXs fuel surcharges will more directly respond to fuel price changes in a real-time manner.
Ward said CSX will amend its 8100 and 8200 tariffs by the end of March and the new fuel surcharge program will take effect not less than 20 days after. Until the new surcharge becomes effective, the current program will remain in place.
Once the program is amended, additional details will be available on the companys website at www.csx.com.
Treasury Secretary John Snow, who led CSX Corp. for 14 years, received $60.8 million in cash, stock and pension money when he resigned to join the government last month, according to a report recently filed by the company.
Snow, who was CSXs chairman and CEO, received the money under a 2001 agreement, the company said in a report to the Securities and Exchange Commission detailing its executives compensation, The AP reported last week.
President Bush chose Snow in December to replace Paul ONeill, who was ousted in a shake-up of the administrations economic team. Snow has assets estimated to be worth between $77 million and $297 million, according to the wire services report on March 24. He promised before his Senate confirmation to sell his extensive stock holdings in CSX and 60 other companies, and to forgo a severance payment of around $15 million.
It wasnt clear whether that meant Snow would have received a total of some $75.8 million if he hadnt made the pledge. A Treasury Department spokesman did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
According to CSXs filing, the company was required to pay Snow $8.7 million in deferred cash compensation, stock worth $18.9 million and a pension payment of $33.2 million when he resigned February 3. Many corporate executives receive deferred compensation under arrangements that allow the money to grow tax-free for years.
Snows nomination received close scrutiny during his Senate confirmation because of last years wave of corporate accounting scandals.
Snow said in January that he had no inside information that Jacksonville-based CSX would fail to meet Wall Streets earnings expectations last August when he sold 120,000 shares of company stock less than a month before the stock price dropped.
Not only did he lack knowledge of CSXs pending failure to meet earnings expectations in the third quarter, Snow said, he had announced his intention to sell the stock four months before he sold it.
The Brockton, Mass. city council voted March 24 to appropriate an almost $1 million grant awarded by the state to build a railroad spur in the Montello Economic Development Area, at the eastern end of the Wilder Street extension.
Brockton Enterprise reported council president Charles Logan stepped down from the podium to make the case for immediate approval, instead of sending the order to the Finance Committee for further debate.
Logan said Champion City Recovery, which is building a transfer station for construction and demolition debris on Wilder Street, will match the states $993,199 Public Works Economic Development grant with another $993,199, thus doubling the investment.
This vote means a free $2 million for the city that will be used toward improving the citys infrastructure, Logan said.
Usually, the city or a public agency must provide the matching funds for a PWED grant, he said. In this case, Champion City recognized that public money is not as available as it has been in the recent past and decided to provide the required matching funds.
The council appropriated the money for the Brockton Redevelopment Authority, which will be the conduit for the money to the contractors hired by Champion City to build the railroad line and bridge that connects to the MBTA commuter rail line. The bridge spans a wetland area.
Logan said the rail line could be used by other industries in the area, including the nearby Barbour Corp., which sells its products nationally. The former Quinn Freight property, which abuts the Wilder Street extension, could also be developed for industrial use now that a rail line is available.
Champion City Recovery and Boxer Realty Redevelopment are spending $7 million to clean up the 10-acre site and build the construction and demolition debris transfer station at 138 Wilder St. The debris will be transferred by rail to out-of-state locations.
Logan said destinations will include upstate New York and Virginia, where the debris will be crushed and processed for other uses, such as capping landfills.
The city will receive a discount on construction and demolition debris generated by city projects, said Logan.
AAR says intermodal was up again
Intermodal freight was up sharply but carload freight was down slightly on U.S. railroads during the week ended March 22, in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported last Thursday.
Carload freight totaled 317,873 carloads during the week, down 1.1 percent from the corresponding week last year. Loadings were up 4.7 percent in the East, but down 6.1 percent in the West.
Intermodal volume, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 188,038 trailers and containers, up 8.1 percent from the comparable week a year ago. Container traffic was up 11.0 percent, while trailer volume was up 0.6 percent.
Total volume was estimated at 28.5 billion ton-miles, down 1.0 percent from last year.
As has been true in recent weeks, the gainers were paced by commodities associated with the steel industry, with loadings of both metallic ores and coke up 20.9 percent from last year. Loadings of metals and products were up 14.9 percent. Eleven out of 19 commodity groups were down, with farm products other than grain down 17.9 percent and primary forest products off 11.0 percent.
The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 12 weeks of 2003: 3,779,000 carloads, up 0.2 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 2,151,914 trailers and containers, up 8.7 percent; and total volume of an estimated 337.0 billion ton-miles, up 0.1 percent from last years first 12 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 nations intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.
On Canadian railroads, both intermodal and carload freight were up from last year during the week ended March 22. Intermodal traffic totaled 42,373 trailers and containers, up 10.2 percent from last year. Carload volume of 65,243 cars was up 0.6 percent from the comparable week last year.
Cumulative originations for the first 12 weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 738,233 carloads, down 1.0 percent from last year, and 471,051 trailers and containers, up 11.1 percent from last year.
Combined cumulative volume for the first 12 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 4,517,233 carloads, up less than 0.1 percent from last year, and 2,622,965 trailers and containers, up 9.1 percent from last year.
The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended March 22 totaled 8,241 cars originated, down 8.9 percent from last year. TFM reported originated intermodal volume of 3,401 trailers or containers, up 40.8 percent from the 12th week of 2002.
For the first 12 weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 104,501 cars, up 9.0 percent from last year, and 42,146 trailers or containers, up 47.8 percent.
The AAR is online at www.aar.org.
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||25.410||26.490|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||24.450||24.800|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||11.490||12.070|
Regarding airlines and other
canaries in the coal mine
This week, if published reports are correct, will see the filing for bankruptcy of American Airlines.
Thus will the flagship carrier of the American airline industry join United, US Air, and many others especially in recent years on the list of passenger carriers which have failed despite many decades of direct and indirect federal, state, and local subsidies that for decades have made entry into that highly volatile business a bit too easy, and have kept failing carriers flying long before the artificial bailouts of post-September 11- 2001.
For purposes of comparison, we turn to Amtrak, which despite receiving none of the benefits of the airline industry, and none of the regular multi-billion dollar trust fund injections of cash that the highway industry gets every single year, has managed to keep going despite a very deep lack of understanding by the news media and therefore the public of the very tiny level of federal support it receives.
How big a difference is there? Since its creation in 1970 and its start of operations in 1971, Amtrak has received $24 billion in federal subsidies. Over the same period, highways received $750 billion. No wonder people drive two blocks to buy a newspaper. No wonder school kids, who half the time can't even walk to school if they want to, are growing so obese.
Now that the Congress has at least begun to move to repair some of the damage this long-term neglect has caused by appropriating Amtrak President David Gunn's very modest request for $1.2 billion for Amtrak for this fiscal year, and budgeting on the Senate side so far $1.8 billion for next year, perhaps we can begin to suggest some permanent steps to make America's infrastructure secure and robust.
First, we need to establish a trust fund for rail infrastructure not just Amtrak, which owns most of the Northeast Corridor, but the freight railroads as well. Not all of the freights are on board with this concept, but some are, especially the ones that know that Amtrak, with its (thus far) underfunded infrastructure is, as David Gunn has said, the canary in the coal mine, and that they will not be far behind in the death-spiral business unless they, too, get the kind of infrastructure funding enjoyed by the highway system, or at least some approximation of it.
Next, we need to find a way to fund it, and that way is by increasing the federal gas tax.
I know, I know, no one likes taxes, but in the case of the gas prices in this country it is so low as to be a joke, and even with the current war in Iraq it is still under $2 a gallon in most places, and in real terms still less than it was 35 or 40 years ago.
In 1966 a Ford Mustang cost $2500, well equipped, and a gallon of gas was 25 cents. Today, the equivalent car costs $25,000 10 times as much but gas was (until the current war) about $1.25 a gallon, when it should be around $2.50 twice as high as it was just with basic inflation.
When we run the murderous Saddam regime out of town, as we certainly will, that price will tumble once again as world oil supplies come more and more under the control of the U.S. and Great Britain.
If we are going to get serious about building infrastructure in this country that provides an alternative to the congested highway system, we will have to decide to pay for it. A tax increase on gasoline, especially one phased in over time, would be painless and virtually invisible, and yield permanent results in the form of lowered shipping and travel costs cost savings which will ripple though the economy, as such cost savings always do, and act as a spur to commerce.
Not even counting the environmental benefits of an infrastructure trust fund, it seems obvious to us that building ground-based transportation is a no-brainer. Each half-cent in gas tax yields about a billion dollars a year for such work. For peanuts, we can remake America in the 21st century the way we did with highways in the 20th.
The only thing holding us back is the leadership to do it.
Midwest Coalition looks for assistance
As we have previously reported, the Midwest High Speed Rail Coalition is part of an effort to create a unified framework for promoting intercity passenger railroad service at the federal level.
That framework is outlined in a document called the American Passenger Rail Agreement in which 71 organizations have currently endorsed this document, including NCI.
Starting with a hearing to be held by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on or about April 9, there will be a number of opportunities to submit testimony to various Congressional committees. We would like to present this document (and a long list of supporters) as a part of those testimonies.
We apologize for the short notice, but it would be very helpful if you could get your local chamber, your city council or another local organization to endorse the principals contained in the document. Corporate endorsements are also welcome.
Please work to get endorsements even if you can't get them in time for the hearing.
To find the document, a supporting resolution and a list of current signatories, please go to www.midwesthsr.org and click on the summit sign. Feel free to call 773-334-6758 with any questions.
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Your photo of ATSF power at the Barstow engine house [March 24 2003 D:F] really took me back. Around 1959 (when I was a grade-schooler in White Plains, N.Y.) I, too, got some stuff from Santa Fes Chicago office. Among other things they included a brochure about Barstow. Wish I still had it!
By the way, back then I also got an AAR listing of addresses for all Class I railroads general offices. I wrote just about all of them requesting info and photos, and they nearly all came through.
Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.
Regarding The way we were last week No. 18 is a set of early F-3s, geared for passenger service and steam boiler equipped, 127 and 158 are FTs. Nice photo.
The militarys amphibious assault vehicle is called an Amtrak by the soldiers.
Is it not a funny irony that Presidents Bushs war plans depend on an Amtrak to move people to the front lines? Newspapers search engines are getting confused and going nuts with so many Amtrak references in print.
John E. Humphrey
Bangor & Aroostook RailroadIn the 1950s, New England was rich with multi-colored power, ranging from the New York Centrals dark gray with lightning stripes to the New Havens dark green with multiple yellow stripes and later, its gaudy red-orange, white and black. Boston & Maines maroon with yellow stripes ruled the rails in the North Country, as did Maine Central, and buried far in Maines interior, the Bangor & Aroostook hauled freight and passengers with power ranging from EMDs BL-2, at left, to F-3s (center-527, 505) and GP-7s (or was No. 562 a GP-9?). The were blue and white, with a distinctive logo, stating Bangor and Aroostook Railroad Serving Northern Maine.
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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives - state DOTs, legislators, governor's offices, and transportation professionals - as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.
If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI's webmaster in Boston.
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