So where was last Monday's e-zine?
Some readers alerted us last week that D:F was not displaying when they logged in. Our webmaster tells us it was a "server glitch, apparently. I reloaded it just before 10:00 a.m." It was okay thereafter. - Ed.
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|Gunn to lead Amtrak|
following Warrington's resignation
Amtrak has a new president and CEO. He is David L. Gunn, who most recently was Chief General Manager of the Toronto Transit Commission, from 1995 to 1999.
Amtrak board chairman John Robert Smith disclosed the appointment on Friday. The appointment becomes effective on May 15.
The National Corridors Initiative quickly hailed Gunn as the new leader for the troubled carrier.
"I am delighted that Amtrak's board has chosen David Gunn as Amtrak's new President," said NCI President James P. RePass.
"Gunn is known nationally and internationally for his successful management of regional and local rail systems, and he has a deep understanding of what it takes to run a passenger railroad."
E. S. "Stan" Bagley, Jr. became Amtrak's acting president and CEO until Gunn assumes his new job. Bagley, a 28-year veteran of the company, is currently operations executive vice-president, and oversees the company's four business units as well as security, safety, and operational support functions.
George Warrington's resignation was to be effective on May 6, but apparently that was moved up, in light of Amtrak's Friday afternoon announcement.
Gunn previously headed up the largest transit system in the United States, serving as President of the New York City Transit Agency from 1984 to 1990, and earlier headed the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Gunn said he has "always been a proponent of a strong national passenger rail network. While we face substantial financial and physical challenges, I'm convinced that by securing adequate operational and capital funding, we will be able to rebuild our plant and equipment in an effective and efficient manner, and continue to provide a high-quality service to the traveling public. I'm looking forward to joining Amtrak."
Smith said Gunn "comes aboard with exceptional experience and leadership skills to guide Amtrak at a time of tremendous opportunity for the railroad."
He said Gunn "brings to Amtrak an international reputation of reinvesting in better track and fleet, enhancing service, improving financial performance and planning for the future. He has forged good working relationships with labor, local communities, businesses and all levels of government, and is eager to roll up his sleeves, join forces with employees and stakeholders, and chart a course for Amtrak's success."
NCI's RePass observed, "It also reflects well upon Amtrak's board and its chairman, John Robert Smith, and vice-chair Michael Dukakis, that they were able, in only 60 days, to identify and sign a man who would be everybody's choice for the 'A-list' in transportation management, but who might well have refused what has been a very tough assignment for a number of talented executives over the past 30 years."
RePass noted, "I am proud that John Robert Smith is also the chairman of NCI, and has been our friend and ally for more than seven years in the fight to secure a decent transportation future for America. The best decision I ever made was to ask John Robert Smith to be on our board back in 1995, and he surely proved that today," meaning Friday.
He added, "Amtrak is already in the midst of a very challenging period of its life, which will see major changes, including - if Congress and the Administration make the decisions they should make - a commitment to build high-speed rail corridors to rival those of Europe and Japan, and a recommitment to the national intercity rail system. David Gunn is, in our view, an ideal leader for that challenge."
RePass averred Gunn has a reputation "for straight-shooting and tough decision-making, both of which will serve as valuable assets in his dealings with Congress and the Administration." He added, both Gunn and outgoing president Warrington have been invited to address NCI's annual conference May 13 and 14 in Washington, D.C.
Gunn most recently served as Chief General Manager at the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), from 1995 until 1999, when he retired.
Managing the largest transit system in Canada, he led 10,000 employees serving 1.3 million daily passengers with a system of 1,500 buses, 650 heavy rail cars, and 250 streetcars. In this position, he improved the system's cost recovery ratio from 66 percent to more than 80 percent and implemented a "State of Good Repair Capital Program."
Before leading the TTC, Gunn was the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) general manager from 1991-1994. While at WMATA, Gunn developed an accelerated construction plan and initiated building of three of four remaining segments of the planned 103-mile rail system. Gunn also developed and implemented a multi-year, $1 billion capital rehabilitation program, and strongly improved productivity at the agency.
Gunn was New York City Transit Authority president from 1984 through 1990, and is credited with establishing strong fiscal controls, corporate goals and performance measures, while rebuilding track, railcar and bus fleets at the nation's largest transit system.
From 1979 through 1984, Gunn was G.M. and CEO for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), where he was credited with reducing the system's operating costs from $138 million to $97 million per year, while rebuilding and replacing its subway cars, buses, trackless trolleys, and trolley fleets. He also planned and negotiated the takeover of Philadelphia's 400-mile, 800-train-per-day commuter rail system from Conrail and Amtrak.
Among Gunn's other past executive positions, he worked for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority as operations director from 1975-1979, and as Commuter Rail director in 1974-1975.
From 1969 through 1974, Gunn was an assistant vice-president for the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad. He worked for the New York Central System in 1967-1968 and for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in 1964-1967 at the beginning of his career.
Gunn graduated from Harvard College in 1959 and continued his education at Harvard Graduate School of Business, where he received his Master's of Business Administration in 1964. From 1959 to 1962, he Gunn served in the U.S. Naval Reserve.
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Los Angeles Times: Irfan KhanWhile firefighters rescue an injured passenger from the Metrolink commuter train, BNSF Dash-9 engine 5340 and two more behind the 67-car freight train remain tightly locked with cab car 634.
|Two dead in rail disaster|
Two men, both passengers, died after a California Metrolink commuter train and a Burlington Northern Santa Fe freight train collided head-on Tuesday morning at 8:16 in Placentia, Calif., about 35 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles. The commuter train was three minutes away from Anaheim station, its next stop during the morning rush hour.
The tragedy came within six days of another rail disaster. Amtrak's Auto Train went on the ground in Florida on April 18. Four people died in that crash.
Placentia authorities said 400 people were aboard, of which 265 were injured. One of the men who died was in the control car (no. 634), or cab car, which was the leading end. The other man died in the third car. Engine 859 was pushing. Some 162 people were treated for injuries. The rest were "walking wounded," and either got rides to their destinations or simply walked away.
Apparently, the commuter train came to a quick stop after a signal went red in the engineer's face. An NTSB spokesman said early indications were the BNSF engineer passed a stop signal.
Metrolink spokeswoman Sharon Gavin said train No. 809 "Left Riverside station at approximately 7:29 this morning. It was heading south toward San Juan Capistrano. It had left West Corona station in Riverside County and was heading into our Anaheim Canyon station when it was struck."
Later, Metrolink Spokesman Steve Lantz told D:F the two-man crew had reported for duty at 1:30 a.m. and deadheaded their equipment from Riverside to Irvine. Both were injured - the engineer sustained a separated shoulder and the conductor a broken leg.
Metrolink GraphicThe collision occurred southeast of Los Angeles.
BNSF spokeswoman Lena Kent in San Bernardino said, "An employee was transported to an area hospital." She would not disclose if it was the train's conductor or engineer, but she said there "were two crew members on board."
Amtrak's No. 4, the Southwest Chief, (with P-42 engine 129 leading), was rerouted around the accident.
She added, the freight train, headed by engine 5340, a GE Dash-9, "was enroute from Los Angeles to Clovis, N. Mex. with 67 loads and no empties. It was 6,498 feet long and weighed 5,755 tons." She did not know the train's symbol. Each locomotive is rated at 4,500 hp.
Both trains were traveling on BNSF' s San Bernardino subdivision, which BNSF dispatches from San Bernardino.
She declined to say how long the crew had been on the clock.
NTSB investigators boarded the train late Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday, taking pictures and working under bright lights. They inspected the signal system and recovered recordings of the conversations between dispatchers and crew, officials said. The federal agency assigned 14 investigators, who will spend the next several months on the case.
Preliminary data indicated the freight train was traveling southward at about 50 mph, but the engineer applied the emergency brakes just before the crash, an NTSB official said on condition of anonymity. At that speed, the official said, it takes a minimum of a mile to stop such a train. The impact speed was estimated at about 23 mph.
If they hadn't gotten the stop signal, said Capt. Cliff Schnack of the Orange County Fire Authority, "this could have been a lot worse."
Witnesses said that after the freight train struck the Metrolink train, snapping it backward, it rammed it a second time as it continued down the track.
"I just remember flying through the car and landing on the other side and then someone putting water on my wounds," said Metrolink conductor Patrick Phillips, 49, of Riverside. He said the engineer warned him of the impending collision.
"I yelled at everyone to get down. 'Buckle up, everyone. We're going to get hit' - and they pretty much did, at least the ones who could hear me. They were hitting the deck, stowing luggage under their seats. Some had their heads in between their legs, in a curled-up position... I didn't have a lot of time to think. It could have been a cement truck or something small like that. But I had no idea it was going to be a mile-long freight train."
Passengers and witnesses said the southbound Metrolink train slowed suddenly, and then shuddered to a halt before it was slammed by the freight train operated by Burlington Northern Santa Fe. The train traveled 370 feet after being hit.
Observers noted the freight train locomotive's safety cab's forward cowl was undamaged. The front door could still be opened. The front porch of the frame took the hit and appeared undamaged.
The corner and crash posts on the passenger cars mostly held up, but the cab car sustained some buckling at the front, and the superstructure of the passenger car failed. The cars reportedly are designed to 800,000-pound buff strength. The failure occurred at both the frame level and the superstructure level.
Meanwhile, both Auto Trains were back on the tracks between Sanford, Fla. and Lorton, Va. on Monday. CSX crews finished a quarter-mile shoofly that Amtrak's Auto Train and "Silver Service" trains travel over later in the day. Crews spent most of Monday replacing ballast.
Meanwhile, other trains, including CSX freights, were crawling through the area at 10 miles an hour, the Orlando Sentinel reported, though workers expected to increase speeds to 25 miles per hour. Susan Keegan, a spokeswoman for CSX, said it may be several weeks before permanent tracks are installed at the site, which carry about 28 trains a day.
In a statement released Monday, National Transportation Safety Board officials said the track was visually inspected about 2:45 p.m. on Thursday. Investigators previously said rail workers last examined it at 9 a.m. that day.
The board also reported that on April 9, the Federal Railroad Administration inspected the track and found four defects but noted nothing significant. Some railroad ties about 300 feet south of the crash site also were replaced that day.
Also on Monday, CSX officials said that just two days before the accident the company was notified that FRA officials were satisfied with improvements in the railroad's safety record. CSX officials met with federal inspectors to discuss ending an agreement that had been in effect since the agency cited CSX for potentially unsafe track conditions in 2000, Keegan said.
Amtrak scrambled to pull together the necessary passenger cars and sleepers "from all over the country" to assemble a complete train, Auto Train general manager Sharon Mahoney said.
That train was scheduled to leave the Lorton station about 4 p.m. Monday to arrive in Sanford this morning.
Despite national headlines detailing the crash, Mahoney said, business has not been affected.
"We're still running full loads," Mahoney said.
"People are calling just to confirm that the train is going to go. Some people who were in the derailment are waiting to go."
At the Sanford terminal Monday, pillows, bedding, books and luggage from the wrecked train were piled in seats, along with white claim sheets passengers had filled out to mark their belongings. Anything not claimed in person will be shipped to the owners, Mahoney said, while unclaimed items will be stored indefinitely.
Several dented, windowless passenger cars were stored near the terminal.
Among the injured is cook Harry Gissendanner, who said Monday from his room at Orlando Regional Medical Center that he was preparing to serve dinner when he heard the brakes squeal.
As the train lurched forward and the dining car leaped off the tracks, he said, food and boiling water flew from the steam tables, covering him in rice, vegetables and hot water.
Though he cannot recall, witnesses said Gissendanner helped some people from the train before seeking medical attention.
"I had it all over my face, chest and even my back," he recalled. "I started taking off my clothes, and that's when I realized how badly I was burned.
Doctors have told Gissendanner, who suffered second-degree burns, that he will need several skin grafts and remain hospitalized for at least two more weeks.
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Crashes may provide impetus
to Congress to fund Amtrak
The crash involving the Auto Train may have been the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back" on Amtrak's make-or-break struggle to provide a minimum of service to the public.
As Bill MacDougall points out, writing in The Washington Times (April 23), Amtrak is literally running out of equipment to meet its timetable, Amtrak lacks the resources for "the repair of dozens of damaged and desperately needed passenger cars quietly rusting in an Indiana rail yard" at Beech Grove.
MacDougall tells of a trip on the California Zephyr that served to illustrate the problem.
Bad enough that the Zephyr arrived in Denver more than an hour late, he says. Regular travelers would say, "So what else is new?" Read on.
"Worse," he writes, "the dome car was missing."
Yes, we know it isn't really a "dome car," but a Sightseer Lounge, and that the two are not the same thing. This is no time to get picky. Read on.
"Visitors from all over the world book seats on the Zephyr for the intimate view of the Rocky and Sierra Nevada Mountains that the dome car provides as it passes through scenic deep canyons. But the dome car had been commandeered to replace equipment on another train - the result of a chronic shortage of passenger cars - so hundreds of tourists, families and business travelers aboard the Zephyr were disappointed."
A Reuters dispatch by John Crawley (on April 21) declared that "the deadly derailment of an Amtrak train in Florida may prompt Congress to act faster than expected on the future of the financially troubled passenger rail service, Congressional and other sources said."
The story later noted that "the accident seriously damaged important Amtrak assets."
One hopes that Crawley's "Congressional sources" know what they're talking about.
On Wednesday, April 24, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) informed its members that two important rail passenger bills were pulled from a House Transportation and Infrastructure mark-up after Democrats and Republicans on the panel failed to reach agreement.
One bill is H.R. 2950, which would add $12 billion in tax credit bonds (from the High-Speed Rail Investment Act, the Oberstar-Houghton bill).
This measure was an attempt to combine two high-speed rail bills - the original $71 billion legislation sponsored by the committee's chairman, Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), and the $12 billion Oberstar bill which closely parallels (with some differences) a bill that has gained great momentum in the Senate.
The package, according to a committee press release, "reflects, in part, changes developed in negotiations with the Democratic leadership of the committee." However, the release adds, "Other issues... remain unresolved and negotiations with the Democrats are continuing."
The other measure is a $1.9 billion Amtrak authorization for Fiscal Year 2003 with both the $1.2 billion Amtrak President George Warrington requested, and "an additional $775 million in life-safety and security programs."
The National Association of Railroad Passengers says obstacles remain.
Democrats reportedly saw a time bomb in the provision requiring that USDOT Secretary Norman Mineta "probably meaning the Office of Management and Budget" would have to approve any funding Amtrak got.
Figuring out why this is an issue is not rocket science. OMB's Mitch Daniels is anti-Amtrak, and he is locked in a bitter internal battle with DOT and Tommy Thompson (Health and Human Services Secretary, but formerly Amtrak chairman, and a passionate advocate of passenger trains) over Amtrak's future.
Also feeding concern over this is the fact that Amtrak has not received (as of this writing) the $105 million in tunnel and security funds that were appropriated last December.
That problem, first exposed by D:F, is a life-threatening matter. Someone had put a hold on it in the Senate. If the worst happens and loss of life results, perhaps Capitol Hill's vaunted legislative snail's pace might come in for some scrutiny.
NARP says there were also some unspecified labor issues.
Chairman Young assured all interested parties that "I want to make it clear that I plan to move both of those bills at our next full committee markup," and that meanwhile, negotiations would continue "over some outstanding issues."
He added, "I want to urge all those interested in this legislation to work with me as well as with the Minority to come to an agreement that will allow these bills to pass the House and (the Senate) and become law. We need full cooperation to get the job done."
Hold the phone: After writing the above, sources told D:F that some of the stumbling blocks in the Amtrak legislation have been worked out behind the scenes.
Nothing is official, of course, until an announcement is made, but the Amtrak $1.9 billion bill reportedly is all set to be marked up in committee soon.
There is optimism that the high-speed rail bill will also be in shape and ready to go - but there was still a hang-up dividing labor's house.
With all the jobs to be created, the rail unions and building trades unions could not agree as to which unions would have jurisdictions over some of the work to be done. The lawmakers have effectively told the brotherhoods to work things out among themselves.
What it comes down to, said a source close to the scene, is, "It's up to you guys. Lots of jobs out there. Do you want them or not?"
One more thing: NARP on Thursday night gave its annual coveted George Falcon Golden Spike Awards to Senate Commerce Chairman Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) and House Railroads Subcommittee Chairman Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.).
NARP President Alan M. Yorker praised the two lawmakers for stepping up to the plate in the current Amtrak crisis and accepting the challenge that America can match its first-class highway and first-class air transport systems with a first-class passenger rail network.
The Dr. Gary M. Burch Memorial Safety Award was presented to Henry Marcell of Branford, Conn., for his work as safety director for the Northeast Corridor. At the reception at Washington's historical Union Station, officials from both Amtrak and the Connecticut DOT honored Marcell.
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Ohioans search for rail solutions
To attend a meeting in Toledo on April 22, Marcus Mason took a train from his Washington, D.C. home to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, flew to Chicago and then Detroit, and then rented a car to complete the trip.
That would not seem remarkable, except that he is director of high-speed rail corridors for Amtrak, and the purpose of the meeting was to discuss what might be done locally to promote the preservation and eventual expansion of passenger rail service in Toledo and the Midwest.
Riding the only train that links Washington and Toledo, the Toledo Blade reported, takes a leisurely 13 hours, and that would have required Mason to leave home early Sunday afternoon instead of early Monday morning. It was a scheduling problem.
The inability of the Amtrak system to meet more than a very limited transportation need in most of the United States was not lost on some of the two dozen participants in the discussion, which was organized by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
"We don't just want Amtrak the way it is. We need frequent, efficient service," said James Hartung, the port authority's president.
Others attending the meeting agreed that the most pressing short-term goal has to be preserving service, which is threatened by Amtrak's deepening budget woes.
"We need to keep the current system functioning, alive and well, until we decide what to do in the long term," said William Hutchinson, president of the Ohio Association of Railroad Passengers.
James Seney, executive director of the Ohio Rail Development Commission, took the lead in drafting a list of policy goals whose top item was that the federal government should play a leading role in funding the development of high-speed rail systems based around several hub cities, including Chicago and Cleveland.
Mr. Hartung said the port authority would fashion a draft resolution containing the goals that will be distributed to area governments for their consideration, with the ultimate purpose of expressing regional support for passenger rail to the area's representatives in Columbus and, especially, Washington.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D), who addressed the gathering toward the meeting's start but left before most discussion took place, said one of passenger rail's most daunting handicaps is the need to operate on tracks owned by freight railroads for most routes outside the Northeast Corridor.
"With this whole idea of shared track, passenger is always a stepchild," she said.
Seney later said building separate lines for passenger trains is unlikely, so planners will have to accept some degree of coexistence between passenger and freight trains.
"I suspect [putting in tracks] would be like building a nuclear power plant," he said. "We would be somewhere in a hearing room for the next 25 years."
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|Man forms rail safety group|
Marking the one-year anniversary of an Amtrak derailment that killed his mother, and in the wake of the Florida Amtrak accident, Charlie Romstad of Des Moines, Iowa said last week he is forming the National Rail Safety Alliance (NRSA), a grassroots consumer advocacy group. The group's mission will be to advocate for increased railroad safety and reform.
"My family just observed the one-year anniversary of an Amtrak derailment that killed my mother, and, sadly, we saw another deadly derailment last week in Florida," said Romstad on April 23.
"The National Rail Safety Alliance will inform and educate the traveling public and decision makers on critical issues. The public should know that train derailments have risen dramatically and we all have reason to seriously question the safety of the rail system."
Amtrak's California Zephyr was traveling on March 17, 2001, from Chicago to Emeryville, Cal., with 241 passengers and 16 crewmembers when it derailed near Nodaway, Iowa. Romstad's mother, Stella Riehl, died and 96 other passengers were injured, many seriously.
Romstad spent the last year talking to legislators and government agencies about the need to address rail safety. He says preventing derailments is the first issue, but survival factors in the case of an accident, such as the crashworthiness of passenger rail cars and seatbelts as standard equipment, also need to be addressed.
Citing eerily similar initial reports about the Florida derailment to the one that killed his mother, Romstad said, "The time has come to talk honestly about rail safety and what needs to be done to protect the traveling public."
Just as in the Florida derailment, track lines where the Iowa derailment occurred had been inspected earlier that day before the accident. Rather than high heat causing sun kinks, snow melt and winter conditions were suspected as possible factors affecting the track in Iowa. In its final report, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited the cause as defective rail and the lack of the railroad owner's comprehensive method for ensuring replacement rail is free from defects.
Hours before the Florida derailment, a U.S. Senate committee approved legislation providing $4.6 billion annually over five years for Amtrak to maintain services, upgrade routes and improve safety.
"I am calling on Congress to pass this legislation and send it to President Bush for his signature only if safety is considered paramount and clearly defined," said Romstad.
"To date, current and upcoming legislation falls short of assuring the lives of rail passengers, railroad employees, and residents living near railroad operations remain sacred above all else. This can be the beginning of a huge effort to increase the safety of rail travel, I think there are miles and miles of defective track out there, and the next disaster is around the corner. The public needs to know so that business as usual is redefined."
Romstad is asking survivors, concerned rail passenger and anyone interested to contact him at email@example.com if they want more information or would like to participate.
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We've changed the name of "Transit lines" to "Commuter lines" to better reflect the topic. - Ed.
MBTA adds $8 million
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) has set aside $8.1 million to build a commuter rail station in South Salem, Mass., in the next three to four years, potentially giving a major boost to nearby Salem State College.
While the project is still just a concept, the Salem Evening News reports, the T put in money for the station in its newest, five-year capital investment spending plan. Whether that money actually is spent, however, depends on the reaction of the community, T officials said.
"This gives us an opportunity to gauge the interest," said Dennis DiZoglio, the T's head planner.
For years, a commuter rail station in South Salem has been a dream of some neighbors, as well as leaders at Salem State College, which enrolls thousands of commuter students but is hard-pressed for parking. Never before, however, has the transit agency even come close to putting any money behind the idea.
In fact, only a few years ago, the T told station proponents that the new station was unworkable for three reasons: It wouldn't attract enough riders, there is nowhere to put it, and stopping trains in South Salem would add travel time to the commute to or from Boston.
Commuter trains operate 18.7 miles from North Station to Beverly Jct., via the "Eastern Route," then another 16.6 miles to Rockport, at the end of the Gloucester Branch. The total length is 35.3 miles. Trains currently stop at Salem, milepost 16.8.
The T's interest was jump-started after Salem State College President Nancy Harrington wrote then-state Transportation Secretary Kevin Sullivan about 18 months ago and advocated for the new station, DiZoglio said.
According to her letter, Harrington said the school could run shuttle buses to the station to pick up students, faculty and employees.
Sullivan apparently liked the idea, DiZoglio said.
Now that the stop is on the T's radar screen, and apparently has some state support, some city councilors are getting nervous at the finer details. The project appears bigger than what many people envisioned, said Ward 5 Councilor Kim Driscoll.
"A lot of people thought it would be a platform," she said. "I don't think anyone knew $8 million would have been set aside for a station."
Members of the South Salem Neighborhood Association strongly backed the idea in the past. They wanted to get some of the students who commute to Salem State out of their cars, which are often parked on neighbors' streets, but those neighbors also envisioned a simple station with little to no parking.
"They initiated it and they wanted it," said Sandi Power of the group. "What they might get from the T may be entirely different from what they wanted. I think it could resolve a lot of problems. We wish it wouldn't create more."
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|Georgia loses commuter gambit|
With railway stations planned in Lovejoy, Jonesboro, Morrow, Forest Park and near the airport, a commuter rail line from Macon to Atlanta would have a huge impact on Clayton County - but riders will have to wait at least one more year on the proposed rail system.
When the Georgia General Assembly ended its legislative session recently, Clayton News Daily of April 18 reported, $12 million in funding for the rail had not made it into the finalized budget. The failure prevented the state from acquiring $56 million in matching federal funds that have already been approved. That is putting the future of the project in question, which is leaving Clayton County civic and business leaders worried about development that has been planned around the rail line.
In Morrow, the Gateway Village development has a commuter rail station set for its center.
"I'm really concerned about (the questionable future of commuter rail) because it's going to have a big impact on some of the projects we're working on," said Emory Brock, director of economic development for Clayton County.
"At Gateway Village, a big component of the whole thing is the rail station. In Hampton, they were talking about connecting the line to Atlanta Motor Speedway. Already, there's just a huge amount of investment being made in the areas around the line."
In Forest Park, the city's Livable Centers Initiative relies heavily on being able to access mass transit systems.
"It's a transit oriented plan," Brock said of Forest Park's LCI program. "If commuter rail isn't done, it just changes everything. The whole emphasis of what they're looking at in the LCI program - it just kills it."
Though the rest of the county might not necessarily be planning on the commuter rail system, the benefits to the county would be impressive, says Shane Moody, president of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce.
"The rail line passes right past Jonesboro, right past Gateway Village, and right into the heart of Forest Park," Moody said.
"That's money that could be spent there. It would also relieve traffic congestion to downtown Atlanta." With more than $2 billion going to the Northern Arc, an east-west oriented interstate on the north side of Atlanta, Brock is disappointed that the south side couldn't get $12 million the Macon-to-Atlanta line.
"They're spending all of their money chasing development on the north side of Atlanta (by building more highways), and all they're doing is subsidizing more growth," Brock said. "They're never going to catch up with the growth there. It seems like they can't see how you can use the infrastructure to direct growth on the south side, rather than chasing after growth on the north side."
Officials say it's not time to give up on commuter rail. The $12 million required was just hard to come by in this year's budget.
"We're going to get commuter rail," said State Rep. Mike Barnes (D) of Hampton, "but in a tight budget, there's always going to be somebody that doesn't get funding. Honestly, the railroad [Norfolk Southern] just wanted too much money for the use of their tracks."
The Georgia Rail Passenger Authority (GRPA), the state agency running the commuter rail project, has funding available to do preliminary work this year, according to GRPA Executive Director Arthur Vaughn.
Some of the work expected to be done this year includes assessing all of the proposed rail station sites for environmental impact, as well as determining whether the land needs to be purchased or protected in some way, Vaughn said.
The GRPA already has $5.75 million in state funding and $20 million in matched federal funding to begin working on the multi-modal transportation depot in downtown Atlanta, Vaughn said, but most of that money will go toward planning and land acquisition rather than development.
When GRPA does get the state funding required to get the train system started, Vaughn said, trains could be rolling down the tracks at 79 mph within two to three years.
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|Shuttles, perhaps, for Dover station|
The Dover, N.H. Planning Department is recommending a local airport shuttle service as the new tenant for the city's passenger rail station.
City Planner Steve Bird told the train station committee last week that he will recommend City Manager Paul Beecher strike an agreement with Hampton Shuttle to be the new station operator. Dover's train station has sat locked and vacant for the four months that Amtrak's Downeaster has stopped in Dover, according to a report in Foster's Daily Democrat, a local newspaper.
The town's police department has been unlocking and staffing the station whenever time allows, but Capt. Gary DeColfmacker said he would prefer that a tenant move in as soon as possible.
City staff ruled out a proposal from Lara and Randy Willard of Somersworth to run Georgie Boy's, a takeout eatery, based on the number of necessary building modifications. Georgie Boy's was the only other train station proposal submitted to the city in this round of proposals. A previous request by the city yielded only one response from a vending machine company. Earlier this month, the committee encouraged a space-sharing arrangement for Georgie Boy's and the Hampton Shuttle, but after meeting with both parties, the staff discovered compatibility issues.
"Based on the information, we think Hampton Shuttle is what we'd recommend," Bird said, and added, "They are an established business."
In addition, their proposal requires fewer modifications to the building. The hours of operation will almost mirror the Amtrak schedule, with the exception of the last train. Hampton Shuttle would run a dispatch center from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and provide a welcome kiosk and people to answer questions about train schedules, connecting buses and local information. The company said it would also provide self-service coffee and light breakfast snacks.
Lara Willard said her interest in the building declined after she learned that renovation costs had increased to the point where she didn't want to risk the expense. Main Street Director Debra Dineen and Economic Development Director Beth Thompson said they are willing to help her find a more appropriate space downtown close enough to take advantage of train passenger traffic. Georgie Boy's is looking to serve sandwiches and light lunch fare.
Still to be decided is what type of automated teller machine to accept in the building. The city received proposals for an outdoor, free-standing unit and an indoor model. While space is a consideration, city transportation consultant Steve Pesci warned an outdoor ATM would become a pseudo drive-up machine by tempting people to park their car by the curb.
The committee will also discuss placement of the QuikTrak machine, a unit allowing passengers to purchase train tickets with a credit or debit card. The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority has ordered the machines, which could be installed this fall. Passengers with reservations could also use the machine to pick up their tickets.
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NCI: Leo KingSouthbound Amtrak train No. 97, the Silver Meteor, is some 45 miles north of Crescent City on CSX's "A" Line on April 25.
|CSX tracks are better, says FRA|
Jacksonville-based CSX Transportation has made great strides in improving its track safety over the past two years, an official with the Federal Railroad Administration said last week, and the recent deadly Amtrak crash hasn't altered that opinion.
The timing of the Amtrak crash in Crescent City, Fla., just two days after the railroad administration agreed to end the agreement, is a coincidence, officials said.
"One is separate from the other," said FRA spokesman Warren Flatau, who added that he wasn't sure if the railroad administration's inspections of CSX track included looking at the specific rails near Crescent City where the Amtrak train derailed.
CSXT spokeswoman Kathy Burns said the crash hasn't hurt the credibility of the FRA or the safety agreement.
"Absolutely not," she said. "I think the record shows we've made significant improvements."
CSX operates the tracks near Crescent City, Fla., where the Amtrak Auto Train derailed Thursday. The NTSB is looking into the possibly that a misaligned track was the possible cause. That has not yet been determined, and even if it were, the cause it might not affect the current safety compliance agreement CSX entered into with the FRA in 2000, after the railroad was criticized for poor and potentially unsafe track conditions. That agreement will end May 1 because the FRA is satisfied with the programs CSX has implemented to improve its track conditions.
CSX's Burns said the railroad administration's decision to end the safety checks was based upon the company's better inspection procedures combined with infrastructure improvements totaling $1.2 billion during 2001 and 2002, according to a report in the Jacksonville, Fla., Times-Union.
Steven Moss, a partner in the California consulting firm M.Cubed and author of a 1999 report titled, Why is there a train accident every ninety minutes? said the FRA has a history of producing positive reports of railroads only to later find violations.
"The history of it is disturbing," he said. "That doesn't give anyone a great deal of confidence."
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NCI: Leo KingCSX Corp profits are up for the quarter, paying 12 cents a share.
CSX reports higher profits; adds
Ward as newest board member
Profits increased during the first three months of the year at the parent company of Jacksonville's CSX Transportation despite a drop in revenue, the company reported last week. The firm also named CSX Transportation President Michael Ward to the parent company's board of directors.
CSX Corp. said its first-quarter earnings reached $25 million, or 12 cents per share, up from $20 million and 10 cents per share during the same period last year.
CSX's first-quarter operating income totaled $212 million compared with $189 million in the 2001 quarter. Revenue was $1.96 billion vs. $2.03 billion a year ago.
At CSX's rail and intermodal businesses, first-quarter operating earnings were $194 million vs. $182 million a year ago.
Revenue was down 3 percent, and carloads were 4 percent lower than in the first quarter of 2001.
The three-month period was the railroad's eighth consecutive quarter in which its earnings exceeded the previous year's earnings, and most of that happened in a sluggish economy.
"The railroad had strong results while operating in a difficult environment," Ward said.
"Far less coal was carried than a year ago because of the mild winter, and merchandise shipments were down. But margins were up as price increases were achieved in certain markets, fuel expenses were lower, and we realized the cost benefits of a smooth-running railroad."
The price of diesel fuel was 27 cents a gallon cheaper than the first quarter of 2001, saving the railroad $40 million, Ward said.
The company also has 2,600 fewer employees, mostly due to attrition and early retirements. Ward said he expects to bring back 300 laid-off workers and hire an additional 1,200 during the coming year as the economy starts to recover.
"It's not across the board," he said, "but we're seeing some encouraging signs that the economy is coming around."
Last week's appointment of Michael Ward to the parent company's board paves the way for him to gain CSX Corp.'s top position and the corporate headquarters' eventual move to Jacksonville, industry observers said.
CSXT removed the "transportation" from atop its Water Street building last month, and the company's railroad division already dominates corporate earnings. In addition, CSX CEO John Snow, 62, is two years from retiring, diminishing the motive to keep the headquarters in Richmond, Va., where the company has only 50 employees.
"It wouldn't surprise me a whole lot," said Robert Gallamore, a former Union Pacific Railroad executive and director of Northwestern University's Transportation Center. "Why is it in Richmond?"
It's been there because the city has a long railroading history. CSX set up office there 22 years ago as a compromise between its two predecessor companies, Cleveland's Chessie System, Inc. and Jacksonville's Seaboard Coast Line Industries, Inc.
Richmond was considered "neutral turf," between the two railroads' home cities and close enough to Washington, D.C., for lobbying purposes, said Larry Kaufman, a columnist for Rail Business magazine.
CSX has sold off most of its non-railroad divisions, so there's little need for a holding company. The railroad, which accounts for 4,100 of the company's 5,100 Jacksonville workers and about 90 percent of CSX's business, should stand on its own, Kaufman said.
"They're down to so little [non-railroad business] today that it would make sense to keep it in Jacksonville," he said. "There never really was a good reason to keep it in Richmond."
The move wouldn't be unprecedented in the industry. For example, Union Pacific, the nation's largest railroad, moved its corporate headquarters back to its railroad base in Omaha, Neb., in 1999, after its Dallas-based parent company sold its non-railroad units.
At least one industry expert said CSX is effectively operating out of Jacksonville already, and the official relocation of corporate headquarters would make little difference in the company's daily activities.
Kirk Wendland, executive director of the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission, said cities in which corporations locate their headquarters receive benefits that others don't, such as investment in facilities such as concert halls or stadiums.
"There's probably a little more of a long-term approach to the community," he said.
Despite last month's removal of the word "transportation" from its building, CSX has no immediate plans to move to Jacksonville, CSX spokeswoman Kathy Burns said.
"I have no way of predicting if and when that could happen," she said.
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BNSF, NS join iron
'Guaranteed intermodal service'
The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Co. and Norfolk Southern Ry. Co. last week said in a joint statement they are offering the first-ever, coast-to-coast hojack
intermodal service between Southern California and the Northeast.
The service began April 22.
Shippers will have the option to purchase - for a premium - "seamless, coast-to-coast guaranteed intermodal service for domestic and international container loads of freight moving between San Bernardino, Calif. and Harrisburg, Pa. For each load that does not meet the scheduled availability time for customer pick-up, BNSF and NS will offer a 100-percent refund," according to a press release.
"The new BNSF/NS service extends BNSF's guaranteed network to a total of 16 lanes," said Steve Branscum, group vice president, BNSF Consumer Products Marketing.
"It is designed to attract a greater share of the freight moving over-the-road between Southern California and the Northeast by giving shippers a risk-free transportation alternative."
Mike McClellan, vice president for NS Intermodal Marketing said, "By adding the guarantee option, we truly believe we have a coast-to-coast transportation product in place that will satisfy our most demanding customers. Moreover, the guaranteed service reliability provides yet another reason for transcontinental over-the-road shippers to consider rail as their preferred mode of transportation."
Norfolk Southern operates about 21,500 route miles in 22 states, the District of Columbia, and the province of Ontario. BNSF operates 33,000 route miles of track covering 28 states and two Canadian provinces.
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|Bankrupt BAR decline continues|
The Bangor and Aroostook System will likely be sold intact by the end of the summer to Rail World, Inc., a Chicago-based rail management and investment firm, for less than the $62 million it offered last year. Since then, a federal judge has declared the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad involuntarily bankrupt at the request of three creditors who are owed more than $7 million.
The railroad's court-appointed trustee, Massachusetts attorney James Howard, said he wants to sell the entire system as quickly as possible, and Rail World, Inc. is the likely buyer.
"That's our goal, to sell the entire system rather than to enter into different agreements and break it up," Howard said Saturday while speaking at the annual meeting of the MRG Inc.-DownEast Rail group at Owls Head Transportation Museum in Maine.
MRG Inc.-DownEast Rail is a nonprofit group that works to enhance rail service in Maine.
BAR System is owned by Iron Road Railways of Virginia. Besides Bangor and Aroostook Railroad, the system includes Canadian American, Quebec Southern Railway Co. Ltd. and Northern Vermont railroads, as well as Logistics Management Systems.
Howard said Rail World is lowering the price from its previous offer because the BAR System is losing money. He would not disclose the price that emerged during negotiations behind the scenes of U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceedings.
Howard also said that some companies that use the system's rail lines lack confidence in its future and are looking at other ways to get their products shipped.
Those companies include Irving Corp., which signed an agreement with Canadian National to ship most of its freight on rails in Canada instead of through Maine, he said.
Frederic Yocum Jr., president of BAR System, confirmed Saturday that the rail line "has lost most of the competitive business" from Irving and other companies.
Once the sales agreement is signed, the terms of the deal will be presented to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Chief Judge James Haines Jr. in Portland, Maine.
Because BAR Railroad is in bankruptcy, Haines likely will order an auction and allow other interested buyers to bid on it. Rail World's agreed-upon price will be the starting bid price at the auction.
State Rep. Charles Fisher, D-Brewer, a member of the state transportation committee, said Saturday he's anxious for the sale to be completed.
"Every day that the uncertainty lasts, they lose business," said Fisher, who attended the rail group's meeting. "Every bit of business that they lose up north makes that section of line less necessary."
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|CN pays stockholders $1.15 per diluted share|
Canadian National reported on April 22 its first-quarter 2002 net income was $230 million (Canadian), compared with adjusted net income (1) of $202 million for the same quarter of 2001.
"The diluted earnings per share for the first quarter of 2002 were $1.15 (Canadian), up from adjusted diluted earnings per share (1) of $1.03 for the year-earlier period," according to the Canadian railroad press release, which reported, "Net income for the first quarter of 2001 was $275 million, or $1.39 per diluted share, including a gain from the sale of CN's interest in the Detroit River Tunnel Co."
CN's operating income for first-quarter 2002 rose five per cent to $406 million, while its operating ratio increased by 0.6 of a point to 73.1 per cent.
Revenues for the first three months of 2002 increased by eight per cent to $1,509 million; operating expenses rose by nine per cent to $1,103 million.
CN President and CEO Paul M. Tellier said, "CN turned in a solid first-quarter 2002 performance, delivering double-digit gains in earnings and earnings per share on an adjusted basis."
He said free cash flow was also strong, "Rising to $192 million from $39 million for the same period of 2001. The acquisition of Wisconsin Central, part of CN's growth strategy, again demonstrated shareholder value as it drove the improvement in CN's financial results."
He added, "Our first-quarter performance reflects more than the inclusion of WC revenues. CN's automotive, forest products and petroleum and chemicals units all registered solid revenue gains."
He said the carrier's automotive unit "benefited from strong North American vehicle sales," while CN's forest products group "transported greater volumes of lumber and panels in response to increased demand for new housing in the United States and Canada."
CN's petroleum and chemicals unit also registered market share gains in the petroleum and petrochemical sectors and moved higher volumes of sulphur to the U.S.
CN's performance in the quarter "was good" he said, "considering very tough conditions for our bulk commodities businesses. Grain and fertilizers revenues declined largely because of the significant deterioration in the 2001-2002 Canadian grain crop."
Coal revenues suffered from a decline in thermal coal shipments because of "milder weather conditions, and lower offshore metallurgical coal shipments." CN's intermodal unit, meanwhile, experienced a slight decrease in revenues because of the loss of a move in the overseas segment, partly offset by continued increases in the Canadian domestic segment.
Tellier said he expects the Canadian economy to improve, as well as the U.S's.
"CN expects its core merchandise businesses - forest products, petroleum and chemicals, and metals and minerals - will continue to grow as the North American economy improves. We will leverage our network, our diverse customer base and our industry-leading scheduled railway services to continue to drive top-line growth in the future."
Four of CN's seven business units experienced revenue gains in the first quarter: forest products (33 per cent); metals and minerals (26 per cent); automotive (19 per cent); and petroleum and chemicals (18 per cent). Revenues declined for grain and fertilizers (16 per cent); coal (nine per cent); and intermodal (one per cent).
Carloadings rose five per cent to 999 thousand, while freight revenue per carload increased by three per cent.
The increase in expenses during the quarter was mainly attributable to the consolidation of WC operating expenses, and higher expenses for labor and fringe benefits and casualty and other. This was partially offset by lower costs for fuel, purchased services, and material.
Adjusted net income and diluted earnings per share for the first quarter of 2001 exclude a gain from the sale of CN's 50 per cent interest in the Detroit River Tunnel Company, which was equal to $73 million after-tax, or 36 cents per diluted share.
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|KCS reports profits nearly double|
Kansas City Southern reported a $5.8 million increase in net income for the first quarter of 2002 to $11.7 million (19 cents per diluted share) compared to $5.9 million (10 cents per diluted share) for the first quarter of 2001.
This quarter-to-quarter increase, KCS reported on Friday, resulted primarily from an "$8.8 million decline in operating expenses, a $3.9 decrease in interest expense, a $3.4 million increase in other income and a $4.4 million gain realized on the sale of Mexrail, Inc. to KCSI's affiliate in Mexico, TFM, S.A. de C.V."
Mexrail is a former 49 percent-owned unconsolidated affiliate.
These factors, the railroad stated, "which led to an increase in net income, were reduced by a $1.5 million decline in revenue, a $6.3 million decrease in equity in net earnings of unconsolidated affiliates and a $7.3 million increase in the income tax provision.
The freight carrier noted net income for the first quarter of 2001 also includes a $0.4 million charge "relating to the implementation of Statement of Financial Accounting Standard No. 133, Accounting for Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities." The charge was presented as a cumulative effect of an accounting change for the quarter, which ended on March 31.
The railroad stated, "Domestic operating income of $13.4 million for the quarter was more than double the $6.1 million reported for the first quarter of 2001 as lower operating expenses of $8.8 million offset a $1.5 million decline in revenue," quarter-to-quarter.
First-quarter revenue from KCS's principal subsidiary, The Kansas City Southern Railway Co. "increased slightly compared with the prior-year quarter due to increases in coal, agriculture and minerals and paper and forest products that were mostly mitigated by declines in chemical and petroleum products, intermodal and automotive revenues and other non-carload revenue."
Revenue from other subsidiaries was approximately $1.7 million lower due to demand-driven volume declines.
"Lower costs and expenses at KCS resulted mostly from declines in costs for salaries and wages, fuel, car hire and casualties. The decline in costs for salaries and wages reflects improved operational efficiency as well as the benefits from the cost reduction strategy implemented at the end of March... that included a 6 percent reduction of employees compared to the first quarter of 2001."
The carrier said "Fuel costs were substantially lower due to an approximate $0.20 decline in the average price per gallon arising from market conditions and the company's forward purchase position at December 31, 2001."
Casualty expenses were lower because there were fewer derailment and personal injury casualty claims during the first quarter of 2001.
"These factors contributed to a lower operating ratio for KCSR, which improved to 87.2 percent for the quarter ended March 31 compared to 94.0 percent for the same period in 2001."
Equity in earnings from Grupo Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana, S.A. de C.V. declined about $6.3 million, quarter-to-quarter. For the quarter ended March 31, 2001, however, equity in earnings reflected the company's proportionate share ($9.1 million) of the income recorded by Grupo TFM "relating to the reversion of certain concession assets to the Mexican government. Exclusive of this 2001 reversion income, KCSI's first-quarter 2002 equity in earnings from Grupo TFM increased $2.8 million compared to last year's first quarter."
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|NS reports healthy quarterly results|
For the first quarter of 2002 vs. the same period of 2001, says Norfolk Southern, Income from continuing operations improved 41 percent, earnings increased to $0.22 per diluted share, and the railway's operating ratio improved 2.5 percentage points.
Beyond that, the freight carrier's operating expenses declined 6 percent.
The Norfolk, Va.-based corporation reported that "income from continuing operations rose 41 percent in first quarter 2002 as the company reduced operating expenses and increased operating efficiency."
Income from continuing operations climbed to $86 million, or $0.22 per diluted share, compared to $61 million, or $0.16 per diluted share, a year earlier, excluding last year's gain of $0.03 per diluted share from the sale of a former motor carrier subsidiary.
"We are pleased to report another quarter of year-over-year improvement in our financial results, achieved during a period marked by continuing economic slowness and weak coal demand," said David R. Goode, chairman, president and CEO.
"During the quarter, we made solid progress in strengthening service reliability and operating efficiency with the implementation of the Thoroughbred Operating Plan, our scheduled transportation plan for merchandise shipments. As economic conditions improve, we expect to make continued improvements and to pick up business from our better service."
In the first quarter, railway operating revenues were $1.50 billion, down 2.7 percent compared to the same period last year.
General merchandise revenues of $869 million were unchanged compared to the first quarter of 2001 despite a two percent, or 12,422 decrease in carloads. Automotive posted a seven percent gain in revenues due to record sales of vehicles, and agricultural product revenues rose three percent on the strength of shipments of grain products. However, there was continued weakness in several business sectors sensitive to the weakened national economy, including paper and forest products, construction materials, metals and chemicals.
Intermodal revenues declined two percent to $270 million compared to the same period a year earlier, primarily as a result of the continued conversion of trailers to containers and the removal of a fuel surcharge that was imposed during last year's first quarter in response to high diesel fuel prices.
Record warm temperatures and high stockpiles reduced demand for utility coal and significantly impacted coal revenues, which dropped to $359 million, a nine percent decline compared to the first quarter of 2001.
Railway operating expenses were $1.26 billion for the quarter, a six percent reduction from the first quarter of 2001. The improvement was due to continued cost discipline and included a $36 million, or 31 percent decline in diesel fuel expenses.
For the quarter, the railway operating ratio, the percentage of revenues that goes into operating the railroad, improved 2.5 percentage points to 84.2 percent compared to 86.7 percent a year earlier.
By commodity, the railway operating revenues for coal were $359 million during the quarter compared to $393 million one year earlier. General merchandise earned $869 million 871, and intermodal traffic brought in $270 million compared to $276 million.
The total railway operating revenues were $1,498 1,540.
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|BNSF pays 45-cent dividend|
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. reported on April 23 its first-quarter 2002 earnings resulted in $0.45 per diluted share, compared with first-quarter 2001 earnings after extraordinary charge of $0.34 per diluted share.
First-quarter 2001 earnings included a dime per diluted share of non-recurring losses related to non-rail investments and a two-cents-per-diluted-share "extraordinary charge."
"Earnings were impacted by softness in all major product sectors and the demand for coal was weakened because of mild winter weather," said Matthew K. Rose, BNSF's chairman, president and CEO.
"Record on-time performance and a large reduction in personal injuries were highlights of the first quarter of the year as BNSF continues to focus on operating cost containment and improving customer service."
Freight revenues for the 2002 first quarter were $2.14 billion, down 6 percent compared with the same 2001 period. Consumer Products revenues decreased $28 million, or 3 percent, to $778 million, "reflecting decreased automotive shipments and lower levels of less-than-truckload traffic, partially offset by new truckload business and higher international volumes for intermodal."
Industrial products revenues fell $26 million, or 5 percent, to $491 million because of production cutbacks affecting most sectors. Coal revenues declined $18 million, or 3 percent, to $508 million, primarily reflecting decreased demand and lower burn rates as a result of a mild winter. Agricultural Products revenues decreased $53 million, or 13 percent, to $361 million, primarily due to decreased demand for soybeans moving through the Pacific Northwest to China, as well as decreased corn and wheat exports.
Operating expenses of $1.8 billion were $79 million or 4 percent lower than the same period in 2001. The decrease in first-quarter operating expenses primarily reflects reductions in fuel, compensation and benefits, and equipment rents.
Operating income was $368 million for the 2002 first quarter compared with $419 million a year ago. The operating ratio increased to 82.8 percent for the 2002 first quarter compared with 81.5 percent in the same 2001 period.
During the 2002 first quarter, BNSF repurchased 2.8 million shares of its common stock at an average price of $28.62 per share, which brought total repurchases under the carrier's 120 million share-repurchase program to 105.9 million shares as of March 31, at an average price of $25.81 per share since the program was announced in July 1997.
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|FEC revenues rise 3 percent|
The Florida East Coast Ry. reported last week its revenues increased 3 percent over the first quarter of 2001 to $40.9 million, and its operating profit was $9.7 million, down from $10.3 million reported one year earlier.
Its Realty company also contributed to the bottom line as did its trucking outfit, Florida Express Carriers. Once again, the only money loser was its telecommunications venture, EPIK Communications, whose revenues increased to $5.4 million, but still lost $4.9 million.
FEC, Inc. reported its consolidated revenues of $75.2 million for the first quarter 2002 compared to $67.9 million in the first quarter 2001, an increase of 10.8 percent. The company reported a net loss of $400,000, or one cent per diluted share, compared with net income of $2.9 million, or $0.08 per diluted share, in the first quarter 2001.
Robert W. Anestis, chairman, president, and CEO Florida East Coast Industries, said "Increased railway revenues were a direct result of its market development work with new and existing customers in foodstuffs and aggregate transportation. In addition, the railway and Florida Express Carriers held interchange revenues steady."
First quarter 2002 FEC Ry. revenues increased 2.9 percent to $40.9 million compared to $39.8 million in the first quarter 2001. Operating profit was $9.7 million in the first quarter compared to $10.3 million in the prior year period. The operating ratio was 76.3 percent compared to 74.1 percent in the first quarter 2001.
First quarter freight revenues were 3.6 percent higher than in the same period of 2001. Revenues from carloads were up 8.0 percent for the first quarter 2002.
The railroad reported the primary driver for the increase was aggregate revenue, up 16.5 percent, benefiting from joint initiatives that resulted in customers achieving increased market share, and strong construction demand. The Railway continues to work with its aggregate customers on ways to improve efficiency, decrease overall customer costs, and improve customer service. In addition, revenues from foodstuffs increased 53.7 percent due to significant new business from moving chilled juice products for Tropicana Products, Inc. Motor vehicle revenues were comparable to the first quarter of 2001.
Intermodal revenues declined 3.0 percent for the quarter, primarily reflective of a slow economy, though revenues from intermodal interconnections with Florida Express Carriers remained stable compared to first quarter 2001 due to business development and marketing initiatives by the Railway and FLX.
Operating expenses for the Railway were $31.2 million for the first quarter 2002 compared to $29.5 million for the first quarter 2001. Wages and benefits increased $0.9 million, reflecting a general wage increase and increased labor to support the Railway's efforts to gain and maintain new customers and traffic. Purchased services were up $1.0 million from 2001 levels due to several new outsourcing activities intended to improve customer service and operations, as well as 2002 rail grinding costs that more typically are incurred in the second half of the year. Depreciation increased $0.5 million because of increased capital levels. Partially offsetting these increases for the quarter were decreased fuel costs of $0.7 million, primarily due to favorable fuel prices.
For 2002, the Railway continues to expect single digit increases in operating profit and expects capital expenditures between $30 and $35 million.
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|P&W pays four-cent dividend|
At its regular quarterly meeting on April 24, the Providence & Worcester Railroad Co. directors declared a dividend of four cents a share on its outstanding common stock, payable May 23 to shareholders of record on May 9, 2002.
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Solon makes sales pitch to Congress
Georgia Rep. (R) Johnny Isakson wants to bring members of Congress to Atlanta to help sell them on the idea of a high-speed rail system.
It's not just about helping Southeasterners get around faster, Isakson said last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on April 22.
It's about attacking the traffic glut on Interstate 85, he said, and it's also about giving people an alternative to the complication that air travel has become since September 11, and improving air quality and reducing sprawl.
"The exciting thing to me is that corridor, more than any corridor in the United States, has the potential to take a positive, viable step forward for high-speed rail," Isakson said in a meeting with Atlanta business leaders and Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House railroad subcommittee.
"This project could be a model," Quinn said.
While those words might sound well and good to supporters of the idea to connect cities from Atlanta to Richmond with trains traveling 100 mph, the reason Isakson would host a summit would be because legislation to support the idea is locked up in Congress.
The idea emerged as Atlanta business leaders combed Washington within the last fortnight seeking support for the high-speed rail idea. They met with USDOT Secretary Norman Mineta on a Wednesday morning, and with Isakson and Quinn in the afternoon.
Quinn explained to Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and Milton Jones, Mid-South president of the Bank of America, that the climate among Congressional members would make it difficult to squeeze out the money necessary for such a proposal.
"It's like pulling teeth to get $524 million for Amtrak just to keep it alive," Quinn explained.
"We've got some detractors who, like my mother would say, don't want to spend a nickel to see an earthquake."
Said Isakson, "We have a serious battle ahead on Amtrak."
Isakson and Quinn did not offer immediate details on the summit they proposed, but they said that politically such a meeting could help move the funding process along for high-speed rail.
"Sometimes the Washington presence moves this along," Quinn said.
High-speed rail is practically a necessity, said Williams of the Atlanta chamber. As has the corridor between New York and Washington, the area between Atlanta and Richmond on up to Washington, including Raleigh and Charlotte, is becoming so dense that it is practically evolving into one very long metropolitan area.
"We believe our cities are beginning to converge at the edge," Williams said.
For instance, Birmingham, Atlanta, and Chattanooga are beginning to converge, as are Greenville, Greensboro, and Charlotte, Jones said.
With the evolving congestion, high-speed trains make sense. A three-hour ride on the train becomes comparable to a 300-mile trip, and a 600-mile trip could be done in under six hours, they said.
According to literature distributed by the Southeastern Economic Alliance, high-speed rail could be even more crucial for the Southeast than, for instance, than for the corridor between Washington and New England because growth rates in the South are much higher.
For instance, Georgia grew 100 percent between 1960 and 2000 and Florida grew 208 percent between those years, according to the alliance. New York State, meanwhile, grew 8 percent in that time and Pennsylvania 8 percent as well.
Isakson did not yet have details on when or exactly where the summit might take place, but he did say that the Atlantans' arguments made sense, particularly with the explosive business growth in the South.
"I'm willing to do anything I can to help Sam and Milt," the Congressman said.
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|Cornyn questions propping up Amtrak|
Texas Republican nominee for U.S. Senate John Cornyn - who is also Texas' Attorney General - last week questioned spending more for Amtrak, described as a chronic money loser for the government which he called subsidized "passenger rail for vacation."
An AP story from Round Rock, Tex. Was dated April 23, and was published in the Houston Chronicle.
Cornyn also said Texas should get back more than it pays in federal gas taxes for transportation. The state currently receives slightly more than 90 cents on every dollar contributed.
On Amtrak, Cornyn said, "I'm concerned about the continual red ink as we continue to subsidize people who are using passenger rail for vacation and really not much else."
In February, Amtrak officials compiled a tentative list of 18 long-distance routes that could be cut this fall unless the government drastically increases funding. The list included the Texas Eagle line, which runs between San Antonio and Chicago, and the Sunset Limited, which stops in San Antonio on its route between Orlando, Fla. and Los Angeles.
Cornyn's position could put him at odds with Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. She is a co-sponsor of the spending bill and has been a staunch supporter of passenger rail.
Cornyn wouldn't say how he would vote today on new spending for Amtrak.
"I want to study the matter more closely," he said, "but I'm concerned about taxpayers continuing to have to subsidize a passenger rail system that does not pay for itself or even come close. I have not come to a conclusion on that. I know Senator Hutchison has been a leader on that issue (and) has been concerned as I am."
Cornyn said that while Amtrak appears to work well in the Northeast, which is the railroad's most successful region, he doubts it is feasible in other areas, including Texas.
The Texas Eagle carried 148,578 passengers in Fiscal Year 2001, a 2.4 percent increase over the previous year, but it wasn't enough to keep the line from losing money, said Amtrak spokesman Howard Riefs.
Cornyn said railroads remain important for moving freight. He said revising Amtrak passenger service for state and regional control could be a solution.
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Not to nit-pick, but your description of the Railroad Track Modernization Act [D:F, April 22] contained one major error. You refer to "186,000-pound freight cars." This should have been "286,000-pound freight cars."
Since the 1960s, the maximum allowable weight for freight cars in general interchange has been 263,000 pounds. These are called "100-ton" cars, because, typically, the car itself weighs 60,000 to 65,000 pounds, leaving about 198,000 to 203,000 pounds. (99 to 101.5 tons) of load capacity.
Starting in the 1980s, two railroads (Norfolk Southern and Burlington Northern) began experimenting with heavier loads in coal cars. The cubic capacity of the cars permitted them to be loaded to 286,000 pounds - 226,000 pounds of coal in a 60,000 lb. car. The additional 10 percent net load produced significant savings in transportation cost, despite higher track maintenance expense, since the net/tare ratio of each car was improved. More product was being moved for the same ton-miles of "tare" (weight of cars and locomotives).
While the initial experiments overloaded 100-ton cars, Class I railroads are now ordering cars designed for the 286,000 lb. loadings.
The industry isn't likely to go to a higher maximum weight in the near term, mostly because 315,000-pound capacity cars (which have been designed and tested and operated in revenue service) have larger wheels, axles, bearings and other truck components. In addition to being more costly to purchase than 286,000-pound capacity cars, these "125-ton" cars have a poorer net/tare ratio than the 286,000 cars.
So who would want one?
Notwithstanding all of this, shortlines will find that they must make expenditures on track and bridges to accommodate 286,000 cars if they are to retain their present business. This is going to be costly, and government help of some kind will probably be needed.
Zeta-Tech Associates, in a study for the Short Line Association in 2000, estimated the total capital cost at $6.8 billion.
It was interesting to read your recent report on New York City, apropos West Midtown development alternatives and Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) access to Lower Manhattan. I was formerly employed as a project manager for the New York City Department of City Planning and led two relevant initiatives in the late 1990s, the West Midtown Transit Study and the East River Crossings Alternatives study.
We proposed several relevant ideas. At the time (pre-Conrail merger), there was some discussion within city government regarding the future of the old New York Central High Line rail freight line through West Midtown. The line exists in sort of a limbo, unused and embargoed but not formally abandoned, largely because the demolition costs far exceed costs of essential maintenance on the structure, and because the carrier does not own the land beneath the structure (CSX only has an easement). Hence, CSX has no real initiative to dismantle the structure, though they would love to sell it (or probably even give it away).
Our thinking was to extend the LIRR down the structure, from West Side Yard to 14th Street, where we would have a bus connection to the World Trade Center and financial district. West Street, despite the fact that the old elevated highway was shortsightedly lost, "moves" fairly well, and would have allowed for a fairly good bus connection. We contemplated using artics or cruisers.
As a personal aside, it truly saddens me that the old West Side Highway was removed. The present at-grade arterial suffices for vehicular traffic, but does not effectively segregate bike, pedestrian, and highway traffic. The structure could have been rehabilitated as a combination people mover and bike "pedway" fully separated from the noise and pollution generated by the arterial roadway. It was already used by the community as an informal trail, and could easily have been linked with the High Line at 14th Street. Paris similarly redeveloped a railway viaduct as a linear park with development beneath.
The big scheme at the time (ca. 1980) was to build a replacement roadway, called "Westway," underground in new fill adjacent the shoreline and develop the land atop the roadway to expand the tax base. The source for the fill was proposed (allegedly, by some) to be the embankments of the Lackawanna Cutoff across western New Jersey.
Conrail supposedly wanted to eradicate the cutoff because it represented overcapacity, and they didn't want it falling into the hands of Arthur Imperatore, the trucking magnate and developer who had apparently thought of creating a competitor to Conrail, at least as far west as Ohio. Luckily, little of this ever happened, since the cutoff survived largely intact and may be reactivated for passenger service to Stroudsburg Penn. and the Pocono Mountains region, and beyond.
Another idea was to link the LIRR Atlantic Avenue station with Lower Manhattan using a people mover on the Manhattan Bridge. The people mover would use, as a terminal, half of the cavernous BMT Chambers Street station, which is vastly underutilized considering its size. From there, a number of underground pedway improvements would have allowed access as far as the World Trade Center entirely underground.
These included a short pedway from the Brooklyn Bridge IRT station, under City Hall Park to the BMT City Hall station, then using the lower level of that station and some unused trackways to the Park Place IRT station. From there, pedways existed to the World Trade Center. Our thinking at the time was that the LIRR would eventually abandon its service to Atlantic Avenue, once its East Side Access to Grand Central was complete, and that the Atlantic Avenue branch could be incorporated into the Port Authority's JFK Air Train system. Hence, there would be a new version of PATH, from Chambers Street to JFK via Jamaica, all using the Bombardier LIM system. The frequent headways would encourage LIRR customers to change at Jamaica for Lower Manhattan, instead of riding to Atlantic Avenue and boarding already-full subway trains (as they do at present).
Our larger vision was for a new (probably cable-stayed) auto-only bridge parallel to the Manhattan Bridge, linking the banana piers on the East River with the Consolidated Edison site in Vinegar Hill, on the Brooklyn side. Direct ramps from the FDR Drive and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway through the Brooklyn Navy Yard would have provided access. This would have left the Manhattan Bridge transit (rail and bus) and commercial vehicle/high-occupancy vehicles only. We thought that an auto-only configuration (allowing tight turns and stiff grades), with cable-stayed construction, might have made the bridge feasible without taking land for anchorages and approaches.
Extending the No. 7 line west from Times Square wasn't an idea we strongly advocated because of its cost. Instead, we advocated a guided busway on 42nd Street using dual-mode buses like Bombardier's GLT. We felt that these vehicles, since they had off-wire capability, could be more readily used for serving events at the Javits Convention Center and the proposed new Yankee Stadium on top of the LIRR West Side Yard. We also pushed for a moving elevated sidewalk from Penn Station to the stadium, if the stadium was ever built.
Such was some of the transportation thinking in the pre-September 11 city.
Perhaps I have misread some of the headlines, but has the tragedy reinvigorated big thinking for transportation in the Big Apple?
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'Hojack' swing bridge faces
Skip Shumway looks out at the Genesee River from his second-floor office at Shumway Marine, and his eyes land on the flaw in his terrific panoramic view.
The 97-year-old Hojack swing bridge [ex-Conrail, Penn Central, New York Central] sits unused, rusting and falling apart merely a hundred yards away, writes the Rochester, N.Y. Democrat and Chronicle.
The tracks that once led to the bridge have been torn away, and the bridge is permanently in the open position, allowing boats to travel on both sides, but at the same time constricting water traffic.
"There's no use for that bridge anymore," Shumway said.
"It's an obstruction to navigation. I don't see any reason that you'd want to keep it."
The U.S. Coast Guard agreed and had ordered CSX Transportation to remove the bridge by March 1. That order was supported by the Army Corps of Engineers, the city of Rochester and ESSROC Materials Inc., the owner of the Stephen B. Roman, the last major freighter cruising the river. The bridge hasn't been used since about 1995.
"It's really as simple as this: The laws and the program that cover bridges over navigable waters says if it's not being used, it needs to be removed," said Scot Striffler, a bridge management specialist with the Coast Guard.
CSX has not yet responded to the Coast Guard's order, which states that work must begin by November. The railroad company is reviewing its options, said CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan. It could cost as much as $2 million to remove the bridge, but not everyone thinks the bridge should be demolished. The structure is eligible for landmark status and should be preserved, said Richard Margolis, a local photographer who is leading an effort to save the bridge.
"The swing bridge is one of the few of its kind left.
"It's elegant," he said. "Now we just have to be creative enough to come up with a use for it."
The Hojack swing bridge was built in 1905 for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad by the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Co. of Cleveland, one of the leading bridge builders in the country at the time.
The structure, a turntable-type bridge that rotates out of the way to accommodate boat traffic, was one of the last bridges built in the company's heyday.
King Iron Bridge constructed as many as 15,000 bridges between 1858 and 1923, when it went out of business, said Allan King Sloan, the great-grandson of James A. King, who was president of the company at the time the bridge was built. The number is an estimate because company records are sketchy, he said.
Sloan, who lives in Lexington, Mass., supports saving the structure and has created a Web site dedicated to the history of the company (http://www.kingbridgeco.com).
He said that the bridge is one of only two King swing bridges remaining in the United States. The other is in Cleveland.
"It's an important artifact," Sloan said. "I think the bridge could fit into any scheme to revive the Charlotte area."
The historical significance of the bridge also has caught the attention of the Society for Industrial Archeology; the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; and The Landmark Society of Western New York. The Society for Industrial Archeology wants the bridge saved.
The state, noting the bridge's eligibility for the National Register, told the Coast Guard in a letter earlier this month that any removal has to be coordinated through the historic preservation office.
The Landmark Society is torn, hoping that the bridge can be saved but recognizing boat safety concerns and worrying that there might not be any future use for the bridge, said Peter Siegrist, director of preservation services.
"Over time, we've become sensitive to these preservation issues where there isn't a strong economic return to keep something in use," he said.
Margolis, who enjoys taking photos of bridges and lists the swing bridge as his favorite, said his group would soon unveil a plan for the bridge, saying a possibility exists for a glass-enclosed restaurant. He said that he's convinced the bridge could serve as a tourist attraction in the future.
At the very least, the bridge should be preserved through markers noting its historic value and museum exhibits, according to a study by Hartgen Archeological Associates Inc. for the Army Corps of Engineers.
"The bridge represents a part of the history of Rochester which has mostly disappeared from the area," the study said.
If the bridge remains, it could become an even greater safety hazard, officials said. That portion of the river is dotted with private marinas.
Now, a fast ferry linking Rochester and Toronto could dock just north of the bridge in the future. The city also wants to build a public marina on the west side of the river.
The Army Corps of Engineers has already determined that the bridge is an impediment to boat traffic.
"The best thing for all parties concerned is to get rid of it," said Rochester Deputy Mayor Jeffrey Carlson.
The Stephen B. Roman would have to navigate among the bridge, the ferry and increased boat traffic, said William Mosgrober, chief of the Coast Guard station.
The boat traffic on the river already is tight on some summer days, he said. A couple of years ago, the Stephen B. Roman collided with a yacht near the bridge, he said.
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NCI 2002 Conference
Washington, D.C. Marriott Hotel
This conference will feature a major debate about the future and direction of passenger rail in America, conducted by the people who will actually determine that outcome.
Conference speakers will include Amtrak Board Chair Michael Dukakis, Amtrak Reform Council Chair Gil Carmichael and Executive Director Tom Till, DOT Deputy Secretary Michael Jackson, Author Tony Hiss, Barron's magazine editor Tom Donlan, Florida rail activist and businessman Doc Dockery, Janelletech President Janellen Riggs, rail consultant Randy Resor of Zeta-Tech Associates, Inc., Railway Age magazine editor Bill Vantuono, attorney and rail activist James Coston, and many other of the top thinkers and "doers" in American rail and transit industries.
Advance Registration materials are available on our web site at: http://www.nationalcorridors.org/conf0502.shtml
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NCI: Leo King collectionIn August 1987, Conrail's (ex-PC, NYNH&H) East Side Tunnel lay behind the train as it approaches Signal Station K-315, leaping across the Seekonk River from Rhode Island's capital city to East Providence. It would make a right turn on what was left of a wye, head less than one mile south to Wilkes-Barre Pier, do its work, then go back to "Six Bridges" and the remnant of the Northup Avenue Classification Yard on the Providence-Pawtucket line. The train ran a couple of times a week, a far cry from its New Haven days in the 1950s when it was a daily train, and even an occasional Saturday extra.
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