Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 19, May 12, 2003
Copyright © 2002, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

 


Metro Trains at Wash DC

NCI: Leo King

Washington’s Metro trains come and go seven days a week in our national capital. Here, they skirt by Union Station. The train at the left has just left the station and is heading northward toward Silver Spring, Md., and beyond. The southward train on the right is heading toward Rockville and Shady Grove, also in Maryland. Ahead, for all commuter and transit systems – whether rail or bus, lies the outcome of new “Tea-21” legislation, which the American Public Transportation Assn.’s president, Bill Millar, spoke about at length at NCI’s April 28,29 conference in D.C. Amtrak may also figure into the planning.

 

APTA’s Bill Millar:

Tea-21 may be ahead in Amtrak
as well as transit, commuter planning

By Leo King
Editor

California and North Carolina had particularly strong rail development during the past 12 months, and the American Public Transportation Assn.’s (APTA) President, Bill Millar, showed how rail is gaining ground, even if ever so slowly. Millar was the opening session keynote speaker at NCI’s April 28 and 29 conference in Washington.

Railroaders and governmental officials at federal and state levels as well as rail professional organizations attended the meeting. So did two officers from the Central Japan Ry. Co. who observed the proceedings – General Manager Osamu “Sam” Nakayama and Manager Naoki “Harry” Hariyama. They are both headquartered in Washington.

Millar, whose offices are also in Washington, said his organization has about 1,500 members, most of whom are in the U.S. and Canada.

“One of the reasons APTA has reached out and seeks international members is that – I wish I could say that every great idea originated in North America, but, unfortunately, we know that is simply not the case.”

JR-Central operates the Shinkansen, or “Bullet Trains.”

Turning to the theme of this year’s meeting, he said, “I love the titles here – ‘Rail Futures: Building secure and successful transit and intercity rail for America.’”

There wasn’t enough room on a banner overlooking the room for all the text to fit.

“I believe in the integration of modes. I believe that we have done ourselves a disservice in this country by allowing ourselves to talk about highway policy or air policy or rail freight policy vs. rail passenger policy vs. public transportation policy that doesn’t serve us well at all. Bottom line, what does our country need?”

He answered himself.

“Our country needs a strong economy, and that strong economy is based on the ability of people and goods to move essentially anywhere at any time for reasonable cost and in a safe and secure manner.”

He added, “That is where our goal and focus must be.”

APTAs William Millar

NCI: Leo King

APTA’s William Millar

He expounded at some length.

“We have a lot of history to overcome. We’re a country that tends to develop things in ‘silos.’ We worry about farm policy over here and housing policy over there, and don’t realize that those two things have a nexus.”

Millar added, “Certainly within transportation we have very much the same thing, and yet, our old vocabulary is held captive by these ‘modal silos.’

He is also a board member of the Intermodal Transportation Institute at the Univ. of Denver.

“We offer, among other things,” he explained, “a master’s degree in intermodal transportation management.

“We’re finding as we’re putting together that course (it’s being taught for the first time this year) there isn’t even good vocabulary – particularly on the passenger side – to speak about these issues.”

He said it’s “developing on the freight side, but it’s [passenger] not even there, so it’s very tough to know.”

The result is, he said, it makes it difficult to write cohesive legislation in either house of Congress.

“We’re left talking about individual pieces of legislation, individual committees in the Congress, and individual modes.”

Nevertheless, he expects the remainder of 2003 “to be a big year because of the “T-21 reauthorization, which all of us are working on, looking at, thinking about.”

He said Tea-21 “has been a good law. It has provided additional funding as promised, it has brought decision-making down to more of a local level which has resulted in a different set of choices when it was simply ‘The State Highway Department’ – excuse me, the state transportation departments that were permitted to make all the choices in transportation. So, fundamentally, as we look at reauthorization, we’re thinking three things:

Millar said “APTA is calling for a doubling of the public transit investment by the federal government. We would like it to receive at least $14.3 billion by the year 2009.”

Millar has high hopes for Amtrak, but the perennial question remains, “‘What’s going to happen to Amtrak?’ With David Gunn firmly in the CEO’s office, I think all would agree he has done a superb job of trying to get the issues focused and get the railroad running more on time and upgrading the equipment and facilities.”

He pointed out there are now “more than a dozen pieces of legislation” in the House and Senate affecting passenger rail interests.

“We see things like the RIDE-21 legislation which if it were passed and if it does turn out to work the way its proponents say it might, could result in truly significant levels of investment here.”

He said what happens to intercity rail also affects commuter rail systems.

“Even more important than that relationship, is what happens in urban transit is important to Amtrak and other intercity operations.”

He said most of the successful intercity rail services “are integrated with the other modes, whether it is the air mode, or right in the urban areas themselves.”

He said APTA has an “enhanced commitment to Amtrak and to intercity transportation, but also an enhanced recognition that there are some opportunities for our own operators. Some of our commuter rail operators, particularly the larger ones, look to see where they might operate what has been thought of as intercity service, so that as the Congress, as the Administration – as the country – sorts out what it’s thinking in these areas, certainly the commuter rail operators, as appropriate, ought to be looked at in certain corridors.”

He added that for the foreseeable future, “Amtrak will be the horse to ride.”


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Shinkansen Train (graphic)

Source: http://www.h2.dion.ne.jp/~dajf/byunbyun/ and artist DAJ Fossett

The newest Shinkansens are slated to enter service next year. They are now under construction. The 30 six-car trains are being built this year and are the “800 series.” They will operate on the Kyushu line and will whiz along up to 160 mph.

 

Outspoken Coston unhappy with Amtrak plan;
Charges ARC failed in its duty to reform carrier

By Leo King
Editor

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever heard Chicagoan Jim Coston speak publicly he is not shy. He is about as outspoken a passenger train advocate as anyone can find anywhere on this planet. His 33-page, double-spaced speech at NCI’s April meeting proves the point.

Jim Coston

NCI: Leo King

Jim Coston
Coston, who was a member of the now defunct Amtrak Reform Council, said, “There is a time bomb ticking in Amtrak’s accidental ownership of the Northeast Corridor, and Amtrak’s obligation as a property owner is to use every dollar it can find to upgrade the Corridor’s expensive and aging infrastructure.”

Referring to a Washington Post article three days earlier, he said, “It becomes clear that virtually all of what was called ‘the Amtrak budget’ is really the Northeast Corridor budget. There is to be no money for upgrading of railroad tracks outside the NEC-not even the track in Michigan that Amtrak owns.”

The budget David Gunn had unveiled was a $1.5 billion plan to keep the Northeast Corridor “in good repair, and with good operations.” [See D:F May 5 – Ed.]

Coston echoed Gunn’s statements – there is to be no new rolling stock for non-NEC theaters of operation and no new non-NEC startups except at state expense.

“Yet the NEC states will not be asked to contribute to the NEC upgrade, even though their commuter trains make up 92 per cent of the train movements on that property,” Coston said, adding, “This continuing and unaddressed regional inequity almost certainly will come back to haunt Amtrak.”

He was also curious how Congressional figures from around the country who have, at least up until now – supported Amtrak.

“Is there anything in this budget that Sen. Patty Murray can use? It’s simply a license for her state of Washington to either find more money to support its popular passenger-train corridor – or give up its trains.,” he declared.

“Is there anything in this budget that train-friendly senators like Kay Bailey Hutchison or Ron Wyden can brag about to the voters back in Texas and Oregon during their re-election campaigns?

“Is there any money here to help North Carolina or California to continue to expand their highly successful passenger-train programs or to link them with programs in neighboring states?

Coston answered himself.

“Of course not. Every dollar that goes to the NEC is a dollar that can’t go anywhere else, and now we know that every dollar will go to the NEC.”

He said the plan for the states to pay up to half of intercity passenger rail development does not sit well with him.

“Saying ‘Let the states pay’ is triply dangerous: The states don’t have the money. The states are peculiarly unsuited for developing passenger systems because they don’t own or control the tracks, which belong to private corporations. The states can’t control their neighboring states, which have a different set of voters with different priorities. The only way the non-NEC states will benefit from Amtrak’s Five Year Plan is the return of wreck-damaged cars to the trains on non-NEC routes – and you can bet the family estate that if those cars could fit through the Penn Station tunnels, they’d be going to the Northeast Corridor too.”

Coston was also critical of the Amtrak Reform Council for never stating publicly or otherwise Amtrak needed a seed change, a change in mentality at the very top of the organization.

“The ARC had a beautiful chance to identify Amtrak’s starvation of the non-NEC operations not only as a regional inequity, but also as a major reason for the service collapses that robbed Amtrak of so much ridership and so much media credibility during the 1990s,” he said.

Coston, who is the managing partner of Coston & Lichtman law firm in Chicago, said “Amtrak’s lack of attention to the national network and the state-supported services furnished Jay Leno’s writers with so much cheap-shot bait that no respectable humorist could resist it. The ARC said nothing, and its silence cost Amtrak billions of dollars in potential public support.

He added, the ARC contributed to the fireworks.

“Amtrak’s ill-concealed disdain for its long-distance trains handed the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal a playbook that enabled the paper to execute stunning verbal attacks on the value of all passenger trains and of Amtrak itself.

“The ARC never reacted.

“Worst of all, the ARC’s failure to identify Amtrak’s ‘NEC Complex’ helped perpetuate the single most damaging passenger-train myth in circulation – the myth that because of America’s wide-open spaces, only the Northeast Corridor has the ‘demographics’ to support a strong passenger-train operation. Many intelligent people still believe that the NEC is “the only part of the U.S. where passenger trains make sense.”

Coston’s April 28 venture out of Chicago to the District of Columbia was the “first time I’ve spoken out on transportation issues since the ARC finished up its work” and went out of business last December.

He said politics were rampant in the organization. Its first chairwoman, former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman who took over the federal Environmental Protection Agency in January 2001, resigned her ARC post shortly after being appointed because the ARC was so severely underfunded.

Coston said, “I think everybody realized early on that the ARC was a highly politicized animal, and that the Republicans in Congress designed it to be just that. The ARC’s job was to document that passenger trains are not a successful business and to use that documentation to put Amtrak out of business, but I don’t think anyone fully appreciates the “Ironic Dynamic” that developed when this mission collided with the reality that was emerging at Amtrak in the late 90s.

“What happened at Amtrak in the late 90s?

“Nothing, except that Amtrak suffered a catastrophic case of management failure.

“Don’t ask me how this happened. I have met both Tom Downs and George Warrington a number of times, and on a personal level they are very impressive individuals. Downs is sharp, funny and politically shrewd, with a terrific track record and an excellent reputation in Washington.

“Warrington is energetic, experienced, focused and very bright. I had high hopes for both of them.”

Sen. Tom Daschle (D-N.D.) appointed Coston to the ARC in April 2000.

“By the time I took my seat, it was clear that Amtrak’s management was floundering – pushing all the wrong buttons and pushing them frantically-in a desperate effort to make things happen-or at least to make it look as if good things were happening.”

Coston recalled “This was the era of the empty train to Janesville, the 300-mile empty overnight train to Louisville, the Michigan trains that froze up and had to be taken out of service for two months, the ‘Satisfaction Guarantee’ that rewarded the suffering passenger with another lousy trip, the [freight] express business that was going to make the company rich – but ended up costing it nearly $100 million, the $20-million Acela ad campaign that nobody could understand and was over before the Acelas were delivered.”

He added, “You name it – Amtrak management, backgrounded in all the right areas except running a national intercity passenger railroad – screwed it up. Yet amazingly, the ARC never mentioned that Amtrak had a serious management problem. Despite having the authority to do so, the ARC never even called management to account, much less called for its replacement.”

In Coston’s view, “There was a taboo on the whole subject of evaluating or replacing the management. Not until well after I left the ARC did this omission start making sense to me. Focusing on Amtrak’s poor management would only have diluted the ARC’s real mission. That mission was to demonstrate the non-feasibility of federally funded passenger trains at the ideological level, not the functional level.

“What if the ARC had called for the replacement of Amtrak’s failed management, and what if that had been done?” he asked.

“The ARC’s generic anti-passenger-train case would have been ruined. A qualified, dedicated, professional management running clean, comfortable, on-time trains with hard-working employees dispensing quality meals and beverages would have started drawing crowds. The farebox ratio would have gone up as more people rode. Rising popularity would have made it impossible to make Amtrak go away.”

He pointed to California as an example.

“We know this works because it’s been happening in California for the last ten years. I don’t think the ARC wanted a successful Amtrak. It wanted a failure it could turn into an ideological dogma that would have ruled federally funded passenger trains out of American life for good.”

That wasn’t all, though, in his view.

“I think there’s another reason the ARC never confronted the Amtrak management problem. It knew that management had its entrenched defenders in Congress, and that a focused attack on those managers would have brought further reductions in the ARC’s already restricted budget.

That is what Coston terms “The Ironic Dynamic.” The more the ARC criticized Amtrak at the ideological level, the more survival skills Amtrak developed at the practical level.

“Amtrak became a science fiction creature: The Creature that Would not Die!

“Amtrak didn’t have enemies – only critics. It didn’t have champions, only apologists.

“The critics didn’t care enough about it to kill it, and the apologists didn’t care enough about it to build it and grow it.

“So Amtrak just survived. Its management stayed in place until its abject failures no longer could be concealed. With $4 billion in debt and the crown jewels in hock, the board had to find a new CEO.

“Lo and behold, the only one they could find was a true professional, the guy who should have been there all the time. And what do you think he does?

“He starts unwinding the mistakes of his predecessors, focusing on the fundamentals and making the right moves.

“A year later criticism of Amtrak has drastically diminished and the case for passenger trains is getting stronger by the minute.

“Dave Gunn has even developed his own relationship with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) so Amtrak will not be totally dependent on its longtime ‘friends’ in Congress.”

Coston says “The problem isn’t totally over, however, because there’s one other reality at Amtrak that the ARC never really confronted – the problem of the Northeast Corridor.”


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Amtrak on the move

NCI: Leo King

If the Senate passes a House measure, H.R. 874, Passengers injured in any passenger train mishap will have recourse.

 

House acts on aid to rail victim’s families;
hears transit, highway testimony

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

The House has overwhelmingly approved legislation (H.R.874) to assist families involved in rail disasters.

By a vote of 415-5, the lawmakers gave the green light to a plan that would require the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to designate both a director of family support services within the agency, and an independent third party outside of government to help deal with the needs of the victims’ families.

Coincidentally, the measure was voted through during the very week Amtrak’s Silver Star hit a truck at a Georgia rail crossing (See story elsewhere this issue). Victims of that accident would have been covered by H.R.874 had it been in effect at the time. The requirements of the legislation apply to rail passenger accidents involving intercity, interstate rail passenger carriers, and interstate or intrastate high-speed rail carriers.

The NTSB would act as the point of contact within the government for the families, and a liaison between the rail passenger carrier and the families. The independent organization would be responsible for providing mental health and counseling services to families, providing an environment where the families can grieve in private, and consulting with them to arrange a suitable memorial service if it comes to that.

The measure also deals with what is viewed as the insensitivity of hot-dog ambulance chasers. It prohibits trial lawyers from making unsolicited communications to families or individuals injured in the accident. In addition, rail passenger carriers would be required to submit plans to the NTSB and the Secretary of Transportation setting forth how they plan to address the needs of families of passengers involved in an accident.

The bill includes provision for a toll-free number and staff to handle calls from families; a means of notifying families of the fate of passengers in the accident; assurance the families will be consulted about how to dispose of any remains; stipulation that any unclaimed possessions will be retained for at least 18 months; and a commitment that the carrier will provide sufficient resources to carry out the plan.

A new Office of Management and Budget task force would be created within USDOT to work with passenger carriers in developing model family assistance plans and to evaluate various potential improvements in assisting families. The task force is required to report its findings to Congress within one year of the bill’s enactment.

The legislation is modeled on the Aviation Disaster Family Assistance Act of 1996.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) whose panel had approved the bill on a bipartisan vote, said, “It is only prudent to establish common sense procedures that will immediately put this into place if a major rail accident occurs.”

One more hurdle remains: the Senate.

“I hope the Senate finally takes this issue as importantly as the House does, and passes this important legislation instead of letting it die again,” Young declared. Senate rules require more complicated hoops for the legislative process.

The day before House passage of the H.R.874, a subcommittee of Young’s panel heard from governors, mayors and county commissioners from around the nation urging the lawmakers to increase the highway and transit programs.

“The current levels of funding for the federal highway and transit programs are insufficient to meet the needs of our deteriorating transportation infrastructure,” declared Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines.

The Wisconsin lawmaker said the country is “in the midst of a congestion crisis,” that today costs Americans more than $67 billion per year, more than 3.6 billion hours of delay, and 5.7 billion gallons of excess fuel consumed. If you are an average commuter, the “congestion crisis” is probably costing you more than $1,000, according to Petri.

The legislation considered by Petri’s panel focuses on the reauthorization of the giant omnibus “Tea-21” transportation program.

The big question that is being raised in some quarters is exactly how to deal with a congestion that Kentucky Governor Paul Patton testified is not keeping up with the increase in road capacity.

As D:F previously reported, the American Public Transportation Assn. (APTA) figures the $375 billion package that is the centerpiece of the subcommittee’s debate would at best net mass transit about 20 percent of the take. The other 80 percent would be for roads. While APTA, as the voice of the mass transit community, is happy with almost anything it gets – having had to beg for help for so many years – other transit advocates believe the 80/20 formula is not properly balanced. That promises to be a factor in the coming Congressional battle. The current Tea-21 expires September 30.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm seemed to touch on just that point when she told the subcommittee that Congress “must recognize the critical transportation needs of donor states and ensure a more equitable distribution of both highway and transit funds.” She added that “state and local transportation agencies need more flexibility to use federal funds for projects identified during their planning and public involvement processes.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell agreed, calling for “a greater role for local bodies in transportation decision-making and greater program flexibility” so that their “knowledge of specific [local] transportation programs” can be allowed greater input.

Rendell also called for a hike in the federal gasoline tax.

Speaking for the nation’s governors in general, Kentucky Gov. Paul E. Patton, Chairman of the National Governors Association, referred to the congestion crisis as “a silent one; rarely recognized by our constituents until they find themselves in an unbearable commute to work.”

The governors “strongly oppose any efforts to reduce program levels.” he added.


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Amtrak engineer dies following derailment

Larry Wayne Edenfield, 53, the engineer of Amtrak train No. 91 the Silver Star, died in a Savannah, Ga. Hospital on Wednesday (May 7). The southbound passenger train derailed Monday in Liberty County, Ga. After striking a truck laden with plywood at a grade crossing.

Wreck in Hinesville, Ga.

Savannah Morning News: Steve Bisson

Rescue helicopter hovers over No. 91 in Hinesville, Ga. Tuesday Morning.

No. 91’s consist

P-42 locomotive No. 199; baggage-mail 1726; crew dorm 2518, Pine Shore (ex 2892, 2732, ATSF 1643); Viewliner sleeper 62011, Gulf View; Viewliner sleeper 62013, Harvest View; diner 8519; lounge 28000, Miami Club; and Amfleet II coaches 25085, 25047, 25078, 25075.

Heavy damage was reported on the locomotive and rear end of Viewliner 62011, and to the vestibule of 62013.

Three days later, Amtrak sources reported No. 91’s total wreck damage estimates in dollars to be $860,000.

The entire consist of the Silver Star was rerailed on May 5, and was to be cleared for movement by May 9 or 10. Engine 138 was removed from Train 97 of May 6 and was assigned to haul the “hospital train” to Sanford, Fla.

Damage estimates: Eng. 199, $350,000; 1726, $15,000; 2518, $100,000; 62011, $125,000; 62013, $125,000; 8519, $30,000; 28000, $30,000; 25047, $25,000; 25085, $20,000; 25078, $20,000; 25075, $20,000.

It took a little more than five hours to get all the equipment back onto the iron. P-42 locomotive 199 was rerailed at 1:50 p.m. The first car to be put back on the track was 25075 at 12:15 p.m., and the last was 8519 at 6:30 p.m.

“On behalf of all Amtrak employees, I offer my deepest condolences to the family of Wayne Edenfield,” said David L. Gunn, Amtrak’s President and CEO.

“He was a veteran locomotive engineer with an excellent record. This tragedy touches us all, and we mourn his untimely passing.”

Edenfield, of Macclenny, Fla. died from injuries he sustained in the accident. A 30-year railroad veteran, he had 17 years of service with Amtrak. His crew base was in Jacksonville.

Edenfield was airlifted to Memorial Health Univ. Medical Center in Savannah. He died with his family at his side, an Amtrak spokesman said.

The Silver Star derailed at 7:20 a.m. (EDT) after striking the truck at a grade crossing protected by crossbucks in Hinesville, Ga., approximately 26 miles north of Jesup. The train, which was en route from New York to Miami, had 150 passengers and 14 crewmembers aboard at the time of the accident. Both Amtrak and the Georgia State Patrol stated 27 passengers and 5 crewmembers were injured.

Amtrak dispatched a customer care team to provide assistance to the passengers and crew.

Of the injured, 19 passengers and 4 crewmembers were treated and released at Liberty Medical Center. Two passengers were treated at Winn Army Hospital at Fort Stewart, Ga., and a third passenger was transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Savannah.

Uninjured passengers were taken to the Charles M. Schumann Recreation Center in Hinesville where the Amtrak customer care team arranged for alternate transportation, lodging, and other needs.

The truck driver, Boyd James Van Horne, 41, of Richmond Hill, Ga., died at the scene. The collision demolished his six-wheel truck, a forklift and the wood he was hauling.

All of the injured, except for Edenfield and a passenger who had the worst injuries, were treated and released from area hospitals, an Amtrak spokesman said. Authorities withheld the name and information about the condition of the still-hospitalized passenger because of federal patient privacy laws.

CSX’s Jane Covington told D:F “The Amtrak crossing collision occurred at milepost 522.3, about 30 miles south of Savannah in a community called McIntosh. No CSX employees were injured.”

Track speed at the crash site is 79 mph.

In all, some 1,600 feet of track were torn up on both tracks.

On Thursday, CSX’s Gary Sease reported, “Both tracks are now open. No. 1 track opened at 2:30 a.m. and No. 2 at 1:00 p.m. We used 13 track panels (40-foot lengths) to build back No. 1 and 27 for No. 2.”

Derailment contractors “used cranes and typical rerailing equipment to clear the scene,” Covington said. Trains resumed travel through the crash site on Thursday.

Investigators searched for witnesses who might have seen the truck at the crossing just before the collision.

“We’ve talked to witnesses who said they heard the train horn blow and heard the crash, but we’ve not found anyone who actually saw the truck on the tracks at the crossing,” said Georgia State Patrol spokesman Gordy Wright said.

“We are trying to determine if the truck driver had stopped at the crossing or just continued on across the tracks.”

No. 91 was enroute from New York City to Miami. It had departed Savannah moments earlier where it took on two passengers. Its next stop was to be Jacksonville. The train departed New York City’s Penn Station at 11:00 a.m. Monday, and was scheduled to arrive in Miami at 5:20 Tuesday.

The collision occurred as the truck was preparing to deliver plywood to a nearby business. The locomotive and all 10 cars derailed, but remained upright near the intersection of Georgia Highways 84 and 196.

Passengers were transferred to the Liberty Community gym to await transportation to their destinations, said Amtrak’s Clifford Black in Washington.

A following train terminated at Savannah, and the Auto Trains were canceled for the day.


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Schumer irked over Bush Amtrak plan

New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer is irked at the Bush Administration’s plans for Amtrak, and so are several state DOT officials.

Bush’s plan, outlined last week, would increase state supervision of the federally financed Northeast lines by having states pay about half its costs in the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor.

The proposal is expected to be formally presented to Congress in the next few weeks, but there is no public timetable for it yet. The plan also would require states to shoulder the entire financial burden for less-profitable long-distance Amtrak routes.

“It’s a way for the federal government to exit, right, and we’re going to fight it,” said Schumer, according to Newsday of May 3.

“What if we need a New York-to-Washington run and Delaware decides they won’t do it? Support [for Amtrak] is growing and I don’t think the President’s proposal is going to fly,” Schumer said.

New York State transportation officials, already dealing with a strapped state budget, worried aloud over the cost issue.

“Obviously, we will be concerned about a proposal that would have the state shoulder any additional financial burden for a national rail service,” said Jennifer Post, spokeswoman for the New York State DOT

Post said the state has contributed $125 million to support Amtrak over the past five years, mostly for improvements on the Manhattan-Buffalo line. Another $2 million annually goes to the Adirondack Line to Montreal. That’s a pittance compared to the billions in subsidies that the federal government is anticipating.

“We continue to believe that the federal government needs to play an active role in the future of Amtrak,” she said.

Congress and the administration have been debating what to do about Amtrak for years, as the rail lines have required increasingly more maintenance following several years of deferred maintenance.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said a fortnight ago at a hearing at which the outlines of the plan were revealed that he will not support federal government subsidies of Amtrak’s money-losing routes much longer.

“I see nothing but an unending hemorrhaging of red ink,” McCain said at the hearing. “You’ve got to step up and impose efficiencies on this organization.”

The plan would divide Amtrak into two entities, a federal-state compact to operate the Northeast corridor under NEC Infrastructure Co., a private corporation. Amtrak Operations, another company, would operate the long-distance trains.

Rep. Tim Bishop (D), the newest member of the House Transportation Committee, said that “delegating jurisdiction to the states is antithetical to the notion of a national rail service. To impose another financial burden on the states, which are already struggling, is not only unwise but unrealistic. I simply can’t support it.”

McCain had no comment directly on the Administration’s plan, but said he thinks there needs to be “equitable cost-sharing between the federal government, the states, commuter authorities on the Northeast Corridor, and others.”


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Indiana okays high-speed rail bill

Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon signed House Bill 1489 into law on May 1 which allow the Indiana DOT (INDOT) to spend upwards of $1 million toward high-speed rail planning.

The cash will come from its state planning and research funds over the next two years to complete preliminary studies for the high-speed passenger rail component of an integrated transportation system for the state.

The Indiana High Speed Rail Assn.’s executive director, W. Dennis Hodges, said through a press release that it believes “this work will continue the fine efforts that the governor and INDOT already have in place. Passage of the law shows that the state legislature is committed to taking the next step towards developing high-speed passenger rail in Indiana.”

Hodges who was the association’s founding officer, will speak to a national High Speed Ground Transportation Assn. conference in Southern California today (May 12).

Hodges said he planned “to emphasize in his presentation that ‘big things can come in small packages,’ and that, in time, Indiana can and probably will assume a leadership role in the development of America’s high-speed passenger rail system.”


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Illinois governor proposes $37 million for rail

Although the state of Illinois is facing a $5 billion budget – the largest in history – Gov. Rod Blagojevich proposed budget includes $37 million to support rail passenger service. Some funds are reappropriations of existing capital funds.

In his budget address earlier this month, Blagojevich announced the proposed Fiscal Year 2004 budget included $25 million to continue work on high-speed rail passenger service from Chicago to St. Louis. In addition, the proposed budget includes $12 million to operate and assist Amtrak trains between Chicago and Carbondale, Quincy, St. Louis and Milwaukee.

“This is exceptionally good news,” said Kevin Brubaker, high-speed rail director for ELPC. “In a budget climate where everything is being cut, this demonstrates that the governor has a strong commitment to high-speed rail and Amtrak in Illinois.”


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FRA likes ‘Cal-Nev’ maglev train notion

The Federal Railroad Administration is supporting a $1 billion request by California and Nevada rail officials who want federal support for a maglev train linking Anaheim to Las Vegas. The federal agency said it is supporting the California-Nevada Super Speed Train Commission's request for federal transportation funds to build a 269-mile line.

“The FRA’s sponsorship is a clear endorsement of our efforts,” said Bruce Aguilera, commission chairman. Environmental work on the project is under way. The train would ferry passengers at a cruising speed of 300 mph. If funds are granted, the commission wants to begin construction by 2005, the Orange County Register reported May 7.


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Florida legislature derails governor’s plan

The Florida legislature derailed Gov. Jeb Bush’s plan a fortnight ago to reconsider a Constitutional amendment back to the voters after they okayed an ambitious high-speed rail plan two years ago – but the vote may come up again in a special session that begins today (May 12).

Transportation Engineer Kate E. Brady told D:F “The Florida Legislature discussed during this past regular session the idea of putting the amendment back on the ballot,” but neither House nor Senate, passed the proposal during the session.

She added, “There are still opportunities during the special session for these to be brought back to the floor, but it is likely that they will only be discussing budgetary items, not items relating to putting high-speed rail back on the ballot.”


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Five rail bills on Congress’ tables

The 108th Congress had four rail-related bills left in its hoppers on Friday, after passing one measure, H.R.874.

S.104The National Defense Rail Act. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. 31 cosponsors (no change).

H.R.396Emergency Anti-Recession Act of 2003. The bill includes authority for Amtrak to sell, over 10 years, $15 billion in bonds carrying a federal tax credit. Latest Major Action: March 3, Referred to House Subcommittee on Education Reform. Four cosponsors. (no change).

H.R.874Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act Of 2003. The bill would require the National Transportation Safety Board to provide an assistance phone number for family members of victims of intercity passenger train accidents, and bars solicitation of family members and injured parties for 45 days after an accident. Latest Action: approved by a 414 to 5 vote on May 8.

H.CON.RES.95 – An original concurrent resolution setting forth the Congressional budget for the U.S. government (including Amtrak) for Fiscal Year 2004 and including the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal 2003 and 2004-2015. Latest Major Action: April 11, Conference report agreed to in Senate. Status: Senate agreed to conference report by Yea-Nay Vote. 51-50. Record Vote Number: 134. No Co-sponsors (no change)

H.R.1617National Rail Infrastructure Program Act. To establish and provide for funding for a national rail infrastructure program. Latest Major Action: April 3, Referred to House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned. 27 cosponsors (two new co-sponsors).

From the UTU


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Mixed numbers through March at Amtrak

Amtrak reports some better numbers for its fiscal year through March.

Ridership was expected to be 11,171,603, but the actual number was a tad higher, at 11,365,466.

The railroad’s total expenses were budgeted at $1,670,263,000, but the numbers came in a little lower, at $1,599,603,000.

Its total operating revenue was $1,006,104,000, but their projections had expected somewhat more, $1,081,212,000.


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COMMUTERLINES...  Commuter lines...

Parsons gets Charlotte light-rail project

The Charlotte, N.C. Area Transit System has awarded a $36.5 million contract for final design and construction management for the city’s 9.6-mile South Corridor light-rail project to Parsons Transportation of Charlotte.

The $371 million light-rail line will be the city’s first major rapid-transit effort and will run from uptown to Interstate 485 in south Charlotte, according to the Charlotte Business Journal of April 30.

The final design work will begin this summer and is scheduled to last 39 months. The projected opening of the system is mid-2006.

Parsons has worked with the transit system on the Environmental Impact Study for the project, which the Federal Transit Authority is expected to approve in May.

The South Corridor Light Rail Project will consist of 15 stations capable of handling three-car trains and an administrative and maintenance facility that will maintain a fleet of 50 light-rail vehicles. The initial fleet of 15 light-rail vehicles will have a top speed of 55 mph.

The design will include an Interstate 485 station, which will have a 1,200-car parking garage to be built on an elementary school property – and feature a grass playing-field roof for pupils’ use.

The plan is to share two miles of tracks with the Charlotte Trolley so that during non-rush-hour service the trolleys can alternate with the light-rail vehicles to provide service.

Also, a partitioned corridor through the Charlotte Convention Center with glass walls will allow watching train operations from inside the center.

Jim Shappell, group president of Parsons Transportation, says the company “look(s) forward to being part of the history of Charlotte by establishing the first light-rail system in North Carolina.”


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Chicago METRA getting $51 million

Chicago’s METRA is getting more than $51 million for three public transportation projects.

USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said on Thursday (May 8) the Federal Transit Administration has okayed the grants.

The FTA will provide $51,146,285 to fund the following projects:

$24,266,285 to continue the North Central Service Expansion Project. This project will increase existing commuter rail service on the North Central Line between Antioch and Chicago to 22 trains on weekdays with midday services. Currently only 10 trains operate on weekdays, and without midday service.

$22,240,000 for the Southwest Service Expansion & Extension Project, which will extend the 39-mile Southwest Service Line, which currently provides service between downtown Chicago and Orland Park, 11 miles southwest to Manhattan, Ill. Funds will also be used for capital improvements including track and structure upgrade, a new signal control system, double-track extensions, expansion of an existing coach yard, enlarged passenger facilities at existing stations, commuter parking expansions and two new stations.

$4,640,000 for capital improvements to the Union Pacific West Line Extension Project, which will extend the existing 36-mile UP West Line, which currently provides service between downtown Chicago and Geneva, eight miles west to Elburn, with two new stations at Elburn and LaFox.


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Houston council likes rail-road swap idea

Houston’s Metro took its proposal for a massive rail and bus system expansion to the Houston City Council on April 30, and council members expressed general support for the plan and its pivotal but also most painful component.

To help pay for the $3.3 billion program, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle, the transit authority proposes keeping $1.4 billion in street construction money that would have gone to the city from 2010 to 2025 if current agreements were extended beyond 2009.

Most council members seemed receptive to the idea while quizzing Metro officials about the plan, which calls for 41 miles of light rail, a commuter train to Fort Bend County, enhanced bus service and doubling of the region’s high-occupancy vehicle lane network.

“I’m excited about the plan and really taken aback by the fact it’s no new taxes,” said Councilman Gordon Quan.

The city isn’t the only agency that will see its Metro road funding dwindle to nothing if voters endorse the plan in November. Harris County and the 14 other small-city members of the Metropolitan Transit Authority also will not receive a total of $500 million in street money expected after 2009.

To bolster its case that road money should be spent on transit, Metro gave council members figures showing that only 12 percent of the $1.17 billion Metro has given out to local governments for roadwork since its 1979 creation has gone toward adding new streets. The vast majority of such “general mobility” funds, 78 percent, have paid for basic maintenance such as repaving, curbs, sidewalks, streetlights, and pothole repair. The other 10 percent of funds were used to widen streets.

The transit authority has given away roughly 25 percent of its sales-tax revenue to its 16 members for roadwork since a 1988 referendum endorsed the concept.

Councilman Gabriel Vasquez echoed most council members in welcoming the “Metro Solutions” plan, but he requested more information about how the loss of street money from Metro will affect Houston’s public works budget.

“I would like a more detailed explanation on the finances and on the street and road maintenance and how that impacts us,” said Vasquez, inviting Metro to appear before a council committee to elaborate on that aspect.

Shirley DeLibero, Metro president and CEO, told City Council that the money saved on general mobility funding can be matched by the Federal Transit Administration, which doesn’t fund local street repair. Metro anticipates adding $1.4 billion of federal funds to the $1.9 billion it will save by no longer supporting local roadwork.

DeLibero said the choice is simple: for each dollar Metro could dish out for local roads, it could spend almost $2 on building a better rail and bus system.

“The public has to decide if they want to continue maintenance on these roads versus mass transit,” DeLibero said.

“That’s a real concern. If you look at it, we have lost about $1.2 billion in our sales tax revenue over the last few years (to roads). If we hadn’t lost that, maybe we’d have a different picture to show out there in terms of mobility,” she added.

Councilman Carroll Robinson reiterated his support for the plan, saying transit users lost out when Metro killed the rail component of a 1988 referendum.

“I don’t want folks at this council or any other of the local governments to become addicted to general mobility money,” Robinson said. “If they are addicted to it, they need to get rehab and follow up on the rest of what the voters asked for when they gave us that infusion of general mobility money – and that’s a light rail system.”

Councilman Michael Berry, a mayoral candidate and rail skeptic, gave Metro a long list of information he needed, including more details on the costs of its plan, ridership estimates, and impact on clean-air efforts.

Metro released the detailed cost estimates later that Wednesday. They showed $2.3 billion for light rail, $200 million for commuter rail, $588 million for bus improvements, and $206 million for HOV lanes. Projects range from $50,000 for more trash cans at bus stops to $764 million for a 14-mile light rail line from downtown to Greenspoint.


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Minnesotans are in a light-rail quandary

As Minnesota politicians at the state and local levels continue to spar over who will pay to operate the nearly completed Hiawatha light-rail line, some rail advocates fear that the $675 million project may not get the political and financial support it needs to be successful.

Building the area’s first light-rail line was a top priority for former Gov. Jesse Ventura, who believed it would provide a needed alternative to congested roads, spur new development and form the spine of a future transit system, but now, a year from the start of service, the project rests in the hands of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who regards it dispassionately and maintains a “we-shall-see” attitude toward the line’s promised benefits.

Struggling with a $4.2 billion budget deficit, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune of May 5, Pawlenty has no intention of picking up the line’s full operating tab. Rail backers worry about his plan to shift about $8 million in operating costs to Minneapolis and Hennepin County.

The supporters are concerned that the governor’s plan to shift the $8 million during the next two years will undermine ridership, particularly because both the county and city are resisting it.

Planners project that each weekday about 19,000 people will ride the line, which will run between downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America in Bloomington.

Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell, the Pawlenty appointee closest to the project, insists that the governor’s funding scheme does not signal a lack of support.

“He wants us to get this line up and running on time and to run it as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Bell said.

“If there is going to be any future for light rail, it’s going to be based on a good experience with the Hiawatha line,” he said. “I want the region to have a fair test of light rail—as fair a test as we can have.”

“What does fair mean?” asked Terry Creegan, an Eagan resident who represents Dakota County on the light-rail citizen advisory board.

“If fair means we are going to spend the money to make it work, then that’s fabulous,” said Creegan, who wants the rail line to serve Dakota County residents as well as possible.

“Jesse was very clearly behind this project… and was going to make this happen by hook or by crook,” he said.

“That is not the tone the current administration has. From a citizen’s point of view, it would be terribly disappointing not to have it funded fairly to see if, in fact, it works. If the money is there and it doesn’t work, other people are going to be held accountable; but if this administration doesn’t put up a sufficient amount of money, they would be just as accountable.”

Minneapolis City Council members say Pawlenty has put the project in an untenable position.

“I have no idea where we would come up with money to operate light-rail transit,” said Council Member Scott Benson, who points out that the city is laying off police and firefighters in response to Pawlenty’s cuts in local government aid.

Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy, who represents one of the south Minneapolis wards through which the line will pass, said Pawlenty’s funding proposal has created “a situation [that] none of us who worked on it ever imagined.

“I have a real concern about the project stewardship because I have not heard the governor or the commissioner of transportation speak on their willingness to make sure that the line runs,” Colvin Roy said.

Ed Hunter, manager of the rail project for the Met Council, reported that progress on the project has not stalled under the new administration. The staff was especially pleased that Bell encouraged them this spring to pursue a possible change of the line’s route through Bloomington to connect it directly to the Mall of America and add parking.

“I don’t want to try to guess what Governor Pawlenty really thinks about it, but from a project level, we are not seeing any detrimental effect with this new administration,” Hunter said.

Said Bell, “We are not passive. We are not dragging our feet. We are very professional and business-like in getting this system up and running. I think this is a significant event in the life of Minneapolis and residents of the seven-county metro area. This will not be opened in the dark of night. There will be a gala unveiling.”

In hopes of staving off Pawlenty’s plan that local governments where the line is located cover 60 percent of the operating costs not recouped at the fare box or through federal grants, attorneys for Hennepin County and Minneapolis are studying the light rail contract signed by the Minnesota DOT, the Metropolitan Council and the Federal Transit Administration. The county and city want to clarify who, if push comes to shove, must shoulder the operating subsidy to fulfill the terms of the contract. Met Council transit officials have said that the contract requires the funding to be available and does not specify its source.

Michael Norton, deputy city attorney for Minneapolis, said, “The overall sponsor of the program is the state and the Metro Council. I start from the proposition that this is an obligation of the state unless I find other authority.”

At the State Capitol, House Republicans have fallen in line behind Pawlenty and passed a bill that provides state funding for 40 percent of the rail line’s expected operating subsidy.

Many legislators resent spending any state money on operations.

The reluctance to fund the line reflects rivalries between metro and out of state interests, lingering hostilities toward the project on the part of some metro legislators and the reality of the state’s fiscal crisis.

“In the context of cutting budgets, there is not much money around to begin with, so it’s especially frustrating for people to have to come up with all this money to operate the line,” said Rep. Mary Liz Holberg (R).

The House bill originally also required Bloomington to contribute operating funds, but city officials have a signed agreement with state officials that they will not be asked for operating costs.

In the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party-controlled Senate, the rail project has received kinder treatment. The Senate transportation bill provides full state funding to run the trains.

“The Senate’s approach is simply to be consistent with longstanding state policy with how we fund the operations of trunk highways, buses – any kind of transportation facility that has a state or regional benefit,” said Sen. Scott Dibble (DFL).

The cost to operate the line in 2005, the first full year of service, will be about $16.6 million, $5.6 million of which is expected to come from fares.

As the state does its budgeting for the next two fiscal years, from July 1 of this year to June 30 of 2005, more than $23 million will be needed for rail operations. Under Pawlenty’s proposal, $5.1 million would come from fares; $5.4 million from the state; $8 million from Hennepin County and Minneapolis combined and $5.2 million from a federal air quality grant.


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BUILDER'S LINES...  Builders’ lines...

Bombardier unveils new construction methods

Bombardier Transportation launched on May 5 what it termed “new ‘FICAS’ technology – a revolutionary way of building railway vehicles” at the International Union of Public Transport (UITP) World Congress in Madrid.

FICAS, an acronym for Fully Integrated Carbody Assembly System, is “modular sandwich construction” comprising stainless steel bonded to a rigid foam core, the car builder stated in a press release.

“The new system brings significant benefits to rail operators, particularly those involved in urban transit, including increases of up to 10 percent in passenger capacity with no changes required to the exterior dimensions of the carbody,” the company explained.

Other tangible benefits, stated its press release, “include reduced vehicle weight, which translates into less energy consumption and reduced track pressure, as well as superior exterior finish that results in a more attractive vehicle. All those added-value features are incorporated into vehicles that offer crashworthiness in compliance with the latest standards and levels of insulation similar to conventional carbodies.”

The firm added, “FICAS is particularly well suited to Bombardier Transportation’s MOVIA(i) metros product family – providing more inner space in the vehicles along with the excellent modularity that is a hallmark of the MOVIA concept. Space is a luxury on all metro systems and FICAS truly represents a game-changer solution in that regard.”

The first application of FICAS technology will be for the new C-20 FICAS metro for the city of Stockholm, unveiled at the UITP Exhibition. The new train is capable of carrying up to 35 more passengers per train than a conventional C-20 unit, is 2.6 tons lighter and has a flat exterior finish. Bombardier’s new C-20 trains will begin commercial operation in Stockholm next month.

Bombardier also unveiled its new vehicle design for the Mexico City metro. This contract, which was awarded in October 2002 to a consortium comprised of Bombardier and Spain’s CAF and represents ¤323 million (Euros) to Bombardier, “is meeting all program milestones, with deliveries to commence in the fall 2004.”

Another technological advance being showcased at UITP was Bombardier’s “Flexiblok," a state-of-the-art automatic train control system developed by Bombardier’s Total Transit Systems division.

Flexiblok enables operators to keep precise track of a train’s whereabouts, without the need for either standard track circuits or an onboard operator. Train-to-wayside communications is provided via two-way radio, so Flexiblok technology can be used as an overlay radio-based train control system to upgrade existing fixed block systems, the builder stated.

A new automated people mover at San Francisco International Airport recently became the first system featuring Flexiblok technology to enter commercial service.

Later, the technology will be deployed on the Neihu Line for the City of Taipei, as part of a rapid transit system order recently awarded to Bombardier.

The company stated Flexiblok is expected to be used in a broad range of mass transit applications that also will include light rail and metro systems.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Circus Train at crossing

John Kloczkowski

Is a circus train a freight train or a passenger train? Actually, it’s both – it’s a mixed train. On May 5, at 6:40 a.m., the Barnum & Bailey – Ringling Brothers’ Greatest Show on Earth red unit was heading north from Providence, R.I., to Rochester N.Y. over the Providence & Worcester Railroad and crossing Hartford Avenue in North Uxbridge Mass. The train departed Providence at around 5:30 a.m., and moved over the P&W at about 30 mph.

 

New Jersey opts to invest in rail at ports

The New Jersey DOT is investing $80 million through a public and private partnership with three railroads to improve freight rail access to Ports Newark and Elizabeth and the Meadowlands “to help slow the increase of truck traffic on the state s highways and preserve job growth in the competitive shipping industry,” according to NJDOT Commissioner Jack Lettiere.

The plan, disclosed on May 1, is part of the state’s “Smart Growth” initiative, is designed to cope with the 90 percent growth in freight traffic that is expected to occur over the next 20 years and “keep Port Newark/Elizabeth the busiest container port on the East Coast,” he said.

The program includes a $50 million partnership involving the state and Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Conrail Shared Assets railroads “to increase rail capacity in the Port Newark-Elizabeth marine terminal complex, Oak Island Yard, and along a 10-mile stretch of the former Lehigh Valley Line leading into the port.

The state and the railroads will each provide $25 million, Lettiere said, while another $30 million will be used to eliminate a grade crossing at Norfolk Southern’s Croxton Yard in Secaucus, N.J., by building a bridge to carry New County Road over the yard.

The crossing now acts as a bottleneck and is expected to experience more traffic with the opening of the nearby Secaucus Transfer station later this year.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is funding the New County Road project and the state’s half-share of the $50 million partnership. NJDOT has reached agreements in principle with the Port Authority and the railroads on the funding plan, he said.

The three railroads now carry 25 million tons of freight a year into northern New Jersey terminals, compared with 283 million tons moved annually by truck. The railroads believe a modernized rail system could double their share of intermodal business and increase merchandise carloads by 50 percent. Much of the work would involve restoring track that had been removed when the rail industry was in decline in the 1970s.

The $50 million would pay for adding a second main line track on the Chemical Coast Line serving the port complex to relieve congestion and improve efficiency. It would also provide a second track near Conrail’s Oak Island Yard to improve train movements and eliminate delays, and provide a second mainline track on the Lehigh Valley Line between Bound Brook and Clark to allow bi-directional train movements, eliminating the need to idle on sidings.

Another development would permit the entities to acquire additional property in Oak Island to accommodate additional capacity and eliminate the “mountain” of stored containers that has grown over the years.

Lettiere said the funding “marks the first stage in a multi-year effort to upgrade freight rail infrastructure in northern New Jersey.”

He pointed out, “NJDOT has already worked with the railroads and the city of South Amboy on developing a $12 million project to construct new rail and highway bridges to the city s waterfront development area. Under a $2 million agreement with the city of Perth Amboy and the railroads, a rail line will be relocated to accommodate the construction of a new municipal complex.”

In Hackensack, an agreement has been reached on replacing a rail bridge to relieve a local road bottleneck and accommodate heavy axle load freight cars, he said.


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S&P rates KCS ‘B’

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services (S&P) assigned its “B” rating on May 5 to KCS’s “Redeemable Cumulative Convertible Perpetual Preferred Stock” offering.

S&P also stated that KCS and The Kansas City Southern Ry Co. (KCSR), including the “BB” corporate credit rating, remain on CreditWatch.

The rating service also assigned its “B3” rating to KCS’s “Redeemable Cumulative Convertible Perpetual Preferred Stock” offering, and “downgraded the ratings of KCS’s senior implied and senior unsecured debt to ‘Ba3’ from ‘Ba2.’” the firm stated.

The railroad also reported on the same day that the initial purchasers of its $175 million offering of “Redeemable Cumulative Convertible Perpetual Preferred Stock have exercised their option to purchase an additional $25 million of the preferred stock.”

The terms of the private offering were announced on April 30, and KCS reported it had “anticipated closing on the entire $200 million transaction by the end of the day,” on May 5.

The freight carrier stated preferred stock, and the common stock to be issued on the conversion of the preferred stock, “have not been registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and may not be offered or sold in the U.S. absent registration or an applicable exemption from registration requirements.”


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Earnshaw takes over Colorado line

OmniTRAX, Inc. appointed Gary Earnshaw on May 7 to be president of the Great Western Ry. of Colorado, where he will oversee operations.

Earnshaw has been with OmniTRAX since 1993. Most recently, he was President of the Panhandle Northern Railroad (PNR) in Texas.

A press release stated he will “examine expansion opportunities” for the GWR and its current customers in Loveland, Longmont, Fort Collins, Greeley, and Windsor. His target is to increase the transload business by 50 percent and the number of carloads each month by 10 percent.


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QUARTERLY REPORTS...  Quarterly reports...

CSX

CSX Corp. (NYSE: CSX) reported its first quarter net earnings on April 30 of $99 million, or 46 cents per share, vs. $25 million, or 12 cents per share, a year ago.

Both quarters include the cumulative effect of a non-cash accounting change. In the 2003 quarter, earnings increased by an after-tax credit of $57 million, 26 cents per share, because of the adoption of Statement of Financial Accounting Standard (SFAS) No. 143, “Accounting for Asset Retirement Obligations.” In the previous year’s first quarter, earnings were reduced by an after-tax charge of $43 million, 20 cents per share, due to the adoption of SFAS 142, “Goodwill and Other Intangible Assets.”

Before the cumulative effects of these accounting changes, 2003 first quarter earnings were 20 cents per share compared to 32 cents per share in the 2002 first quarter. The 2002 results included a significant real estate transaction that was worth 11 cents per share.

Operating income at Surface Transportation, which includes CSX’s rail and intermodal units, was $169 million compared to $194 million in the first quarter of 2002 despite strong revenue growth. This was due primarily to increased costs associated with sharp spikes in fuel prices and operating expenses from extraordinarily harsh winter weather.

“In a fairly stagnant economy, we were able to post solid revenue gains in the merchandise and intermodal segments, reflecting favorable mix and continued success in our pricing program and our efforts to convert truck traffic to rail. We are excited by these revenue gains and the increased confidence that customers are placing in us,” said Michael J. Ward, CSX chairman and CEO.

“We were, however, challenged on the cost side. Fuel expenses were up $54 million year-over-year and the severe winter weather affected the fluidity of the network negatively and caused significant labor and equipment expense increases.

“Our service measurements are now moving in the right direction,” Ward added.

“I am optimistic that the fluidity of our network will be restored and that the first quarter hurdles are largely behind us. We have numerous productivity initiatives underway to reduce costs throughout this year and beyond. At the same time, we will continue to enhance our service and provide better products to our customers, keeping revenue initiatives as vibrant as they were in this past quarter.”

On a consolidated basis, revenues were $2.02 billion versus $1.96 billion a year ago with operating income of $177 million compared to $212 million in first quarter of 2002. Operating income at the company’s international terminal business was $15 million, $4 million above 2002. First quarter consolidated operating income also included executive retirement expenses of $16 million.

On February 27, CSX completed the conveyance of its domestic shipping unit, CSX Lines, to the Carlyle Group. The pretax gain of $127 million will be recognized over 12 years, which equals the duration of CSX’s, vessel subleases to the venture.

CSX’s SEC reports are online at the SEC’s website, www.sec.gov.

The railroad is online at www.csx.com.


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AAR reports:

April carloads rise; auto traffic declines

Both carload and intermodal traffic were up on U.S. railroads in April compared to April 2002, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported May 8.

Carload traffic rose 1.2 percent (18,784 carloads) while U.S. rail intermodal traffic rose 4.9 percent (44,818 units) in April 2003 compared to April 2002.

Carload gains, up 1.2 percent in April (18,784 carloads), were paced by coal (up 2.3 percent, or 14,432 carloads), coke (up 41.0 percent, or 6,889 carloads), metallic ores (up 8.2 percent, or 5,411 carloads), and waste and scrap material (up 10.6 percent, or 4,639 carloads).

On the down side, carloads of motor vehicles and equipment were down 4.1 percent (5,353 carloads) in April, carloads of chemicals were down 2.6 percent (3,807 carloads), and carloads of petroleum products were down 10.6 percent (3,074 carloads).

In all, 11 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload gains in April. Excluding coal, which accounted for 39 percent of all U.S. carload traffic, U.S. rail carloadings were up 0.4 percent (4,352 carloads) in April 2003.

Intermodal rail traffic, which consists of trailers and containers on flat cars and is not included in carload figures, gained 4.9 percent (44,818 units) in April, paced by a 7.2 percent (48,116 units) increase in container traffic. Trailer traffic fell 1.4 percent (3,298 units) in April.

“Relatively low coal stockpiles at electric utilities and electricity demand that has started to grow with the warmer weather have translated into higher coal carloadings for the past couple of months,” noted AAR Vice President Craig F. Rockey.

“While that and continued strength in intermodal volumes represent good news for railroads, we look forward to a pick-up in the health of the general industrial economy that should lead to higher rail carloadings. Freight railroads provide our farmers and manufacturers with a tremendous competitive advantage in domestic and international markets,” he said.

For the first four months of 2003, U.S. rail carloadings were up 0.7 percent (42,366 carloads). During the period, a 2.3 percent decrease (54,649 carloads) in coal carloadings and a 2.8 percent decline (10,520 carloads) in grain traffic (among other categories) were more than offset by increases in carloads of metallic ores (up 25.8 percent, or 45,989 carloads), metals and metal products (up 8.8 percent, or 19,006 carloads), and coke (up 26.8 percent, or 16,304 carloads). U.S. intermodal traffic was up 7.6 percent (232,533 units) in 2003 through April. Total volume was estimated at 510.0 billion ton-miles, up 0.9 percent from last year’s first 18 weeks.

Canadian rail carload traffic was down 2.1 percent (7,114 carloads) in April 2003. Commodities that saw rail carload gains in April include metallic ores (up 35.4 percent, or 3,580 carloads) and waste and scrap material (up 16.8 percent, or 978 carloads). Commodities seeing declines in Canadian rail carloads in April include grain (down 11.0 percent, or 4,374 carloads), motor vehicles and equipment (down 9.1 percent, or 3,835 carloads), and lumber and wood products (down 7.9 percent, or 1,588 carloads). Canadian intermodal traffic was up 6.8 percent (13,545 units) in April 2003 compared with April 2002.

For the first four months of 2003, Canadian carload traffic was down 1.2 percent (13,214 carloads), while Canadian intermodal traffic was up 10.5 percent (68,652 units).

Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, were down 11.4 percent (5,359 carloads) in April, while intermodal originations were up 16.8 percent (2,391 trailers and containers). For the first four months of 2003, TFM carloadings were up 3.6 percent (5,402 carloads), while intermodal traffic rose 39.3 percent (17,695 units).

For just the week ended May 3, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 334,340 carloads, up 2.3 percent from the corresponding week in 2002, with loadings up 4.0 percent in the East and up 0.9 percent in the West; intermodal volume of 197,424 trailers and containers, up 5.6 percent; and total volume of an estimated 29.0 billion ton-miles, up 2.5 percent from the equivalent week last year.

For Canadian railroads during the week ended May 3, the AAR reported volume of 65,383 carloads, down 3.1 percent from last year; and 44,425 trailers and containers, up 8.9 percent from the corresponding week in 2002.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 18 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 6,866,676 carloads, up 0.4 percent (29,152 carloads) from last year; and 4,018,530 trailers and containers, up 8.1 percent (301,185 units) from 2002's first 18 weeks.

The AAR is online at http://www.aar.org.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: Bloomberg.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)28.29028.000
Canadian National(CNI)49.83047.690
Canadian Pacific(CP)23.26022.690
CSX(CSX)32.21032.010
Florida East Coast(FLA)27.15026.450
Kansas City Southern(KSU)11.75011.000
Norfolk Southern(NSC)21.42021.150
Union Pacific(UNP)60.38059.700


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IN THE DESERT...  In the desert...

On a train:

Iraqis line up to leave Baghdad to Basra

Passenger trains between Baghdad and the southern Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr are running again for the first time since the war began.

Restoring the service was a key milestone in rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure, providing Iraqi civilians with a return to some normality after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime last month.

The daily passenger train left the Iraqi capital on Wednesday afternoon for the 14 to 16-hour journey to Umm Qasr via the country’s second city of Basra. Tickets for the 370-mile journey cost 1,000 dinars – or 50 cents, U.S.

U.S.-led coalition military forces are providing security and logistics for the service, which is being funded by the U.S. interim administration. The trains returning to Baghdad from Umm Qasr will also carry 140,000 tons of food supplies every month.

Baghdad train station’s chief engineer said he was proud to be involved.

“I feel glad because I want to make my company work... and to give services to our people and give them transportation,” Aladin Sader told reporters.

The Office of Rehabilitation and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA), headed by retired American general Jay Garner, says it wants the trains to be run by Iraqis.

“It’s all their decision. It’s their operation,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bob Peletier.

“I sit every day in their meetings and listen to their planning and what they’re going to and how they’re going to do it. They are completely capable of doing it themselves. They just need financial assistance and other things like security,” Peletier said.

Coalition forces and Iraqi rail workers tested the Baghdad to Umm Qasr train on April 30 but Wednesday was the first time paying passengers used it.

The resumption of other passenger services, from Baghdad to Mosul, in northern Iraq, and from Baghdad to Al Qa’aim, northwest of the capital, are expected soon.

Many former Iraqi prisoners of war are going home by rail.

In a Defense Department news briefing on May 8 dealing with enemy prisoner of war status categories, Army Col. John Della Jacono said, “It’s a fully deliberate process. We have stations set up where they’re initially interrogated or they’re ‘vetted.’

Once a determination is made by three U.S agencies, “a determination is made either to parole them or, if they are truly noncombatants, to release them. They are given sundry items, then transported in the best way possible to five different locations in Iraq. We try to get them to their place of capture or their hometown.”

Jacono added, “If they can’t make it on their own, we give them $5 to get some transportation, either by rail or bus from Umm Qasr to points throughout Iraq.”

He said they also “give them clothing and food items, and then they’re released.”


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ACROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

Dozens die in Hungary bus accident

A train smashed into a double-decker bus near a Hungarian resort area on May 8, killing at least 28 German tourists and injuring at least a dozen, rescue officials said. Various officials had varying numbers of casualties. The accident occurred shortly before 9 a.m. at a grade crossing near Siofok, about 60 miles southwest of Budapest. A spokesman for the National Rescue Service said there were 28 dead and 11 injured. The injured were taken to three area hospitals. A federal government official said the bus had been carrying 38 passengers.


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Engineers cleared in German derailment

A Hannover, Germany court on Thursday dismissed charges against three locomotive engineers accused of negligence in that nation’s worst train crash, which killed 101 people and injured 105 others.

The dismissal followed an April 28 finding by the court that there was not enough evidence to convict the men of negligent homicide and bodily harm.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys on Thursday agreed with the court’s proposal and the men were cleared of criminal wrongdoing but ordered to pay fines of $11,360 each.

The men, on trial since August, faced up to five years in jail.

The crash occurred near the town of Eschede on June 3, 1998, when the high-speed InterCityExpress bound for Hamburg derailed and slammed into a bridge pillar. Authorities suspect a broken wheel caused the derailment.

“After experts were questioned, we believe it can no longer be assumed that (the defendants) could have noticed the error within a short time frame,” prosecutor Juergen Wigger said. “The only thing they can be accused of now is not having asked other experts for advice.”


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LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

As a railfan (especially Northeastern lines), I enjoyed looking at the photo of the NYNH&H RS-3 in NCI’s latest edition [May 5, The way we were – Ed.] – but there’s a gremlin in the caption. As I’m sure you know (and as others will doubtlessly point out), New Haven RS-3s got to a lot of places, but Grand Central Terminal wasn’t one of them.

Tommy Meehan
Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

With a sheepish grin on my face, I agree. – Ed.


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A plea for photos

We have nearly depleted our stock of Amtrak and freight railroad photos. We need your help.

We’re looking primarily for digital images from around the country, in any season, at any place. Second choice would be slides or sharp prints scanned into a digital format.

We can’t pay anyone – no budget for that – but we can certainly give photographers a credit line.

Technical specs see .jpg (Joint Photographers Group) as the ideal format, and at least 90kb. We would prefer 800 pixels wide. The reason why we ask for this as minimum numbers is so we will have enough to work with. The final image most likely will be considerably smaller, but that is a good place to start.

It doesn’t matter if the image is horizontal or vertical, nor color or black-and-white. Quality in composition and reproduction is what counts.

Textual requirements include who, what, when where, why, and sometimes, how. A photo may tell a story, but that’s only part of it. Why were you there? What was the occasion? Was it hot? Cold? Snow in the forecast?

If you were in a desert, was it hot? Were snakes or other critters a danger?

What kind of locomotive was leading the train? Which train was it? Where was it (preferably by milepost as well)? Where was the train coming from, and going? Was it on time? How late?

If you can help, e-mail your photos as an attachment to photos@nationalcorridors.org. That’s the address in my office. Please be sure to explain in your text that it is a photo that is attached. We dislike opening mail with attachments because there are some unkind souls out there who relish spreading viruses and computer destruction. A sad fact, indeed.

Albest,

Leo King
Editor


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THE WAY WE WERE...  The way we were...
Cab view from a GE 44 tonner

NCI: Leo King

Oh, to get a ride on a GE 44-tonner! Alas, it was never going to happen… but a view stolen from the engine cab was almost as good. It was summer 1953, and the New Haven Railroad crew frequently tied up in the downtown Providence, R.I. post office yard while they went to lunch. The yard was part of the Union Station complex atop a bridge spanning Canal Street and the Woonasquatucket Canal (come again?) which led to a double-slip switch and double track through East Side Tunnel, barely visible under the bent corner of the platform’s tin roof. The hole began under Benefit Street and exited one mile eastward under Gano Street where it led within a few yards to the Seekonk River Drawbridge, SS K-315. From there, one could travel to Worcester, Boston or Bristol, R.I.

End Notes...

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

Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination: Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. "True color" .jpg images average 1.7MB each, and are 300 dots-per-inch for print publishers.

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

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


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