TRANSPLAN 21 conference and rally for rail|
June 14, 15 on Capitol Hill Washington, D.C.
In this edition...
Joseph Boardman is the new FRA administrator. The Senate confirmed his nomination on May 2.
The former New York state transportation commissioner was one of several for national posts approved easily by a voice vote in the U.S. Senate after the chamber approved a budget outline for the upcoming fiscal year.
Boardman, a career transportation professional, will now head the federal agency with the primary role of making safety recommendations.
New Yorks loss is the nations gain, New York Gov. George Pataki said in a press release.
I have no doubt he will take the steps needed to improve and strengthen our nations rail system for the millions of commuters, businesses, and recreational travelers that depend upon Americas passenger and freight transportation network every day, he said.
A lifelong resident of New York, Boardman grew up on an Oneida County, N.Y. dairy farm. He served in the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. He is a graduate of Cornell Univ. and the State Univ. of New York at Binghamton.
Though a Republican appointee, his nomination was supported by New Yorks two Democratic senators, Charles Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Boardmans appointment comes as lawmakers are fighting a White House proposal to end the operating subsidy for Amtrak, which received $1.2 billion from the government last year. The Amtrak directors recently sent a document to the White House asking for $1.8 billion, after refusing to submit any budget in February, when it was due.
Robert D. Jamison was the acting administrator. It was not clear on Friday when Boardman would begin his new job.
Standard & Poors Ratings Services said on May 4 it placed its BBB corporate credit and senior secured debt ratings on the National Railroad Passenger Corp. Amtrak (AMT.XX) on CreditWatch with negative implications.
The CreditWatch listing reflects Standard & Poors increased concerns over future funding levels for Amtrak and potential changes to the scale and scope of the railroad., the corporate ratings firm stated.
Uncertainty regarding Amtraks future funding has increased following the Bush Administration`s February budget proposal that included a significant reduction in funding for Amtrak , subsequent calls by the Secretary of Transportation for an overhaul of Amtrak and a change in the way it is funded, and a lack of clarity on the level of funding Amtrak is likely to receive from Congress as it goes through its appropriations process, said S&P credit analyst Lisa Jenkins.
In addition, recent major problems with the Acela trains serving the important Northeast Corridor reduced cash generation in fiscal 2005 and increased scrutiny of the railroad, which could precipitate more calls for reform.
The current rating on Amtrak reflects its important public service role, offset by a weak financial profile and ongoing operating challenges, and incorporates an expectation that the federal government will continue to provide enough support to allow Amtrak to continue operating in its present form, she said.
Ratings will remain under review while Standard & Poor`s assesses the current state of support for Amtrak and the likelihood and potential impact of changes to the way Amtrak is operated, Jenkins added.
In its budget presented on February 7, the Bush Administration proposed $360 million in funding to the Surface Transportation Board to operate the Northeast corridor tracks and infrastructure. The budget included zero funds for Amtrak for fiscal 2006, pending proposals for reform.
Congress is still in the process of preparing an appropriations bill for fiscal 2006.
She briefly outlined recent history.
This is typically a lengthy process that takes many months to conclude. Both chambers of Congress recently passed budget resolutions, with the Senate sticking to the Administration`s level of funding for Amtrak and the House maintaining flexibility for increasing funding to levels in line with funding in recent years. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee recently introduced authorization that would provide Amtrak with $2 billion annually for capital and operating expenses for three consecutive years.
Jenkins noted appropriation bills passed by each chamber must be reconciled to determine the final funding level for Amtrak.
Standard & Poors will continue to monitor the appropriations process to assess the level of continuing Congressional support. If it appears that support for Amtrak will fall below what the railroad has indicated that it needs to continue operating or if the structure of Amtrak were to change materially, ratings would be reviewed for a potential downgrade.
The brake failures on Amtraks flagship Acela Express trainsets and what needs to be fixed to restore the trains to service will be the focus of a Congressional oversight hearing Wednesday morning.
The hearing by the U.S. Subcommittee on Railroads, chaired by U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in 2167 Rayburn House Office Building. A live webcast of the hearing will be transmitted on the Committees website, www.house.gov/transportation;
Hearing witnesses are expected to shed light on the depth and breadth of Acelas brake troubles, and address when the Acelas will return to service.
The tentative witness list, in tzo panels, include Robert D. Jamison, Acting FRA Administrator; Fred E. Weiderhold, Jr., Amtrak Inspector General; and JayEtta Z. Hecker, GAOs Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues. The secod panel will include Amtrak CEO David L. Gunn; a representative from Bombardier, who had not yet been named by Friday; and Francis Jelensperger, President, Alstom Transportation, Inc. America.
Bombardier Transportation, which manufactures Amtraks Acela Express trainsets, is considering a new type of brake disc to replace the ones that cracked last month, forcing all 20 trains out of service.
The Boston Globe reported on Friday the builder is examining whether a new disc design could be produced, tested, and approved by regulators more quickly than waiting for replacements for the old ones, said Helene Gagnon, a spokeswoman for the company in Montreal. Her comments revealed new details about the process Amtrak and Acela's manufacturers are undertaking as they scramble to figure out what went wrong with the flagship trains brakes, how to fix them, and the quickest way to restore the only high-speed rail service in North America.
That process includes several companies and government agencies on two continents. Montreal-based Bombardier is coordinating efforts to determine what caused the brakes to crack and to find the best solution. Among the possibilities is waiting for replacement discs identical to the cracked ones, or even ordering new ones of a different design, Gagnon said.
We're not just waiting for the root cause analysis, she said. To put the trains back in service, we're looking for alternatives.
Amtrak and Bombardier have said they want to have Acela running again by summer, when Bombardier is expected to get a shipment of replacement brakes for the trains. About 300 of the 1,440 brake discs on Acela trains were found to have cracks in their spokes after inspections last month.
A shipment is expected in June, Gagnon said, though she did not know whether it will include enough discs to replace all the cracked ones.
Bombardier also could get a shipment of the newer discs it is considering by then, provided it can reach agreement with both Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration on technical specifications and a testing regimen, Gagnon said.
Amtrak is evaluating several options for putting the Acelas back into service, including additional disc designs, said Marc Magliari, a spokesman in the railroads Chicago office.
In the meantime, the investigation into what caused the cracks is continuing. Knorr Brake Corp., a subcontractor that supplied Bombardier with Acelas brake systems, is conducting tests in Germany on the cracked discs so its engineers can draft their own theories about why the millimeter-sized cracks developed, Gagnon said.
The engineers are focusing their attention on the design and manufacturing process used to produce the brakes and whether anything in those two processes may have caused the cracks.
A spokeswoman in Knorrs Westminster, Md., office declined comment. Officials in the Munich headquarters of Knorr-Bremse AG, Knorrs parent company, could not be reached.
Whatever caused the brake problem, it could foreshadow more financial difficulties for cash-strapped Amtrak.
Standard & Poors, the New York bond rating agency, downgraded Amtrak to a BBB rating, a designation given to companies facing financial or other troubles that might prevent them from paying back debt obligations.
A lower rating from S&P could hamper Amtrak's ability to borrow funds.
A House subcommittee approved a three-year, $6 billion funding proposal for Amtrak last month, but that bill still faces approval by the full House and in the Senate.
A pro-Amtrak whistle-stop tour will roll through Havre, Mont., on June 1, and Gov. Brian Schweitzer will lead it, reports the Havre Daily News.
Bear Paw Development Corp. executive director Paul Tuss said last week the two-day tour will extend from Glasgow to Whitefish, with town meetings and rallies being held along the way. Long-distance passenger service on Amtrak has been threatened by funding cuts proposed by the Bush administration.
Bear Paw Development Corp. is working with the governors office to coordinate the tour on a grass-roots level, Tuss said. Bear Paw officials will work with economic development agencies along the route to coordinate the tour.
Also on board will be Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger and representatives of Montanas Congressional delegation.
Residents in Havre and elsewhere will have the opportunity to express at town meetings how important Amtrak service is to them. Citizen comments will be recorded and presented to the governors office in a document that will show how much riding the rails means to the Hi-Lines people and its economy, Tuss said.
It will chronicle what people have said about how they utilize Amtrak and how its important to our area, he said.
Tuss recently asked the Havre City Council for its help in applying for a Community Development Block Grant. The funds will be used to coordinate efforts in Havre and other communities during May to prepare for the whistle-stop tour. The City Council unanimously approved the grant application.
Tuss said up to $15,000 will be available, but he will likely apply for $10,000 to $12,000.
The city will not be responsible for any of the matching funds required by the CDBG program, Tuss said. Those funds will be handled by in-kind donations of labor from Bear Paw Development Corp., he said.
A spruced-up Lancaster station, a reopened Elizabethtown station and new tracks all will transform local passenger-train service from a basket case to a first-class operation, Amtrak president David Gunn said on May 4 when he visited the Pennsylvania region.
This is really exciting stuff, Gunn said at the Lancaster station, where he gathered with local officials before taking them to Paradise, Pa., to show them new track being laid in Lancaster County, the Lancaster New Era reported Thursday.
Amtrak and local officials appear to be finally moving forward on several projects that have stalled or progressed very slowly in recent years.
Were getting close to seeing the improvements at Elizabethtowns train station, said Pete Whipple, Elizabethtown Borough manager. The project there has been in the works since 1998.
Across Lancaster county, the $145.5 million track upgrade involves removing old wood ties and rail, some of which dates to the World War II era, and replacing it all with concrete ties and new continuously welded rail.
Amtrak had reached a moment of truth, where deferred maintenance in its infrastructure cannot be denied, Gunn said. The best example is right here.
The new rail will allow trains to run smoother and faster, allowing Amtrak to increase service on the Keystone Corridor between Harrisburg and Philadelphia, Gunn said.
The Lancaster station also is line for $8.5 million of renovations, which would include adding retail shops, a restaurant and meeting rooms as well as structural improvements, including a new roof. The renovations also would double the parking at the station and add a new Trailways bus waiting area.
In Elizabethtown, Whipple said $2.3 million in renovations are planned to a 1917-era station that has been closed for about 20 years. Rail passengers currently have access to only the platform at Elizabethtown.
Passengers using Amtrak Pere Marquette trains to reach western Michigan are again able to use the historic Bangor station, following a May 6 rededication ceremony and celebration.
Don Saunders, Amtrak Central Division General Superintendent, joined city, state and federal officials to cut the ribbon to reopen the renovated and expanded station that was first opened by the Pere Marquette Railroad almost 79 years ago.
This is a great front door to serve passengers at Bangor, Saunders said. The number of passengers on the Pere Marquette route keeps growing: after two consecutive record-breaking years totaling nearly 88,000 last year we are up by nearly 13 percent so far this year.
Amtrak operates its Pere Marquette daily to and from Chicago on tracks owned by CSX Transportation via Grand Rapids, Holland, Bangor, St. Joseph-Benton Harbor and New Buffalo, Mich.
North Haven, Conn., may be getting an Amtrak passenger train stop. It would be about two miles north of New Haven and on the Inland Route to Hartford and Springfield, Mass.
A final report on the feasibility of the stop is set for review by the state this month. While the final outcome is unknown, a likely spot for the station has been identified, the New London Day reported on May 5.
Wilbur Smith Associates, a consulting firm in New Haven, was hired by the Connecticut DOT to develop a plan for the proposed New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail service. The possible commuter service, which would run on existing Amtrak lines, could offer commuters an option to I-95. According to Smiths study, which will be evaluated by the State Transportation Strategy Board on May 17, the best spot for a train stop in North Haven would be at the Route 40 connector.
Kari Watkins, a Smith transportation engineer, said that there were three possible locations for a station in North Haven. Their ideal location is off of exit 10 on I-91 on Devine Street near the Route 40 connector. That area could also serve Hamden commuters.
Its a good location to get people off the highway, said Watkins, who added, It was the one with the best ridership [potential].
According to First Selectman Kevin J. Kopetz, there are various reasons why the Route 40 connector would be a good site for the train stop there is already a commuter lot there, a platform was there years ago, and its closeness to I-91.
Kopetz called the recommended location most opportune and added that a passenger train stop would also be useful near the Pratt & Whitney aircraft plant site.
Watkins said she has heard from developers who are interested in that area if a platform is built.
Kopetz agreed, stating that he has found developers who are excited at the prospect of a station there and that to have different modes of transportation into particular areas is attractive to developers. For instance, Gaylord Hospital, along with Healthtrax, will construct a 40,000 square foot medical fitness center on Devine Street.
Project details are online at http://www.nhhsrail.com.
In a move to jump-start high-speed rail in Mexico, the countrys Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT) has appointed SYSTRA to help draw up tender agreement terms for a turnkey project connecting Mexico City and Guadalajara, according to Railway Age.
Slated to run at speeds of 186 mph, the rail operation will cut travel time to two hours and serve some 28 million passengers. It also will link up with the cities of Queretaro and Irapuato. According to SYSTRA, the tender is scheduled for launch by mid-year.
In the projects second phase, SYSTRA will help SCT draw up the contacts and deed of concession, which will be awarded to a firm responsible for the design, construction, and operation of a double-track line. Two Mexican companies are supporting SYSTRA in its work one for legal aspects and the other for technical assistance.
The Mexican federal government reportedly has been in the developmental stages of high-speed rail since 2002.
The Ohio lawmaker who wanted to be president now wants to make a law to keep gasoline prices in check. At his Lakewood, Ohio, office, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D) said on April 5 he will introduce the Gas Price Spike Act of 2005.
Parts of his bill would see a tax placed on oil companies, and a move to make mass transit more convenient, according to WEWS Cleveland.
Kucinich said gas companies are taking advantage of the American people, and he has questions about the White Houses role in all of it.
The oil companies are taking billions of dollars from the American consumers and how does that translate? It translates into people not having enough money for other things in their family, Kucinich said.
Three images for NCI: John LeeIs it the Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland? Not necessarily. Visualize a bridge anywhere that people need to cross, and how big it is is in the viewers minds eye. Thats how futurists think and John Lee sees trains in his future.
Futurists take really long views
They are called Futurists, those people who sort of gaze into their crystal balls and write, say or paint a scenario of, What if
Buckminster Fuller was one. He was a writer of an earlier era, who asked, What if, As for instance, I gave you the other day a bridge over roaring gorge and the people need something on the other side instead of having to keep risking their lives crossing through the roaring gorge, they all spontaneously use a bridge and less people die, and they spontaneously get what they need more spontaneously.
The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation.
Albert Einstein, scientist (1879-1955)
Then Fuller added, This kind of talk is to do with a then what I call Design Science Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science. You deal with things sum totally and in terms of total resources, everything you know about how the universe is working, and how and why we have the energies available here. Why there is a biosphere. And how you really then employ the physical resources and the knowledge to the highest advantage for all humanity, and if possible to sustain all humanity for all generations to come.
That is but a fraction of Fullers thinking.
The late R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) was an inventor, architect, engineer, mathematician, poet and cosmologist. As early as 1959, Newsweek reported that Fuller predicted the conquest of poverty by the year 2000.
The potential was there. Perhaps it still is.
That is a fraction of his official biography, found at http://www.bfi.org/introduction_to_bmf.htm.
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.
Charles Darwin, scientist
Where does the city begin? Where does it end? Is there a place for highways in this future? Will the nation turn to trains the way Europe has done? Which kinds of trains, for that matter? Rails on ties? Monorails?
Now lets fast-forward to 2005. A new futurist is peering over the horizon, and his name is John Lee of Seattle, Wash.
So how does that involve Destination:Freedom or railroads?
Because in his view of the universe, trains are everywhere, moving people, moving freight.
Lee, 34, has a website he has named Cities of the Future.
Trains, yes. Whats the other option? Cars? That model is seriously flawed for the numbers of people needing to be moved. Everyone in their own little world with little cooperation or organization works well when there are few people, but as populations keep rising, it is turning into sheer chaos. Rail is organization. Its people moving, he told D:F in an e-mail interview last week.
Lee says he has little knowledge of what current urban designers think, although I hope Cities of the Future will give them new ideas. I believe they have little influence over an areas modes of transportation.
The address is http://www.transfuture.net.
You see things and say Why? But I dream things that never were; and I say, Why not?
George Bernard Shaw (1949)
A scene like this may not become a reality for a century or more but looking to the future, now is the time to start planning for the 22nd Century and beyond.
Lee describes himself as an architectural artist.
My art reflects values of the National Corridors Initiative, such as environmental awareness and efficient use of natural resources. The cities I draw also reflect my love of nature and the outdoors. They are radically different from American cities; traffic congestion is nonexistent and they abound with clear blue skies, open spaces and green landscapes.
Regarding the trains in his paintings, most are French TGVs, some Spanish Talgos, and others.
Im not picky as to what trains I use, as long as they excite me. Like a jet plane or rocket ship, they must look high-tech and fast. The simple reason theyre all European is because thats the only place such things exist other than Disneyland.
He does not, however, leave Amtrak out in the cold.
Amtrak is great. Im sorry, but not surprised, Bush (and big Oil/Highway/Auto) want their heads on a platter. Current Acelas are too heavy for my elevated designs, but future Amtrak models may fit the bill.
He said, U.S. cities are in the design, but I prefer, for most of my art, not to define a location but rather let the viewer set the location. When people see my cities most say I want to live there.
Change the colors to Amtraks current color scheme in the future, and maybe the carrier will find new roles then, monorail and all.
Congestion will always be a huge problem as long as we insist on taking 2,000 to 4,000 pounds of plastic and metal with us wherever we go.
LA MTA CEO Roger Noble
Utah commuter rail gets huge boost
Lines on a map are soon to become railroad tracks on the Wasatch Front landscape, reports the Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City.
Utah Transit Authority officials said on May 4 they have received the first of three major federal approvals needed to construct a 44-mile commuter rail network between Salt Lake City and Weber County.
Transportation officials and local government leaders said at a news conference UTA wants to eventually construct a commuter rail system from Brigham City on the north to Payson on the south.
The next time we get together, it will be to actually turn dirt, said UTA general manager John Inglish. He called the Federal Transit Administration's approval last week a very important milestone event.
The approval, or record of decision, denotes acceptance of UTAs environmental study of the commuter rail corridor.
The ROD allows UTA to begin negotiations to purchase property from cities and private landowners. There are 140 parcels to be purchased along the corridor, said Stever Meyer, UTA manager of commuter rail construction but more and bigger milestones are coming down the line.
UTA must next receive a letter of no prejudice, expected to be obtained within the next two months. That document, also associated with completion of environmental work, will allow UTA to begin some utility and fill work along the corridor.
The final approval is the full-funding grant agreement, a contract between the FTA and UTA, which will allow the local transit agency to begin all aspects of commuter rail construction. That agreement could be signed as soon as this fall, but much of the construction work can begin before that agreement is signed.
We're about a couple hundred feet from the top, but we have a challenge, said Mike Allegra, chief capital development officer for UTA.
He added, There will be storms. He is confident about the future.
This is a dream, he said. It's hard to have imagined six years ago we would have made this much progress.
A tentative completion date for the first phase of the commuter rail network is spring 2008. The 44-mile Salt Lake-Ogden corridor is expected to initially attract a minimum average of 5,900 passengers per day.
Inglish said he hopes the full corridor from Payson to Brigham City, along with light-rail extensions in the Salt Lake Valley, can be in place within the next 10 years.
The environmental and planning process for commuter rail has been similar to what UTA officials went through when garnering approvals for its TRAX light-rail system during the 1990s. What has been different between that effort and this one, however, has been the reaction of local officials and the public. While some local communities openly resisted and voted against light rail, commuter rail has been embraced.
They're just night and day, obviously, Inglish said of initial reaction to the two projects. One of the amazing things was the way the communities came together to overcome the political issues.
About 45 local governments signed an interlocal agreement in support of commuter rail, signifying they would not attempt to stop the project.
Local funding of the project is secure. Voters in Salt Lake, Davis and Weber counties approved a quarter-cent sales tax increase to fund transit projects, including commuter rail.
Lane Beattie, president of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, said commuter rail has the potential to relieve traffic congestion along the I-15 corridor in Davis and Weber counties, and is also a boon to our quality of life.
He added, To keep our economy growing, we must keep our transportation flowing. Beattie was president of the Utah Senate when funding for the reconstruction of I-15 was secured.
"If we move quickly, we can continue to move quickly. If we don't, we will be in gridlock.
A plan for a privately run Vermont commuter rail line has been scrapped because there not enough advance tickets were sold, according to The AP of May 3.
The run between Charlotte and Burlington had been scheduled to start operating today.
Bellows Falls-based Green Mountain Railroad Corp. in mid-April pitched the idea of running a commuter train along the same path as the defunct Champlain Flyer, which ran for more than two years until shutting down in March 2003 because of high expenses and low ridership.
Green Mountain Railroad planned to privately finance the new venture, called the Burlington Express, and needed to sell 300 season passes at $400 each to make the project work, said Gayle Bellows, passenger-department coordinator. The company sold 40 passes.
Bellows said the low number shocked her, especially now that road construction is in full swing on U.S. 7, the main commuter artery between Burlington and points south.
Train organizers had hoped the road-widening project and traffic congestion would push frustrated commuters to seek refuge on the tracks, but that didnt happen.
Burlington is maybe just not a location to support a train service, Bellows said.
Above all, people are reluctant to give up their cars and the freedom that brings. They were resistant to committing to a whole season.
Rail service would have run through November.
Jenny Behr was among the 40 who signed up for passes. The Burlington woman plans to move in June to a Charlotte home near the Ferry Road train station. Her Burlington job is just a block from Union Station at the foot of Main Street. She was looking forward to a worry-free commute.
I thought it was going to be the greatest thing ever, she said.
It would have been ridiculously convenient.
Many commuters dont work so close to the tracks, though, and would have had to rely on other means of public transportation, such as buses, to reach their destinations, Behr said. Perhaps thats why so few tickets were sold, she said.
For people to consider mass transportation, it would have to be absolutely convenient, but those systems wont be in place until more people are interested, she said. Its a Catch-22.
Behr and the 39 others who signed up for the train will not be charged, a railroad spokesperson said.
Grabauskas is new T chief
Former Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Daniel A. Grabauskas was appointed general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority on Thursday. In a unanimous vote, the MBTA directors named Grabauskas, 41, to replace retiring Michael H. Mulhern. He will take over on May 16.
Dan is a hands-on manager who will fit well into the big shoes of Mike Mulhern, said Transportation Secretary John Cogliano.
Said Grabauskas, I look forward to working with the men and women of the MBTA in focusing on those public transit elements that matter most to the customers reliability, cleanliness, accessibility, and safety.
Left - Daniel A. Grabauskas
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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 http://www.apta.com/news/pt.
Casper, Wyo., Launches First Fixed Route Bus System
The city of Casper, Wyo., launched its first fixed route bus system on April 18. Four routes originate in the downtown area, making 65 stops throughout the city.
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony held at the Nicolaysen Art Musuem, Casper Mayor Guy Padgett was joined by representatives from the Wyoming DOT, as well as representatives from the U.S. Senate offices of Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), and of U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-At-Large-Wyo.).
The new bus system, called The Bus, is owned by the city and operated by the Casper Area Transit Coalition, a private, non-profit corporation that has provided paratransit service in the area. The Bus consists of three new 26-passenger buses and one retired paratransit bus. Several other paratransit buses are in reserve, and will be used as needed.
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Kennedy Dies; Denver General Counsel
John R. (Jack) Kennedy, 75, general counsel for Denvers Regional Transportation District for the past 20 years, died April 6.
Kennedy joined RTD in 1985, and headed the RTD Legal Department through many of the milestone years in the systems history. He served under six general managers, and was himself an acting general manager for a year in the early 1990s.
In the 1960s, Kennedy joined the National Capital Transportation Agency in Washington as assistant general counsel, becoming general counsel of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in 1967. He was intimately involved in the construction of Washingtons Metrorail system, from its conception and design through groundbreaking in 1969 and its opening in 1976.
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Bee-Line Workers Approve Four-Year Contract
Members of Transportation Workers Union Local 100 voted April 20 to accept a four-year contract with Liberty Lines, operator of the Westchester County DOT Bee-Line System in White Plains, N.Y. The Bee-Line System restored bus service on April 23, concluding a strike that began March 3 involving the 568 drivers and mechanics represented by TWU Local 100.
Westchester County Commissioner of Transportation Lawrence C. Salley said the contract runs from March 1, 2005, through February 28, 2009, with salary increases of 3.5 percent in the first year; 3 percent each in the second and third years; and 3.25 percent in the fourth year.
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Gas Tax Hike to Support Transportation in Washington State; Passes Legislature, Awaits Governors Signature
Washington State Gov. Christine Gregoire was expected to sign a 9.5-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase passed April 24 by the Washington State Legislature as Passenger Transport went to press. The tax measure is part of the Transportation Partnership Act of 2005, a 16-year transportation plan worth $8.5 billion. State law requires the governor to act on legislation within 20 days.
Gregoire said the bill not only met but surpassed my goals, adding, The future of the state of Washington is better for it.
Public transportation and rail projects will account for $740 million of the new gas revenues, along with $341 million for bridge replacements, $185 million for ferries, and $2 billion for the Alaskan Way Viaduct project.
The state will phase in the new tax over four years, starting with a 3-cent increase in July. The legislation also includes plans for tolls, local taxes, and weight fees on cars, light trucks, and sport-utility vehicles, costing motorists a total of $67 to $172 a year depending on vehicle size. TEXT
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For NCI: Robert Duncan Sr.CSX Transportation last week won its battle with the District of Columbia local government over shipping hazardous chemicals near D.C. In November 2004, CSX train A700, The Cedartown Turn, switched some tank cars in Rockmart, Ga
CSX wins hazmat appeal in DC
A federal appeals court overturned a lower court ruling on May 3 that would permit Washington, D.C. to temporarily prohibit rail shipments of hazardous materials on security grounds, Reuters reported last Tuesday.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit sided with freight rail giant CSX Corp., which had sought a preliminary injunction against the ordinance to reroute tankers hauling flammable gases and explosives around the capital.
CSX said federal law preempted the restriction, which covered an area within two miles of the U.S. Capitol building. The company also said the ban would disrupt its sprawling rail network and the economy. CSX has two freight lines running through the Washington area.
Within hours, the AAR issued a statement saying they were happy with the outcome.
The railroad industry is extremely pleased with the federal appeals courts unanimous decision that supports the U.S. government and CSX Transportation, said Edward Hamberger, AARs president and CEO.
He added, The court agreed with what the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Department of Transportation and the Surface Transportation Board have been saying all along that rerouting hazardous materials compromises safety and shifts the inherent risk to other communities.
The Bush administration supported the companys position, and the three-judge appeals panel found that CSX met the minimum standard for obtaining an injunction. The panel ordered U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan to grant the companys request.
The appeals judges said securing government buildings and operations from potential attack was a federal concern, not a local responsibility. They also said that the districts ban unfairly restricted CSXs operations.
The court does not minimize the calamitous consequences of a terrorist attack on a rail car transporting banned materials through the district, the appeals court said.
The effect of the (citys ban), however, is simply to shift this risk or at least some of the risk to other jurisdictions.
D.C. officials fear hazardous chemicals and other substances could be inviting targets for attacks, and imposed the 90-day ban earlier this year out of frustration with federal security efforts to protect the capital.
The City Council considered studies that an attack on a train or truck carrying certain hazardous materials in or close to Washington could cause thousands of deaths and billions of dollars in economic damage.
The prohibition, which also includes truck shipments of hazardous materials, was to have taken effect on April 20. It was stayed by the appeals court, pending its ruling.
Some communities are worried about the potential threat posed by rail tank cars loaded with hazardous chemicals. In January, gas that leaked from a damaged car killed nine people and injured more than 200 in South Carolina.
The AAR pointed out the railroad industry is required by federal law to carry hazmats.
Hamberger added, Since September 11, 2001, we have worked with the Department of Homeland Security to develop a security plan that has been hailed as a model for other industries. As long as our national policies dictate that these chemicals must move, the railroad industry is committed to transporting hazardous materials with maximum attention to safety and security.
Norfolk Southern Corp. said last week it supported the Graniteville, S.C. accident settlement following a hearing before the U.S. District Courts Aiken Division.
NS said, The court received a proposed class action settlement agreement that would provide restitution for minor personal injury, expenses and inconvenience associated with the railroads January 6 derailment at Graniteville, S.C. Details of the settlement will continue to be negotiated, and the parties expect to have a final agreement for court approval before the end of the month.
The carrier stated, Although additional details still need to be worked out, Norfolk Southern endorses the agreement outlined to the court today. It is timely, fair and constructive.
The statement, which was not attributed to any executive, continued, From day one, our goal has been to help the people of Graniteville recover from the accident, and this settlement is a continuation of that effort.
We commend the plaintiffs attorneys for negotiating quickly and in good faith. By reaching this proposed agreement, all parties are acting in the interest of the people of Graniteville and Aiken County.
Again, Norfolk Southern apologizes for the accident. We are deeply sorry for the loss of life, hardship and inconvenience it caused. We will continue to do our best to support the recovery process.
Like all motorists, Union Pacific is feeling the economic pinch of rising fuel prices. The railroad uses about 3.25 million gallons of diesel fuel every day and has seen its fuel costs grow by hundreds of millions of dollars over the past year. To control these costs and help employees fill their own gas tanks the railroad is expanding a conservation program that rewards the fuel-saving efforts of locomotive engineers.
Called Fuel Masters, the program rewards fuel-saving engineers with $50 fuel cards that they can use to offset their own rising fuel costs. An engineers conservation efforts are determined by comparing monthly fuel consumption performance against fellow engineers on the same territory. A one-to-two-month snapshot of each engineers fuel consumption performance is used to calculate individual average consumption rates. Engineers are grouped by pool or specific run to eliminate variances such as flat versus hilly terrain, and each month engineers in the top 10 to 15 percent of each pool are awarded a fuel card.
Fuel for Fuel is more than a dollar-saving program, its also an important conservation initiative for the railroad, said Wayne Kennedy, director of UPs Six Sigma program.
Whether finding new ways to stretch a gallon of diesel fuel or employing the latest technology to cut locomotive emissions, we are working very hard to protect the environment and our natural resources, he said.
Since its introduction in April 2004, Fuel for Fuel has decreased fuel consumption by 10 percent on the run between North Platte and South Morrill, Neb. Other locations piloting the program have experienced improvements between 5 and 8 percent.
Education is an important part of the program. Engineers are given a fuel conservation help sheet that offers tips for improving fuel consumption, and in several locations, engineers work on simulators that offer instruction on fuel saving techniques. In addition, engineers are counseled on fuel saving methods by engineer peer trainers who are the top performers in their pool.
More than 1,000 engineers on 12 routes are participating in the Fuel Masters conservation program. The routes are located in Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.
Canadian Pacific Ry. said last week it looking for buyers for its 92.3-mile track from Fayette to Bedford, Indiana, known as the Latta Subdivision
CP said it would consider new operating arrangements with other railroads, or selling the line to another operator, but abandoning the line is not being considered. The firm said business exists on the line to support ongoing operations. A decision on the course of action is expected by the end of the year.
Dave Craig, general manager business development for CPR, said, CPR is initiating a process to identify all opportunities to retain and enhance the economic value of this rail line. CPR has undertaken similar reviews at other points on our network that have resulted in positive outcomes for shippers, employees and other stakeholders in the region.
The Latta Subdivision connects and interchanges with four shortline railroads and two Class I carriers, Norfolk Southern and CSX. The four shortlines are the Indiana Rail Road Co., Indiana Southern Railroad Inc., Louisville & Indiana Railroad Co., and Paducah & Louisville Railway Inc.
CP said it has about 90 employees in southern Indiana, with most working out of terminals at Jasonville and Terre Haute.
Genesee & Wyoming, Inc. reported on May 2 John C. Hellmann has been named its new president he had been the carriers CFO for the past five years. He will be working in Perth, Western Australia for the rest of 2005, on assignment at the companys half-owned subsidiary, the Australian Railroad Group.
Timothy J. Gallagher is the railroads new CFO. He was previously Senior Vice-President and Treasurer of Level 3 Communications (LVLT).
Elsewhere within GWI, Charles N. Marshall is its new vice-chairman. He was its president and CFO for the past seven years. His 44 years of railroading include positions with Conrail, Southern Ry., and Chessie System.
James W. Benz has been named GWIs CFO. Benz has been President of GWIs Rail Link, Inc. subsidiary for the past seven years. He founded Rail Link in 1987, which was subsequently acquired by GWI in 1996, and he has built the business into one of GWIs largest operating units.
Billy C. Eason has been named Rail Links president, and GWIs senior vice-president for Rail Link.
Murray J. Vitlich has been named Deputy CEO of GWIs half-owned subsidiary, the Australian Railroad Group (ARG). At the February meeting of the ARG directors, Vitlich was appointed to his new position in anticipation of CEO Mike Mohans planned return to the U.S. at the end of 2005. Vitlich has served both as General Manager Finance and Chief Operating Officer of ARG since December 2000.
Canadian Pacific Ry. Ltd. (CP)on Thursday increased its quarterly dividend 13.2 percent, to 15 Canadian cents a share from 13.25 Canadian cents a share. The dividend is payable July 25 to shareholders of record as of June 24.
CSX Corp. (CSX) directors approved its regular quarterly dividends on May 4 for the companys common stock. The 10 cents per share dividend is payable June 15 to shareholders of record on May 25.
Kansas City Southern Ry. (KSU) said Tuesday its first-quarter net income rose to $8.1 million from $3.4 million a year ago, reports MarketWatch. Its net income available to common shareholder increased to $5.9 million, or 9 cents a share, from $1.2 million, or 2 cents a share, in the prior-year period. Revenue expanded to $198.2 million from $147.8 million in last years first quarter. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were looking for earnings, on average, of 14 cents a share.
Robert J. Druten and Rodney E. Slater were elected to serve three-year directors terms. Shareholders also approved an amendment to the Amended and Restated 1991 Stock Option and Performance Award Plan to increase the number of shares authorized for issuance under the plan, and ratified the Audit Committee's selection of KPMG LLP as KCSs independent accountants for 2005. The directors declared a regular quarterly dividend of 25 cents per share on the outstanding KCS preferred stock, payable on July 5 to preferred stockholders of record at the close of business on June 13.
Union Pacific Corp. (UNP) has declared a quarterly dividend of 30 cents per share on its common stock, payable July 1 to stockholders of record June 8.
U.S. railroads originated 1,396,037 carloads of freight in April 2005, up 34,682 carloads (2.5 percent) from April 2004. U.S. railroads also originated 885,285 intermodal units in April 2005, an increase of 53,205 trailers and containers (6.4 percent) over April 2004, the AAR reported Thursday.
Fourteen of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw U.S. carload increases in April 2005 compared to April 2004.
Aprils carload traffic gains were paced by crushed stone, sand, and gravel (up 9,714 carloads, or 11.2 percent, to 96,583 carloads); grain mill products (which includes products such as flour, corn syrup, and animal feed), up 4,128 carloads, or 12.1 percent, to 38,110 carloads; grain (up 2,437 carloads, or 2.8 percent, to 88,443 carloads); and coke (up 2,357 carloads, or 10.9 percent, to 23,900 carloads). Carloads of motor vehicles and equipment were down 3,287 carloads (3.3 percent) to 95,005 carloads in April.
For the first four months of 2005, total U.S. rail carloads were up 142,732 carloads (2.5 percent) to 5,799,589 carloads, as year-over-year increases in coal (up 104,921 carloads, or 4.7 percent), crushed stone, sand, and gravel (up 25,651 carloads, or 7.7 percent); and metallic ores (up 11,275 carloads, or 5.8 percent), among other categories, offset declines in motor vehicles and equipment (down 16,373 carloads, or 4.0 percent), waste and scrap materials (down 10,717 carloads, or 6.0 percent), and primary forest products (down 3,923 carloads, or 6.6 percent).
U.S. carload rail traffic has shown year-over-year monthly increases in 18 of the past 20 months, while intermodal traffic has risen in all 20 of the past 20 months, noted AAR Vice President Craig F. Rockey. This traffic growth is a reflection of the current economic expansion, but it is also indicative of the efficient and cost effective rail transport option that businesses are increasingly choosing.
U.S. intermodal traffic, which consists of trailers and containers on flat cars and is not included in carload figures, was up 249,414 trailers and containers (7.3 percent) for the first four months of 2005 to 3,666,539 units.
Total volume for the first 17 weeks of this year was estimated at 539.7 billion ton-miles, up 3.4 percent from last year.
Canadian rail carload traffic was down 5,067 carloads (1.7 percent) in April 2005 to 287,422 carloads, and up 9,241 carloads (0.8 percent) for the year to date to 1,193,598 carloads. Carloads of chemicals in Canada were down 3,572 carloads (5.6 percent) in April 2005, but up 5,315 carloads (2.1 percent) for the first four months of the year; carloads of metallic ores were down 2,000 carloads (15.4 percent) for the month, but up 6,215 carloads (12.4 percent) for the year to date.
Canadian intermodal traffic was up 1,784 units (1.0 percent) in April 2005 compared with April 2004 to 174,972 units, and up 27,186 units (4.0 percent) for the first four months of 2005 to 713,656 units.
Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, were up 1,129 carloads (3.2 percent) in April 2005 to 36,418 carloads, while intermodal originations of 17,227 were up 3,817 trailers and containers (28.5 percent). For the first four months of 2005, TFM carloadings were up 5,038 carloads (3.5 percent) to 147,278 carloads, while intermodal traffic was up 5,744 units (9.8 percent) to 64,540 units.
For just the week ended April 30, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 355,408 carloads, up 1.8 percent from the corresponding week in 2004, with loadings up 1.2 percent in the East and up 2.3 percent in the West; intermodal volume of 226,253 trailers and containers, up 7.3 percent and the highest week ever in the first half of a year; and total rail traffic volume of an estimated 33.3 billion ton-miles, up 2.8 percent from the equivalent week last year.
For Canadian railroads during the week ended April 30, the AAR reported volume of 73,515 carloads, down 1.7 percent from last year; and 45,298 trailers and containers, down 0.1 percent from the corresponding week in 2004.
Combined cumulative rail volume for the first 17 weeks of 2005 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 6,993,187 carloads, up 2.2 percent (151,973 carloads) from last year, and 4,380,195 trailers and containers, up 6.7 percent (276,600 units) from 2004s first 17 weeks.
The AAR is online at www.aar.org.
|Burlington Northern & Santa Fe||(BNI)||51.42||48.25|
|Florida East Coast||(FLA)||42.40||42.60|
|Genessee & Wyoming||(GWR)||24.12||23.98|
|Kansas City Southern||(KSU)||19.44||18.92|
|Providence & Worcester||(PWX)||13.55||13.62|
DB AGDeutsche Bahn TV last week reported Railion will soon introduce modernized diesel locomotives in the 233 and 241 series (V300) on the Rübelandbahn in the Harz Region. Both the 233 and similar 241 models were comprehensively modernized at the DB works in Cottbus in recent years. The V300 series locomotives were originally delivered to the Deutsche Reichsbahn in the 1970s and 80s from the Ukraine, and are based on the TE3 series engines from the former USSR. Dave Beale.
Japanese trains getting new brakes
The railway company whose train derailed in a deadly crash in Japan last week has started installing a new emergency braking system, The AP reported Thursday.
It was responding to the transport ministers warning that its service could not resume until upgrading is completed.
The West Japan Railway Co. commuter train derailed and slammed into an apartment building last week at Amagasaki in western Japan, leaving 107 dead and more than 460 others injured.
The trains automatic brake system was an older model, which experts have said does not work at high speeds.
Transport Minister Kazuo Kitagawa on May 2 told the company that upgrading the system would be a key precondition to restarting service on the line.
Railway workers started installing the new braking system last week.
Investigators reportedly believe the derailed trains 23-year-old engineer was going over 65 mph, far above the speed limit on that stretch of track because the train was running late.
Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan signed an agreement to link the three countries by rail and boost freight capacity, Irans state television reported May 4.
According to IRNA, IranMania reported from London, the agreement covers laying 375 kilometers (240 miles) of track between the Iran-Azerbaijan border town of Astara and the northern Iranian city of Qazvin, which is already linked to the rest of the Islamic republics rail network.
The project, set to cost around $600 million and take 7 to 8 years to complete, will deliver an initial freight capacity of 5 million tons a year a figure that is expected to eventually quadruple.
The project is to be implemented by a consortium, of which Iran will hold a 51 percent majority stake with the rest going to a multinational group.
NCI: Leo KingRemember last week the editor groused he lost his U.S. passport in La Ciotat, France? He found it in a shirt pocket in a closet in his flat. It was too late, though, because the U.S. Consulate in Marseille required him to turn it in because they had expedited a new passport request. The new document should arrive from the U.S. this week. Meanwhile, King looked over some of the photos he snapped a fortnight ago, and found this gem in contrasts at Marseille St. Charles Station yard throat. An elderly diesel switcher tucked out of the way while other trains move in and out in the terminal, including a TGV. By the way, it wasnt clear in the story the 621 miles referred to was between Paris and Marseille.
Come on APTA, get on board!
When the Bush Administration proposed total elimination of federal funding for Amtrak, all of us in the rail advocacy scene knew the magnitude of the impending crisis. We knew that long-distance trains would be extinct, continued operation of trains in the corridors would be questionable, and the resulting chaos could throw commuter rail operations (like New Jersey Transit and SEPTA, which use Amtrak-owned infrastructure in the northeast Corridor) into turmoil.
We all pitched in to help, and we are still fighting on the front lines. Under new leadership, a revitalized National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) stepped up its efforts to unprecedented levels. So did the Rail Users Network (RUN), statewide ARP organizations and local coalitions, from the Lackawanna Coalition in New Jersey to the Transit Coalition in Los Angeles. So did other transit, rail and community organizations, and many individuals. We spread the word to the public, we talked to the media, and we politicked. Were still doing it, because the battle is still on.
Amtrak and our local rail transit are linked. People take Amtrak trains when they are traveling and local transit within their origin and destination cities. Every commuter and regional rail operation in the U.S., except for the South Shore Line between Chicago and South Bend and On-Track in Syracuse, shares some amount of operations or infrastructure with Amtrak. In the Northeast Region, it is questionable whether local rail could even survive without Amtrak. On NJT, my home transit, the two busiest stations and the busiest line are owned by Amtrak.
Local transit providers, many of whom are APTA members, are the dots on our mobility map. The trains now operated by Amtrak are the lines that connect those dots. RUN, especially, understands this. So does NARP, and so do the state-level and local coalitions that advocate for better rail transit. Everybody seems to understand this; everybody except APTA.
I attended the APTA Legislative Conference in March. Reauthorization of TEA-21 was top priority. Virtually all advocates for local transit know that we need TEA-21 renewal. We are tired of temporary extensions, and we are coming down to the wire again, with a May 31 deadline. Personally, I believe that there is too much highway and not enough transit in the mix. Still, we need the funding to keep our capital programs going, and our transit managements deserve to know what they can afford to do to improve our infrastructure and equipment.
When it came to their position on intercity and high-speed rail, APTA acted as if management had never ridden a train. Sure, they paid lip service to intercity and high-speed rail, along with commuter rail and local rail transit, but there was no mention whatsoever of funding for Amtrak. High-speed rail funding should come from tax-exempt bonds, according to APTA, while nothing should be taken away from highways or local transit, which is already down to about 18 percent of the total proposed appropriation. APTA even endorsed a takeover of the NEC by the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in the event of an Amtrak shutdown. At this writing, the STB lacks the volition, the expertise and probably the statutory authority to take on that responsibility.
At the convention, I prepared a counterproposal, recommending support for funding for Amtrak and establishment of a Passenger Rail Trust Fund. Despite my efforts, the silence from the APTA regulars was deafening.
Personally, I have the highest regard for Bill Millar and many of his colleagues at APTA, because I know how transit operations are suffering. I have ridden on 117 transit systems in the U.S. and Canada, at last count, and essentially every one of them was underfunded. Nearly all of Americas transit suffers from lack of money, aided and abetted by legislators whose desire to pander to automobile interests renders them indifferent to transit riders and the managers who endeavor to provide them with some semblance of mobility. APTA is attempting to represent a widely diverse constituency, from major transit providers (like New Yorks MTA and Chicagos CTA) to community bus operations, to giant engineering firms. With one exception, I do not fault APTA for their efforts.
That one exception is the lack of support for intercity rail, which currently means Amtrak. Many of APTAs member providers that boast the largest numbers of riders depend on Amtrak-owned infrastructure for their commuter rail operations. Certainly, the termination of Amtrak would not help NJT, SEPTA, MARC, or other rail providers. If anything, it would drastically increase costs of infrastructure and operations. It is possible that neither the providers, nor their states, could afford to fund these increases.
Rail advocates would prove much better political bedfellows for APTA than highway interests. History teaches us that highway and automobile interests played a major role in the near-extinction that befell American transit from the 1930s through the 1970s. We cannot be sure that the highway interests, with all of their funding and political clout, would not play a similar role again, if they had the chance.
Rail advocates are different.
RUN, especially, is concerned about the connectivity between intercity rail and commuter rail or local rail transit. NARP, with its thousands of active members, provides strong grassroots support for rail. So do the state-level organizations and local coalitions, some of which are affiliated with the National Association of Public Transportation Advocates (NAPTA). As members of these organizations, we use local transit, and we use Amtrak trains. We want both, and we vigorously advocate for both.
APTA could enlarge its list of supporters for TEA-21 by supporting the eventual addition of intercity rail to the funding mix. Members of Congress from both the urbanized Northeast and the rest of the country want trains to continue serving their regions. Senators from predominately rural states, like Conrad Burns of Montana and Mississippis Trent Lott want the trains to keep running in their states. Both Democrats and Republicans want trains in their states, because trains improve mobility for their constituents. So does local transit. Intercity trains improve the viability of the towns where they stop. Viable towns mean viable local transit. NARP, RUN, John Robert Smith and I, among others, are making this argument. So should APTA.
Rail advocates at all levels are strong, sophisticated and organized. We are becoming more so every day, in all parts of the country. We understand that Amtraks most vocal enemies are also opposed to local transit. If they were to succeed in destroying Amtrak, they would waste little time in placing local transit in their crosshairs and would be ready to fire a full volley of shots at local transit when the next TEA-21 reauthorization comes up for discussion, five years from now.
We have pledged to continue the struggle, and people are listening. So is Congress. We are bringing our organizations together for victory. The bandwagon for intercity rail and rail transit at the local level is growing every day and gathering momentum. It is time for APTA to get on board.
Alan is involved in Amtrak and local transit issues. Nationally, he is a member of the Board of RUN and the Advisory Board of NAPTA, as well as an active member of NARP. In New Jersey, he chairs the Lackawanna Coalition and is a member of NJTs Citizen Advisory Committee (Local Programs Support). He has also ridden over the entire Amtrak system and has visited more than 200 cities and towns served by Amtrak and Via Rail. When he is not traveling, he lives and practices law in South Orange, N.J.
Destination:Freedom reader John Humphrey asked us recently if we would look into some questions he had. He wanted to know, What do Mr. Laney and Mr. Gunn mean about thresholds to measure the 15 long-distance trains? He added, If they enact any kind of an accounting perfomance measurement device will it be using direct cost accounting models? An example of what I mean is, will the the Crescent be held accountable for management expenses and/or Northeast Corridor costs?
We put the questions to Cliff Black, Amtraks primary spokeman in Washington.
He replied on Friday, This refers to yet-to-be-determined operating criteria, presumably based on financial performance.
Pardon the pun, Humphrey queried, but is Mr. Gunn being railroaded into this and several labor statements to please the Board?
Black responded, In my view, Mr. Gunn is an independent thinker with tremendous personal integrity.
Black had just returned from a 10-day vacation in which he and his wife, Jeanine, flew to Seattle, then rode the Empire Builder to La Crosse, Wis., to visit relatives, then were off to Chicago and home on the Capitol Limited. Good trip with good crews.
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