Vol. 7 No. 16
April 1, 2006

Copyright © 2006
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Molly McKay
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Seventh Year *

This page is best viewed at 800 X 600 screen resolution

 

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items... 
IT upgrades slow BART trains in San Francisco
  Environmental lines… 
Sierra Club, Merritt Parkway Conservancy et al
   prevail in lawsuit
What urban sprawl costs you
  Commuter lines… 
US transit ridership grows
North Scituate merchants aren’t sure how rerouting
   of traffic will affect business
  Business lines… 
Metro-North Railroad awards contract to
   Simmons Machine Tool Corporation
  Maintenance lines… 
Overhauled cab cars destined for renewed Keystone line
Equipment washing facility a welcome addition
  Off the main line… 
Amtrak 2007 Photo Calendar Contest
  Safety lines… 
Transportation Secretary Mineta unveils new
   commuter rail safety system
Man killed in car-train crash
  Freight lines… 
BNSF 2006 Capital Program to expand Wyoming rail capacity
Long-range state railroad plan in the works
Luxury liners, biotech, whole foods – it’s all speeding
   down the track into Interbay
  Friday Closing quotes… 
  Editorials… 
ConnDOT gets a well-deserved “4-F” for
   ignoring the law
A thumbs up to Amtrak
  End notes… 

 

Daylight Savings Time Started at 2:00 am Sunday.   Spring Ahead!

 

 

IT upgrades slow BART
trains in San Francisco

A backup software system added at rush hour made problems worse

Across the wires from ComputerWorld, Inc.

San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) was shutdown last week when upgrades to the software failed to work. The BART software system is crucial to operations. It coordinates and runs the trains, tracks, operating signals and track switches.

Upgrade work is done on the weekend to avoid disruptions during the crowded weekly commuter periods. This time, during the 48 hours after the upgrade, problems arose. When the Information Technology (IT) workers rushed to install a backup system, things got worse and the trains had to be stopped so they wouldn’t run into each other.

Linton Johnson, a BART spokesman said. “We were rushing to do the right thing, but, in the process of installing that backup system, we interfered with a [network switch] that crashed our system.”

Thousands of commuters were stranded for up to two hours on Wednesday when the trains had to be stopped while the IT system was repaired.

When the backup system was brought online, the network switch was overloaded, “which wasn’t anticipated by our computer technicians,” Johnson said.

The failure stopped the trains at 5:27 p.m. PDT for about 70 minutes. The problems caused delays of up to two hours before all the trains were operating on schedule, he said.

“We’re taking measures to make sure that this never happens again,” Johnson said. “This is essentially a mistake on BART’s part.”

About 15 of BART’s approximately 100 IT workers usually perform software upgrades, he said. Software testing is done in advance on a separate “virtual environment” so that it won’t interfere with everyday operations, he said. The software upgrades done last Sunday had passed extensive testing and are designed to “self-correct. [It] has proven to self-correct quickly when there is a problem.”

The work is part of a larger multiyear software upgrade being done in phases to avert commuter train slowdowns, he said. “In the midst of this installation procedure, which has been going on for 14 months...things were going great until Monday,” Johnson said. The software upgrades are expected to take another five months to complete.

BART officials are still trying to figure out what caused the problems last week.

The Integrated Control System is maintained by BART IT workers, but originally came from Logica, an England-based vendor, Johnson said.

BART began passenger service in the Bay Area in 1972 and now has 670 rail cars in its fleet, which cover 104 route miles through 43 stations. The system carries about 300,000 riders daily.


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ENVIRONMENTAL LINES...  Environmental lines...

Sierra Club, Merritt Parkway Conservancy et al
prevail in lawsuit against US DOT and FHWA

By D:F Staff

One day before Connecticut Dept of Transportation was scheduled to restart construction of a massive highway interchange at the juncture of Route 7 and the Merritt Parkway in Norwalk, Federal District Court Judge Mark Kravitz ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

The controversial project, designed thirty years ago for a super highway that has since been canceled, called for destruction of three historic bridges and the placement of mile-long ramps and lighting 30 to 60 feet above the scenic parkway.

It was stopped in its tracks last fall when ConnDOT, knowing that the target of the lawsuit was the preservation of the bridges, nevertheless started to dismantle the historic stone bridge over Main Street. The judge, who was still being briefed about the project, sprang into action, notifying ConnDOT that they would receive a court-ordered injunction if they did not stop the bridge destruction immediately.

At that point, ConnDOT “voluntarily” stopped any further work on the bridges but continued other phases of the project allowed by the court. To citizens’ dismay, they ripped out many acres of the thickly wooded buffers alongside the roadway, leaving sections of Norwalk looking like a war zone. They were also allowed to do some blasting.

ConnDOT set the date of April 1, 2006, for resumption of full scale construction.

Defendants and plaintiffs were ordered to meet with the magistrate judge on March 21 to try to reach a settlement agreement. The effort failed. ConnDOT refused to comply with any of the principal requirements of the plaintiffs, which targeted preservation of the historic bridges and elimination of the overhead ramps. Instead, they offered the plaintiffs the right to choose which type of trees would be used in the landscaping.

For more details, SEE Editorial below.


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What urban sprawl costs you

Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, March 27—In the Orlando Sentinal, staff writer Rich McKay summarizes important facts about sprawl from a recent book: Sprawl Costs: Economic Impacts of Unchecked Development. The book’s authors spent about 10 years gathering data from all 50 states.

Urban sprawl defines life in Central Florida and it costs you more than just money.

You pay for it.

Every time you get stuck in a traffic jam.

Every time you get a tax bill.

Every time you jump into the car just to go to a store for a loaf of bread.

Urban sprawl costs you time and money.

Sprawl defines life in Central Florida -- one of the most spread-out regions in the country. Sprawl means one subdivision and strip mall after the next, spread across former farmlands and natural habitat. It’s marked by miles of pavement and annoying traffic jams. Sprawl separates homes from businesses. It serves cars rather than people. It is the relentless march of the city outward toward rural areas.

And little stands in its way.

There are some people, however, who think growth can be smarter and more compact with a stronger separation among urban, suburban and rural terrain. Smart growth means better planning and more land preserved. It looks like condos and town houses mixed with single-family homes. Those homes are closer together, linked by walking paths that lead to stores, movie theaters and offices. There may be mass transit. Smart growth in Central Florida is Baldwin Park in Orlando and Celebration by Disney. Across the nation, it’s Boston and New York City.

It is hard to quantify, but according to many experts, compact development costs less -- in many ways.

Here is the tally:

TAXES - $2,708

If Central Florida grows as it always has, Orlando-area taxpayers will shell out $44,955 each in taxes during the next 20 years to pay for roads, water and sewer lines and other services that governments provide as development stretches farther outward, according to a new book, Sprawl Costs: Economic Impacts of Unchecked Development.

The authors -- some of the nation’s foremost experts on urban planning -- predict the cost could be reduced by about $2,708 per person if 25 percent of new development doesn’t sprawl.

Such compact growth means more condos and town homes, filling vacant lots and rebuilding in already developed areas. The savings could be greater if more new development doesn’t sprawl.

“The results were astounding,” said lead author Robert Burchell, a professor and co-director of the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University. “Millions of acres, hundreds of miles of roads that don’t have to be built. Billions and billions of dollars saved.”

Researchers calculated the costs and savings to the Orlando area through 2025:

SPRAWL COSTS
Roadways: 35,515 miles, $15.84 billion
Water/Sewer: $8.8 billion
Taxpayer Bill: $157.7 billion $44,955 per person

COMPACT SAVINGS
Roadways: 2,933 fewer miles saves $1.92 billion
Water/Sewer saves: $300 million
Taxpayer Bill saves: $9.5 billion saves $2,708 per person

HEALTH- 6 pounds

You could weigh up to 6 pounds more if you live in a sprawling area, and you may have a higher risk of obesity or high-blood pressure, according to research paid for by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

That’s because sprawl makes people spend more time in their car and less time walking to the movie theater, corner store or tavern -- locations that are within easy reach in more compact communities that mix homes with businesses.

In the 2003 study, authors from the foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Rutgers University examined 448 communities and 200,000 people across the U.S. They found the average weight of a 5-foot-7-inch person (they didn’t distinguish between men and women) ranged from 161 pounds in the least sprawling place to 167 pounds in the most sprawling.

They also found that sprawl could affect the risks of obesity and hypertension. Central Floridians have a slightly less chance of hypertension or obesity than average.

Other areas of study included time spent commuting, loss of farmland, and a scorecard on how other cities stack up.

Central Florida was compared to Boston in several categories: traffic delays per person per year, percentage of people using transit, average number of vehicles per household, fatal accidents per 100,000 people, and more.

For instance, in Boston the annual traffic delay per person is 28 hours; Central Florida – 55 hours. Fatal accidents per 100,000 – Boston -5.67; Central Florida – 26.87 . Average number of vehicles per household – Boston -1.52; Central Florida 2.7.

HOW OTHER CITIES STACK UP

On the scorecard of sprawl, Central Florida continually ranks among the worst regions in America. Orlando and Miami ranked among the worst sprawling communities nationwide.

Downtown Orlando has improved since the study was conducted but other parts of the metro area still fall short.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

US Transit Ridership Grows

Across the wires from the International Railway Journal
published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation

Usage of rail-based urban transport in the United States grew strongly in the third quarter of 2005 when fuel prices were high - and the trend continued in November when petrol prices dropped, according to studies by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA).

This was coupled with a 0.2% decrease in automobile mileage, prompting Mr. William W Millar, APTA’s president, to comment: “The increased ridership results... indicate that more and more Americans want other options besides the automobile.”

Light rail showed the largest increase at 8.8%. This was followed by commuter rail with a 4.6% increase, and metros with a 4.3% increase. By contrast, bus transport increased by only 2.5%.


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MBTA Greenbush Project:

North Scituate merchants aren’t sure how
rerouting of traffic will affect business

From the Internet

North Scituate business owners are taking a “wait and see” attitude as the Greenbush commuter rail project jumped forward in the downtown this week.

Jersey barriers are in place, new traffic lights are flashing and traffic has been shifted onto a temporary road, reported Diana Schoberg of The Patriot Ledger.

Railroad tracks will be put down through the intersection, which is just a short distance from the future North Scituate train station.

The streets being torn up creates an opportunity for the town to install sewer mains. Because the town is taking advantage of the chance, the pipes will already be in place if the town is able to sewer the area in the future.

The new road configuration is expected to last about 12 weeks, said Susan Phippen, the town’s MBTA liaison. Then another shift will enable crews to work on the other half of the intersection.

Phippen said she expects the work to last six to eight months.

A few parking spaces in the public lot will be lost but most of the on-street parking has been saved now that the original designs which eliminated on-street parking have been revised.

“We have a business district up here to maintain,” Phippen said. “They (businesses) were here before this project, and we want them to be here when it’s done.”

A few business owners are nervous that people will stay away from the area during construction, but they appreciate the day to day updates provided to them by the MBTA.

O’Donoghue Insurance on Country Way lost three parking spaces in front of its office. But Arlene Belliveau, one of the owners, said the agency is lucky because much of its work can be done on the phone.

“I don’t think we’re impacted as merchants are,” she said.

Across the street at Dottie’s Cleaners, clerk Terry James said the work has slowed business somewhat.

“People are avoiding the intersection because it’s different every time they come down here,” she said. “We’ll see how it goes.”

At CT Outfitter, owner Caryn Collings said she’s glad that she has been kept informed about all of the work that’s going on in the area.

Phippen provides daily updates by e-mail, and she does door-to-door distributing of fliers when major work is to be done.


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BUSINESS LINES...  Business lines...

Tandem Underfloor Wheel Truing System

Two Photos: Simmons Machine Tool Corporation

Tandem Underfloor Wheel Truing System

 

Metro-North Railroad awards contract
to Simmons Machine Tool Corporation

Source: Simmons Machine Tool Corporation

Albany, NY: The Metro-North Railroad, a subsidiary of New York State’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the second largest commuter railroad in the US, has awarded a contract to Simmons Machine Tool Corporation for the design and manufacture of a Tandem Underfloor Wheel Truing System. The System will be installed in a new facility to be located in the Harmon Yard in Croton-On-Hudson, NY and will include a tandem underfloor wheel lathe, chip disposal equipment, car progression equipment, and machine fluids management equipment. The tandem wheel-truing lathe will be the first of its type installed in North America. It will provide the Metro-North Railroad with the capability of simultaneously measuring and then truing the tread of both wheel sets in a common truck to matching dimensions. This precision measurement and truing requirement is essential for the maintenance of Metro-North’s latest fleet of EMU vehicles. In addition to the new M-7 vehicles, the tandem underfloor wheel truing system will be capable of handling the Metro-North’s existing fleet including; the GE Genesis Locomotives, EMD GP and F locomotives, M series EMUs, and Bombardier and Pullman coaches.

The tandem underfloor wheel lathe will be designed in collaboration with Simmons’ affiliated company Hegenscheidt MFD of Erkelenz Germany and will be based on the U2000-400 model with proven installations worldwide. Simmons is currently in production of single axle U2000-400 model underfloor wheel lathes for customers in Maracaibo Venezuela, Charlotte North Carolina, Phoenix Arizona, and Washington DC.

Simmons’ President & COO John O. Naumann stated, “Simmons and its employees are excited to deliver state-of-the-art high precision wheel truing technology into our own back yard at the Metro-North”

For additional information see www.smtgroup.com.

Design concept drawing of wheel truing system in use

Design concept drawing of wheel truing system in use


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MAINTENANCE LINES...  Maintenance lines...

Electrician installs wiring in cab car 9646.

Two Photos: Amtrak Ink

Electrician Anthony Testa installs wiring in the disaster lighting system of cab car 9646.

 

Overhauled Cab Cars Destined for
Renewed Keystone Line

Source: Amtrak Ink

Under the Mechanical department’s FY ‘06 capital program, the Cab Car Remanufacture Project is an important element of the Keystone Corridor Improvement Project aimed at providing all-electric service and a faster, more reliable and comfortable trip on the 105-mile Keystone Line.

Originally built in 1968 as Metroliners and then converted to push-pull cab cars at Wilmington Shops between 1989 and 1991, the units afford the railroad operating flexibility by enabling the train to easily reverse directions at the end of the route. Cab cars save valuable time that would otherwise be taken to wye a train or circle a locomotive around it.

“The cab car is equipped with control devices that, when coupled with other passenger cars and a locomotive, enables the engineer in the cab to remotely control the functions of the locomotive,” explained Bear Car Shop Superintendent Danny McFadden. “To operate in the opposite direction, the engineer simply climbs down from the cab car and goes to the locomotive.”

In a typical train consist the cab car is positioned at the front of the train, followed by additional passenger cars and a push-pull electric locomotive at the rear.

The improvements most apparent to passengers are new fiberglass bathroom modules that contain new toilets, sinks, fixtures, vinyl flooring and easy-to- clean fiberglass walls.

The 68- seat coach section is equipped with new lighting, carpet and seat cushions.

The grab iron is a safety feature used by the crews to hold on to when pulling cables or coupling the train.

Car Repairman/Welder J. Bruce Carlton installs a grab iron on cab car 9646 at Bear Car Shop. The grab iron is a safety feature used by the crews to hold on to when pulling cables or coupling the train.

Other upgrades that are not quite as obvious include reconditioned public address systems and over-hauled trucks, brake systems, air conditioning systems, electrical panels and 480-volt electric cable.

The cars are also outfitted with updated safety features such as new nine-aspect cab signal systems and ACSES civil speed enforcement systems that work together to prevent collisions and derailments by automatically stopping or slowing the train when necessary.

Federal Railroad Administration-compliant event recorders, similar to airline black boxes, are also installed in the cars to record the actions of the locomotive engineer regarding the movement of the train. The cab car is equipped with a safety device, known as an alertor, that applies the brakes if the locomotive engineer fails to manually acknowledge an alarm that periodically sounds and flashes while the train is moving.

At press time, Human Resources’ Employee Development team is developing a cab car maintenance class to re-train Mechanical employees on updated methods of repairing and servicing these units.

The training is expected to take place late this spring in New York, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Washington and New Haven.

Work on the project, budgeted at approximately $1 million per unit, began in FY ‘04 and the first six units were finished in FY ‘05.


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A track stabilizer is cleaned at the new spray wash facility located at the Providence, RI

Photo: Amtrak Ink

A track stabilizer is cleaned at the new spray wash facility located at the Providence Maintenance-of-Way base. Opened in December 2005 to handle large pieces of track equipment and oversized work vehicles used by the Engineering department, the facility enforces stringent pollution controls and is more efficient than its predecessor.

 

Equipment washing facility
a welcome addition

Source: Amtrak Ink

Supports tighter environmental controls, yields greater efficiency

A new vehicle and equipment spray wash facility at the Providence R.I., Maintenance-of-Way base, designed to minimize impacts to the environment is also more efficient at washing the roughly 40 oversized work vehicles and another 40 pieces of track maintenance equipment used by the Engineering department in New England.

Equipped to handle large track equipment, the new facility opened in December after more than two years of planning, engineering design, and construction. The $700,000 facility was financed by the Environmental Health and Safety department’s capital program.

Replacing a much-smaller spray wash facility that had been constructed in the 1980s, the new facility incorporates more stringent pollution controls. The key design features include a 40-foot-by-60- foot concrete pad with integrated track, a roofed structure with two side walls, and a 2,000-gallon underground holding tank.

To prevent the wash water from potentially polluting the storm water, an environmentally sound drainage system conveys it to the underground holding tank.

When the holding tank becomes full, the spent water is hauled off site to a treatment facility for proper disposal. The tank was less expensive to construct and is more cost-effective to operate than a complex wastewater treatment system.

“Use of the spray wash facility is expected to result in long-term cost savings for Amtrak because of improved storm water pollution controls, which minimizes the potential for fines from regulatory agencies,” said Senior Environmental Coordinator Rob Graham.

While keeping potential contaminants from impacting the environment is essential, keeping the vehicles and track equipment clean also makes good sense as oil leaks are more easily discovered and fixed and proper maintenance and care of the track equipment extends its lifespan.

The preliminary engineering design for the spray wash facility was developed by Jim Mann of the Amtrak Engineering Design group in Philadelphia. Cardi Corporation of Warwick, R.I., was selected through a competitive bid process to develop the final design and to construct the facility. Construction oversight was provided by Anthony Scorpio, New England Division area construction engineer.


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OFF THE MAIN LINE...  Off the main line...

Amtrak Contest Lens image


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Amtrak 2007 Photo Calendar Contest

Enter the “Picture Our Train” 2007 Wall Calendar Contest by submitting an original color photo of an Amtrak ® train (sporting current logo and livery) and your image could appear on next year’s wall calendar with photo credit. The First Prize winner will also receive an Amtrak travel voucher. Starting April 3rd. go to www.amtrak.com/photocontest for more information and complete contest rules.

Amtrak is a registered mark of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation.

Amtrak Logo

 

SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

Transportation Secretary Mineta unveils
new commuter rail safety system

Source: U.S. Dept of Transportation
Contact: Brian Turmail 202-366-4570

New safety devices for rail cars that may make millions of train riders safer during a crash are being tested by the federal government as part of the Crash-Energy Management system, Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta announced recently.

Testing is not just being done by punching numbers into a commuter. “By smashing a few trains in the desert, we hope to find new ways to keep millions of commuters safe every day.”

Devices being tested include special test dummies, crush zones that absorb the force of a crash to better protect the parts of trains where passengers sit and operators drive. The crush zones have stronger end frames that act as bumpers to distribute crash forces throughout an entire train so passengers feel less of the impact. The Crush Zones distributes the force of an impact to unoccupied areas of the train.

Other devices tested include newly designed couplers, which join two cars together and are built to retract and absorb energy to keep trains upright on the tracks during a crash. Pushback couplers and anti-climbers absorb the force of impact and hold the train cars together and in line.

New passenger seats and chairs designed with special padding and crushable edges also were tested. Improved seats are strategically padded and designed to contain and cushion passengers during a crash.

Newly strengthened worktables with crushable edges reduce the risk of abdominal injury.

The test crashed head-on a five car, cab forward, passenger train into an equally weighted standing locomotive with two freight cars, at a speed of 32 miles per hour.

10 crash-test dummies and 425 sensors were placed throughout the passenger cars to measure the effects of a crash on human beings.

Dummies will be used to test the newly designed worktables and improved passenger seats for effectiveness.

The dummies are equipped with advanced computers that will record the amount of force exerted on the abdominal, head and neck areas during a crash.

The locomotives were provided by Amtrak. The passenger cars were manufactured in the 1960’s and used in commuter service for many years by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) and Long Island Railroad (LIRR).

More than two dozen interior and exterior cameras were placed at strategic points to capture virtually every angle of the crash, including the point of impact, the effect on the dummies, and the potential for the new technologies to improve passenger safety.

Mineta said that if the new safety system works as designed, they will more than double the speed at which all passengers can survive a train crash, from just 15 miles per hour to at least 36 miles per hour. “The new system turns once-rigid train cars into giant shock absorbers that help protect a train’s crew and passengers,” the Secretary added.

Mineta said his Department is also developing new standards for train cars equipped with the Crash-Energy Management system in order to make it easier for other rail operators to acquire equipment using the new technology. He added that Los Angeles’ MetroLink commuter train system has already ordered new passenger rail cars that incorporate the technology.

Secretary Mineta has not indicated how these safety measures would be paid for.


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Man killed in car-train crash

By Associated Press as carried by the Winona Daily News

AMHERST, Wis, March 31— A 67-year-old Stevens Point man was killed early Thursday when his car collided with a train in Amherst.

Allen R. Dent died of internal injuries after his car was hit by a Canadian National freight train at a private driveway crossing.

Portage County Coroner Scott Rifleman said authorities were still trying to determine why Dent was there. No ruling has been made and officials are waiting for the victim’s toxicology results, he said.

The intersection has railroad crossing signs with the beginnings of gate installation though it does not have flashing lights.

The train engineer reported he saw the car and sounded visible and audible warnings, officials said. He will not be cited, said Portage County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ken Tschudy.

The train — traveling 50 mph — pushed the car for about a half mile before coming to a stop.

Officials said neither visibility nor weather were factors in the crash.

Train company officials declined to comment at the scene.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

BNSF 2006 Capital Program to
Expand Wyoming Rail Capacity

Across the wires from BNSF
Contact: Gus Melonas (206) 625-6220

FORT WORTH, TX, March 31 -- Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company plans to make major capital improvements and expansion in Wyoming in 2006. A $46.2 million capital program is being added to the already significant capital maintenance investments planned for 2006.

The capacity enhancements are part of the 10 percent increase to its $2.4 billion capital program that BNSF announced in January.

$550 million will be used to acquire 310 low-emissions locomotives, many of which will operate through Wyoming.

$24.7 million will be spent to expand terminal capacity at Donkey Creek Yard, and $21.5 million for additional triple track on BNSF’s Orin subdivision.

Matthew K. Rose, BNSF Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, said in a letter to Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal outlining BNSF’s 2006 capital plans that, “BNSF is proud of its ability to provide transportation services to the businesses and communities we serve in Wyoming, and we look forward to continuing to grow our capacity in a way that facilitates growth for the Wyoming economy.”

BNSF has increased its capital budget for the second year in a row as a result of increased returns on its capital investments and continued increases in demand for freight rail transportation.

Rose said that as long as BNSF’s return on capital investment and freight rail demand continue to increase, BNSF is committed to expanding capacity and improving customer service while keeping its physical plant strong.

Railroads in the United States move more freight for less money and with less negative impact on the environment than any other surface transportation system.

However, railroads are America’s most capital-intensive industry, and even with BNSF’s improved returns, the need for expanded rail capacity is expected to outpace the ability of private railroads to invest enough capital.

In order to encourage increased use of the economic, energy and environmental benefits of the U.S. rail network, BNSF is supporting creation of a federal infrastructure tax credit to stimulate additional private investment in rail infrastructure.

A subsidiary of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation (NYSE: BNI), BNSF Railway Company operates one of the largest railroad networks in North America, with about 32,000-route-miles in 28 states and two Canadian provinces. The railway is among the world’s top transporters of intermodal traffic, moves more grain than any other North American railroad, transports the components of many of the products we depend on daily, and hauls enough low-sulphur coal to generate about ten percent of the electricity produced in the United States. BNSF Railway is an industry leader in Web-enabling a variety of customer transactions at www.bnsf.com.


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Long-range state railroad plan in the works

Across the wires from the Argus Leader

PIERRE, S.D. –March 27—South Dakota is looking 20 years into the future in planning changes and improvements to the state railroad, according to Bruce Lindholm, program manager for the state Office of Railroads.

The public will be asked to provide comments for the plan, which will include all lines in South Dakota, “to make sure people understand how (each line) fits into the big picture,” Lindholm said.

It will include the costs and benefits of public funding of infrastructure, both state-owned lines and private lines, he said.

The most recent long-range plan was in 1995, said Todd Yeaton of Highmore, chairman of the South Dakota Railroad Board. “We have to do this,” he said.

Yeaton said such a plan would have helped state lawmakers understand why railroad board members wanted to keep money from the core-line sale (D:F March 20, 2006, “Rail Sale Boosts South Dakota Trains”) in the railroad trust fund.

“Definitely, it would have helped us explain our situation,” he said. “Legislators would ask, what do you need money for, and it would have been nice to have been able to give them a printed plan of our needs.”

Yeaton and other board members tried to persuade lawmakers to stay out of the trust fund, which is used for loans to regional rail authorities to finance projects such as sidings at ethanol plants.

Lawmakers eyed the trust fund after the state sold 368 miles of its core rail line to Burlington Northern Santa Fe in December. The sale put $42 million into the fund, and legislators and Gov. Mike Rounds fought over who should control the money.

Legislators took $38 million for an account they ultimately control, leaving about $18 million in the fund, Transportation Secretary Judy Payne said.

The fund will take in less than $100,000 a year in the future, DOT officials say.

The rail board might have had more luck keeping its fund intact if it had had a long-range plan to show detailed future developments and expected loan requests, Yeaton said.


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Luxury liners, biotech, Whole Foods –
it’s all speeding down the track Into Interbay

Across the wires from American City Business Journals Inc.

SEATTLE, March 27--A gritty industrial area, jammed between two of Seattle’s most affluent neighborhoods, is the subject of intense development pressure to harness economic development. Why? Both port and freight rail facilities give it made-to-order transportation opportunities.

An article by Sound Business Journal staff writer Steve Wilhelm lays out the unique challenges and opportunities of this unusual city space.

The Interbay area, called that because it links Elliott Bay to Salmon Bay, has for decades been an industrial zone with multiple tracks of a Burlington Northern Santa Fe switching yard at its core.

At its north end is Fishermen’s Terminal, the home of Seattle’s fishing fleet. To the south are the Port of Seattle’s terminals 91 and 92, as well as 57 acres of asphalt that until a few years ago was used for auto importation.

To the east is the upscale neighborhood of Queen Anne Hill, and on another hill to the west is the pricey neighborhood of Magnolia.

Residents and business leaders all have agendas for the area. A large housing development slated for the 57 acres of asphalt was canceled in favor of 2.2 million square feet of research and development space, 1.1 million square feet for office space, and 350,000 square feet for “new and traditional maritime and industrial uses.”

The port is reserving the areas south of the Magnolia bridge, primarily consisting of piers 90 and 91, for a cruise ship terminal, factory trawler maintenance and berthing, and other marine-related uses. They intend to invest $50 million for utilities including roads, water, sewer, electricity and fiber optics, as well as for a new bridge to 15th Avenue West, the major arterial that forms the eastern boundary of the Interbay area.

Port officials hope that zoning changes needed for the planned developments will be approved later this year.

Real estate development manager for the port, Mark Griffin, said “Our role is to facilitate economic development, and make land available to a number of job-generating and enhancement uses.”

Meanwhile, in the area near the railroad tracks, another group, The Interbay Neighborhood Association, wants 22 acres rezoned by the city to allow a combination of manufacturing and multi-unit rentals, hoping to attract investment and people that will clean up the area.

“It’s actually kind of deserted down here,” said Chuck Read, co-chairman of the association and president of Read Products Inc., a maker of wooden platters there. “I feel if we can bring people into the neighborhood who live here, it would help make it a better neighborhood.”

The challenge will be how to develop the area without displacing the historic industrial uses and maritime character.

“From our standpoint, we have a limited amount of space for industrial uses, partly in this area where there’s a maritime use link,” said Sung Yang, a senior policy adviser to Mayor Greg Nickels. “We think the preservation of that land for these uses is important.”

Mixed –use development is what everyone has an eye on but the trick will be how to balance all the different types, maintain the historic character, keep residential sections protected from noise and other disturbances, and make all the factions economically viable.

Construction will start soon for a 60,000-spuare-foot Whole Foods store and soon after, 10 other retail stores will follow.

Rick Parks, leasing manager for TRF Pacific LLC, the real estate development and management company that is doing the work, said Whole Foods, sometimes jokingly called “Whole Paycheck,” is one of the nation’s most upscale food store chains.

“These are the richest markets, the hardest to get into,” he said. “Those who did get in, have some nice retailing opportunities.”

Commercial real estate developers like Tom Parsons, senior vice president of Opus Northwest LLC of Bellevue, say they’re watching the unfolding process with great interest, calling the port land one of the largest developable areas in the city.

“We think it’s obviously a very desirable area being close to downtown Seattle, and offers a lot of opportunities for mixed-use development,” he said. “I think the biggest question is, to what extent do additional uses, besides industrial, get included in the development mix.”

This is a significant question for executives of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, who already have dealt with years of pressure from Magnolia neighbors about the noise of the switching yard, where railroad cars often crash into each other as trains are assembled. In addition to the switching yard, operations there include a roundhouse and service center, said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas.

“BNSF has made significant investments and adjustments in operations to decrease noise,” he said. “The operation of this rail facility, including a rail yard with shops and mainline, is critical, as we are handling record volumes of freight.”

Another possible key area of growth would be the biotech industry. The Amgen facility near Pier 90 could be a catalyst.

Commercial developer Greg Johnson, president of Wright Runstad & Co., said the balance of residential and industrial uses will be one of the most critical issues the port and city will have to manage.

“The more residential you introduce, the more pressure there’s going to be from those residents to have a nice residential environment,” he said. “If you start to change that balance, the mayor and policymakers need to be mindful that both of those uses have unique needs, and how they interface needs to be well thought out.”

Contact: swilhelm@bizjournals.com • 206-447-8505x113


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)83.3380.35
Canadian National (CNI)45.2847.57
Canadian Pacific (CP)49.9749.12
CSX (CSX)59.8059.01
Florida East Coast (FLA)53.9052.88
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)30.6832.31
Kansas City Southern (KSU)24.7024.50
Norfolk Southern (NSC)54.0753.30
Providence & Worcester (PWX)16.2016.39
Union Pacific (UNP)93.3592.18


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EDITORIALS...  Editorials...

Environmental Justice for the Merritt Parkway:

ConnDOT gets a well-deserved
“4-F” for ignoring the law

Every now and again, the good guys win.

That is what happened this past week when a Federal District Court Judge remanded for review a controversial interchange project that would permanently disfigure an important part of the Merritt Parkway and its historic bridges at Route 7 in Norwalk.

While careful to avoid passing judgment on the interchange itself, Federal District Court Judge Mark Kravitz noted in his order that Congress had voted 40 years ago “…that special effort should be made to preserve the natural beauty of certain protected resources, such as ‘the countryside and public park and recreation lands, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites,’ [and that]…to that end,

Section 4(f) states that the Secretary of Transportation ‘shall not approve any program or project…which requires use [of a protected resource] . . . unless (1) there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of such land, and (2) such program includes all possible planning to minimize harm to such [protected resource].’”

What happened, in English, was that ConnDOT claimed it had considered alternatives to the massive Los Angeles-style interchange they were launching (without any real public review), but when asked by the court to produce evidence of such consideration, could not do so. Hence, the 4(f) ruling by Judge Kravitz in favor of the plaintiffs in the case: the Merritt Parkway Conservancy, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Norwalk Land Trust, Norwalk River Watershed Association, Norwalk Preservation Trust, and the Sierra Club.

ConnDOT’s Route 7 interchange project sits under a “voluntary” moratorium for the time being, which ConnDOT itself imposed just before a previous hearing that might have resulted in a somewhat less “voluntary” arrangement, but Judge Kravitz has given the parties a week to come to terms, or he will likely craft an injunction on the project. It is hard to imagine any terms ConnDOT, which has ignored the law in its rush to pave over this portion of Norwalk, might concede, but one never knows. Perhaps the Governor will get involved, and inquire exactly why ConnDOT is in such a hurry to build a freeway-style interchange from the small-scale, historic Merritt Parkway to a Route 7 superhighway project that was officially cancelled more than five years ago. One can always hope.

Why should this matter be of interest to Destination:Freedom or its readers? Because Connecticut’s Department of Transportation is all too typical of other state DOT’s, which are really just highway departments under a more politically correct name. ConnDOT has consistently spent massively for and continues to promote unneeded highway projects – such as the billion-dollar Route 11 extension in Connecticut --- while failing to repair the roads we have. It has consistently introduced “safety improvements” on secondary roads, such as the speedway called Route 2 in Stonington, CT, or its proposed extension of that disaster into North Stonington, which actually make those roads more dangerous by building super wide lanes and shoulders that give the illusion of safety, thereby raising speeds.

ConnDOT’s behavior is a function of the way America funds transportation. The Highway Trust Fund, created a half century ago to build the Interstate Highway System, continues on decades after the basic system was completed, while Europe and Japan – and now China and India --- are building modern high speed rail systems. Money in the public coffers finds an excuse to be spent, of course, and the state DOTs are constantly inventing projects to use up that money --- but crying poverty anytime a non-highway project is proposed. It is time to reign in the state DOTs, and make them servants of the people again, instead of being cash cows for the highway lobby, which is what they are now. The Route 7 interchange – stopped for the time being --- is proof of that.


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A Thumbs Up to Amtrak

Across the wires

The Southern Illinoisan in Carbondale has given a “THUMBS UP” to the possibility of expanding Amtrak to better serve Southern Illinois. Quality train service is especially important to SIU students, who rely on trains for transportation to their hometowns. Tentative plans call for an extra stop in Carbondale, which would be much appreciated by local residents.


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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 editor at editor@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write. For technical issues contact D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster at webmaster@nationalcorridors.org.

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