Did you reset all your clocks, tick-tocks?
In case you missed it, most of the nation returned to daylight saving time at 2:00 a.m. yesterday Sunday, April 6, when clocks were set ahead one hour. The change will provide an additional hour of daylight in the evening. USDOT reminded Americans it is also a good time to change smoke detector batteries. When changing your clocks, remember the old saying Spring forward, fall back, USDOT Secretary Norman Mineta said. Daylight Saving Time is observed from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October. Next fall, the nation will return to standard time starting Sunday, October 26.
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April 28, 29
A Special Invitation
A fair statement to make today is that we indeed live in interesting times, probably too interesting for some, but nevertheless a challenge.
One particular challenge is that of re-inventing the nations rail transportation system, which was built (not surprisingly, considering its pedigree) on a 19th century business model, but which must be adapted to, and made to serve, 21st century needs.
That America is at last beginning to compete with the rest of the modern world on ground transportation cannot be doubted. That we still have a long way to go is obvious, but the tide has been turning, and we invite you to come witness that April 28, 29 in Washington at our national conference. You can register here, on line, or fax the registration form to 617-269-3943.
Leading off will be opening keynoter APTA President Bill Millar; Amtrak Chairman John Robert Smith will close out Monday. Tuesdays opener is Michael S. Dukakis, and closing out the conference will be the estimable David Gunn, Amtraks President these past 11months, who has already transformed the railroad.
In between will be the top thinkers and doers not only from the rail industry, but also from the news media, environmental groups, rail advocacy leadership, and the world of transit.
With the TEA-21 renewal debate in full swing, the need to find a permanent solution for Amtrak and passenger rail funding to guarantee the survival of a national system, and the growth of stronger regional systems, you owe it to yourself to join us at the one conference each year where all sides can be heard, and where new and fresh ideas are always developed.
A partial speakers list follows:
Featured speakers at the conference will include Amtrak Reform Council member Jim Coston, of the Chicago-based international law firm of Coston & Lichtman; former Delaware Secretary of Transportation and newly named Surface Transportation Policy Project Chair Anne P. Canby, 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, PB Transit & Rail Systems, Parsons Brinckerhoff Senior Vice President and APTA Intercity Chair Joseph Silien, 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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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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Mike JohannessenWhen Amtrak engine No. 231 was in service, it often hauled train No. 11, the southbound Coast Starlight, between Seattle and Los Angeles, as on this sunny day at Pinole, Calif., on June 1, 2001. The now-retired locomotive is currently enroute to Portland, Ore., and its permanent home after leaving Beech Grove, Ind., about ten days ago. No. 231 was in Willmar, Minn., on April 1, says its new owner, Chris Fussell, and It should be moving by the end of the week. Due to it being a low-priority movement, it's bound to encounter delays. The engine, still in operating condition, is being routed via CSX from Indianapolis to Chicago, BNSF from Chicago to Portland, Fussell said. The Portland arrival date is not yet known. Fussell paid $20,000 for the locomotive, which is being retired to a Portland museum.
Border security amendment fails in Senate
The Senate narrowly defeated a $2.9 billion amendment on Thursday, which would have enhanced border security, including better rail protection. The measure, sponsored by Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) was tabled on a 52-46 roll call. The Transportation Security Administration would have administered the funds.
The $200 million that would have been allotted for railroad infrastructure security prompted the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) to put out a special bulletin to its members urging that they contract their senators seeking their support.
Nonetheless, the argument that it was unnecessary to provide the additional spending over and above what had already been allocated for homeland security won the day.
Both the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism here at home have increased the governments burden to meet essential border and transportation needs, Breaux said, adding, My amendment was designed to help bridge the gaps in critical funding at airports, railroad and mass transit, as well as providing more funds for police and customs inspectors.
The Breaux amendment would have provided $1 billion to beef up security at airports and for mass transit systems, as well as more funds for police and customs inspectors; $400 million to police officers for special communications equipment; $366 million for improvement in customs and border protection; and (as mentioned above) $200 million for increased security of Americas railroads.
The proposal would have been added to S.792, the supplementary appropriations bill whose primary purpose is to fund the war in Iraq. That measure, without the Louisiana lawmakers amendment, was approved 99-0.
Even as Marine officers proclaimed that Asiriyah, Iraq, would be soon secured after four days of street fighting, Iraqis launched a large and organized surprise attack on the American battalions south of the Euphrates River as the sun set on March 27.
The New York Times reporter Michael Wilson wrote U.S. infantry units reported as many as 1,000 Iraqi soldiers assembling at a railroad depot just south of Nasiriyah, a river city. Artillery units responded, but the Iraqi fighters had already fanned out, southward, toward major marine outposts. The regimental headquarters and the central command of the valuable artillery batteries both received machine gun fire and faced the harrowing threat of being overrun.
Thirty-one coalition soldiers were wounded, and most of them not serious; most were mild concussions and lacerations. No deaths were reported among the few hundred marines involved in the fighting.
Iraqi casualties were unknown, and in keeping with the murky identities of the enemy forces in Nasiriyah, their numbers were called into question. It appeared that around 1,000 soldiers gathered at the railroad, but less than 100 actually fought. American military officers said it was impossible to tell in the darkness.
The attack startled an artillery unit heretofore removed by miles from flying bullets, from the almost-hoarse colonel cursing, standing and slamming his combat radio on the table in frustration to the young corporals ordered to the camps perimeter berm with their rifles and night vision goggles.
When the long night ended at dawn, the camps went on the defensive. Artillery batteries pulled slightly back, closer to their headquarters. They dug in physically, and psychologically. A plan to pull back to a safer spot further south was rejected by the artillerys commanding officer.
I dont want to appear to be running from the battle, said. Col. Glenn Starnes, who has led the attacks and counter fire at Nasiriyah since Sunday morning. Also, he said, further distance from the infantry will threaten already temperamental communication lines. Radios routinely fail, and are quickly replaced in the middle of a battle.
It began at sundown on Wednesday. Marine units have been blocking roads that could be used by Iraqi fighters, but apparently ignored the railroad line. Inside the cramped command tent, an intelligence officer, Lt. Josh Cusworth, looked up from his map.
Thats how theyre coming in, he said, pointing. That railroad. Were not monitoring it whatsoever. We dont think theyre using it. Thats how theyre getting in.
Suddenly, a captain from one of the howitzer batteries shouted over the radio that his unit was taking machine-gun fire. Im seeing green tracers, he said, referring to glowing rounds that help rifleman direct their aim. Marines use red tracers. The artillery battery returned fire.
South of there, at the headquarters camp, several marines heard the distinctive whining whoosh of small arms fire passing overhead. Officers ordered all spare bodies to the perimeter. All marines are on the berm, an officer told the tent. Weve heard rocket sounds.
Nearby, the regimental headquarters was also taking fire, and officers quickly arranged to transfer command of the Nasiriyah fight to the artillery unit if the headquarters was overrun.
On the domestic front, two brothers were charged with trespassing and railroad vandalism April 3 for allegedly placing metal objects on the Kate Shelley High Bridge in Boone County, Iowa. Union Pacific employees reported two suspects leaving an area near the tracks about 4:45 p.m., according to the Des Moines Register. The employees and sheriffs officials found large metal bars placed on the tracks.
Nathan W. Deizell, 23, of Indianola and Heath B. Deizell, 20, of Ames were charged in the case. The brothers said they were engineering students at Iowa State University, but university records did not list them as students. Both men were being held in the Boone County Jail.
New Penn Station to honor Moynihan
The new railroad hub planned to replace New York Citys aging Pennsylvania Station will be named in honor of the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York officials said on March 27.
Gov. George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, both Republicans, said the station, scheduled to open in 2008, would be named the Daniel Patrick Moynihan Station, Reuters reported. It was in memory of the four-term Democratic senator who died on March 26 at age 76.
Moynihan was a driving force behind the new station, to be built in the stately James A. Farley Post Office Building above the current Penn Station tracks. He had served since last year as the mayors representative to the redevelopment corporation directing the project.
Folks at Amtrak last week wanted to lower the flags at Union Station in honor of the late former ambassador and senator, champion of railroads in general and an especially staunch supporter of intercity passenger rail.
He was always at hand when a visionary was needed, said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black, The Washington Post reported, so it was with some dismay that Amtrak folks in our national capital noticed that the flags last week at Union Station were not lowered after word came of Moynihans death.
The rest of the story, though, shows that it turns out the flags don't belong to Amtrak, but to the National Park Service.
An Amtrak official called the Park Service, sources said, but was told the White House would have to approve the lowering of the flags. The White House, maybe busy with other things, didn't call back.
So, the flags around Penn Station in New York were at half-staff, but not in D.C
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Herzog wont pursue Missouri rail service
A St. Joseph, Mo., company that wanted to take over passenger rail service in Missouri has decided not to bid on the job, citing difficulties in dealing with Amtrak, according to a report in The Kansas City Star. That means Amtrak will continue to operate the twice-daily train service from Kansas City to St. Louis for at least another year, Missouri DOT officials said April 1.
Herzog Transit Services, a subsidiary of Herzog Transit Corp. based in St. Joseph, already operates commuter rail lines in California, Texas and Florida and maintains railroad tracks in other states.
Amtrak has said it would need $6.4 million to maintain the train service through the next fiscal year, which begins in July. Transportation officials have requested that lawmakers approve a $6.1 million appropriation for the service and that services be reduced.
Herzog officials said they could provide the service at considerably less cost than Amtrak. Transportation officials invited them, along with any other companies, to submit a proposal to operate the service.
Herzog told transportation officials it cant submit an offer. Company representatives said they had been successful in finding rail cars and locomotives and getting access to city-owned rail stations, but it had problems negotiating with Amtrak over access to the St. Louis train station and to the rail services ticket reservation system, which would allow Missouri passengers to continue traveling on to other states. Herzog also said it wanted to use vacant property for a maintenance site.
Amtrak made it very clear that the issues of access to the reservation system, and the use of the vacant property adjacent to the St. Louis station terminal were not open for discussion, Herzog officials said in a letter.
Company officials added in the letter, We hope that MoDOT does not enter into any longer length of an agreement with Amtrak than is necessary, so that we may continue to attempt to resolve the issues related to Amtrak.
Amtrak officials declined to comment on the matter last week.
California transportation officials are close to hiring a Washington, D.C.-based company to study whether California should end its 27-year-old partnership with Amtrak.
The government-subsidized train service runs three in-state rail lines and connecting buses in California. Amtrak has teetered on the brink of insolvency for the past year, persuading some state legislators to push for the state to solicit bids from other companies, according to the Stockton Record of March 29.
Instead of immediately asking for bids from other companies, Gov. Gray Davis directed CalDOT to study the pros and cons of such a divorce.
The study will not take into consideration the trains operated by Amtrak that start in California and go into other states.
Caltrans officials said Friday that train consultants R.L. Banks & Associates Inc. will study how the state could split from Amtrak, regardless of whether the train service stays in business.
Charles Banks, the companys president, declined to comment on the upcoming study, citing its potentially controversial implications and the wishes of Caltrans. The company has an office in San Francisco and is studying other rail systems in Northern California and other states.
Caltrans spokesman David Anderson said the study will cost the state $300,000. The state pays Amtrak to run three in-state rail lines and connecting bus routes. That partnership began in 1976 and is not related to Amtrak train service that crosses the country.
For this fiscal year, the state agreed to pay Amtrak $73 million for doing everything from operating the trains to running ticket booths and operating a toll-free telephone reservation number.
Amtrak officials have said they will work with the consulting company to study the future of the rail lines.
The study will consider whether a split from Amtrak is legal, what procedures could be used to solicit takeover bids and the general financial implications. The study should be done by December, according to state documents.
Operators of other train systems and some rail advocates support the idea of soliciting bids for operations of the rail systems. They say Amtrak is inefficient and burdened by national financial problems, which inevitably affect Californias system.
Concerned about the cost of a high-speed rail system, the Florida House Transportation Committee voted March 26 to make Floridians vote on repealing a Constitutional amendment that requires the state to build the network.
The committee voted 12-7 in favor of a resolution that would put a Constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2004 allowing voters to decide if they want to repeal the amendment requiring construction of a rail system connecting the states five largest population centers, according to The Sarasota Herald-Tribune of March 27.
Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has urged repeal of the high-speed rail amendment and another one approved last year that calls for a reduction in public school class size, contending that voters did not understand that they would cost billions of dollars and could force tax increases.
Senate President Jim King, also a Republican, stated recently the Senate would defeat such a bill and keep the proposed rail service which has already accepted bids from potential builders on track.
Trains magazines Bob Johnston reports Talgo America is proposing to build 20 fast trains for the U.S.
Passenger train builders are confronting a U.S. market in a state of suspended animation, according to the magazine.
The Bush administration and Amtrak want states to pick up the full operating losses of passenger trains, and federal lawmakers are gearing up for surface transportations reauthorization but there is no guarantee the new legislation will include funding for intercity passenger rail. Meanwhile, Congress keeps pushing off its promised national debate on the future of passenger rail service.
In early January, Talgo America sent identical letters to Amtrak and at least seven states with an offer to build and lease a minimum of 20 Talgo XXI trainsets. Talgo America CEO Jean-Pierre Ruiz would not comment on the letters, Johnston wrote, interviews with state DOT officials confirmed that the 12-car trainsets would include a bistro car and two diesel locomotives built by Siemens of France. The trains would carry between 300 and 330 passengers depending on how seats are configured for Americans with disabilities accessibility and if the cars are business or coach class.
Also, 12-year leases would cost about $1.5 million per year, per trainset, including maintenance, and include an option to apply a portion of the payments toward purchase.
Other locomotives could be substituted to reduce lease costs, and the 20-trainset order could be subdivided in any combination between states or Amtrak, allowing different upholstery and paint but few other changes without adding to the cost. Cars would be assembled in the U.S., using shells from Finland and wheelsets from Spain.
Talgo entered the U.S. market in 1994, when it leased a pair of passive-tilt trains for Amtraks Pacific Northwest Corridor. Public enthusiasm led the state of Washington and Amtrak to order four custom-designed trainsets.
The Spanish builder set up a U.S. affiliate and rolled out the Cascades in 1999, where it operated under FRA waivers. Ridership grew quickly and under Talgos maintenance model, a technician rides every trip, which resulted in achieving an availability rate unmatched elsewhere in the U.S., according to Trains.
Hoping to generate more sales, Talgo built a fifth trainset as a demonstrator, but the FRA hadnt completed certifying the Cascades European-designed carbodies standard use in the U.S. Delays in the approval process limited the demonstration runs to just a few. The FRA eventually grandfathered the Cascades, but by then Talgo had unveiled its seventh-generation trainset: the Talgo XXI, which fully complies with FRA Tier 1 (110 mph) standards.
WASHINGTON Amtrak customers think the professional voice over artist, identified as Julie her real name, I understand is doing a good job of helping them make their reservations, learn schedules, get updates on train status, information on fares, or whatever.
Julie has been there since May 2002. She offers the option of speaking to a real live human being agent if the caller so desires.
An Amtrak survey reported by NARP, shows over 70 percent rate her as very positive or generally positive, nearly 18 percent registered negative reactions, and almost 12 percent registered Not applicable.
Those who want to check train status make heavy use of the automated service. Many customers will use Julie to check train schedules, but prefer to book travel online or with an agent.
Some itineraries were too complex for Julie to handle and required a live human being to complete the transaction.
Julie gets high marks for speech recognition capabilities, but some have experienced train station name or number recognition difficulties.
Among the customer suggestions were clearer instructions for routing to an agent; a speedup in navigating the systems by using touch-tone and other jump methods; upgrading Julie so she can handle more complex travel itineraries; the inclusion of train station addresses; and enabling Julie to recognize train names as well as numbers.
Julie is an important piece in achieving this goal [of user-friendly efficiency], and your input is a very valuable part of this overall effort, Amtrak wrote.
Every suggestion you have made will be evaluated and considered for implementation. While some of your suggestions will be implemented, we hope you understand that not every suggestion will be possible to include in this effort for technical and practical reasons.
Julie has enabled Amtrak to accommodate its tight budget by cutting back on its live human being overhead its reservations department. That has caused some protests in Chicago where the 800-number reservations office was slated to be eliminated.
Measure would keep the north-south
rail link within railroad builders sights
Someday there will be a rail tunnel in Boston to connect the North and South stations. At least there will be if Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Massachusetts Democrat, has his way.
He has requested $2.5 million through the T-21 bill up for reauthorization by next October. That would advance the process.
The request was for a continuation of the environmental impact report, Lynch spokesman Matt Ferraguto told D:F. There is as yet no date set for breaking ground on the project.
T-21 is up for re-authorization every six years, but if the decision is made to go ahead in the meantime to start construction, the request would go before the appropriations committees. The project wont be required to wait until the six-year period is up for the big omnibus bill.
Bottom line: It means there is hope the day will come when you can go from Washington, New York, or Providence to New Hampshire or Maine without being subjected to the inconvenience of not only changing trains, but changing stations, as well.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) last week introduced H.R. 1315, the Community Streetcar Development and Revitalization Act.
The measure, he said, directs the Secretary of Transportation to establish a pilot grant program to provide assistance for the capital and startup costs of streetcar development and revitalization. He said program funds could be utilized for either modern streetcar or heritage trolley operations.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) is a co-sponsor.
Blumenauer explained, Until the 1950s, many communities had extensive streetcar systems which served to connect neighborhoods to central city employment, shopping and cultural opportunities. With the advent of the highway system, neighborhood streetcars have all but disappeared.
He added that today, more than 40 communities of various sizes are expressing an interest in small-scale, rail-based transit lines to serve redeveloping central city areas and connect neighborhoods in a way that is very different from regional rail systems.
He pointed out that in Portland, Ore., a new streetcar line opened in July 2001, demonstrating the ability to capitalize on lower project cost, a minimally disruptive construction process and the opportunity to attract significant urban redevelopment.
Built at almost half the per-mile cost of light rail, Portlands new streetcar line has generated over $1.3 billion in economic development, resulting in a development-to-transit ratio of 18 to 1, Blumenauer said.
Rust is deep on the rails.
An abandoned and forgotten snowplow has fastened itself to the rails.
Abandoned for decades, a sloping tunnel veers from Newarks main subway line, winding its way 25 feet below Raymond Boulevard.
Halfway through the dank passage rests the discarded plow, its wheels rusted to the tracks. A concrete wall marks the tunnels end.
Sometime in the coming months, construction crews will dig their way down from Mulberry Street and break through the tunnel walls, building a crucial segment for the citys new one-mile subway extension, according to the Newark Star-Ledger of March 31.
When it is completed, the $225 million extension will connect Newark Penn Station, which serves New Jersey Transits Raritan Valley, Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast lines with Broad Street Station, which handles commuter trains on the Morris and Essex and Montclair-Boonton lines. Officials expect more than 6,500 people a day to make the 10-minute trip.
For the next two years, though, the construction will worsen traffic problems in downtown Newark. For one year, the project will close a one-block section of Mulberry Street from Raymond Boulevard to Park Street.
Nobody wants to see a street closed, but were working with the city to come up with a traffic diversion plan, said state Transportation Commissioner Jack Lettiere. These temporary inconveniences are really going to produce major benefits in the long run.
Beyond the refurbished 850-foot tunnel, most of the new rail link will be built from above ground and will require additional street closings as the project progresses. In tandem with the new railroad tracks, transportation officials are widening McCarter Highway between Raymond Boulevard and Route 280 and moving the road 100 feet closer to the Passaic River, partly to make room for the trains.
The first closures are expected by the end of spring, officials said.
Currently, NJT provides buses between Penn and Broad Street stations. But during rush hour, when the area is choked with traffic, the bus ride can take more than 20 minutes.
Officials said they the link will prompt several thousand commuters to stop driving into Newark and start taking mass transit.
For example, right now, mass transit is inconvenient for someone who lives in Chatham and works at the Gateway complex near Penn Station, officials said. The train from Chatham only runs to the Broad Street Station.
Once the extension is built, a rider will be able to take the Morris and Essex line to Broad Street and then the subway over to Penn Station. The subway connection also will provide a better link to Amtrak and commuter trains which only run from Penn Station and Newarks Liberty International Airport.
Officials said the tunnel would be the first section of underground railroad built in New Jersey in more than six decades. Engineers estimate construction crews will dig up as much as 40,000 tons of soil, enough to fill 4,000 dump trucks.
Instead of carving the passage from below ground through the existing tunnel stub, officials determined the project would be $20 million cheaper if a 45-foot-deep trench was dug from street-level along Mulberry Street.
From the bottom of the trench, workers plan to make a concrete box with walls two-feet thick for the railway, said NJTs deputy chief engineer, Glenn Ridsdale. Then, they will dump the soil back on top of the concrete box and rebuild the street above it.
Officials said the abandoned tunnel, which was last used decades ago, provides a convenient connection between the new project and the existing city subway line.
If we had to do this from scratch, it would have been inordinately expensive, project manager Kurt Kauffman said.
The one-mile rail link will include a stop at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Trains also will stop at Newark Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium when baseball games and other events are held there.
The Surface Transportation Board on March 11 okayed a deal between Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co., listed as a non-carrier, to acquire through a sublease from Norfolk Southern Ry. Co. and operate a rail line owned by Pennsylvania Lines LLC (PRR) and leased and operated by NS between milepost JS-31.3 at Suffern, N.Y., and MP JS-76.6 at CP-Howells, and also between MP SR-68.7 (equals JS-76.6) at CP-Howells and MP SR-89.9 at Port Jervis, N.Y.
The total distance of the line is approximately 66.5 miles and it traverses Orange and Rockland Counties, N.Y.
A plan to study the possibility of a high-speed passenger train service for the Midwest, including an important hub in Gary, Ind., may have found a new funding source on March 25.
House Bill 1489 had called for the Port Commission to fund the necessary preliminary studies, but lawmakers in Indianapolis learned Port officials have little interest in initiatives that do not generate immediate revenue, reports The Times of Northwest Indiana.
Instead, train supporters such as state Sen. Sue Landske (R) would tap 10 percent of an Indiana DOT fund that uses federal money for road planning.
The ambitious $4.1 billion Midwestern regional rail system would connect nine states from a Chicago hub and span 545 miles of rail in Indiana alone, serving 6.4 million Hoosiers. At speeds up to 110 mph, the trains would offer a viable alternative to driving or flying, as well as bring a needed economic boost to Northwest Indiana, backers said.
Instead of driving to Chicago and waiting at the airport, you could jump on a train to Cincinnati or Kansas City, Landske said. It certainly beats sitting in traffic.
Preliminary estimates of long-term economic benefits for Gary are the states highest more than $400 million because all three Indiana lines could converge there. These routes likely would converge at or near Gary-Chicago Airport on the way to Detroit, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
The goal of creating a Midwestern train system similar to those in European countries has been hampered by a lack of money since its conception about 15 years ago, but the first step is funding environmental impact and feasibility studies, an area where Indiana has fallen behind, advocates said.
We cannot lay asphalt fast enough to keep up with the need, said state Sen. Robert Jackman, (R). We have to show the feds were committed. Its not much, but were broke and were trying to get on board.
Michael Scime, railroad section manager for INDOT, said the department would find $260,000 in its budget to leverage more than $1 million in federal matching funds for the studies. The 80 percent federal, 20 percent state matches give Indiana a real incentive to start the process, he said.
Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan already have begun the necessary upgrades to accommodate the faster trains, while Indiana and Ohio are in the preliminary stages, Scime said. Lawmakers created a commission to study Indianas role in the project in 2000.
Indiana is at the point where we have to do the studies to qualify for federal money, said Elizabeth Solberg, a commission member who testified.
We have to stay competitive with neighbor states.
The entire project is a costly endeavor. The plan unanimously approved by the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee would only discover how much of the line could be exempted from full impact studies.
The remaining studies are projected to cost another $8 million to $10 million, and the actual construction and upgrades could cost about $900 million in Indiana. The states cost would be about $200 million over five to 10 years, a total that is not possible in the current budget crisis.
These kind of projects take time and vision, supporters said. Once the funding is in place, planners estimate it would take 10 years before the entire project could be completed and support itself with revenues from 9.6 million passengers per year.
The pro-business Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club environmental group, two interest groups that often have competing interests, both supported the bill. The plan would use mostly existing routes, except the tracks would pass under or over roads, and it would relieve auto and plane congestion and pollution, the groups said.
Its the most economically efficient and environmentally friendly way to move things, said Glen Pratt, the Sierra Club representative.
New Yorks Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) inspector general recommended last week that the authoritys top two security officials be fired, accusing the men of obstructing and interfering with an internal corruption investigation.
The officials, Louis R. Anemone, the MTAs security director, and Nicholas B. Casale, his deputy, were instead suspended with pay by the authority while its top officials considered the recommendation, reports The New York Times. The suspensions came two days after the two men announced that they had uncovered evidence of significant corruption within the authority and charged that its officials had severely impeded their investigation.
In a report released April 1 by Matthew D. Sansverie, the inspector general, Anemone and Casale were accused of lying about the existence of a confidential informant who they said had tipped them off earlier this year to a potential corruption case involving a railroad contractor and a top M.T.A. official.
Both security men denied the accusation.
The suspensions are the latest escalation of an unusually public battle between the authority and the office it established in 2001 to help protect itself from the threat of terrorism.
Anemone has said that as part of his job, he wanted to be sure of the integrity of contractors to the agency, many of whom have access to sensitive security information, but in doing so, he said, he and Casale began to uncover evidence of bid-rigging, multimillion-dollar cost overruns and payoffs involving authority contractors. Evidence in one such corruption case, including internal documents and taped conversations, is now under investigation by the Manhattan district attorneys office.
The authoritys inspector general contends that the two officials were reckless and even dishonest in their zeal to uncover corruption, and that they can no longer be trusted to continue in their jobs. Further, he charged that the two men tried to cloak themselves in the garb of whistle-blowers before the MTA could take action against them for this misconduct.
A passenger rail line plan from Nashua, N.H. to Lowell, Mass. is among the projects included in the capital budget program headed to the New Hampshire House Finance Committee.
The bill makes a change to existing funding for rail line repairs and adds the design project. Under a federal high-speed rail program, the state would get $1.2 million in federal funds by spending $300,000, according to the Manchester Union Leader.
Last fall the Executive Council voted to block a $76,000 environmental study of the rail line extension. Since then, the trucking lobbys New Hampshire Motor Transport Assn. filed a lawsuit to block the state from using any highway money on rail-related projects. It argued the state Constitution restricts any fees collected in connection with motor vehicles to spending on highways.
Nashua Mayor Bernie Streeter has urged area residents to call executive councilors and pressure them to reverse their vote on the environmental study.
Estimates are that actually constructing the 12-mile rail line would cost $64 million, including $15 million in state funds.
Valerie Jarrett, chairwoman of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), said last Wednesday that she is resigning after more than seven years heading the board of the Chicago Transit Authority.
Her resignation will take effect when a successor is nominated by Mayor Richard Daley and confirmed by the City Council. There was no immediate indication who her replacement might be, according to Crains Chicago Business of April 2.
Jarrett said she always had intended to leave after completing a seven-year term, but had agreed to extend her stay a few months to get through the recent city election cycle and initial planning for the pending new federal transit-funding bill, T-3.
CTA ridership increased during hr watch after decades of declines, and the agency has resumed issuing debt in its own name.
Miami Beach commissioners, facing a 120-day deadline imposed by county planners to make a decision on BayLink, a light rail system, voted March 19 to search for a consultant to study bus and rail systems.
We want to look at it for ourselves, said Commissioner Matti Bower, but there may not be enough time to do the research, reported The Miami Herald.
It will take at least 60 days to actually hire a consultant, leaving whichever firm is selected less than two months to complete the study and advise the commission, City Manager Jorge Gonzalez said.
Itll be tough, Gonzalez said.
The unanimous vote to search for a mass transportation consultant came one week after commissioners received a four-month ultimatum to decide whether it wanted to build BayLink, a proposed $400 million system that will connect South Beach to downtown Miami.
If Miami Beach does not make a decision on BayLink within four months, the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the agency that oversees county transportation projects, would likely follow one of two courses. It could go ahead and build BayLink without the Beachs approval, or it could scrap BayLink and build projects in communities where they are welcomed.
The MPO issued the deadline a fortnight after Beach commissioners who were set to vote on a light rail route March 10 decided instead not to make a decision at all, saying they felt rushed.
The route proposed March 10 would have looped through South Beach along Alton Road, Dade Boulevard and returned along Washington Avenue. The city would like to research the impact of an expanded route, one that weaves through Mid and North Beach.
Mayor David Dermer, who has opposed BayLink, said it doesnt matter if the city disregards the planning boards ultimatum.
Well do it on our own schedule, in our own way, Dermer said.
Commissioner Simon Cruz, however, said the city was obligated to make a decision soon. Further delay by the Beach could imperil projects in other communities that are waiting in line for federal funds.
If we cant do it in 120 days, if we dont have the time to do this, if we dont have the will to do this, then we should do the right thing and tell the MPO to take us out and send their plan up to D.C. Were [messing] around with a lot of communities.
BayLink supporters have said the project will help solve the Beachs traffic and parking problems and reduce pollution. Opponents have said the project will prove costly, disruptive and be little-used. Some have said it will bring undesirables to the Beach. At least 65 public meetings have been held in Miami and Miami Beach at which BayLink was discussed, officials say.
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 :
House and Senate Move to Reconcile Budget Resolutions
The U.S. House and Senate have moved closer to finalizing a budget resolution that will set the broad outlines for tax and spending decisions in Fiscal Year 2004 and beyond, including transit and highway funding. Now that both chambers have passed their respective resolutions, the next step is for the House and Senate conferees to resolve the different overall approaches in each.
By a vote of 56-44, the Senate on March 26 approved its version of the FY 2004 budget resolution that sets transit spending at $56.5 billion over the life of the next authorization.
Although the version passed by the House on March 21 assumes the constrained Administration-proposed funding levels for both transit and highways, it includes a contingency procedure that will accommodate new budget authority for surface transportation programs. In other words, increased transit and highway funding will be allowed if additional revenue sources, such as indexing the gas tax, are agreed upon.
Budget Committee conferees from each chamber will now negotiate compromise language that must then be approved by the full House and Senate. Once adopted, that Concurrent Budget Resolution for FY 2004, which is not subject to Presidential approval, would set the broad outlines for subsequent tax and spending decisions in the FY 2004 appropriations process and reauthorization of transit and highway programs under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.
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Quebec Transit Commuter Tax Benefit Is First in Canada
In a first for Canadian governments, the provincial government of Quebec has adopted a measure that provides tax benefits to employers and employees for transit commuter benefits. The measure went into effect on March 1.
The Quebec initiative is a first among Canadian jurisdictions, and demonstrates a serious commitment to providing tangible incentives for both individuals and employers to increase the use of public transit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said Michael Roschlau, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Urban Transit Association. CUTA noted that the measure, contained in the Quebec governments 2003-2004 budget, helps make public transportation a more attractive travel option, and served to help level the playing field between parking and transit benefits.
As explained by the Société de transport de Montréal, the measure allows an employer who pays the costs of monthly passes, or who reimburses employees for this cost, to deduct this amount from his or her revenue. Employees who receive the benefits will pay no additional tax on the benefit.
An additional provision allows workers who purchase their monthly passes themselves, who are not reimbursed by their employer, to deduct the total cost of the passes as long as they are purchased for travel to work. Employers will be responsible for completing the required government forms. Employees must keep their passes for possible audit by the provincial Minister of Revenue.
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FTA Selects 17 Firms for Project Management Oversight Contracts
The Federal Transit Administration has selected 17 engineering firms to compete for the oversight of more than $87 billion in projects nationwide. The firms announced March 20 will be competing for Project Management Oversight contracts worth an estimated $300 million over five years.
FTA Administrator Jennifer L. Dorn praised the high caliber of the firms that will be assigned to about 125 major capital projects throughout the country. The collective expertise of these firms will help communities to better leverage both the federal and local investment in major transit projects, she said.
The PMO program, she said, is moving beyond simply monitoring major capital projects, and will be even more proactive, specifically in the technical assistance area. FTA is also requiring contractors to develop key industry trend analyses that may be used in future recommendations and strategic decision-making.
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FTA Publishes Apportionments and Allocations for FY 2003
On March 12, the Federal Transit Administration published its comprehensive list of apportionments and allocations for transit programs in Fiscal Year 2003, titled the FTA Fiscal Year 2003 Apportionments, Allocations and Program Information notice.
The apportionment notice includes the allocation of new funds in FY 2003, including earmarks, as well as reallocation of unobligated funds. The funding amounts have been adjusted from the FY 2003 enacted funding levels to reflect an across-the-board .65 percent reduction.
The notice identifies several areas as FTAs FY 2003 focus, including transit safety and security; ridership; and 2000 Census changes and impact on grantee status as designated recipients.
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Rep. Blumenauer Proposes Streetcar Funding Pilot Program
U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) recently introduced legislation in the U.S. House designed to help fund streetcar projects across the country. He is currently seeking co-sponsors for the Community Streetcar Development and Revitalization Act, H.R. 1315.
According to Blumenauer, more than 40 U.S. communities have expressed an interest in small-scale, rail-based transit lines to serve central cities and connect neighborhoods. He pointed to the new streetcar line that opened in 2001 in his hometown of Portland, Ore., which he said demonstrates the ability to capitalize on lower project cost, a minimally disruptive construction process, and the opportunity to attract significant urban redevelopment. Built at almost half the per-mile cost of light rail, Portlands new streetcar line has generated over $1.3 billion in economic development, resulting in a development-to-transit ratio of 18 to 1.
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N.Y. Transit Museum Showcases Railroad Posters
Travel by Train: The American Railroad Poster, 1870-1950, is the newest exhibit of the New York Transit Museum, open through June 22 at the Gallery Annex in Manhattans Grand Central Terminal.
For more than a century, the railroad dominated popular travel. The railroad opened the American west, expanded personal mobility, and offered the riding public immediate experience of modern industrys overwhelming power. The railroad poster used vivid colors, powerful images, and catchy slogans to promote the romance of the rails: faraway places, dramatic mountain vistas, sumptuous dining, and comfortable sleeping berths.
The exhibition includes examples of posters produced by the New York Central System, the Pennsylvania Railroad, the New Haven Railroad, and the Santa Fe Railroad, among others. Vintage model trains from the museums Lawrence Scripps Wilkinson Collection representative of many of the railroads depicted in the posters will also be on display.
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Bombardier cutting 350 railway division jobs;
reorganizes, sells some world entities
Bombardier is cutting 350 non-unionized jobs at nine facilities in its rail transport division as the company continues to cut costs, according to a CBC report on March 28. A company official said 150 managerial and administrative jobs will be cut from the transportation divisions base in St-Bruno, Que., which currently employs about 900 people.
Cuts will also be made at two facilities where rail rolling stock is built, including 45 jobs at La Pocatière, Que., and between 50 to 60 positions in Thunder Bay, Ont. The company said the remaining layoffs will be in the United States and Mexico. Earlier this month, Bombardier announced 3,000 layoffs at its aerospace division.
The company last week said it would pay dividends to shareholders. Its directors ordered a dividend of $0.0225 per share on the Class A shares (multiple voting) and of $0.0225 per share on the Class B shares (subordinate voting), payable on May 31 to the shareholders of record at the close of business on May 16.
Holders of Class B shares (subordinate voting) of record at the close of business on May 16, who have a right to a priority dividend at the rate of $0.0015625 per share per year, payable by quarterly installments of $0.00039075, will receive the first installment of $0.00039075 per share on May 31.
The companys chief, Paul M. Tellier said on April 3 the company is reorganizing and will present a recapitalization program which will feature an equity offering and asset divestitures. It also plans to spin off its recreational product line.
CEO Tellier said the major recapitalization program included the filing later on the same day with Canadas securities regulatory authorities of a preliminary short-form prospectus providing for the issue of Class B shares. The equity infusion will strengthen the corporations balance sheet and bolster working capital.
Tellier, a former Canadian National Ry. CEO, explained gross proceeds from this equity offering are expected to be at least $800 million and will supplement the corporations working capital and be used for general corporate purposes.
He added the securities to be offered have not been and will not be registered under the U.S. Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and may not be offered or sold in the U.S., absent registration or an applicable exemption from registration requirements.
The equity offering initiatives are intended to strengthen the companys balance sheet and refocus the corporation on the aerospace and transportation businesses. To that end, Tellier announced Bombardiers intention to divest Bombardier Recreational Products, as well as other non-core assets.
We will rebuild our credibility with investors with the action plan we are announcing today, said Tellier.
The sale of our recreational products business provides a good balance between our asset divestitures and the equity offering. Combined with our cost reduction programs, it gives us the financial flexibility we need going forward.
The CEO, who has been on the job less than one year, said Our story is a story of recovery. We are acting rapidly and strategically to re-energize the corporation by strengthening our balance sheet and putting the liquidity concern and the bank covenant issue behind us.
He said tightening the corporate belt is required, and sales of some entities should result in bringing in more that $2 billion.
Rigor and consolidation are the order of the day. Tighter accountability and financial discipline are being applied across the corporation. Bombardier today is focused on value creation.
He said the firms recreational products business should go, because it is the most liquid asset in Bombardiers portfolio.
The corporation has retained UBS Warburg as financial advisors and Ogilvy Renault as its legal advisors for the transaction, according to a corporate press release.
Tellier said, The controlling shareholder supports the corporations plan to unlock the value of the recreational products group.
The board has formed a committee of independent directors to supervise and monitor the divestiture process, evaluate offers or other alternatives and make recommendations to the Board. The independent committee is chaired by L. Denis Desautels, former Auditor General of Canada, and composed of Jalynn H. Bennett, Andr Desmarais, Jean C. Monty and James E. Perrella.
The independent committee of the Board has retained Morgan Stanley as its financial advisors and McCarthy Tetrault LLP as its legal advisors.
Tellier also confirmed divestment of two non-core assets is already underway, including some of its Defense Services. Bombardier Aerospace provides technical services for military aircraft through facilities located at Mirabel, Quebec and Bridgeport, W. Va. It also provides pilot training for Canadian pilots and for NATO pilots and personnel from other countries in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba; Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; and Cold Lake, Alberta.
It is also selling Belfast City Airport in Northern Ireland. The aircraft and train builder put the airport on the market in October 2002. According to the press release, Prospective buyers have been identified and negotiations are ongoing.
These divestments, combined with the equity offering, are expected to generate cash in excess of $2 billion within six to nine months. Proceeds are intended to supplement the corporations working capital and be used for general corporate purposes.
Meanwhile, Bombardier reported it had reached an agreement with its lenders under its two main syndicated credit facilities to amend the net debt-to-capitalization ratio covenant.
Tellier also said the divestitures will refocus Bombardier Capitals business plan. Origination activities will now be concentrated on inventory financing and interim financing for Bombardier Aerospace regional aircraft, with limitations on the maximum amount and number of aircraft. Bombardier Capital will continue to greatly reduce its assets under management through the ongoing wind-down and sale of all its other portfolios, which is expected to generate significant cash.
The corporation said it will no longer originate Bombardier Capitals railcar leasing activities. These activities consist of third-party leasing of a fleet of over 16,000 freight cars. Earlier, Bombardier announced the sale and gradual wind-down of the receivable factoring portfolios and the business aircraft financing portfolios. These processes are underway and should be completed later this year. The receivable factoring portfolio has already been reduced by 34 percent and the business aircraft portfolio by 24 percent during the last quarter. The portfolios being wound down or sold represented 55 percent of Bombardier Capitals assets under management as at Jan. 31, 2003.
Bombardier stated it had also taken steps to enhance clarity and transparency in financial reporting.
At its April 2 meeting, Bombardiers directors approved changes in accounting policies for its aerospace programs, including adopting the average cost accounting method in place of the program accounting method.
The changes, concurrent with significant revisions of estimates, resulted in cumulative non-cash pre-tax write-downs totaling $2.2 billion, of which $1.0 billion was recorded in fiscal 2003, and $1.2 billion relates to prior years.
We are making these changes because we believe that this new accounting method will enhance investor understanding of our performance, said Tellier. Although we are taking substantial write-downs, these are expected to be offset by our recapitalization initiative, which will provide us with a strengthened balance sheet to see us through this period of uncertainty.
How the corporation governs itself is also a major topic.
Bombardier appointed board member Jalynn H. Bennett as chair of the Retirement Pension Oversight Committee of the Board. The committee will oversee, review and monitor the investment of assets of the corporations pension plans. She sits on several boards and has extensive knowledge of pension reform. Bennett is a member of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan board.
The Board also created a Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee to monitor the evolution of the corporate governance principles including the Corporations Code of Ethics; meanwhile, the Executive Committee of the Board will be abolished.
New Board committees and changes to existing committees will take effect in June 2003, at the time of the corporations annual meeting of shareholders. The mission of the Human Resources and Compensation Committee and of the Audit Committee will be reviewed, and all committees will be comprised exclusively of independent directors.
I have now been at the head of this corporation for close to three months, said Tellier, and, in spite of the current uncertainties, I am confident that the fundamentals of our core businesses are sound. We have good products, good people, loyal customers and good technology. We can also rely on a strong backlog of orders, which provides our manufacturing facilities with two to three years of work.
He said Bombardier created the notion of regional flights.
We invented the concept of the regional jet, the product which is key to the North American airline industrys re-organization. We have taken the measures to ensure we will be ready when the business jet market picks up.
He also said transportation is the heart of the new company.
Bombardier Transportation has become a core revenue generator and is basically a recession-resistant business. As the global market leader with a complete line of products, it has built a strong backlog.
Tellier explained, The new Bombardier will be made up primarily of two almost equally sized businesses that have operational and financial complementarities and that have different product cyclicality. There are many opportunities for synergies in manufacturing, procurement, engineering and design and project management, as well as sales and administration.
In terms of liquidity, the corporation confirmed that it had a total of $5.7 billion of short-term capital resources available as of January 31, an increase of $898 million over the previous year.
In looking ahead, we are taking a prudent approach to planning our activities for the year, Tellier said.
Canadian and U.S. customs agencies and Canadas two major railways announced on April 3 they have signed a declaration of principles to further enhance security at the Canada-U.S. border and to ensure secure rail access to the U.S.
The joint government-industry initiative is the culmination of several months of discussion about ways to enhance the security of U.S.-bound rail shipments while ensuring trade continues to flow between the two countries. The discussions were part of a larger process of implementing the Smart Border Declaration adopted by Canada and the United States in December 2001, officials said.
The declaration of principles, signed by the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA), Canadian National Ry. (CN) and Canadian Pacific Ry. (CPR), outlines the principles for targeting, screening and examining rail shipments transported by the two Canadian carriers into the U.S. from Canada. It includes guidelines for collecting advanced electronic manifest information and installing imaging and radiation detection equipment at seven CN and CPR border crossings.
The signing of the declaration of principles shows how the government and the private sector can work in partnership to build a smarter border by enhancing security and facilitating trade, said Robert C. Bonner, Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.
The rail security program we have developed is a vital component of our strategy to keep America and the American people safe, as well as to facilitate the flow of trade between Canada and the United States., he added.
The operating procedures which underpin this agreement will stress the importance of focusing enforcement efforts on high-risk containers, and that is clearly one of the key principles of the Smart Border Declaration, said Rob Wright, Commissioner of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.
E. Hunter Harrison, CNs president and CEO, said, CN is a North American company with significant interests in both Canada and the United States. We believe this agreement will strengthen existing border security while assuring an orderly flow of goods between the two countries - a flow that is vital to both Canada and the U.S.
We strongly support the efforts of both governments to maintain a secure border in the face of potential terrorist threats, said Rob Ritchie, CPRs President and CEO.
The Canada-U.S. trade partnership is the biggest in the world. We believe the best way to keep our goods flowing smoothly across the border is to provide a strong, secure rail service, he said
In addition to the efforts related to the declaration of principles, CN and CPR have both secured accreditation under CBPs Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) program. C-TPAT is a joint government-business initiative designed to build cooperative relationships that strengthen overall supply chain and border security.
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||25.210||25.410|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||24.800||24.450|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||11.000||11.490|
STB rewrites rate dispute rules
Surface Transportation Board Chairman Roger Nober last week said the STB has adopted new procedures to expedite the resolution of major railroad rate disputes considered under the Boards Stand-Alone Cost (SAC) methodology.
The new rules were adopted April 3 in the case entitled Procedures to Expedite Resolution of Rail Rate Challenges To Be Considered Under the Stand-Alone Cost Methodology, Ex Parte No. 638. It establishes mandatory, non-binding, post-complaint mediation, under the boards auspices, between a complaining shipper and the defendant railroad.
It also expedites processes for resolving discovery disputes using the STB staff, and creates technical conferences to resolve certain factual disputes between the parties using the expertise of board staff. It also requires parties prepare and submit versions of their filings suitable for review by the public as well as by their opponents.
Among the points the new rules require is the notion that a party challenging the reasonableness of a rail rate before the STB must participate in non-binding, confidential mediation with the defendant railroad under the direction of a mediator appointed by the board.
The rules provide that, upon the filing of such a challenge with the board, the agency will promptly assign a mediator to work, over 60 days with the party challenging the rate and the defendant railroad to reach a full or partial settlement of the rate dispute. The rule also provides that if parties reach an impasse before the end of the 60 days, the mediator may terminate mediation. The parties must include in their mediation teams at least one principal who has the authority to make a binding settlement on the partys behalf, and who would attend any session at which the mediator requests the principals attendance.
Nober said the new rules are a major step toward expediting major rate cases.
We have looked at the entire process of bringing and resolving a rate case, he explained, and have made changes to almost every step of the process with the goal of resolving cases brought before the board better, faster and cheaper.
Commissioner Linda J. Morgan and former chair said, Our decision today represents another important milestone in this agencys ongoing efforts to find ways to further streamline and expedite the resolution of matters brought before it. We are moving now on mediation and ways to facilitate discovery in major rail rate cases, and we are seeking comment on other proposals made by the parties to ensure that the boards efforts in this area continue. Good government is government that never stops looking for ways to improve upon itself.
The new rules also provide for parties to schedule a technical conference to narrow disputes over the service characteristics that are to be used in computing a railroads variable costs of providing the service to which the challenged rate applies.
Kansas City Southern filed its annual report (Form 10-K) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and released its final earning results for the year ended December 31, 2002.
On January 30, 2003, KCS released its financial earnings results for 2002, which included estimated equity earnings from Grupo TFM, its Mexican affiliate. The 10-K filing reflected an increase in net income to $57.2 million from $54.2 million reported earlier, and a corresponding increase in earnings per share of $.91 from $.87 for the year. The increase in earnings primarily resulted from additional U.S. generally accepted accounting principals deferred tax adjustments at Grupo TFM.
KCS is comprised of, among others, The Kansas City Southern Ry. Co., and equity investments in Grupo TFM, Southern Capital Corp., and Panama Canal Ry. Co.
The Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. (BNSF) says it is making available an easy-to-use Internet application that allows shortline railroads and handling carriers to report movement events to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).
The new tool, part of BNSFs integrated set of web-enabled iPower tools for customers and service partners, is free of charge to short line railroads. It is intended to provide event-reporting capability for those carriers who could not otherwise justify an investment in this kind of technology.
Were making this tool available to shortlines as part of BNSFs commitment to an efficient, real-time, electronic communications environment, said Jerry Johnson, BNSFs assistant vice president, Shortlines.
BNSF realizes that the options available to accomplish this have been limited and even cost prohibitive for some carriers, Johnson continued. We also realize that growth opportunities will be tougher than ever to realize for those carriers unable to report car locations and movements with real-time efficiency.
Details on the new event reporting tool is available from BNSFs Shortline Development group at firstname.lastname@example.org, and a demonstration of the tool is available on line at http://www.bnsf.com/business/demos/SERDemo/SERHome.html.
BNSF is online at www.bnsf.com.
The trains used to come blasting through town as their engineers awakened cowpokes and tourists alike but no more, in North Platte, Neb.
For the first time since North Platte was founded by the Union Pacific Railroad 136 years ago, trains have stopped blasting their horns while traveling over the tracks that bisect this town, reports The Associated Press on April 1.
Thanks to the completion of an extensive system of bridges, the city no longer has a railroad crossing. Not one. As a result, the 1,064 daily train whistles within the city arent required.
No one has said Thanks yet, Mayor Jim Whitaker said I dont know if its dawned on them.
The change is obvious to residents who live or work near the busy Poplar Street crossing, where the racket and long waits for motorists have ended. Paul Huebner, whose family has operated a greenhouse a block from the crossing since 1951, said he doesnt miss the more than 20 million horns he tolerated for decades.
Its made a big difference, he said, but noting a passing train still rattles the buildings a little.
Union Pacific literally put North Platte on the map when it laid out the town in late 1866. The railroad is not only the largest employer in this community of 23,878, it has also played a role in the citys storied history.
Buffalo Bill Cody lived here and based his famous Wild West Show out of North Platte, using the UP tracks to transport the animals, crew and props for the show.
During World War II, troop trains brought more than 6 million homesick soldiers to the famous North Platte Canteen where they enjoyed homemade sandwiches, magazines, conversation, and encouragement from local volunteers.
Other railroad towns are likely envious of North Plattes newfound silence. One of them, Gering, in extreme western Nebraska, has been trying to curb train blasts for years.
An automated horn system mounted on poles and activated by oncoming trains has reduced noise complaints, said Gering City Administrator Mike Steklac. More testing is being done on the system, so the FRA has not offered it yet for use in other communities.
Theres no mistaking CSXs big yellow-nosed locomotives. Its locomotive fleet is the companys most conspicuous asset.
Now, through the pages of CSX News, we learned the state of the fleet in 2003.
The freight carriers 3,600 locomotives reflect the dynamic nature of the company and the rail industry over the past four decades. Some are old, some new; some sport paint jobs for special events, some have looks only a yardmaster could love, a writer waxed poetically.
Underneath their outer skin and model numbers, each is a serious investment in the companys future, and each carries high expectations for reliability and productivity, stated the anonymous writer.
Its no wonder that CSXT invests heavily in purchasing and maintenance programs to keep the fleet in the highest possible working order.
The general state of the fleet is very good, said Mike Wall, vice-president, Mechanical. Of course, we have some older locomotives that will need to retire soon, but our 2,100 employees in the locomotive system shops keep them all running well.
Employee safety is the most important consideration at the locomotive shops, according to CSX. Much credit must be given to the people who are pursuing safety improvements while making the locomotive fleet run each day, Wall said.
A major point of pride: Fewer locomotives were out of commission each day at CSX last year than at any other railroad.
Our out-of-service rate is the lowest in the industry [5.2 percent], Wall said. Partly, that statistic comes because of a good preventative maintenance program. In addition, several Six Sigma projects have shown the way to better locomotive upkeep.
Overall, locomotives undergoing FRA-required quarterly inspections in the Q shops are back out in service within about 24 hours. Those hauled in for unscheduled repairs are back out in service within an average 17 hours. The fast turnarounds allow the fleet to run with maximum efficiency, Wall said.
CSXT owns about 1,500 GE-made locomotives, 675 of which have AC traction motors. EMD-manufactured locomotives number about 1,850, of which 103 have AC traction. CSXT owns an additional 193 mate/slug and two passenger locomotives, both of which are ex-Amtrak F-40PHs.
CSX recently placed an order for 75 new EMD locomotives. The AC-traction SD70MACs have all the current upgrades newer paint scheme, new seats, GPS, provisions for APUs, and other enhancements.
The railroad will begin taking delivery on the new locomotives in September, said Mike Munley, who is the lines assistant vice-president for Locomotive Operations. Theyre expected to help CSXT meet power demands during fall peak. Full delivery of the order isnt expected until January or February 2004, but EMD will lease CSXT the equivalent horse and tractive power, according to CSX.
These are the first EMD locomotives ordered in the past seven years.
CSX locomotive fleet fast facts
Overall Owned Fleet
GE models 1,514; 675 with AC traction
EMD models 1,864; 103 with AC traction
Average age 17.2 years
Youngest 517 locomotives age five years or less
AC traction 778 locomotives
Performance record out of service 5.2 percent in 2002 (industry best)
Heaviest CSXT locomotive GE CW44AC at 432,000 pounds (216 tons)
Longest CSXT locomotive GE CW60AC 76 feet 2 inches
Oldest CSXT locomotive MT6 Mate at 45 years old, built in January 1958
Most powerful CSXT locomotive GE CW60AC at 6,000 HP
U.S. rail carload traffic rose 2.7 percent (33,954 carloads) in March 2003 compared to March 2002, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported on Thursday.
Coal traffic in March 2003 was up 1.0 percent (5,063 carloads) compared with March 2002, the first time since December 2001 that year-over-year monthly U.S. coal originations were up. Carloads of metallic ores were up 23.6 percent (7,768 carloads) in March, and carloads of metals and metal products were up 13.1 percent (6,508 carloads). All told, 12 of the 19 commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload gains in March 2003 compared with March 2002.
U.S. intermodal rail traffic, which consists of trailers and containers on flat cars and is not included in carload figures, was up 9.4 percent (63,859 trailers and containers) in March 2003 compared with March 2002.
For the first three months of 2003, total U.S. rail carloadings were up 0.6 percent (23,582 carloads). During this period, a reduction in carloads of coal (down 4.0 percent, or 69,081 carloads) and grain (down 3.4 percent, or 9,605 carloads) was offset by increases in carloads of metallic ores (up 36.3 percent, or 40,578 carloads), metals and metal products (up 12.0 percent, or 18,344 carloads), and chemicals (up 3.8 percent, or 13,923 carloads).
U.S. Intermodal traffic for the first three months of 2003 was up 8.7 percent (187,715 units), with containers up 13.0 percent (201,863 units) and trailers down 2.4 percent (14,148 units).
Freight traffic totaled for the first quarter of 2003 were, 4,110,481 cars, up 0.6 percent from last year; 2,344,716 trailers or containers, up 8.7 percent; and total volume of an estimated 366.8 billion ton-miles, up 0.5 percent from 2002.
For more than a year, coal has suppressed total rail carloadings, so the turnaround for coal in March, though relatively limited, is certainly welcome, noted AAR Vice President Craig F. Rockey.
He said U.S. rail carloadings, excluding coal, were up 3.8 percent in March and 3.9 percent in the first quarter. While thats impressive, we look for even greater improvement when the general economy shakes off its current malaise.
Canadian rail carload traffic was up 0.3 percent (816 carloads) in March 2003, as a sharp decline in coal carloadings (down 21.0 percent, or 7,407 carloads) was matched by increases in carloadings of chemicals (up 8.5 percent, or 4,766 carloads) and metallic ores (up 40.9 percent, or 2,580 carloads), among other commodities. For the first quarter of 2003, Canadian rail carloadings totaled 806,522, down 0.4 percent (2,852 carloads) from last year.
Canadian intermodal traffic was up 9.9 percent (14,721 units) in March 2003 compared with March 2002 and up 11.8 percent (54,132 units) in the first quarter. Intermodal volume for the first 13 weeks totaled 514,568 trailers or containers.
Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, were up 6.6 percent (2,263 carloads) in March, while intermodal originations were up 40.5 percent (4,279 trailers and containers). For the first three months of 2003, TFM carloadings were up 10.4 percent (10,761 carloads), while intermodal traffic rose 49.7 percent (15,304 units).
For just the week ended March 29, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 331,481 carloads, up 4.5 percent from the corresponding week in 2002, with loadings up 10.4 percent in the East and down 0.2 percent in the West; intermodal volume of 192,802 trailers and containers, up 9.2 percent; and total volume of an estimated 29.8 billion ton-miles, up 5.7 percent from the equivalent week last year.
For Canadian railroads during the week ended March 29, the AAR reported volume of 68,289 carloads, up 7.8 percent from last year; and 43,517 trailers and containers, up 19.6 percent from the corresponding week in 2002.
Combined cumulative volume for the first 13 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 4,917,003 carloads, up 0.4 percent (20,730 carloads) from last year; and 2,859,284 trailers and containers, up 9.2 percent (241,847 trailers and containers) from 2002s first 13 weeks.
The AAR is online at www.aar.org.
German engineers revive strike threat
German locomotive engineers revived the threat of disruptive strikes on April 3 and called for more talks with railroad Deutsche Bahn after failing to endorse a proposed pay increase.
Arbitrators on March 31 recommended a settlement that would give the engineers a 3.2 percent raise next year, echoing a deal reached March 15 with unions that represent other rail employees, according to The AP in a dispatch from Frankfurt.
Leaders of the GdL union were expected to approve the deal Thursday, but said they could not do so because it didnt give the union exclusive rights to negotiate pay and conditions for train engineers.
GdL said it would resume talks with the railroad Friday (April 4) in an attempt to determine how to proceed. If these talks fail, a labor conflict can no longer be ruled out.
Union chief Manfred Schell said its wage board did not pass judgment on the deal itself, which would called for two payments of ¤200 (euros, or $216) each this year, followed by a 3.2 percent raise from May 1, 2004.
Deutsche Bahn would have no understanding for the engineers union letting arbitration fail after we had come so far in the talks, the railroad said in a terse statement.
Rail workers staged a series of short stoppages in early March, and striking engineers on March 6 briefly brought trains to a halt across the country.
GdL went into the pay talks seeking a 3 percent wage increase this year. The rail company, which is in the middle of an efficiency drive to make it fit for possible privatization, had warned that a big pay rise could force it to lay off more staff.
The French governments plans to reform the state pension system came under attack April 4 from the countrys powerful labor unions, as hundreds of thousands of government employees, with the backing of some workers in the private sector, staged a one-day strike.
The strike forced half the trains on some of the domestic high-speed rail lines to be canceled and Air France canceled 55 percent of its domestic and European flights.
The central issue in the dispute concerns the plans by Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, which he announced shortly after taking office a year ago, to overhaul the state pension system in order to bring government finances in line with a fiscal pact underpinning the euro.
In cities across France, rallies organized by the labor unions brought out tens of thousands of people. In Paris, the police estimated the number of strikers who took part in marches at 26,000. In Marseille, 30,000 took part in demonstrations, and 12,000 joined protests in Toulouse.
Mr. Raffarin has been on the defensive since presenting the idea of pension reform last year, arguing that pension plans governing the public and private sectors must be made similar because the state can no longer afford its traditional generosity toward public employees, who in France include everyone from schoolteachers to railway workers.
In its broad outlines, his plan, to be presented in detail on April 11, is for civil servants, who now make social security payments for 37.5 years to qualify for pensions, to pay contributions for 40 years, like most private sector employees.
Raffarins social affairs minister, Frangois Fillon, has also suggested that the retirement age for private sector employees may have to rise. By 2006, according to government projections, the number of new retirees will rise by 50 percent, to 750,000 a year from 500,000 today.
The government position on the national retirement age had to be adaptable, in the light of demographic and economic changes, Fillon said recently.
Labor union resistance to tampering with the present pension plan is sensitive political territory. In 1995, the last conservative prime minister, Alain Juppi, was brought down in part as result of widespread labor union resistance to pension reform.
European Union nations approved a plan in Brussels on March 28 to open up the continents rail freight market to international competition, overriding objections from France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Twelve EU nations backed the plans to liberalize the market within the next five years, The AP reported. The three dissenting nations had sought to protect domestic operators.
Under the proposed rules, companies would be free to operate international freight trains starting 2006, breaking up the national monopolies that exist in some EU countries.
The plan must be approved by the European Parliament, which could introduce amendments. The EU governments would then have to vote again on the amended version before it could become law.
In 2008, the plan would open up domestic routes to competition. That would mean, for example, a German company could transport goods on routes between French cities, a business currently reserved for Frances national SNCF rail company.
The EUs head office has pushed for the opening of railways in an effort to promote more freight traffic by rail, and less by trucks, which clog Europes highways and increase pollution.
According to the European Commission, only 9 percent of freight traffic in the EU is carried by rail, less than half the level 30 years ago. In contrast, the American railroad network carries 40 percent of the United States goods traffic.
We can only solve our transport problems in the long run if we get more freight on rail, said German Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe. The commission blames the flight from rail partly on the delays caused by the fragmentation of the European market and frontier bottlenecks, which reduce the average speed of international freight voyages in the EU to a mere 10.5 miles per hour.
The proposed reforms face fierce resistance in France, where powerful railworkers unions argue that the present monopolies provide essential public services. They are worried, too, about losing jobs that provide generous benefits.
Many European Parliament lawmakers want to extend the rules to cover passenger trains too.
The rules would harmonize standards and safety rules, cut red tape for cross-border transport companies, and establish a European Railway Agency to oversee cooperation.
Clothes hung above a stove by an attendant may have caused the fire in November on an overnight express train from Paris to Vienna that killed 12 people, including five members of a Connecticut family on vacation, a preliminary report by the Transport Ministry said. The report said the attendant had also placed a bag on the stove, which he believed was turned off. The rail accident, which occurred just outside a station in the eastern city of Nancy, was Frances worst in five years, Reuters reported.
Word from Chongqing, China on March 18 says the builders of the Chongqing monorail are taking a unique you start-well finish approach. Hitachi Ltd. of Japan will supply the system with two four-car train sets.
The Changchun Railway Vehicles Co., Ltd. will then build 19 additional train sets with technical assistance provided by Hitachi. The manufacturing of the trains ceiling, side panels, electrical wiring, and piping has been modularized, allowing a simpler construction process, greater flexibility and easier maintenance.
In addition, the process requires fewer weld points and parts than previous methods. The monorail system will be about 8.5 miles long with 14 stations.
While Chongqing will have the first Alweg-based monorail system in China, the Chinese are not waiting for the mid-2004 opening to forge ahead with plans for other monorails. Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hefei are also planning monorail systems. Hitachi Ltd., and its partners are pursuing more monorail contracts outside of Japan, including in the U.S., and has been awarded contracts in China and Singapore.
I sure hope Mr. RePasss editorial was sent to lots of newspapers all across the U.S. so that maybe they will run it; thats what I am hoping the membership I paid is being used for.
This point needs to be driven home all across the country:
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 cant even walk to school if they want to, are growing so obese.
I guess that trying to raise gasoline taxes in the USA in order to pay for something other than more highways in this current political environment will be Mission: Impossible. The current resident of the White House seems to have convinced the majority of the American public that the only things taxes should be spent on are more guns and troops for the Pentagon, otherwise taxes should go in just one direction down and anything except the Pentagon and new Department of Homeland Security are hardly worth spending money on, at least at the federal level.
By the way, since I work for a supplier to the airline industry, I am more than slightly concerned where and when the airline industry is going to hit bottom.
Speed News, a weekly airline industry newsletter, says in their latest edition this week that (as you reported) that American Airlines is a couple of weeks, if not days, away from filing for Chapter 11.
Also, in the same report was that Northwest, Continental and Midwest Express are perhaps weeks away from Chapter 11 filing. Speed News also had a report that industry analysts put the chances that United Airlines will liquidate and go out of business at 70 percent if Gulf War 2 continues for more than just a couple of weeks longer.
An airline guy who believes we need a viable alternative to the airlines
I noticed the comment in the March 30 issue that Marines call their amphibious tractors (invariably referred to by the media as tanks) Amtracks.
Made me wonder what a difference a single railroader or someone who recognized a railroad or could even perceive what a railroad right-of-way was when he or she saw one mightve made in the engagement described in a New York Times report last week.
[See story near top of this editions pages. Ed.]
It began at sundown on Wednesday. Marine units have been blocking roads that could be used by Iraqi fighters, but apparently ignored the railroad line. Inside the cramped command tent, an intelligence officer, Lt. Josh Cusworth, looked up from his map.
Thats how theyre coming in, he said, pointing. That railroad. Were not monitoring it whatsoever. We dont think theyre using it. Thats how theyre getting in.
Suddenly, a captain from one of the howitzer batteries shouted over the radio that his unit was taking machine-gun fire. Im seeing green tracers, he said, referring to glowing rounds that help rifleman direct their aim. Marines use red tracers. The artillery battery returned fire....
GREATLY enjoy your site.
New York City
Many thanks, Peter.
Bad news from Philadelphia SEPTA is facing a $55 million budget shortfall in fiscal year 2004, partly due to reduced state funding. Draconian cuts are on the table, including axing four of the 12 regional rail lines. Two are ex-PRR, one is ex-Reading, and one is the line to Philadelphia International Airport from downtown, opened in 1985.
All are electrified with weekday and weekend service, generally 5:00 a.m. to midnight. Numerous bus routes are also scheduled for consolidation or elimination, and oh yes a fare hike is planned too. You might want to cover this news from the middle of the NEC in an upcoming edition.
For SEPTA GM Faye Moores statement, see www.septa.org/news.
Thanks, Andrew. Well keep our eyes open. Ed.
Georgia-Pacific Corp.Way back in the dark ages of October 1972, lumber and paper supplier Georgia-Pacific Corp. mailed out a press release about their narrow-gauge steam engine No. 36, named Brimstone. The engine was a Shay, and chuffed through the hills and valleys of Tennessee and West Virginia hauling hardwood logs to sawmills. We dont know the disposition of the engine, nor even if G-P even still gathers trees in the region, much less by rail. This photographic time capsule, though, is a rare glimpse of the way we were in the woods once upon a time in America.
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