Destination:Freedom Newsletter
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 16, April 21, 2003
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

April 28, 29

Smith, Dukakis, Gunn, Millar
headline 2003 NCI Conference

Washington, D.C. – The National Corridors Initiative’s 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, Monday, April 28 and Tuesday, April 29, at the Washington Marriott, 1221 22nd Street NW Washington.

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. Mr. 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 company’s operating shortfall, President Gunn launched a systemwide restructuring of the railroad that eliminated three-fourths of the company’s 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 public’s 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 of Meridian, Miss., a national leader for more than a decade in the fight for intercity passenger rail, and Amtrak Vice-Chairman Michael S. Dukakis, a transportation activist for many decades, and his party’s nominee for President in 1988.

Featured speakers at the conference will include Amtrak Reform Council member Jim Coston, of the Chicago-based international law firm of 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 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.

Register on-line (secure server) at, or via fax to 617-269-3943.

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NYNH at Providence, RI. 1955

NCI: Leo King

Some fifty years ago, the New York, New Haven & Hartford had a run-through agreement with the Pennsylvania Railroad for some of its trains. The trains, including the Federal, operated between Boston and Penn Station New York, and on to Washington D.C. Those trains were similar to this daytime train arriving in Providence, R.I. in 1955 on track 1 at the former Union Station. Next Monday, the Federal name returns to this route. The story is below.


Mail business is way down on Amtrak

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

Amtrak’s long distance rail service has lost almost half of its mail business with the U.S. Postal Service in just less than a year.

In response to D:F’s query and specific questions from Bloomberg News, Amtrak’s Mail and Express department said that since July 1, 2002, the date of a new two-year contract between Amtrak and USPS, the Postal Service “has terminated all or partial service on virtually every long distance train. These include the Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Lake Shore Limited, Three Rivers, Capitol Limited, Silver Service (Northeast to Florida trains), Texas Eagle, City of New Orleans and the elimination of Amtrak’s two daily mail trains between Springfield, Mass. and Washington, DC.”

Since July of last year, Amtrak’s mail contract has gone down from $79 million to $45 million—a 43 percent dive.

The revenue reductions are as follows:
Chicago to Portland, 1.10 million
Portland to Minneapolis, $1.10 million
Minneapolis to Chicago, $1.30 million
Chicago to Minneapolis, $ .65 million
The total is $4.15 million.

Mail service has been completely eliminated on the trains between Chicago and Portland, Portland to Minneapolis-Chicago, and Minneapolis to Chicago. Chicago to Minneapolis has been cut in half.

DF’s interest in this was sparked by a report by the National Association of Railroad passengers (NARP) about the Postal Service decision to scrap the mail service on the Empire Builder west of Minneapolis. This piqued our curiosity because one of the main reasons often cited for the Empire Builder’s value is that it traverses large areas throughout Montana and North Dakota that are poorly served by any other transportation mode. There is a dearth of air, bus, or highway service in many of those towns where Amtrak stops.

As NARP noted, the discontinuance of mail-by-rail service on this route would involve a relatively small dollar amount, but that “the move would be significant because it means that a major segment of the Amtrak route structure (the 1,844 miles between St. Paul and Portland) would lose all mail and the Empire Builder would lose revenue.”

Moreover, Amtrak added, “the Empire Builder has the best on-time performance among Amtrak’s transcontinental routes, so the move raises concerns about what the Postal Service might do next.”

NARP said that would probably mean a switch to trucks, but much of that territory in Montana and North Dakota has poor highway availability. Besides, the rail passenger advocacy group adds, the change would make highway travel “that much more difficult for motorists, and the roads that much more expensive for states to maintain.”

Parenthetically, as D:F has reported, there is a $375 billion proposal on Capitol Hill, about 80 percent of which would go to highway construction and upgrading. The House Transportation Committee leadership warns that every penny of this is badly needed lest America’s highways fall apart.

The Postal Service would pay Amtrak an indemnification fee to extricate itself from the contract, and it is not clear that this change is cost-effective.

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black told D:F Friday that Postal Service business in general has declined, though he could not say that this was the entire reason for the sharp reduction in its business with Amtrak.

Repeated attempts by D:F to reach the Postal Service were greeted by a busy signal.

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‘Federal’ begins; five new Springfield trains

By Wes Vernon

WASHINGTON – A popular Boston-Washington overnight train returns to its former 10:00 p.m. departures from each end of the Northeast Corridor complete with introductory low fares. Meanwhile, five trains are being added to the Springfield, Mass., to New Haven, Conn. line.

Effective with the April 28 (next Monday) timetable change, the Twilight Shoreliner, operating from Boston to Washington to Newport News, will be replaced by the Washington-Boston Federal, as reported last week in D:F. In Washington, passengers will be able to connect with southbound trains.

The Shoreliner, which ran an extended route, departed and arrived from Washington and Boston at inconveniently early hours. The Gunn era deems that tradeoff as unacceptable.
1950s Federal

The New Haven and Pennsylvania railroads combined run through operations on some trains, including the Federal.

According to the October 30, 1955 NYNH&H employee timetable, No. 173 departed South Station, Boston at 11:00 p.m., and stopped in Providence, R.I. at 11:56 p.m., and departed at the stroke of midnight.

The train stopped briefly at Old Saybrook, Conn. before stopping for 10 minutes at New Haven, where its steam engine or diesel was exchanged for an electric engine, and departing at 2:06 a.m.

It arrived in Pennsylvania Station, New York City at 3:35 a.m., and shortly thereafter continued on to Washington, D.C.

A Pennsylvania Railroad public timetable dated July 8, 1951 shows the train leaving at 3:02 a.m., but the 33-plus-minute discrepancy is accounted for by timetable changes between 1951 and 1955. In the 1951 timetable, the Federal arrived at 7:05 a.m.

Its eastward counterpart, No 172, left Union Station at 10:00 p.m., according to the PRR timetable. It made the same station stops as its counterpart, and arrived in Boston at 8:10 a.m., on the New Haven timetable.

“Those who recall the days of the Federal, operated by the New York, New Haven & Hartford and Pennsylvania Railroads, will welcome the return of the train on its former schedule,” Amtrak President David Gunn said in a company press release.

“Today’s version will offer a much improved schedule for Boston-Washington overnight travelers from the current Twilight Shoreliner, plus service options that should make it a popular train.”

Prior to the Shoreliner, Amtrak operated a Washington-Boston overnight called he Night Owl. Gunn, a veteran railroad man, chose to take the train back to its real roots –to the pre-Amtrak Federal from the 1950s era and earlier.

The Boston departure will arrive in Washington at 7:30 a.m. the following day. The Washington departure gets into Boston at 8:15 the next morning.

Three classes of service will be offered aboard the train – more than on any other run on the NEC.

First-class passengers will be in sleeping cars, and will be able to board at 9:00 p.m. The Viewliner sleepers contain private bedrooms with two beds, a fold-down table, and in-room toilet. A shower will be available. Shortly before arrival at the end point, complimentary breakfasts will be served, either in the café car or through room service, at the passenger’s option. Deluxe sleeping accommodations are available, offering even more space and a private shower.

Business class aboard the Federal will offer 2-by-1 seating configurations, with extra legroom, pillows, blankets, complimentary non-alcoholic beverages, and 120-volt electrical outlets, “making it the perfect choice for discerning passengers who may not require a private bedroom,” to quote the Amtrak press release.

In addition, First- and Business-class passengers boarding at Boston’s South Station and Washington’s Union Station will have access to Club Acela, Amtrak’s lounges with amenities and offering complimentary beverages, local telephone calls, and Internet access.

Coach service, according to Amtrak, “will provide the many comforts and conveniences of rail travel, including ‘Quiet Car’ (no cell phones) service.”

The café car will serve an expanded menu of meals and snacks as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. RailFone service is available in each car.

The bottom line is that now through June 30, passengers can ride the Federal for 30 percent off regular rail fares, but blackouts and restrictions may apply. Passengers must mention the discount code “H327” when making reservations.

The only thing missing is the old “set-out sleeper” between New York and Washington. On the New Haven Railroad’s Federal, it was very popular with diplomats and politicians, most notably the late Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-Ill.), the golden-voiced orator of mid-20th Century Capitol Hill. Amtrak briefly revived the service on the Night Owl, but it was poorly marketed and not always very well serviced, which led to its demise.

Also to be added to the new timetable will be five new trains on the Inland Route between New Haven and Springfield.

That signals Gunn’s determination to offer service commensurate with the demand one would expect on a busy, densely populated corridor which includes Hartford, the Connecticut state capitol. Service on that line had been noticeably downgraded in recent years, and Gunn apparently saw that as a mistake.

On weekdays, southbound trains will depart Springfield at 6:00 a.m., 7:15 a.m., 10:40 a.m., 12:25 p.m., 2:10 p.m., 4:05 p.m., 5:05 p.m., and 7:20 p.m. Departure times at Hartford will be about 34 minutes later.

From New Haven, Amtrak fills a five-hour gap in the previous schedule. Northbound departures will leave at 8:50 a.m., 10:15 a.m., 12:55 a.m., 2:15 p.m., 4:10 p.m., 5:15 p.m. 7:25 p.m., and 8:30 p.m. Northward departures from Hartford will be about 42 minutes later.

Amtrak significantly lowered fares for travel on the line, ranging from $5 to $50, and more for monthly pass riders.

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Turbotrain makes first run

One of seven Turbotrains made its first run with paying passengers from Rensselaer to New York City and back on April 14.

The five-car train set, rebuilt at SuperSteel Schenectady, rolled out of the Rensselaer station at 9:00 a.m. and returned from Penn Station in the afternoon, according to the Albany Business Journal and Albany Times-Union.

With no prior notice or fanfare, Amtrak put the first of seven rebuilt 1970s-era turbine-powered trainsets on train No. 250, its regular 9:00 a.m. run from Rensselaer to New York’s Penn Station. The train rolled back in a little more than 15 minutes late, at 4:26 p.m., apparently because of heavy traffic south of Poughkeepsie.

Amtrak recently stated it would be conducting trial runs with the new trains by substituting them for the carrier’s older equipment on existing routes. The goal, said Amtrak spokesman Dan Stessel in Washington, is to see how the trains behave on regular runs and judge the public reaction.

The “live revenue test” is a step towards putting the trains in service, Stessel said.

Stessel said they still aren’t prepared to put the Turboliner, one of seven being reconditioned in Glenville, N.Y. under a $74.4 million state contract with Super Steel Schenectady, into regular service, calling Monday’s run the first of several “live revenue tests” necessary before the train moves into Amtrak’s regular rotation.

Stessel said more shakedown cruises are likely this week, but customers probably won’t know when they book their seats whether to expect a Turboliner or one of Amtrak’s conventional trains.

“We need to see how it performs under real-world conditions with real-world passengers aboard so we can replace it with traditional equipment should a problem arise,” Stessel said.

A second completed Turboliner set, consisting of engine cars on each end and three passenger cars, is already at a nearby coach yard, and another is due to be delivered in May. The trains carry about 260 passengers when full.

The seven rebuilt 1970s-era French-built trains are intended to provide high-speed rail access to New York City. Cash-strapped Amtrak, though, has been unable to follow through on an agreement to upgrade the CSX-owned tracks so the trains can hit their top speed, 125 mph.

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Downeaster to stay, says Gunn

Amtrak president David Gunn visited Maine on April 11, where he said despite the passenger carrier’s financial problems, it will honor its commitment to the Downeaster train service between Boston and Portland, Maine.

Gunn rode aboard a Downeaster for a speech in Portland that evening. He said Amtrak’s strategy right now is to “regroup and rebuild.” He added, in the future, the federal government is going to have to create a transportation system for rail similar to the one for highways and air travel.

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Istook takes dim view of Amtrak

Amtrak will never be profitable, and the troubled train company needs twice the subsidy being offered by the Bush administration next year to operate and upgrade rails and equipment, Amtrak’s chief told a House subcommittee April 11.

David Gunn told the subcommittee, headed by longtime Amtrak critic Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), that the “myth” of future self-sufficiency was likely forwarded by people who thought they had to stick to that story to keep receiving federal subsidies, The Daily Oklahoman reported.

“I can’t really tell you what motives they had,” said Gunn, who took over as Amtrak’s president and chief executive 11 months ago. “They might have believed” Amtrak could someday survive without federal aid.

Gunn said among the major myths about Amtrak was that it could someday be profitable. Other myths, he said, were private industry would be interested in buying it and there was a quick fix to the complex problems facing the train service.

Istook, who has questioned the need to keep Amtrak alive with taxpayer dollars, said Amtrak is “a mess.” He expressed his frustration that the company’s public relations efforts in the past perpetuated the “charade” that it would someday pay for itself.

Istook is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that has jurisdiction over Amtrak’s budget. The hearing delved into the specifics of Amtrak’s budget needs, but also spun at times into philosophical arguments about the justification for keeping the service alive with taxpayer money.

Michael P. Jackson, the deputy secretary of transportation, said the administration’s offer of $900 million for the fiscal year that begins in October was a message that Amtrak needs fundamental reform.

“What we’re saying is, ‘Stop. Enough is enough. Let’s fix the broken railroad,’” Jackson said.

Gunn said the Bush administration proposal was a “non-starter” and that with only $900 million, Amtrak would have to shut down maintenance on its routes in the Northeast, its most popular routes.

He said Amtrak could shut down all of its long-distance routes, but it would take up to four years to realize savings that would amount to about $300 million.

Rep. Steven Rothman (D-N.J.), said, “The $900 million (Bush proposal) is a joke.”

An Amtrak supporter, Rothman questioned why Amtrak had to survive on insufficient subsidies while Congress and the administration have showered generous amounts of taxpayer funds on farmers, the airlines and other groups.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas), said it was “appalling and unsupportable” that the federal government continued to pour money into Amtrak’s “black hole.”

Istook said after the meeting he didn’t know what Amtrak would eventually receive from his subcommittee for next year. It would depend on what kind of consensus could be reached on the panel, he said.

Other committees in Congress will have a major say in the overarching question of Amtrak’s future and the taxpayers’ role. Amtrak is due for reauthorization, meaning a long-term plan will have to be developed.

After threats last year that Amtrak would shut down its long-distance routes without emergency aid, the Bush administration and Congress agreed to a $1 billion package and required the company to provide more detailed financial information about its operations.

Jackson said Amtrak was created with the “illusory” expectation it would someday be self-sufficient.

Instead, he said, Amtrak estimates it will need about $2 billion a year in subsidies for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, he said, it has about $5 billion in debts and a $6 billion backlog in capital improvements.

All of Amtrak’s 17 long-distance trains will lose money this year, Jackson said. When such costs as depreciation and interest are considered, all 43 of Amtrak’s regularly scheduled routes lose money, he said.

According to figures released by Jackson, the Heartland Flyer, which runs daily from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth will have $6.14 million in total revenue in this fiscal year; $883,432 from passengers and $5.26 million from the state of Oklahoma.

He said that service would total $6.3 million in expenses, when interest and depreciation are considered. When interest and depreciation are not considered, the Heartland Flyer’s revenue would exceed expenses by $1.39 million. However, the USDOT contends that all expenses must be calculated to determine the true cost.

Istook said some routes were being subsidized at a rate of $550 per passenger.

He rejected Gunn’s suggestion that the government also subsidized highways. Istook said fuel taxes paid by motorists who use roads and bridges are dedicated to building and repairing them. In contrast, he said, taxpayers who don’t use Amtrak are being forced to subsidize it.

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Amtrak to run new Oregon train

Passenger trains will run between Portland and Astoria, Ore., this summer as part of the Lewis and Clark bicentennial commemoration.

Train service, which last ran between the two cities in 1952, begins May 23, a Friday, and will run through September 2. Trains will travel between Portland Union Station and Astoria along the Oregon side of the lower Columbia River.

The train will be named The Lewis & Clark Explorer Train, and will be able to carry 166 passengers.

The route runs along the Columbia River close to several historical sites that were visited by the famous expedition, through nature preserves and over scenic river trestles.

The Lewis & Clark Explorer Train will depart Portland Union Station at 7:30 a.m. four days a week (Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday) for the four-hour ride to Astoria. The train will leave Astoria at 4:30 p.m. to arrive in Portland at 8:30 p.m.

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Amtrak’s Lang to chat in Shelby

Ray Lang, director of governmental affairs for Amtrak, will be in Shelby, Mont., on April 26 (Saturday) from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. in a public forum at the community’s high school.

Lang is going to Shelby at the request of Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) The principal topic will be the future of the company in Montana, according to the Great Falls Tribune via the Contra Costa Times of Walnut Creek, Calif.

Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor service has bucked the national trend by posting record-high ridership numbers in the past seven months

“Many Montanans have contacted my office with concerns about the future of the Empire Builder,” said Burns in a press release.

“I felt it important for folks on the Hi-Line to hear it directly from Amtrak and asked Mr. Lang to come out to Shelby and talk with Montanans.”

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Capitol Corridor to add another train

At a time when transit agencies all over the nation are losing riders in droves, California’s Capitol Corridor will add its third train in the past six months, reports Amtrak.

Beginning April 28, the Capitol will run 12 trains each weekday between Sacramento, the East Bay and San José, up from nine in October.

Capitol tucked the new train into the midday schedule, which cuts the time between trains in the morning and afternoon from two hours to 90 minutes. Its nine-train weekend schedule will not change.

“This will fill a significant gap we had in our schedule,” said Capitol Corridor managing director Eugene Skoropowski.

Equally significant at a time when transit cash has never been tighter, Skoropowski added this train and the prior two without a single additional dollar in his budget.

If history repeats itself, the 12th train will again punch up Capitol’s ridership figures. The line carries more than 4,000 riders daily and has posted record-high ridership numbers each of the past seven months.

Overall, passenger counts are up 8 percent over last year.

Capitol Corridor rail service is online at

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First Iraqi ‘extra’ moves a few miles

With a creaky groan, an Iraqi locomotive roared to life Saturday (April 19) as British and newly installed city officials formally reopened the rail line between Umm Qasr and Basra, the expected route for aid into the rest of southern Iraq.

With electricity and water already restored to residents, resumed train transport is one more sign the humanitarian crisis is easing up in this small, Persian Gulf port town, the first taken by coalition troops reported Associated Press writer Tini Tran.

“When we get this line open, it’ll be far more efficient and economical to get aid to people,” said Maj. Neil Llewellyn of the Royal Logistics Corp.

“Hopefully, we’ll get it going from the ports on up to Baghdad. That’s the aim. The biggest thing is that it gives hope. You could see it on the people’s faces,” he said.

Umm Qasr’s deep-water port became a military objective because it was seen as the best entry route for relief supplies into southern Iraq. With a railroad line now in operation, supplies can be easily funneled into the key southern city of Basra the country’s second largest community, and the surrounding region.

As a British military band played When the Saints Come Marching In, the newly minted Umm Qasr town council cut a white ribbon and the Chinese-made engine pulled out of the port station with four passenger cars on a test run.

“This is a very important day for southern Iraq. It’s another sign that normality is returning and the days of warfare are over,” said Brigadier Shaun Cowlam.

The first major trainload of medical supplies and water will head to Basra later this week.

For Umm Qasr’s 45,000 residents, the revived rail line was also the latest signal of a return to self-sufficiency. Working with British forces, residents have already managed to restore water, electricity and a phone system.

The new town council has appointed judges, police, even garbage collectors.

“If you want to build a house, you build it yourself. We are ready to rebuild our country ourselves,” said council member Najim Abd Mahdi.

On the railroad, Iraqi crews, working under British military supervision, repaired the line within three weeks. The original tracks were built by the British years ago, and much of the rail line had fallen into disrepair over the past decade.

“There’s been some damage from the conflict, but on the whole, the line’s pretty much intact. Most of the damage is from neglect and lack of machinery,” said Llewellyn. “The (Iraqis) knew how to do their job well. They just haven’t had the equipment.”

On Saturday, conductor Ali Ziger, a 16-year-veteran, was all too pleased to be back on the job, steering the train, an “extra,” through the “test drive” for Umm Qasr’s council members and British officials and taking them 13 miles up the tracks and back.

“Like all Iraqi people, I am happy to have my job back and my country back,” he said.

Along the way, the scenery was a blunt reminder of the war’s devastating impact on the Iraqi landscape – rusty carcasses of burned out tanks, disabled grenade launchers and broken guns.

Mud huts where barefoot children played near empty shell casings underscored the bleak poverty amid the unforgiving desert terrain.

Watching the landscape pass, council member Mahdi recalled that the last time he rode a train was in the early 1990s, when passenger service was more rudimentary than the air-conditioned cars rolling along Saturday.

Back then, coaches were without windows, doors, even cushions, he said. In fact, during much of Saddam’s rule, people weren’t allowed on trains at all – they were mostly used to transport luxury cars and vans for Ba’ ath Party members, he said.

“Now we have a new train for the people. We’re looking for a new future,” Mahdi said.

Meanwhile, some 300 miles northward in Baghdad, readers of Sunday’s New York Times learned there is nothing centralized about Baghdad’s central bus station.

Each day, taxis, minivans and private coaches throng the street outside the gates, their drivers hollering for passengers and advertising their destinations: “Najaf! Karbala! Samawi!”

The station closed on the first day of the war and has yet to resume official service. The director general, a member of the Ba’ ath Party, has disappeared, drivers said, and no one has stepped up to replace him.

The private drivers, who ply their trade in all manner of vehicles and ignore even the simplest traffic rules, say they are thrilled to have taken over the station.

“It may be a little chaotic,” said Ahmed Khodeir, a 34-year-old minivan driver, “but it’s our chaos. Now, we run the show.”

Some of the capital city’s buses are still running, if irregularly, with volunteer drivers. At least one mosque said it had restarted bus service in its neighborhood.

Across the street from the bus station, the National Railroad station sits empty, its ticket windows smashed. The platforms are scattered with rubble and debris.

Before the war, 15 passenger trains and 20 freight trains left there each day for Basra and Mosul as well as Syria and Turkey. Iraq has about 3,000 miles of tracks, maps show, though much of it has been damaged by the war.

“We hope to have things running again in another two weeks,” said Firas Abbas, the passenger station’s chief electrical engineer. “It will not be easy, but we can do it.”

Abbas was taking an inventory of his switching stations and locomotives. The American Army, he said, has agreed to check miles of track for unexploded bombs.

“There are two main problems now: power and security,” he said. “Once we solve those, we will start again. No problem.”

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NTSB to hold event recorder symposium

The National Transportation Safety Board, in conjunction with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), will host a symposium on transportation vehicle recorders, June 4 and 5 in Arlington, Va. Locomotive recorders will also be included.

The NTSB stated in a press release the symposium would bring together a broad spectrum of manufacturers, operators, safety and regulatory officials, and other industry and government specialists to share the latest technical information and experiences in the use of vehicle recorders in all modes of transportation.

“Vehicle recorders are critical tools for providing information in an accident investigation,” said NTSB Chairman Ellen Engleman.

“These innovative technologies that will be discussed at the Symposium should provide us with vital information for future investigations.”

Topics that will be explored during the two-day meeting include:

State of the art in accident recorder technology.

Accident recorder survivability/crashworthiness requirements.

Video/imaging recorder technology.

Data privacy issues.

Acquiring data during regular commercial operations.

Proactive use of data in commercial operations to prevent accidents and improve efficiency.

Four transportation mode-specific workshops will be conducted on the afternoon of the second day. The rail workshop will discuss presentations and perspectives on rail event recorder maintenance programs and practices. Other workshops will include aviation, highway and marine topics.

The symposium will start at 8:30 a.m. each day at the Hilton Alexandria Old Town Hotel, Alexandria.

The NTSB is online at

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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

MBCR, unions near an agreement

The new railroad company taking over the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s commuter rail operations this summer said it is just weeks away from finalizing pacts with the sprawling rail network’s 1,400 employees, who currently work for Amtrak.

Kevin Lydon, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co., said talks with 14 different labor unions have been progressing smoothly, according to the Boston Herald of April 12.

“We are very, very close to having contracts in place in the next few weeks,” Lydon said. “There’s a very positive, upbeat feeling out there among the work force, and I think we’ll have these contracts well done in time to start this.”

MBCR will assume control of the T’s commuter rail operations from Amtrak on July 1. The company won the five-year operating contract from the T with a $1.1 billion bid.

Amtrak opted not to bid on the contract and criticized the T for making the pact too labor friendly. Last year Amtrak President David Gunn blasted the T for making a “mockery of the competitive bidding process.”

“We’re very, very close,” said Charlie Moneypenny, chairman of the MBTA Commuter Rail Labor Coalition.

“I think we’ll be able to come up with an agreement we can take back to our members… in the next 30 days.” Moneypenny’s umbrella group represents about half of the 14 unions involved.

Neither side would get into details of the proposals being bandied about, but last fall, the Labor Coalition rejected an initial offer calling for a $2,000 signing bonus, annual 3 percent to 4 percent pay hikes and an additional two sick days per year.

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MBTA drops North-South Rail Link plan

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has pulled the fiscal plug on the North-South Rail Link, a proposed one-mile tunnel that would connect North Station and South Station.

MBTA General Manager Mike Mulhern last week notified the Federal Transit Administration that the $8.7 billion project is “unrealistic” given the state’s shaky financial situation. The “T” is complaining it is mired in debt and is contemplating a 2004 fare hike, according to Saturday's Boston Herald (April 19).

“The Rail Link, while a project of substantial regional benefits, is simply beyond the immediate term fiscal capacity of the project partners,” Mulhern wrote in a letter to the FTA.

In plain English, the project has been mothballed, said Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Dan Grabauskas.

“It has to be recognized as an extremely expensive project that, given the fiscal circumstances in Massachusetts… is not going to happen for a long time,” Grabauskas said.

The Rail Link has been on the drawing board since the 1980s. While it has the support of a vocal group of rail advocates – including Amtrak Board of Directors Vice Chairman Michael Dukakis and former Bay State governor – some transportation observers think if the Rail Link was ever going to get built it should have happened in conjunction with the $14.6 billion Big Dig.

Nonetheless, supporters said the project is crucial and question the state’s cost figure for the project.

Jim RePass, president and CEO of National Corridors Initiative, said the price of the Rail Link was tabbed at anywhere from $2.4 billion to $3.8 billion a decade ago.

“You can make anything fail if you cook the books, and these books were cooked to get $8.7 billion,” RePass said. “The number cited is false and results from a very deliberate, very studied effort to scuttle the project by using inflated numbers.”

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Romney plan could extend Blue Line;
Fall River, New Bedford lines at risk

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R) transportation team now says plans are under way that would concentrate government spending on urban transit systems, but his administration is preparing to abandon proposed extensions of commuter rail to the South Shore, Fall River, and New Bedford in favor of transit projects in Boston and nearby urban areas, according to planners involved in a sweeping overhaul of transportation policy.

That policy marks an about-face from the previous decade, when priority was given to Boston’s Big Dig Central Artery expressway project and to improving and expanding commuter rail to places like Worcester and Newburyport, according to reports in The Boston Globe of April 14 and the Lynn Daily Item of April 15.

“Prior to the election, the governor made it clear that there would be a certain criteria for the Blue Line to become a reality, and after listening to what the criteria was, we went away knowing that’s what we already had,” said Ted Grant, a consultant for the Lynn Business Partnership, the group spearheading efforts to expand the Blue Line to downtown Lynn.

“The governor is following through with those remarks,” Grant said.

According to Grant, the governor’s new policy announcement is the latest in a series of positive reports.

“All indications coming out of the governor’s transportation office and from the new transportation secretary have been encouraging,” he said, adding that the concept of an urban transportation ring connecting outlying communities with a system of spurs is both logical and seemingly on the governor’s agenda.

In Romney’s view, rapid transit would get a larger share of state money, which could prove an economic boon for Lynn, which is somewhat cut off from the belt system of highways.

Extending the Blue Line from its present terminus in Revere opens up two distinct possibilities that developers and Lynn officials have been eyeing for 40 years. By taking advantage of the 20-minute subway ride, the skilled labor force in Boston could easily fill jobs in Lynn and, conversely, those seeking affordable housing could live there but work in Boston.

State Transportation Secretary Daniel Grabauskas in March sent a letter to federal transportation officials in Washington, D.C., endorsing the Blue Line extension.

The shift comes after a decade of significant expansion and massive spending on the commuter rail system, more than $900 million for improvements, new stations, and new lines, including service to Worcester and Newburyport.

The revival of the Greenbush line to the South Shore and the extension of commuter rail to New Bedford and Fall River would together cost $1 billion more.

Rather than pursue those two projects, the Romney team is preparing to push urban transit projects, such as the completion of the Silver Line from Roxbury to Logan Airport via South Station, the extension of the Blue Line to Lynn, the Green Line extension to Medford, and the Urban Ring, a rail-and-bus service circumventing Boston.

Administration officials say that in an ideal world they would build both urban and suburban projects, but limited funds force them to make a choice.

Their plan to improve the transportation system in neighborhoods close to and in Boston reflects Romney’s anti-sprawl agenda to make urban areas more desirable and functional places for people to live and work, and for developers to build in.

Romney’s people are also concerned that commuter rail encourages low-density development in suburban and rural areas, such as new subdivisions on big lots.

The retreat from commuter rail is sure to ignite protest among civic leaders in Fall River and New Bedford, who have been counting on getting a rail connection to Boston, and some South Shore suburbanites, who have been clamoring for an alternative to congested Route 3 for years.

The Greenbush, New Bedford and Fall River projects have been intensely complicated. Some residents in Hingham and Cohasset, for example, have strongly resisted the revival of the Greenbush line, and various mitigation measures to address their concerns, such as a tunnel under Hingham Square, have pushed the price to $470 million, or about $100,000 per new rider.

In February, Romney put the Greenbush project on hold for six months, to examine its spiraling costs, including higher-than-expected land acquisition costs, and to determine its ultimate price tag. An official announcement of the Bay State governor’s urban transit strategy will probably not be made until the review is done.

Romney administration officials say they are prepared for a backlash as they try to shift the emphasis from suburban to urban projects. The Greenbush line, for example, was a promise made in return for moving ahead with the Big Dig, and also a clean-air commitment.

Legislators may also oppose the plan. They approve bond bills for major state transportation projects; however, the governor has broad discretion over which transportation projects to build.

Romney’s policy is being developed under his newly created Office of Commonwealth Development, which has generated detailed criteria that will be applied to all proposed transportation projects.

The criteria include the number of projected riders, cars taken off the road, congestion eased, minority and low-income neighborhoods served, but, and perhaps most important, the development implications of any given project.

Stephen Burrington, deputy chief of the new office, said, “If it doesn’t have a positive land use impact, it’s much less likely to be built.” he said.

As an example, he said, the $2.8 billion Urban Ring, which would help people get around six communities including Boston and link the region’s radiating subway and rail lines, would also stimulate development along its route, on currently vacant parcels in Roxbury, Somerville, Everett, and Chelsea.

The Greenbush, New Bedford and Fall River lines would take cars off the road, he said, but would likely trigger spread-out development in communities along the route. That’s a particular concern on the proposed New Bedford and Fall River line, which would include stops in suburban communities and pass through sensitive ecological areas.

Administration officials say they have no intention of abandoning the existing commuter rail network. Maintenance and system enhancements, ranging from better platforms to better signals, will be the first priority for both commuter rail and rapid transit, they said.

The commuter rail system will also be in line for capital improvements, officials said, just not as expansive as in the 1990s. New stations will be added along the Fairmount line in Boston (the 10-mile Dorchester Branch) and along the Fitchburg Line at Union Square in Somerville, for example.

George Thrush, chairman of the architecture department at Northeastern Univ., called the administration’s approach a radical change for Massachusetts. He noted that it is difficult to change suburban residents’ reliance on their cars, especially because many of them commute from suburb-to-suburb nowadays rather than suburb-to-Boston – but people in dense urban areas can be better connected, he said.

Environmental groups, however, want alternatives to cars available in both town and country.

“It doesn’t need to be either-or,” said Bennet Heart, senior attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation. “They should do everything they can to make the funding pie bigger for transit and rail. When you compare projects, the urban projects do tend to come out ahead, but commuter rail serves an important segment of the population.”

Dennis DiZoglio, assistant general manager for planning and real estate for the MBTA, noted that the state’s focus has alternated between mass transit and commuter rail over the past 30 years. While former Gov. Michael S. Dukakis (D) was devoted to improving the subway system, former Gov. William F. Weld (R) and his successors emphasized suburban rail and highway projects.

After a period of investment in commuter rail, it would be natural for renewed attention to rapid transit, DiZoglio suggested.

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AirTrain tests to restart in New York;
September crash tied to human error

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey stated on April 15 that tests would resume shortly on the $1.9 billion AirTrain line to Kennedy Airport from Queens. The announcement came after investigators found that human error, not structural problems, caused a fatal crash in a test on the line last year.

The Port Authority’s accident investigators determined that the three-car train in the crash derailed because it was traveling too fast on a curve, a result of miscommunication between the driver, Kelvin DeBourgh Jr., and a supervisor at Bombardier Transportation, the Canadian company that built and was testing the train.

The New York Times reported the investigators also found that DeBourgh was not properly trained to conduct the high-speed test that led to the accident. He was manually operating the train, designed to be controlled by computer, on September 27 while calibrating electrical circuit breakers. A speed governor on the train had been disabled so he could drive it faster than 15 miles per hour, its top speed under regular manual control.

While DeBourgh had been told to stop before reaching the curve, the landmark he had been told to use as a stopping point was hard to identify, investigators found.

In a previous test, he had passed the stopping point, and had reported doing so, but his supervisor apparently did not understand him, according to the accident report.

In the next test, DeBourgh again passed the stopping point and was traveling more than 55 m.p.h., near the train’s top speed, when he passed over a left-hand curve designed for speeds of only 25 m.p.h., and the train derailed. The impact shifted 16,000 pounds of concrete ballast forward, pinning and fatally injuring him.

Anthony G. Cracchiolo, the director of priority capital programs for the Port Authority, said that it did not appear that Mr. DeBourgh was told to travel at a specific speed, but “based on what we can determine, he was told to accelerate the train to full throttle,” which he had not been trained to do.

“We’re not blaming the operator here,” Cracchiolo added. “We don’t fault him for this.”

Port Authority officials said several changes in testing procedures had been made to ensure greater oversight so miscommunications would not happen again.

Cracchiolo said that if the remaining tests proceeded as expected, the train line could be in operation by the end of the year, linking the airport’s terminals with a hub of subways, buses and rail lines at Jamaica Station in Queens.

The DeBourgh family has filed a notice of intent to sue the Port Authority, Bombardier and others.

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Some New York stations flunk audit

New York City comptroller William Thompson Jr. recently audited Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road rail stations. Three M-N stations flunked, and one LIRR. He also found that four of 40 Metropolitan Transit Authority stations in New York had “unsafe conditions, including leaking water, crumbling platforms, and third rail exposure,” according to Mobilizing the Region of April 14.

All four MTA stations were on Thompson’s “unsafe” list last year, though the total number of unsafe stations had fallen by half, from eight to four, according to the weekly online publication.

The audit stated Metro-North’s Westchester stations were in far better condition than those in New York.

Thompson tagged three Metro-North stations – Tremont, Wakefield and Fordham – and one LIRR station, Murray Hill. Last year, five Metro North stations and four LIRR stations made the list.

Infrequent service, and in a few cases, bad station conditions, keep many residents from using Metro-North and LIRR service within the city. The MTA is reportedly still considering the idea of a “city ticket” that would allow use of the railroad inside the city for the price of a subway fare.

“Along with fixing up the worst stations, the city ticket would be a big step toward city-friendly railroads,” Mobilizing the Region offered. The publication comes from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, which describes itself as “An alliance of public interest, transit advocacy, planning and environmental organizations working to reverse deepening automobile dependence and sprawl development in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut metropolitan region.”

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign is online at

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APTA highlights...  APTA highlights...

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

Economic Downturn Triggers Transit Agency Budget Gaps, Cost Cuts, Fare Hikes

As public transportation agencies nationwide face increasingly serious and widespread funding shortages in operations, they are responding by cutting costs and boosting efficiency while raising fares and reducing services.

Since 2001, operating budgets for public transit agencies have faced challenges including state budget deficits, lower sales tax receipts, lower ridership, and higher insurance and fuel costs. The agencies have raised fares, cut services, delayed capital projects, increased parking fees, and implemented innovative programs to cut costs and generate revenue.

Many transit systems also reduced their travel budgets and hiring, locked in fuel prices through purchase agreements, and lowered electricity costs by joining power pools.

The situation forced several transit agencies that had not raised fares for years to increase them over the past two years. Nationwide, agencies held public hearings and meetings to hear from riders, community members, and labor organizations, and to help shape their often unpopular measures to raise revenues and cut services.

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APTA/AAA Poll: 95 Percent Find Traffic Congestion Worsening or Not Improving

In a survey released April 2 by APTA and the American Automobile Association, 95 percent of Americans said the traffic congestion they encounter during their daily travels, including commutes to work, either has gotten worse or has not improved over the past three years.

Ninety-two percent of respondents said they believe the availability of viable alternatives to driving, as well as good roads, is very or somewhat important to their communities, and 26 percent said they used public transportation in the past year. Of those who reported using transit, 50 percent took buses, followed by commuter rail with 19 percent; subways, 14 percent; and a combination of modes, 17 percent.

APTA and AAA sponsored the poll to obtain current information on transportation choices and views on congestion as Congress prepares for reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. The polling firm, Opinion Research Corp., sampled the opinions of 1,032 randomly selected U.S. adults between March 21 and 24.

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Former Sen. Moynihan Dies; Architect of ISTEA

Former U.S. Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), 76, one of the architects of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991, died March 26 in Washington. He served as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 1991 and 1992, at the time ISTEA was passed.

Moynihan had been called the “Father of ISTEA” for his instrumental role in the development of the landmark legislation. He was a critical supporter of intermodalism who supported significant public transportation projects in the New York area, and continued to support these themes through the enactment of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century in 1998.

In 2001, Moynihan received the John H. Chafee Lifetime Transportation Leadership Award at a “Ten Years of Progress” event sponsored by the Surface Transportation Policy Project with APTA, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, the Transportation Funders’ Group, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The award is named for the late Sen. Chafee (R-R.I.), another leader in the passage of ISTEA and TEA 21.

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FTA’s Dorn Testifies on Cost Issues Before Appropriations Subcommittee

Federal Transit Administrator Jennifer L. Dorn joined leaders of public transportation systems in Chicago and San Francisco to testify April 1 before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Treasury, and Related Agencies on cost controls and cost drivers of Federal Transit Administration projects.

U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) chairs the subcommittee, with U.S. Rep. John W. Olver (D-Mass.) as the ranking member.

“Our goal is to ensure that every project is cost-effective; that every project is delivered within budget; and that every project is delivered on time,” Dorn said.

She spoke in favor of limiting the share of Section 5309 New Starts funds to not more than 50 percent of the total cost of a New Starts project, beginning in Fiscal Year 2004. According to Dorn, “Strengthening this policy and the criteria to encourage New Starts sponsors to develop projects with the highest feasible local share will allow us to fund a greater number of meritorious projects in the future. In addition, it gives communities an even greater stake in ensuring that the return on investment in these projects is as high as possible.”

Chicago Transit Authority Frank Kruesi and Thomas E. Margro, general manager of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, also addressed the subcommittee hearing with comments about the economic ramifications of their projects.

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U.S. Rep. Lipinski Introduces National Rail Infrastructure Legislation

U.S. Rep. William O. Lipinski (D-Ill.) has introduced bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would create the National Rail Infrastructure Program.

The program created by Lipinski’s bill would help fund the growing demand for rail infrastructure improvements with revenues of just over $3 billion per year, using funding streams including a reallocation of the 4.3-cent-per-gallon diesel fuel tax that railroads currently pay into the General Revenue Fund, a reallocation of a portion of the current customs duties, and additional taxes on new rail cars.

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End of Era in Sight as NYC Transit Discontinues Token Sales

MTA New York City Transit discontinued the sale of transit tokens on April 13, marking the end of a New York tradition that dates back 50 years.

NYC Transit noted that its turnstiles will accept the tokens until May 4, when fares increase from $1.50 to $2. Bus passengers can continue to use the tokens, plus 50 cents, until Dec. 31.

As explained by the New York Times in its mock “obituary” for the token, NYC Transit fare boxes accepted nickels from the opening of the system in 1904 until 1948, and dimes for the next five years. However, in 1953, fares rose to 15 cents, and “the system’s engineers could not design a turnstile that would accept two different coins. Thus, the token.”

Five designs of tokens have been issued during the 50-year period, the most recent introduced in 1995. New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority introduced electronic MetroCards in 1994 as the first step in phasing out the tokens. A published report stated that about 85 percent of the city’s seven million daily subway riders now use MetroCards.

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Transportation Tax Votes Fail in Fort Collins, Colo.

In the second attempt by the city of Fort Collins, Colo., to enact taxes to fund transportation projects including public transportation, the two measures on the ballot both failed. According to preliminary counts, Issue 1, a 10-year, quarter-cent increase in city sales and use tax, was defeated by 54 percent of the vote, while Issue 2, a 10-year, 1 percent excise tax on new construction and some remodeling projects, lost by 53 percent.

“Both votes were pretty close, but they both lost,” said Tom Frazier, general manager of Transfort/Dial-A-Ride in Fort Collins.

Published reports said that, had the measures passed, they would have raised an anticipated $7.5 million a year, with 84 percent going to streets and intersection projects; 12 percent to transit; and 4 percent to bicycle and pedestrian projects.

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FREIGHTLINES...  Freight lines...

FEC engines at work

NCI: Leo King

Locomotives are also the economic engines of the railroad industry, and if the U.S. Senate goes along with a House bill to repeal the 4.3 percent fuel tax, railroads will be able to invest it in their physical plant. Here, Florida East Coast No. 105 rumbles through St. Augustine, Fla. trailing “pigs” and auto racks on February 11. The story is below.



This just in at deadline

Is a coast-to-coast railroad near?

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

Reports of another big railroad merger are circulating within the industry.

The April 21 issue of the freight transportation trade magazine Traffic World says discussions between Wall Street and STB regulators and a customer service survey “have given rise to the latest speculation of a transcontinental railroad merger.”

The survey dealt with “the habits of CSX and Union Pacific.”

Bear Stearns analyst Edward M. Wolfe, who met with STB Chairman Roger Nober and Commissioner Linda Morgan, is quoted as saying he sensed the chairman “appears very open to potential mergers within the railroad industry if rail benefits can be clearly quantified and the parties can present a convincing integration plan.”

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Will the Senate go along?

House says ’bye to the rail fuel tax

By Wes Vernon
Washington Correspondent

The House has killed the 4.3 percent fuel tax that it had imposed years ago on the freight railroads while their highway competitors were allowed to use the money for business upgrades.

If the Senate approves and the President signs the bill, that would enable the railroads to invest their money in their physical plant.

At $1 million per mile to maintain tracks, the Class I carriers have said, in effect, that sticking them with a tax that their competitors don’t have to pay has unfairly saddled them with a second-class citizenship in the transportation community.

The repeal measure was included in the omnibus energy bill the House passed on April 11, just before the lawmakers went home for the Easter recess.

On the Senate side, the Senate Finance Committee has approved the fuel tax repeal. Sen. James Jeffords (I-Vt.) offered an amendment to use the fuel tax dollars specifically for government-supervised rail infrastructure improvements. The railroads, which own their own infrastructure (unlike their trucking competitors which do not own their own highways and need not spend corporation dollars for their upkeep), objected, and the amendment was defeated.

Ironically, the idea may still be on life support in the House. Separate legislation (HR 1617) by Rep. Bill Lipinski (D-Ill.) would accomplish the Jeffords goal and then some.

It would keep the tax and use it as the basis for a railroad trust fund.

Additionally, it would impose a 5 percent tax on locomotives and rolling stock, a 1 percent tax on freight shipping payments, a 5 percent tax on commuter-rail tickets, and a 10 percent tax on intercity and other tickets.

While NARP (the National Association of Railroad Passengers) hailed the Lipinski goal as “laudable,” it noted that in addition to the likely disappearance of the fuel tax, “ticket taxes are not so simple.”

NARP explained, “If, for example, Amtrak is charging what the market will bear for a ticket, a 10 percent tax would require Amtrak to reduce its fares by a corresponding amount to keep as much business as possible, and thereby reduce its own revenues and increase its need for operating support from other sources,” NARP observed.

Several people, including Amtrak President David Gunn, have called for a “Railroad Trust Fund.” The political or economic viability of any specifics for such an undertaking remain elusive, though the search continues.

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BNSF gets off EPA lake site list

The Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. last week reported some of its property had been cleaned up sufficiently to be removed from a “Superfund” cleanup list.

The railroad cleaned up its Santa Fe Lake site, about one mile south of the former Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe yard in Clovis, N. Mex. Wastewater was discharged from the yard into the lake beginning in the early 1900s when the yard was first built.

Before the site was listed on the Superfund National Priorities List, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted an environmental site investigation in the late 1970s. Preliminary reports from that investigation indicated that heavy metals, total petroleum hydrocarbons and cyanide were present on the site. Santa Fe Lake was consequently added to the NPL in 1983 as “AT&SF Clovis.”

Cleanup of the site began in 1988 with the installation of a fence around the site to limit access. Next, a dike and moat were constructed around a 40-acre lake and beach area to prevent rainfall runoff from entering the lake. This allowed the lake water to evaporate and exposed the lake basin sediments for treatment.

“Treatment of the contaminated soils and sediments,” stated BNSF in a press release, “were performed through ‘land-farming’ to enhance bioremediation of the hydrocarbons. The land-farming included aeration, moisture control and nutrient control.”

The freight carrier stated, “Treatment occurred in layers approximately 8 inches in depth and continued until either the hydrocarbons were reduced to the cleanup standards or no further degradation was occurring.

BNSF’s Rob Werner said “Overall the treatment process included approximately 5,600 soil and sediment samples and the treatment of 57,245 cubic yards of sediments and 125,235 cubic yards of soil.” Werner is BNSF’s manager of environmental remediation at the railroad’s headquarters in Fort Worth.

Once treatment was completed, BNSF began the restoration process, which included planting native grasses within the lake basin, and any other areas disturbed throughout the remediation phase.

BNSF is holding an open house in Clovis on April 24 to celebrate the successful removal from the list. Representatives from BNSF, the EPA, the New Mexico Environment Dept. Curry County and the City of Clovis will be available to answer questions about the site between 2:00 and 4:00 p. m at the Santa Fe Lake Site on South Main across from Navajo Road in Clovis.

BNSF is online at

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BNSF elects a dozen directors

Shareholders of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. elected 12 directors, including Matthew K. Rose, chairman, president and CEO, at the company’s annual shareholders meeting held April 16 in Fort Worth.

In addition to Rose, the following directors were elected for a one-year term:

Alan L. Boeckmann, 54, chairman and CEO of Fluor Corp.; John J. Burns, Jr., 71, president and CEO of Alleghany Corp.; Vilma S. Martinez, 59, partner in the law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP; Marc F. Racicot, 54, partner in the law firm of Bracewell & Patterson, L.L.P.

Also, Roy S. Roberts, 64, retired group vice president, North American Vehicle Sales, Service and Marketing, of General Motors Corp.; Marc J. Shapiro, 55, vice chairman for finance, risk management, and administration of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.; J.C. Watts, Jr., 45, chairman, J.C. Watts Companies LLC, and J.C. Watts Enterprises, Inc.

In addition, Robert H. West, 64, retired chairman of the board of Butler Manufacturing Co.; J. Steven Whisler, 48, chairman, president and CEO of Phelps Dodge Corp.; Edward E. Whitacre, Jr., 61, chairman and CEO of SBC Communications Inc.; and Michael B. Yanney, 69, chairman of America First Companies, L.L.C.

A BNSF press release stated Bill M. Lindig, retired chairman of SYSCO Corp. did not stand for re-election.

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Single topic at STB’s next hearing…

Surface Transportation Board Chairman Roger Nober says there be a single topic at its next public meeting on April 22 – railroad rate challenges “in small cases that are not suitable for handling under the board’s constrained market pricing (CMP) procedures.”

Norber said the hearing will begin at 10:00 a.m. in the Mercury Bldg (Room 760) on K Street, N.W. will “provide a forum for shippers, railroads, and other interested parties to express their views and to offer proposals for the handling of small cases involving challenges to the reasonableness of railroad rates.”

The board is asking speakers not to orally present their already written submissions, but to “briefly summarize the submissions, augment their content as seen fit, and be prepared to answer questions board members may ask from the bench.”

Three panels will be making presentations – governmental agencies, shippers and railroads (and rail labor).

The first panel, comprised of governmental entities, will include U.S. DOT’s Paul Smith for three minutes; North Dakota Public Service Commission, North Dakota Grain Dealers Assn., and North Dakota Wheat Commission representative Tony Clark, for 10 minutes.

The shippers’ panel will hear from National Grain and Feed Assn.’s Kendell W. Keith for 12 minutes; The American Chemistry Council, who’s representative had not yet been named, 10 minutes; The Fertilizer Institute, Jeffrey O. Moreno, five minutes; The National Industrial Transportation League, Jeffrey O. Moreno, 15 minutes.

Railroads and Rail Labor will present from the Association of American Railroads, Samuel M. Sipe, Jr., 20 minutes; United Transportation Union, General Chairman John D. Fitzgerald, and Gordon P. MacDougall, five minutes.

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Freight traffic shows gains last week

Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was up during the week ended April 12, in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported last Thursday.

Intermodal traffic totaled 189,263 trailers or containers, up 6.0 percent from last year. Container volume was up 8.2 percent while trailer traffic was down 0.2 percent.

Carload freight, which does not include the intermodal data, totaled 324,700 cars during the week, up 0.4 percent from the corresponding week last year. Loadings were up 0.5 percent in the East, and up 0.3 percent in the West.

Total volume was estimated at 28.2 billion ton-miles, up 1.1 percent from last year.

Among the eight groups showing increases from the corresponding week last year, were coke, up 44.3 percent; pulp, paper and allied products, up 11.7 percent; and metallic ores, up 6.3 percent. Loadings of primary forest products were down 14.6 percent from last year, while petroleum products were off 8.8 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 15 weeks of 2003: 4,764,378 carloads, up 0.8 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 2,725,487 trailers and containers, up 8.8 percent; and total volume of an estimated 424.0 billion ton-miles, up 0.8 percent from last year’s first 15 weeks.

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

On Canadian railroads, intermodal volume was up while carload traffic was down during the week ended April 12. Intermodal traffic totaled 43,563 trailers or containers, up 9.8 percent from last year. Carload volume of 66,834 cars was down 1.6 percent from the comparable week last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 15 weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 918,440 carloads, down 0.8 percent from last year, and 596,465 trailers or containers, up 11.7 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 15 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 5,682,818 carloads, up 0.5 percent from last year, and 3,321,952 trailers and containers, up 9.3 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended April 12 totaled 9,009 cars originated, down 9.1 percent from last year. TFM reported originated intermodal volume of 3,753 trailers or containers, up 25.9 percent from the 15th week of 2002.

For the first 15 weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 132,812 cars, up 7.9 percent from last year, and 53,918 trailers or containers, up 48.7 percent.

AAR is online at

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QUARTERLY REPORTS...  Quarterly reports...


Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp (NYSE:BNI) directors voted on April 17 to pay a regular quarterly dividend of 12 cents per share on outstanding common stock. Dividends on common stock will be paid July 1 to shareholders of record June 10. Common shares outstanding on March 31, 2003, totaled approximately 373 million. Through its subsidiary, the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co., BNSF operates 32,500 route miles.

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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...


  Friday One Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)27.08025.810
Canadian National(CNI)45.76044.850
Canadian Pacific(CP)22.42022.100
Florida East Coast(FLA)25.50024.410
Kansas City Southern(KSU)11.77011.140
Norfolk Southern(NSC)19.85019.500
Union Pacific(UNP)58.40056.950

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

Expansive Sacramento plans
made for ‘transcon’s’ birth

One hundred and forty years after businessmen drove the first spike of the first transcontinental railroad in Sacramento, California developers plan one of the nation’s biggest, most innovative downtown expansions on the 240-acre cradle of one of American railroading’s most storied accomplishments.

Associated Press writer Jim Wasserman wrote, “On a littered, rusty landscape where laborers built trains for a railroad that opened the nation, designers of Minnesota’s Mall of America and the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas plan a flashy new swath of housing, shopping and entertainment to pump fresh urban pizazz into a stately, quiet capital city of 418,000 people.”

Planner Jon Jerde said, “What we will be building doesn’t exist today in Sacramento.” Jerde is owner of the Jerde Partnership and Millennia Associates, of Venice, Calif.

“We’re introducing a very vibrant, real-life, urban core for the capital,” he added.

Real estate brokers and Sacramento city officials call the development one of the largest infill projects in the U.S.

National analysts call it a new wave of American city building that mixes entertainment, housing, transit and shopping for an intense urban sensation. As urban crime declines and suburban commutes grow more painful, they say people under 30 and baby boomers over 50 increasingly crave such environments.

“It’s the beginning of a whole new trend to create whole new integrated communities instead of office buildings and retail,” said Michael Beyard, a retail and urban entertainment specialist with the Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C.

Jerde’s specialty of reinventing down-and-out places with “entertainment retail” that attracts crowds and new housing includes Universal CityWalk in Universal City, Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego and Canal City Hakata in Fukuoka, Japan. Most recently, the firm opened a similar, but smaller, rail yard project called “The Gateway” in Salt Lake City.

Plans for the Sacramento rail yard include 3,000 multi-story residences, acres of new shopping, a large transit station, the continent’s most significant railroad museum and possibly a new basketball arena for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.

Jerde’s firm is also designing a gradually sloping shopping avenue that carries walkers above working Union Pacific and Amtrak tracks.

The Jerde Partnership is in the final weeks of negotiations to buy the site.

“It seems like the stars are all starting to line up with this thing,” said Sacramento Deputy City Manager Thomas Lee. “It’s not a pie-in-the-sky story. They’ve done it in other cities.”

The project next to downtown Sacramento and its Gold Rush-era old town is symbolic of a decade-long renaissance among the nation’s downtowns, which have seen billions of dollars in new investment after decades of abandonment. In the West, old railroad yards from San Francisco to Denver to Salt Lake City are playing a major role in the trend.

The Sacramento development would occupy a site opened in 1867 by the Central Pacific Railroad, two years before the transcon linked the nation by connecting Sacramento with Omaha via the Union Pacific. In later years, the CP was reorganized as the Southern Pacific.

Across 132 years before closing in 1999, what was once the West’s biggest industrial center turned out thousands of cars and locomotives for the cross-country railroad.

“This is a complex of incredible rarity in the United States,” National Park Service historian Richard O’Connor recently told the Sacramento City Council.

Noting the buildings’ survival and the historic role of the transcontinental railroad, O’Connor compared their 19th century significance to the Civil War battlefields in Gettysburg, Pa.

Still standing, industrial brick buildings almost as long as two football fields appear cathedral-like with their abundant windows and giant interior spaces. Old pictures of locomotives built and rebuilt in long rows resemble giant aircraft factories in Washington’s Puget Sound – but across decades of hard, dirty and greasy work, the complex also built a toxic legacy.

The site’s current owner, Omaha, Neb.-based Union Pacific Railroad, has undertaken a multimillion-dollar cleanup before development begins, digging up tons of polluted dirt and shipping it to Utah.

Company officials did not return telephone calls from The AP regarding cleanup costs.

The Jerde Partnership, buoyed by its successful 30-acre Gateway development in Salt Lake City, located near the 1869 site where business barons drove the transcontinental route’s last spike, aims to break ground in 2006 and finish by 2016.

Gateway, opened in 2001 on a blighted freight yard section of downtown, is a popular Utah gathering place of shops, restaurants and homes. Despite a ban on large department stores at Gateway, Nordstrom has begun pressing city officials to allow it to move there.

The Sacramento yard’s leading anchor will be the California State Railroad Museum, which attracts 500,000 visitors yearly and aims to double that with a $25 million expansion. The museum, already highlighting western 1860s-era Transcontinental Railroad history, has greater ambitions.

“In terms of facilities and exhibits we would be unrivaled anywhere in North America,” said museum director Catherine Taylor.

In one restored shop where laborers once rebuilt engines in 22 days, tourists will watch state museum workers rebuild old locomotives, freight and passenger cars.

“It’s a world that the public never would get involved in,” Jerde said. “Hot metal and sparks, and this would now be opened to the public to watch it happen. This will be a really big show.”

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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

Regarding today’s news item [D:F April 14] about the change of the Twilight Shoreliner to the Federal.

I do not have my Amtrak and other passenger resources with me to confirm 100 percent, but as I recollect, the Federal was the traditional name of the Boston-Washington overnight train run by the New Haven and the Pennsylvania Railroad (later of course, Penn Central).

I believe it was the train that ran into Washington Union Station in the 1950s.

When Amtrak was formed in 1971, overnight service in the corridor was dropped, killing the original Federal. By the mid-1970s, overnight Boston-Washington service was restored as the Night Owl, and ran as such for over 20 years. When extended in the late 1990s to Newport News, Va., the train picked up the Twilight Shoreliner moniker.

To my recollection, Amtrak never used the Federal name until now. If it did, it was for a day train in the corridor.

The train that was renamed after several tragic accidents – the last of which was the Gunpowder Bridge wreck at Chase, Md., with the Conrail locomotives in 1987 or 1988 – was the Colonial, a Boston-Washington-Richmond run. It was renamed the Old Dominion.

Jim Langston
[No hometown listed]

Dear Editor:

Re: “Hello again, Federal; ’bye, Twilight Shoreliner (D:F April 14).

From the April South Station Journal [in Boston], a note that Amtrak’s business is up while the airlines are down. The publication also reported late this month Amtrak will change the name of the Twilight Shoreliner overnight train to Washington and Newport News to the Federal, but to Washington only.

It will have three classes of service, leaving South Station at 10:00 p.m. and arriving in D.C. at 7:30 a.m.

A development worth watching is a single daily non-stop train that now runs between Providence and Penn Station, New York. Amtrak discarded the name Federal as a train name and service when it discontinued many of the nation’s passenger trains in 1971.

A few months later, the overnight service was restarted and named the Night Owl. The south end was extended to Newport News and the name changed to Twilight Shoreliner several years ago after a Conrail locomotive ran a stop signal in Maryland and collided with Amtrak’s Colonial.

James F. Boylan
General Freight Agent
Tyburn Railroad Co.

Thank you both for your letters. Our Wes Vernon has written an expanded story for today’s edition. – Ed.

Dear Editor:

Re: The way we were, D:F April 14. I have no idea where your photo of Great Northern 182 was taken, but this is an Alco RS-1, first manufactured in 1939 by the American Locomotive Co.

The last fleet of original-purchase RS-1s of which I’m aware worked for the Washington Terminal Co. into the 1980s. Amtrak is now the sole owner of WTCO, and finally retired the Alcos in favor of EMD switchers almost as old. Somewhere in the roundhouse may still lurk a Romanian-built diesel-hydraulic switcher called the Quarter Horse, which WTC tested in the late 1970s.

Randolph Resor
Merchantville, NJ 08109

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THE WAY WE WERE...  The way we were...

The Illinois Central

NCI: Collection of Leo King: Illinois Central

llinois Central. There’s a name that conjures up images of the City of New Orleans… or maybe the Panama Limited. In any event, this photo from the IC’s ca. 1955 publicity department had no cutline, so we can’t tell you which train it was, nor where, nor exactly when, but there’s no mistaking those incredible brown and orange markings, even if it is a black-and-white photo.

End Notes...

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

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

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

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