TRANSPLAN 21 conference and rally for rail
June 14, 15 on Capitol Hill Washington, D.C.

Vol. 6 No. 21
May 23, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Leo King
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Sixth Year *

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IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items… 
Mineta bites at Amtrak again; faults Sunset for fiscal losses
Capon: Mineta is deceptive
New House caucus to aid Amtrak
‘Portal’ may take a year to repair
Empire Builder service gets upgraded
Alaska rail link brings some jitters
  Safety lines… 
‘T-18’ to look inside rails
Mixed numbers for Amtrak at April’s end
  Commuter lines… 
Transit gets a Senate ‘yea’ vote
Pataki okays Hudson rail tunnel idea
NJT proposes new rules; homeless man
   sues agency for ejection
Dukakis urges solons to save rail link
Rail transit systems struggling
More Boston-Worcester trains in offing
Tri-Rail cuts a train, adds late service
Total Front Range. Long commuter line would operate
   trains from Montana to New Mexico
Oregon scrambles for commuter dollars
Charlotte area faces tough rail choices
Bissett quits MARC job; violated Hatch Act
  APTA Highlights … 
House Panel Approves $150 Million for Transit, Rail
   in Homeland Security Bill
Grabauskas Is New MBTA General Manager
Holland, Mich., Voters Renew Tax for Transit
TTI Report: Congestion Costs $65 Billion Annually
Blizzard Dies; GM of Southern New Jersey Light Rail
  Freight lines… 
NS takes 16th Harriman safety award
NS’s Mulligan wins Hammond award
Truckers say that mode will remain strong, dominate
UP to spend more than $2 billion
BNSF gets camera-equipped locomotives
  Wall Street lines… 
  Selected Friday closing quotes…  
  We get letters… 
  Sort of off the main line… 

Acella Express passes at Cranston, RI

For NCI: Brian Radovich

A westbound Acela test train extra rounds “Dead Dog Curve” beneath what was Cranston Street overhead bridge in Providence, R.I. on May 17. The train rolled through “the work area I was flagging at around midday,” said Radovich, who is an Amtrak conductor. All 20 trainsets were “grounded” in April after faulty brakes were discovered.


Mineta bites at Amtrak again;
faults Sunset for fiscal losses

By Leo King

USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta took another bite at Amtrak last week, again accusing the carrier of being wasteful.

“Last year, Amtrak lost more than $908 million on its 15 long-distance routes, yet there is little evidence to believe that the company will do anything to reverse the massive losses in taxpayer funds unless reforms are passed by Congress this year,” Mineta said on May 18 during a visit to Amtrak’s station along the Sunset Limited line in Mobile, Ala.

“Every year, Amtrak squanders millions to run long-distance trains in a way that no longer makes sense given today’s travel environment,” Mineta said during a news conference.

In a five-state bus tour of the Southeast during National Transportation Week, Mineta pledged to continue to work with Congress to pass a package of reforms this year, calling such legislation “vital to saving Amtrak and putting passenger rail travel back on track in America.”

He told reporters Amtrak “squanders millions of dollars every year to run long-distance trains in a way that no longer makes sense, so much so that flying cross-country gets travelers to their destinations quicker, for less money, and in a more reliable fashion than Amtrak will ever be able to provide.”

To drive home his point that Amtrak is in urgent need of reform, the Secretary stood near tracks where the Sunset Limited stops in Mobile. Last year the station served an average of three-and-a-half passengers a day, which works out to about 10 passengers per train, since Amtrak stops in Mobile only three times a week.

“When you consider these statistics, it is easy to understand why there are not more people in Mobile using Amtrak,” the Secretary said.

Nos. 1 and 2, the Sunset Limited, operate between Orlando and Los Angeles, but Mineta did not state the westbound version is scheduled to depart the Alabama city at 3:29 a.m., and the eastbound at 2:20 a.m. on their 2,764-mile runs.

“They aren’t getting anything close to competitive service from the company. Mobile didn’t abandon Amtrak. Amtrak abandoned Mobile,” Mineta asserted.

Mineta said the Sunset loses $466 dollars per passenger, more than any of Amtrak’s other long distance lines. He added that the line lost more than $44 million last year alone, likening the losses to neglect of the entire system.

He also observed the movement for reform is growing, noting that even Amtrak now “admits that the railroad must be reformed to survive.”

Mineta said long distance trains should “continue to play an important role in the nation’s transportation system.” He cited the Alaska Railroad as an example of a company that has developed a successful approach to long distance trains.

“The Alaska Railroad is profitable because it has found a way to meet the needs of local travelers while bringing cruise ship passengers inland,” Mineta noted.

“The Alaska Railroad’s model works, bringing profits to the company and travel and tourism dollars to landlocked communities,” he said. “There is no reason that Amtrak couldn’t embrace the same entrepreneurial spirit and find a better business model for running long distance trains if it chooses. Our transportation needs are not one size fits all.”

He failed to point out that the Alaska Railroad is also a freight railroad.

Mineta said, as he has on other occasions, the problem is that Amtrak “is not operating like a business,” adding that critics of reform don’t understand that “Congress can’t buy its way” out of a broken model that relies on a yearly check from taxpayers.

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Capon: Mineta is deceptive

National Association of Railroad Passengers’ executive director Ross Capon pointed out the next day Mineta was wrong with his numbers. Capon and NARP president David Johnson said flatly Mineta overstated the “long-distance train price tag by $600 million.”

Capon said, “Elimination of all long-distance trains-and retention of all other Amtrak service-ultimately would reduce Amtrak’s operating grant requirement by $300 million, or less than one third of what Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said [on Wednesday] the long-distance trains lose.”

Speaking at the Mobile, Ala. train station, Mineta said, “all 15 of Amtrak’s long distance trains combined lost more than $908 million in 2004.”

The lower, $300 million figure was in written testimony by DOT Inspector General Ken Mead, for a May 12 Senate appropriations hearing.

At that hearing, Amtrak Chairman David Laney similarly testified that, although the trains lose about $600 million, so many costs – such as for shared facilities – would be reallocated to short-distance services that actual savings from eliminating long-distance trains ultimately would be only half that amount, or $300 million, according to Capon.

DOT General Counsel Jeffrey Rosen, also a witness at that hearing, did not disagree with Mead or Laney about this. Rosen did, however, directly contradict other information now on DOT’s website.

“In an apparent attempt to make Amtrak and all of its trains look as bad as possible, USDOT has posted a list of trains and alleged 2004 losses,” Capon wrote in a press release.

“The losses for all routes add to $1.5 billion, even though Amtrak’s federal grant was only $1.2 billion, and half of that went for capital projects ($355 million) and debt service ($276 million).”

The DOT table also shows Northeast Corridor losses for Northeast Regional trains at $214 million; Acela Express, $63 million; Metroliner, $10 million; and Clockers, $13 million.

At the May 12 hearing, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) noted that President Bush had included in his budget $360 million for the Surface Transportation Board [in event of an Amtrak shutdown]. She said this could only be used for commuter trains using Amtrak facilities, and could not be used for Amtrak trains, even those in the Northeast Corridor.

Rosen disagreed.

“It would require a legal determination as to whether Amtrak trains could be called commuter. Northeast Corridor trains do operate break even, so it is not a given that those trains would cease.”

Capon asked on Thursday, “So, do the trains break even as Rosen told Senator Murray, or do they lose $300 million as the DOT website claims?”

Also in Mobile, according to Capon, “Mineta said the Alaska Railroad is a good model for Amtrak’s long-distance trains. However, Alaska’s big run is just 350 miles and 12 hours, through some of the world’s most spectacular scenery. At best, Mineta seriously overstated the relevance of Alaska to the issues Amtrak faces.”

In 23 states, long-distance trains are the only passenger trains; Amtrak board chairman David Laney and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) have testified to the problems of funding any system where so many states would lack service.

“Moreover, Mobile is an anomaly in this sense: almost every other major city Amtrak serves has much higher ridership, either because service is at least daily – rather than tri-weekly – or comes at a better time of day, or both,” Capon said.

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New House caucus to aid Amtrak

It’s a sign of more trouble for the Bush administration’s plan to give states more responsibility for subsidizing Amtrak. Some Democratic and Republican House members have formed a group to lobby for continued federal support of the passenger-rail system, Hearst Newspapers reported on May 15.

Organizers of the new Rail Passenger Caucus say the federal government needs to provide funds to keep Amtrak trains running and to invest in its neglected infrastructure and equipment.

“We hope to be the catalyst that will perhaps allow solutions instead of just a lot of proposals,” said Rep. Michael N. Castle (R-Del.), an organizer of the caucus.

Congress created Amtrak, formally called the National Railroad Passenger Corp., in 1970 to replace the network of bankrupt, decaying passenger lines operated by freight railroads.

Amtrak has never succeeded in fulfilling the goal set by Congress that it become a self-sufficient company. Instead, the government has provided $29 billion in subsidies since regular Amtrak service began in May 1971.

Congress approved a $1.2 billion subsidy to keep Amtrak running in 2005, accounting for nearly one-third of its budget. Amtrak is asking for $1.8 billion in fiscal 2006.

Instead, the Bush administration’s budget request to Congress eliminates all money for Amtrak, except for $360 million to help commuter rail systems maintain access to tracks now owned or maintained by Amtrak.

The goal of the Rail Passenger Caucus in the House is to create a coalition from both parties to ensure the long-term survivability of the national passenger-rail network. While the caucus does not have the power to shape legislation the way a Congressional committee does, it can provide ideas and build consensus among lawmakers, Castle said.

“If you look at rail, we’re sadly lacking compared to a lot of the rest of the world,” Castle said. He added that the nation’s highway, air and sea transport network “is either pretty much either up there or ahead of the rest of the world.”

Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), another caucus organizer, said keeping a national passenger-rail system is a national security issue. He pointed out that in days after September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, Amtrak trains were running while all airplanes were grounded.

“It is an important part of the transportation network in this country,” Fitzpatrick said.

This is the first time that a specific House group has been created to consider ways to keep Amtrak running.

Any lawmaker can form a caucus – and the House has nearly 150 of them. They typically focus on issues of specific interest to representatives. There are caucuses for the 4-H and the Hudson River. The Senate has one officially recognized caucus and several informal ones.

Ross Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers and a critic of the Bush administration’s strategy for Amtrak, welcomed the formation of the Amtrak caucus.

“This is the first time this has happened in the House,” Capon said. “Having a bipartisan caucus is a good thing. It becomes another channel of communication between people who have a common purpose.”

Amtrak presents a perennial, but also unusual, funding challenge. Unlike the fuel taxes that motorists pay at the pump and the fees that airline passengers pay to help fund federal services, there are no such sources of revenue that pay for Amtrak.

Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, who has called the annual federal operating subsidies “fundamentally irrational,” is leading the Bush administration’s charge to end those subsidies.

Castle scoffs at this approach.

“I can’t believe they were serious that there would really be zero-funding,” Castle said, adding that the White House plan “was not well thought out.”

Congress is almost certain to defy the White House and approve a subsidy to keep Amtrak running next year.

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‘Portal’ may take a year to repair

It may take up to one year to fully restore “Portal,” Amtrak’s movable bridge between New York and New Jersey at milepost 6. The New York Times reported on May 19 the span, partly in Kearny, N.J. will cost $4.6 million to repair.

An Amtrak spokesman said Thursday the railroad expects to finish fixing the tracks on the bridge within 10 days, allowing trains to resume crossing it at full speed, said William Schulz in Washington.

Until then, Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains leaving New York City will fall a few minutes behind schedule as they slow to 30 mph on the bridge, he said.

The swing bridge allows barges and other ships to pass, but has not swung open since the fire, said Amtrak spokesman Clifford Black, also in Washington. He said he did not know when that function would be restored.

Carrying only two tracks across the Hackensack River, the bridge limits the number of trains that can pass between Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan and all points west.

Trains operated by Amtrak and NJT line up to cross the bridge, a 95-year-old structure that Amtrak owns and operates. New Jersey Transit carries more than 40,000 passengers across it each weekday.

Despite Amtrak’s severe financial troubles, the railroad will have to dip into its capital budget to pay for the work, which will include replacing underwater cables and fenders and navigation lights on the bulkhead where the fire started, Schulz said.

“We will simply have to find room in the budget to makes these repairs, because this is essential to smooth-running operations between Newark and New York,” he said.

The track that usually carries eastbound trains is undamaged, and trains can cross it at speeds up to the normal limit of 70 mph, Mr. Schulz said, but the track on the north side of the bridge, which westbound trains usually use, still needs work, so traffic on it is limited to 30 mph, he said.

Amtrak expects to have that track fixed by the start of next week, or by Memorial Day at the latest, he said. Until then, westbound trains will be delayed by two to three minutes, said Black.

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Empire Builder service gets upgraded

Amtrak’s Marketing and Sales department is getting ready to launch its revitalized Empire Builder service this summer, including newly refurbished equipment, improved amenities and redesigned service.

The Empire Builder is the prototype for Amtrak’s initiative “to improve the financial performance of its long-distance trains, as stated in the recently announced Strategic Reform Initiatives unveiled last month. The changes are aimed at positioning the service as a premier leisure-travel train and increasing ridership and revenue while keeping expenses low.

Amtrak Ink for May reported planning would take “months of careful preparation and coordination,” as well as “comprehensive efforts to build interest among customers, travel agents, convention and tourist bureaus and others about the changes in advance of the service’s kickoff.”

The official start date will be in August, but not a specific date yet.

The railroad’s employee publication stated Marketing and Sales is “developing an online sweepstakes, offering a chance to win a trip on the Empire Builder and a vacation package in Seattle or Chicago.” The sweepstakes will be featured on Amtrak’s Web site and in newspaper advertising.

“Since more than 30 percent of all bookings come through, this is an excellent channel to promote the Empire Builder,” said international sales manager Craig White.

In addition, Amtrak is working with tour operators in the U.S. and Europe to feature the route in their vacation packages, White said.

“The visitors coming from overseas have a natural tendency to travel by train, so our overseas tour operators will be developing packages that highlight sites along the route,” White added.

Ski packages are being negotiated with major operators, such as Ski-Pak of Seattle, Wash., that will feature travel on the Empire Builder to the popular Big Mountain Ski Resort near the Whitefish, Mont., station.

To further support this initiative, training classes began earlier this month in Chicago and Seattle for train service and on-board services (OBS) employees working on the route. A key component of the training is a “Supplemental Service Standards” manual recently developed by the Service Delivery, Transportation and Employee Development departments. The manual, which will accompany the current Service Standards Manual, provides the foundation for the training curriculum.

The supplement establishes guidelines unique to the Empire Builder service from the start of the trip to the finish. For instance, it specifies how coach attendants should introduce themselves to each passenger, provide at-seat meals, and offer complimentary pillows and blankets, which will be available for sale. The manual provides procedures for hosting the wine and cheese tasting events that will be held in the dining car for first-class passengers.

Getting information to the public about the changes being made before the new service starts falls in large measure to a small, but highly experienced media relations team within Marketing and Sales. This month, the team will release the August date of the service start-up and unveil a new poster from award-winning artist Michael Schwab that will soon appear in stations and in major cities along the route advertising the enhanced service.

Reporters that will cover the story of the Empire Builder will come from many different specialties. Some are exclusively travel writers who will want to focus on the travel experience of riding the train. Others may focus on the effort to refurbish the equipment.

Cliff Black’s job and that of his team will be to determine the best approach with each and maximize the potential for positive news coverage. For some, that may mean taking a trip aboard the new equipment or visiting an employee training class.

As part of these activities, reporters will receive a press kit that includes Empire Builder brochures and information on the route and services offered.

In August, when all systems are go, Amtrak will host a series of kick-off events in Chicago, Portland, Seattle and other communities along the route celebrating the improved service, much like those celebrating the train’s 75 years of service last summer.

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Alaska rail link brings some jitters

A rail link between Alaska and Canada, proposed as a faster way to transport natural resources, would enable the U.S. to support anti-ballistic missile silos and military bases, a study suggested last week.

Though proponents are playing up the economic advantages, and the State of Alaska and Yukon Territories governments have signed an agreement to study the idea, critics say the military uses are likely to stir opposition in Canada, where the continental missile shield project is unpopular.

In telephone interviews with The Associated Press, Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie and Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski played down the military aspect, saying the link would be primarily commercial and would incorporate fiber-optic communication cables and a potential natural gas pipeline.

The report said the railroad could transport the region’s platinum, zinc, gold, coal, copper, and nickel, and it could shave five days off the time it takes to move cargo out of Vancouver or Seattle. The report also mentions tourism, but doesn’t highlight it as an important factor for the future.

The link, which has been debated for years, would require 1,150 miles of new track, from the current Alaska railroad terminus near Alaska’s Eielson Air Force Base to Fort St. John or Fort Nelson in northeastern British Columbia. Those two cities are linked to Canada’s national railroad system.

Steve Staples, a defense analyst with the Polaris Institute, an Ottawa think tank, suggested Prime Minister Paul Martin would be seen as “allowing participation in missile defense through the back door” if he signed on to a rail link serving U.S. military bases.

Martin’s office declined to comment.

The railroad, costing $1.15 billion to $2.3 billion, would allow Washington to develop an Alaska port to station up to three missile defense ships outside Korean territorial waters, the report stated.

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SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

‘T-18’ to look inside rails

The federal government will triple its capacity to inspect the nation’s rail lines thanks to three new advanced track inspection vehicles being launched over the next 18 months, USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said on May 18.

The announcement came during a visit to Baton Rouge, where the Secretary got a demonstration of one of the new self-propelled inspection vehicles, the T-18, before it departs on its maiden voyage to identify track defects throughout Gulf Coast and Midwestern states. The Secretary noted that with the T-18 and two more inspection vehicles under construction, the FRA, a DOT agency, will soon be able to inspect 100,000 miles of track each year, tripling the agency’s current capacity.

“The T-18 gives us the ability to analyse the integrity of more track more quickly and to provide results that enable railroads to make timely repairs when needed,” Mineta said. He added, “More track inspections along the nation’s rail lines are good not just for the safety of railroad employees and communities, but good for our economy as well.”

Mineta noted that the new inspection vehicles are a part of the National Rail Safety Action Plan, USDOT’s new approach to improving safety throughout the railroad industry. The plan targets the most frequent, highest-risk causes of accidents, focuses federal oversight and inspection resources, and accelerates research into new technologies, like the T-18, that can improve rail safety.

Highway grade crossing safety – the second leading cause of death associated with railroad operations – will improve as part of the new rail safety plan, Mineta said.

The plan calls on all railroads to continue to preserve data from their locomotive event recorders and to report all accidents and preserve all evidence that can be used to help local law enforcement investigate crossing accidents.

Mineta noted that Louisiana alone has had 15 grade crossing fatalities so far this year, three times as many than at this point last year. He added that while overall the number of grade crossing fatalities has declined over the years, growing rail and vehicle traffic led to a nationwide increase in the number of crossing fatalities in 2004.

“Grade crossing safety is not just a Louisiana concern, it’s a national concern,” Mineta cautioned.

In addition to expanding rail inspection capacity and improving grade crossing safety, the new plan will focus on human error, the largest single factor accounting for 38 percent of all accidents over the last five years. Under the plan, USDOT, with guidance from some of the nation’s top rail safety advisors, will lead development of a new federal rule to address human factor accidents. He said the department is also accelerating research into the role fatigue plays in accidents to help railroads set better crew schedules.

The plan also will focus on the safe transport of hazardous materials by rail. In response to a call to action from the FRA, the railroad industry will now provide local emergency responders a ranked listing of the top 25 hazardous materials transported through their community, and by July, Mineta said, the FRA will launch a new pilot program providing emergency responders with real-time information via secure website about the hazardous materials involved in train accidents.

The DOT also is investigating new devices to detect if switches are lined properly, and low-cost circuits to detect broken rails. FRA is also beginning field tests on new technology that automatically controls train movements and speed, including bringing a train to a stop.

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Mixed numbers for Amtrak at April’s end

Amtrak’s financial and ridership numbers are off somewhat compared to what the carrier expected in the current fiscal year through April 30.

Total operating revenue was $1.067 billion, but had budgeted for $1.083.

On the plus side, total operating expenses came to $1.752 billion while it budgeted for $1.762 billion.

Ridership was expected to be 14,555,457 passengers, but fell short at 14,506,200.

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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Transit gets a Senate ‘yea’ vote

Dismissing a renewed veto threat from the White House, the Senate on Tuesday passed a $295 billion, six-year highway and transportation measure that lawmakers said was essential to easing traffic congestion and improving safety.

“In passing this bill, the Senate puts this nation on the path to better roads, on the path to shorter and safer commutes, and on the path to more jobs,” said Sen. James Jeffords, an independent from Vermont and a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee, The New York Times reported.

The measure, approved by a vote of 89 to 11, exceeds by more than $11 billion the ceiling that President Bush has set on transportation spending. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Tuesday that a final bill that surpasses the $284 billion acceptable to the administration could provoke a veto.

“It’s important that we meet our transportation needs,” said McClellan, noting that the lower figure represented a 35 percent rise over the last highway bill.

“It’s also important, and the President is very serious about this, that we move forward on a fiscally responsible budget, a budget that keeps us on track to cut the deficit in half over the next five years.”

The authors of the legislation, which would funnel billions of dollars to every state for a variety of transit projects, said they had devised ways to compensate for the added spending so that it did not contribute to the deficit. They characterized the $11 billion, which could be reduced in negotiations with the House, as a relatively small difference that should not be allowed to hold up needed legislation.

“We were very mindful of the President’s concern,” said Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who, as the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, helped identify ways to pay for the increase.

“Not only did we not go too high, but we also made sure it was totally on the up-and-up and totally paid for.”

The two chief Republican architects of the measure, Sens. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma and Christopher S. Bond of Missouri, said they wanted to begin negotiations quickly with the House since a temporary extension of the highway program is due to expire at the end of the month.

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Pataki okays Hudson rail tunnel idea

New York Gov. George Pataki declared his support on May 12 for an additional rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River linking New Jersey to Midtown Manhattan, an endorsement that New Jersey officials hailed as a major breakthrough in their decades-long effort to get the $5 billion project built.

New Jersey officials, reported the Newark Star-Ledger, long have lobbied for the new rail link to deal with increasing New Jersey Transit ridership, expected to double to nearly 100,000 rush-hour passengers a day by 2015. One of the major obstacles has always been a lack of support from top New York officials, particularly Pataki.

The governor’s sudden change of stance came after intense backstage bargaining on both sides of the river in recent days, according to high-ranking officials familiar with the talks. In the end, Pataki agreed to publicly support the Hudson River tunnel in return for asking the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to kick in another $1 billion to help build a different tunnel he wants an East River link that would bring Long Island Rail Road trains to and from Lower Manhattan.

“I support both,” Pataki said during a speech reaffirming his commitment to Lower Manhattan, including a redesigned 1,776-foot Freedom Tower at Ground Zero that will meet recently raised security concerns.

Pataki’s support for the Hudson River tunnel is crucial because the project also will need Port Authority money, and the New York governor has veto power over bi-state agency actions. Conversely, the support of New Jersey officials is critical for Pataki’s East River tunnel plan because New Jersey’s acting Gov. Richard Codey has the same ability to oppose Port Authority initiatives.

Pataki asked the Port Authority to help pay for the East River link, one of the governor’s pet projects to improve rail access to John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens. New Jersey officials told him they would expect him to back the Hudson River tunnel in return.

“Leverage is leverage,” one top New Jersey transportation official said.

The new two-track tunnel, also known as the Access to the Region’s Core, or ARC, would run from Secaucus to New York Penn Station, underneath the Hudson River and near the existing tunnel. A new eight-track passenger station below 34th Street, complete with passageways to Penn Station and subway lines, would be built to handle the extra trains.

Completion of one track is scheduled for 2011, with the entire project slated to be finished in 2014.

“I think it’s very important that the governor of New York has endorsed ARC as a key priority of the Port Authority,” said Anthony Coscia, the Port Authority chairman.

Coscia added, “I think an investment of $1 billion or more is justified for ARC. People look to the Port Authority to handle growth. The most viable project to handle that growth is the ARC.”

Both George Warrington, executive director of NJT, and state DOT Commissioner Jack Lettiere hailed Pataki’s announcement.

“It is groundbreaking both literally and figuratively,” Warrington said. “Both states and both governors coming together through the Port Authority on behalf of what is a real, genuine project for the region.”

Warrington said an environmental impact study is nearing completion and he is hopeful that construction can begin on a tunnel with two tubes in 2007.

“It marks the first time New York state has publicly voiced support for this project, which will benefit both New York and New Jersey,” Codey said in a statement.

NJ Transit currently uses two century-old tunnels with one track each to carry more than 40,000 passengers at peak hours and about 120,000 per day into and out of New York Penn Station. Both figures are expected to double by 2015.

Amtrak owns the existing tunnels and has priority use, often causing delays for NJT trains.

Calls for construction of a third tunnel were first sounded in the 1920s. By the 1990s, the need was considered critical – but ambivalence and a lack of funds through the years stalled the initiative.

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NJT proposes new rules; homeless
man sues agency for ejection

Under fire from civil liberties advocates about its treatment of homeless people, and facing a lawsuit from a homeless man over access to its facilities, New Jersey Transit is proposing new rules that would limit areas of train and bus stations to passengers holding tickets – but proposed changes to the transit agency’s code of conduct would guarantee that people without tickets could use other areas of its facilities.

The changes come as a result of concerns raised last fall by the American Civil Liberties Union about homeless people being ejected from NJT facilities, The New York Times reported on Thursday. The new rules are designed to ensure that everyone is treated equally at NJT facilities, spokeswoman Lynn Bowersox said.

“It specifies what you can and can’t do in the system, regardless of who you are,” she said, adding, “This is not just applied to one group of people.”

The biggest change permits NJT to designate certain areas as “passenger-only” or “fare-paid” zones. Although the rules, due to be adopted over the summer, do not spell out which areas would be restricted, Bowersox said they would likely include waiting rooms and train platforms.

Other areas of stations, including corridors, shops and restaurants, would continue to be open to anyone, regardless of whether they have a ticket.

“We are generally satisfied with this,” said Edward Barocas, the ACLU’s legal director.

“There will have to be continued vigilance as to how this policy is applied, but clearly they have made an effort to ensure that all people are treated equally,” he said.

Richard Kreimer, a homeless man who is suing NJT in federal court over being ejected from stations, said the new rules are not enough to get him to drop his lawsuit. He said the agency will use the new rules to further crack down on homeless people.

“The key question will be do they apply this evenly?” he said. “Will the senior citizen in the Summit train station reading a book be able to continue while the homeless person sitting on a bench has to go?”

A section of the proposed changes states the agency must treat everyone equally.

“All facilities will impose the same requirements on the public, making application of standards uniform throughout the state,” it reads.

The new code also retains language prohibiting anyone from blocking passageways, lying down on seats or floors, spitting, and using bathrooms or other areas “for activities generally conducted in one’s home or residence.”

It defines public areas as “portions of NJT facilities and equipment which are routinely and normally accessible to members of the public and are adapted to provide for the convenience of persons utilizing the incidental services of NJ Transit.”

That includes restaurants and stores inside stations, Bowersox said.

If a homeless person, or anyone else, for that matter, wanted to enter a station and use those facilities, they would be permitted to do so.

The rules do not impose time limits on how long someone can stay. NJ Transit has been training its employees on the new code.

The agency is accepting public comments on the proposed changes until July 1. After that, the new code will go before NJ Transit directors for a vote, and then will be sent to the state Office of Administrative Law for final implementation, NJT spokesman Dan Stessel said.

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Dukakis urges solons to save rail link

Former Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis (D) pleaded with lawmakers on May 17 to preserve the possibility of an underground rail link between North and South Stations in Boston, but a key state senator said the project would halt downtown development and hurt suburban transportation upgrades.

At a hearing on legislation preserving the one-mile right of way, Dukakis warned lawmakers that the two transportation hubs are nearing capacity and that action is needed to prevent development that may make the project, which would create a seamless Northeast Corridor rail line, impossible in the future, according to Statehouse News Service of May 18.

Both Amtrak and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter rail carrier would use the four-track hole in the ground.

Dukakis warned that increased commuter rail use, combined with expansion projects, will soon lead to “massive capacity problems” at North and South stations. He told lawmakers the condition of the state’s transportation infrastructure is “frightening.”

“We’ve got a third-world road system in the state,” Dukakis said.

Sen. Steven Baddour, a Democrat who is co-chairman of the committee, said the project has the potential to “cannibalize” funding for a series of major highway and commuter rail projects, including the extensions of the Green and Blue subway lines, improved commuter service to Worcester, and proposed commuter rail lines to Fall River, New Bedford, and Millis.

Two weeks ago, Baddour said the project would not be possible without federal funding, but last week’s hearing coincided with news that Massachusetts would receive a 28 percent funding increase, or $1.17 billion more than it now receives, under a multi-year $295 billion transportation bill passed in the US Senate last week.

Baddour said that everyone supports the rail link conceptually, but that funding is limited.

“It’s something that should have been done 20 years ago,” he said.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Mitt Romney (R), who did not include the rail link in his long-term transportation plan, said it would aid travelers from Maine to Washington, D.C., but is not something that “makes sense for Massachusetts.”

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Rail transit systems struggling

The rumble of elevated trains may be Chicago’s most distinctive sound, but unless rescue comes soon for the city’s transit authority, it will be getting a little less frequent.

Under the “doomsday” scenario approved by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) board last month, the agency will attempt to crawl out of a $55 million budget hole by eliminating dozens of bus and train routes, reducing service on all remaining lines to a Sunday schedule, and raising fares for those customers not using an automated card from $1.75 to $2.00.

It’s a proposal, reported The Christian Science Monitor of May 17, that has commuters nervous and some lawmakers scrambling, but while Chicago is looking at a particularly dire situation right now, nearly all large public transit agencies are in tough fiscal straits.

Flat or declining revenues, combined with big increases for fuel and labor costs and, in some places, declining ridership, has created cash-strapped agencies and a rash of fare hikes and service cuts.

It’s a situation that has public transit advocates crying for more funding even as critics insist the agencies need to do a better job of paying for themselves, without increases in government subsidies – and some say that while multiple bailout options may help avert immediate disasters in places like Chicago, long-term solutions require a serious commitment to the idea of public transit.

“Transit systems have had a hard time over many, many years, and they’ve become very efficient,” says Alan Horowitz, a civil-engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“We’re providing an essential public service with transportation, and there still is a fairly large segment of the population that’s dependent on transit. We have to decide as a society if this is something we want to support,” he said.

Transit agencies around the country have been feeling a pinch for some time, and customers are beginning to feel the cost. New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., have all raised fares in the past couple of years, while Philadelphia has been threatened with fare hikes for months. Pittsburgh cut service along with raising fares, and San Francisco is holding hearings this month to consider both.

“It’s a trend happening around the country,” says William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Assn.

“You have relatively flat income streams, skyrocketing major expenses” – including fuel, liability insurance, healthcare, and pensions – “and it isn’t very long before that puts you on a collision course that requires drastic actions.”

Millar and other experts note that transportation benefits people beyond direct customers by reducing congestion. The 2005 Urban Mobility Report, released a fortnight ago by the Texas Transportation Institute, indicated that traffic delays would be nearly 30 percent worse – or cost an additional 1.1 billion hours – without public transit.

Both fare hikes and service cuts tend to make riders leave, Millar says. Both combined, which is the current plan in Chicago, can be disastrous.

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More Boston-Worcester trains in offing

Plans to double the number of commuter rail trains running from Worcester through MetroWest to Boston received a boost on May 18 when a key member of Gov. Mitt Romney’s administration said funding has been secured for the project, MetroWest Daily News reported on May 19.

“We made the commitment, as the governor had announced, to double the amount (of trains) to Worcester,” said Commonwealth Development Secretary Douglas Foy.

His comments came after he joined Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey in announcing a recommendation to the state Department of Environmental Protection on how to proceed with outstanding transportation projects, including extending the Green Line subway, the state previously committed to as mitigation for the Big Dig. Because of some cost savings with Big Dig mitigation projects, Foy said, money has been freed up for the Worcester-Boston commuter rail project.

Framingham Town Manager George King said if more trains rumble through Framingham every day, the state must fund road improvements downtown.

“We can’t increase the number of trains without changing those intersections as they are currently,” said state Sen. Karen Spilka (D).

Worcester Mayor Tim Murray, meanwhile, said his city is eagerly waiting for the increased train capacity. Some commuter rail stations on the Worcester-Boston line were previously built as part of Big Dig mitigation, he said, and it follows that the number of trains should now be increased to accommodate the higher number of passengers.

Murray, who has championed the project, said the state must determine if it would make improvements to the rail line between Worcester and Boston that is owned in part by freight carrier CSX or if it would buy the tracks outright.

CSX has a contract with the MBTA that dictates the number of trains that can run on its tracks. Improvements would need to be made before more trains can be added, Murray said.

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Tri-Rail cuts a train, adds late service

The South Florida Regional Transportation Authority is eliminating midday service and running other trains later each day, starting June 6, says Tri-Rail.

The move will free up four hours a day for CSX freight switching and for crews to work on a $334 million project to add a second track to the remaining 15 miles of the 72-mile corridor, the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale reported last week.

After months of delays and sagging on-time performance, officials hope the schedule will ease construction hold-ups between the Fort Lauderdale and Fort Lauderdale Airport stations, which is forcing Amtrak, Tri-Rail and CSX trains to use a single track. About 10,000 commuters a day ride Tri-Rail weekdays with most boarding during morning and evening rush hours.

The new timetable will last until the double-tracking project is finished next March.

“A schedule change is a serious consideration for our passengers,” said RTA executive Joseph Guilietti.

“We truly believe that a majority of our passengers will benefit.”

Guilietti said the change would provide later access to and from flights at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Miami International airports.

Under the new schedule, a passenger who flies into Fort Lauderdale would be able to board a northbound train leaving the Fort Lauderdale Airport Station at 8:58 p.m. Southbound riders leaving the airport would be able to board the train at 9:50 p.m.

Among other benefits of the new schedule, train “meets” have been moved into areas of double-track now in service.

Once the entire corridor is double-tracked, a commuter train will be able to travel end 13 minutes faster.

Tri-Rail’s new schedule was posted online last week at

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Total Front Range

Long commuter line would operate
trains from Montana to New Mexico

Using FasTracks as the springboard, a new nonprofit organization wants to have commuter rail lines operating along the entire Front Range – from Cheyenne through Denver to Albuquerque – in 10 years.

The new group, Front Range Commuter Rail, has two paying members: the Regional Transportation District (RTD), which is giving $25,000, and the Cheyenne economic development organization, which gave $250, according to The Denver Business Journal of May 15.

A conference on the idea is slated for June 11 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

“This is something that we’re very supportive of. RTD wouldn’t run it, but it would dovetail with FasTracks,” said RTD spokesman Scott Reed.

The group aims to gather money for a feasibility study of running commuter trains along existing commercial freight tracks that stretch from Wyoming through Fort Collins, downtown Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo and into New Mexico.

The commuter rail system would pick up where FasTracks ends at the edges of the Denver metro area. FasTracks, approved by voters in November, is a $4.7 billion, 12-year construction project to lay 119 miles of rail by extending three lines and adding six more throughout Denver and its suburbs.

“For the last six months, I’ve been out beating the drums to see if anyone else thought it was a good idea besides myself,” said Bob Briggs, a former state representative from Westminster who also served as an RTD board member.

Briggs incorporated the nonprofit commuter rail group December 2.

“There are a lot of people who think its time has come. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with the Colorado DOT, our Congressional delegation, the Denver Chamber and economic development people. There’s a lot of support for it out there.”

Working alongside Briggs is Mary Blue, who stepped down as RTD’s board chairwoman in November, and Gwen Anderson, who has championed the rebirth of Denver Union Station as a hub for public and private bus, rail and taxi systems.

The Cheyenne-Laramie County Corporation for Economic Development hopped on board almost as soon as its members heard about the effort, said Randy Bruns, the Wyoming agency’s CEO.

“Cheyenne is very much a part of the Front Range economy,” he said. “We pay a lot of attention to the Denver metro area and everything in between. It’s the economic center of gravity and there’s a tendency to look toward the center of gravity – that’s Denver. It only makes sense to us that we stay informed and get ourselves in as part of the conversation.”

The group envisions creating a regional transportation authority that could ask voters within its district to increase taxes to pay for operation of the commuter rail system. It’s assembling all the studies that have been done on such a system in preparation for a formal feasibility study.

“We hope to have it operating at the same time as FasTracks is done, about 2014,” said Blue, the former RTD chairwoman.

“We’re making a pitch to municipalities affected by this both inside and outside RTD. We’re not competing with RTD. We’d be determining where the lines would be, where the stations would be. What you want is something that would be seamless for the passenger; at the most, they’d walk across the platform [to a FasTracks station].”

With the passage of FasTracks, RTD has launched discussions with BNSF and Union Pacific, which own the freight tracks, to buy tracks and maintenance yards in the Denver area for use by RTD and FasTracks.

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Oregon scrambles for commuter dollars

A federal agency’s 11th hour rule change for mass-transit funding has Washington County, TriMet and officials in four other Oregon cities scrambling to keep the proposed Wilsonville-Beaverton commuter rail line on track, The Oregonian reported on May 14.

If Congress allows the Office of Management and Budget’s rule-tinkering to stand, officials say, the long-awaited $103.5 million project would lose at least $37 million in federal financing. That would be enough to scuttle it, the officials say.

The line’s self-propelled rail cars would connect Wilsonville, Tualatin and Tigard with TriMet’s westside light-rail line in Beaverton, mostly via existing freight tracks. The cars are scheduled to start running in 2008 or 2009.

Officials have touted the project for its expected reduction of rush-hour traffic on Interstate 5 and Oregon 217, which the rail cars would parallel for 14.7 miles.

Recently, federal budget officials said the project should cost 20 percent less per rider to qualify for the federal money, a condition that the commuter project’s creators say can’t be met.

The rule change has local officials and lawmakers in Washington, D.C., working to get it rescinded or at least sidestepped.

If they can’t, TriMet, which is directing the project’s design and would operate the line, could lose the $3.9 million it has invested if the questioned federal funding doesn’t appear.

Joe Walsh, TriMet’s manager for the project, won’t say the rule revision dooms the project. “That’s probably too strong,” he said. “I think we’ve got a little bit of a speed bump here.”

The rule change involves the line’s projected cost per passenger through 2020. Under federal guidelines, TriMet has estimated 3,000 riders a day would use the rail cars. When planning, construction and other costs to build the line are added up, federal and local officials predict that each passenger trip on it through 2020 would cost just under $25.

To qualify for the $37 million grant, the FTA had established a $25 maximum cost per rider, a rule in effect until late March.

Then, Walsh said, the administration’s management and budget office stepped in. It ordered the administration to reduce the development and construction cost maximum to $20 per rider.

“We’re going back,” Walsh said, “like we so often do to the Oregon (congressional) delegation and saying, ‘Help!’ “ TriMet General Manager Fred Hansen was in Washington, D.C., la st week, meeting with the senators, representatives and their staffs.

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Charlotte area faces tough rail choices

With construction under way on Charlotte, N.C.’s first light rail line, officials are already bracing for controversies expected next year over which line gets built next – and which communities will get busways instead of train lines.

Consultants are now at work, reported the Charlotte Observer last week, calculating what those new lines would cost and how many people will ride, but it is already clear Charlotte Area Transit System will not have enough money to provide trains to all five routes.

The decision on what is built first and who gets trains and who gets busways could pit sections of the city against each other and suburban towns against the city. Making the decision will be a transit commission controlled by the Mecklenburg County towns that surround Charlotte.

Supporters say rapid transit, along with building roads, is necessary as the Charlotte region struggles with sprawling growth. Critics say that the money should be used to widen existing roads instead of building transit that few will ride.

The major decisions that will shape Charlotte’s transit future will be made in the next 18 months:

Which transit line will be built next?

Will trains or busways go on Independence and Wilkinson boulevards?

Will streetcar construction be accelerated to help Charlotte’s eastside?

Residents will have many chances at community meetings to give their opinions, but officials such as Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory say the public should not assume every line will be built as scheduled.

“I have this qualifier: It is a preliminary plan, and that’s why we’re doing this analysis,” McCrory said. “It won’t be implemented unless the numbers justify it.”

Light rail, then what?

The city’s first light-rail line is scheduled to open in spring 2007, from uptown to I-485 north of Pineville. At a cost of about $26.3 million, three teams of consultants are now working on the preliminary plans for the rest of CATS’s master plan, a streetcar network and rapid-transit lines to Davidson, University City, Matthews and the airport. The studies will be completed within the next year and will give transit commissioners updated cost and ridership estimates for each line. The remaining lines are estimated at $1.7 billion, a figure sure to rise as more detailed engineering plans are completed. For example, in 2002, the South Boulevard line was estimated to cost $371 million, but it is being built for $427 million due to higher costs and added engineering needs.

With local and state money tight and federal help uncertain, those fresh estimates will show some lines are more cost effective than others.

Strong ridership is important for the Federal Transit Administration. CATS transit chief Ron Tober says building any line without federal help would be “very difficult” and he is not as optimistic as he once was that all lines would win federal money.

Even if the FTA and state offer their help, Tober said the half-cent transit sales tax would not be enough to build trains in all five rapid-transit lines.

That financial reality is a sobering thought for McCrory because he knows how badly some communities want trains, including members of the City Council who want tracks to the airport, university and on Independence.

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Bissett quits MARC job; violated Hatch Act

Maryland commuter rail chief Phillip D. Bissett said last week that he will give up his job and run for the Anne Arundel county executive office after receiving a federal legal opinion that said he could not do both under laws governing political activities by government employees who handle federal funds.

Bissett released a May 3 opinion from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel that found his campaign was in violation of the federal Hatch Act and gave him until May 17 to come into compliance or face disciplinary action, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The opinion “offered two options: pursue the job or pursue the campaign,” Bissett said at a news conference in Annapolis.

He said he weighed keeping the $92,801-a-year state government post “but my heart and my head tell me the choice is clear and my decision is correct.”

Though Bissett was appointed to the rail job by the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., he said he did not discuss his decision to give up the position with anyone in the state administration. His resignation was effective May 18.

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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

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

House Panel Approves $150 Million for Transit, Rail in Homeland Security Bill

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved May 10 its Fiscal Year 2006 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations bill that includes $150 million for transit, passenger rail, and freight rail security. The Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee marked up the bill May 4.

Transit funding matches the level included in the enacted FY 2005 bill. The FY 2005 funding bill also provides $12 million for rail security, with $10 million supporting the deployment of up to 100 federal rail compliance inspectors and the remaining $2 million for the deployment of canine explosive detection teams.

Under the House committee’s proposal for the next fiscal year, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security would decide how much funding each mode would receive, as well as determine which transit authorities would be eligible for the funding. The committee’s proposal also includes $850 million for urban area grants, and $8 million for rail security inspectors and explosive detection canines

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Grabauskas Is New MBTA General Manager

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority in Boston has named former Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Daniel A. Grabauskas as its new general manager, effective May 16. In a unanimous vote, the MBTA Board of Directors selected Grabauskas to succeed Michael H. Mulhern, who is retiring after 26 years of service with the MBTA.

Grabauskas has extensive experience in Massachusetts state government, according to MBTA. Throughout his tenure in a number of high-profile leadership positions in the public sector, he has identified bureaucratic inefficiencies and developed solutions to streamline operations and make government more responsive to the people it serves.

He served since 2003 as state transportation secretary, a position that included chairing the MBTA board.

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Holland, Mich., Voters Renew Tax for Transit

Voters in Holland, Mich., voted overwhelmingly May 3 in favor of renewing a tax levy to support the Macatawa Area Express bus service. Had the measure not passed, the current millage would have expired on June 30.

The vote allows the city to levy a tax of up to 0.6 mill, or 6 cents per $100 of taxable property. However, according to MAX, the city has never levied the full millage. In 2005, the millage rate was 0.1 mill, or 1 cent per $100.

State and federal transportation grants provide about 70 percent of the money needed to operate MAX. In addition to the funds from the city of Holland, the city of Zeeland and Holland Charter Township also contribute to the system’s operating costs.

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TTI Report: Congestion Costs $65 Billion Annually

Traffic congestion is getting worse in America’s urban areas and is costing the U.S. economy more than $63 billion annually, or $65 billion when factoring in current fuel prices, according to the 2005 Urban Mobility Report released May 9 by the Texas Transportation Institute. However, as TTI also states, the problem would have been substantially worse without public transportation.

“The problem can be stated simply,” write David Schrank, TTI associate research scientist, and Tim Lomax, research engineer. “Urban areas are not adding enough capacity, improving operations or managing demand well enough to keep congestion from growing larger.”

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Blizzard Dies; GM of Southern New Jersey Light Rail

David T. Blizzard Jr., 55, of Langhorne, Pa., general manager, services, of the Southern New Jersey Light Rail Transit Project for Bombardier, died May 1 following a motorcycle accident.

Since joining Bombardier Inc. in 2001, Blizzard was responsible for the overall management of the Bombardier/Southern New Jersey Light Rail Transit System Contract maintenance contract, including start-up, performance, budget, labor relations, policies, quality control, safety, and production. He earlier worked one year with Adtrans as general manager of the light rail system, which entered operation in March 2004.

Blizzard previously worked for New Jersey Transit Corporation from 1982 to 2000, serving as superintendent of cars, assistant chief mechanical officer, and superintendent of passenger equipment. He also worked six years for Conrail and six years for the former Penn Central.

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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

NS takes 16th Harriman safety award

Norfolk Southern Corp. took top honors for the 16th consecutive year in the AAR’s railroad safety awards, and 12 railroads received gold, silver, or bronze E.H. Harriman Memorial Safety Awards in four separate categories.

NS is in “Group A,” line-haul railroads whose employees worked 15 million employee-hours or more during the award year. The silver award went to BNSF while Union Pacific took the bronze.

AAR’s Edward R. Hamberger said employees at the nation’s railroads reported their lowest employee casualty rate in history during 2004. Hamberger is AAR’s president and CEO.

He said that last year’s employee casualty rate was 9 percent lower than it was in 2003, when the previous record was set.

“For the first two months of this year, the employee casualty rate is down an additional 20 percent from the same period last year,” Hamberger said. He attributed the improvement to “a lot of dedication and hard work by the railroads and their employees. At its heart, safety is about those people who operate trains, maintain and repair tracks and signals, dispatch trains and maintain the industry’s 21,000 locomotives and 1.3 million freight cars.”

In Group B, line-haul railroads with 4 to 15 million employee-hours, Metra, the Chicago commuter railroad, took the gold medal for the second consecutive year. The Soo Line Railroad, part of Canadian Pacific Ry., took the silver medal for the second straight year, while CN’s Illinois Central subsidiary earned the bronze medal.

In Group C, line-haul railroads with fewer than 4 million employee-hours, the Guilford Rail System took the gold medal. The silver medal went to the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway while the Providence and Worcester earned the bronze.

For Group S&T, switching and terminal companies, the Terminal Railroad Assn. of St. Louis won the gold medal for the third consecutive year. Conrail was named winner of the silver medal, also for the third straight year, while the Alton and Southern Ry. took the bronze medal.

Four railroads received special certificates of commendation for continuous improvement in safety performance. They were the BNSF Ry., Long Island Rail Road, Canadian Pacific Railway’s Delaware & Hudson unit, and Conrail.

The annual rail employee safety awards were founded in 1913 by the late Mrs. Mary W. Harriman in memory of her husband, Edward H. Harriman, a pioneer in American railroading. For many years, the program was sponsored by two sons, E. Roland Harriman and the Hon. W. Averell Harriman, now both deceased. The awards are currently administered under the auspices of the E.H. Harriman Memorial Awards Institute, with support from the Mary W. Harriman Foundation.

At the time the Harriman Awards were founded, railroading was considered among the nation’s most dangerous occupations, but employee injury rates have declined sharply – with a 70 percent decline just since 1980 – and today railroad employees have injury rates comparable to those experienced by employees in retail stores and lower than those in other modes of transportation.

A committee of people from the transportation field chooses winners. AAR says awards are granted to railroads on the basis of the lowest casualty rates per 200,000 employee-hours worked, with a formula that takes into account the volume of work performed, as well as the number of fatalities, injuries and occupational illnesses, all documented and confirmed by the FRA.

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NS’s Mulligan wins Hammond award

Tom Mulligan, a conductor with Norfolk Southern Ry. in Decatur, Ill., was named winner of the Harold F. Hammond Award for railroad safety for 2004 on Wednesday.

Mulligan is a 38-year veteran of the railroad industry and a member of the United Transportation Union.

In nominating him for the award, NS Chairman and CEO David R. Goode wrote that Mulligan “has been described as a conduit through which safety concerns are reported for correction.”

For seven of the past eight years, he has served as chairman of his terminal's safety committee.

One of his most far-reaching efforts for safety came about when he took an active interest in rail switching operations at one of the industries he serves. He worked with the customer to develop plant switching procedures that served as a model for the company’s switching operations at its plants in both the U.S. and Europe. As the corporate safety manager for the customer said, “We do have a certain amount of Tom Mulligan in each of our plants because of his influence here” in Decatur.

Mulligan conducted safety workshops for train and engine service employees for the past two years, and he has provided Operation Lifesaver classes for several NS customers and suppliers.

He is also active in the community, helping organize the Decatur Safety Committee's annual Santa Train, which last year raised almost one ton of food that was donated to the Salvation Army and charities.

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Truckers say that mode
will remain strong, dominate

Trucking can only increase its share of freight in the years ahead, the American Trucking Assn.’s U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2016” reported last week.

The study, according to industry magazine The Trucker, predicts growth “for most sectors, greater cooperation between modes over the next 10 years and an even greater role for trucking in moving the nation’s economy,” stated the ATA on its web site.

The report also predicted growth in rail intermodal and air transport. ATA Chief Economist Bob Costello said rail intermodal will become even more important to trucking, especially when used as an adjunct to short-haul carriers.

Rail intermodal revenue is expected to increase to $19 billion by the year 2016, from $8.6 billion last year.

Overall rail tonnage was predicted to increase to 2.56 billion tons by 2016, up from 2.06 billion tons in 2004, which would give it an estimated 13.6 percent of the total tonnage market. The report stated that “rail intermodal service, driven by higher merchandise import and export volumes and domestic manufacturing, will continue to lead to growth in the use of domestic containers and new investment in intermodal infrastructure and equipment.”

Trucking will remain “far and way the dominant mode in transporting general commodities,” predicted ATA President and CEO Bill Graves. The report estimated that total annual truck tonnage will increase to 13 billion tons, giving it 69.1 percent of the total tonnage market by 2016.

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UP to spend more than $2 billion

Railway Age, in its May 2005 issue, reports that Union Pacific’s capital budget for the current fiscal year exceeds $2 billion. It includes 315 new locomotives and 4,000 new rail cars to be leased, and $1.3 billion for infrastructure improvements, $295 million for increasing capacity on the Sunset Route in Arizona and near North Platte, Neb.; eight new sidings in Texas and Utah (two each), Iowa, Arizona, Oklahoma and California. System-wide, 3.7 million new wooden ties, 355,000 new concrete ties and 215,000 composite ties will be installed along with 6.8 million tons of ballast.

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BNSF gets camera-equipped locomotives

BNSF Ry. Says it has begun taking delivery of production locomotives equipped with forward-facing video cameras from GE Engine Services (GE). The cameras are being installed to help provide information on grade-crossing and train-pedestrian accidents.

The railway expects to equip 350 engines, including about 180 new locomotives and 170 retrofits, by the end of 2005. BNSF plans to install the cameras on lead-qualified locomotives that will operate throughout the system.

One camera will be mounted on each locomotive. The camera is intended to capture the view of the track ahead as seen by the locomotive engineer. The camera will be mounted inside the windshield of the cab and will be pointed down the track ahead. It will not provide a view of any activity inside the locomotive cab.

The camera will be mounted behind the locomotive’s windshield and will be fixed, so it will not be able to move from side-to-side or vertically. The camera is located so it will not interfere with train crewmembers’ vision from the cab. The installation will also include a microphone, placed outside the cab.

Its purpose is to record exterior sounds, such as the locomotive whistle and bell; it is not intended to capture conversation inside the cab.

The camera will be synchronized with the locomotive event recorder, and will provide color video at 15 frames per second, compared with 30 frames per second for standard broadcast video.

Each camera will record at least 70 hours’ information, given normal locomotive operating conditions. Recorded audio and video can be downloaded by BNSF and used for such purposes as confirming the operation of grade crossing warning devices and motorist behavior.

BNSF installed cameras on six GE Dash 9 locomotives in trials starting in August 2004. The first six cameras helped BNSF determine specifications and requirements for locomotive-mounted video cameras.

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WALL STREET LINES...  Wall Street lines...


CSX Corp. said Tuesday it will buy back its outstanding shares.

The commencement of tender offers is for up to $1.0 billion in aggregate principal amount of notes, CSX stated. The total principal amount outstanding of the notes included in the offers is approximately $3 billion, CSX explained in legal jargon.

“CSX will conduct the offers in accordance with terms and conditions described in its offer to purchase dated May 17. Each offer will expire at midnight, Eastern time, on June 14, unless extended,” the carrier continued.

“CSX has said that one of its goals is to strengthen the company’s balance sheet,” said Oscar Munoz, Executive Vice-President and CFO.

“This transaction reduces the company’s debt by approximately $1 billion, further enhances CSX’s credit profile and reduces its borrowing costs.”

The offers are presented in two separate smaller offers – one that covers three series of notes listed below that mature in 2006 and one that covers nine series of notes, each of which matures on or after 2017.

“The aggregate principal amount of notes that may be purchased in the 2006 notes offer will not exceed $450 million, and the aggregate principal amount of notes that may be purchased in the Long Term-Notes Offer will not exceed $550 million” the firm stated.

Reacting to CSX’s financial moves the next day, Standard & Poor’s on May 18 revised CSX Corp.’s outlook to “stable” from “negative” and upgraded the railroad operator’s short-term debt ratings, citing the company’s plans to buy back up to $1 billion of debt.

An outlook revision to stable signals that S&P is less likely to cut CSX’s debt ratings over the next two years, Reuters reported. The company has about $8 billion of debt, including leases.

S&P upgraded CSX’s short-term debt rating to “A-2” from “A-3” and affirmed the company’s long-term corporate credit rating of “BBB,” which is two steps above junk.

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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...


  Friday One Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)50.6048.21
Canadian National (CNI)59.5757.18
Canadian Pacific (CP) 36.1534.31
CSX (CSX)42.0839.89
Florida East Coast (FLA)42.1041.69
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)24.8623.26
Kansas City Southern (KSU)19.2618.61
Norfolk Southern (NSC)32.0530.21
Providence & Worcester (PWX)13.0613.20
Union Pacific (UNP)66.7061.22

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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

Two comments and a clarification.

The revelation this past week (D:F, May 16) of the apparent knowledge and three-year concealment of the Acela brake rotor flaw by one of the members of the maintenance consortium clearly illustrates one of the pitfalls of “outsourcing” such work. If they had been Amtrak’s own personnel, no doubt the flaw would have been reported immediately. Unfortunately, there are some who feel that all such work should be outsourced, but they do not take into account the complexity of this work, and the human failures such as this which happen all to often which lead to costly down time, and perhaps, costly civil or criminal litigation.

Clarification: The extra weight of the Acela cars and train sets has nothing to do with the condition or design of the Northeast Corridor. It is the result of the safety standards required by the Federal Railway Administration. A European style high-speed train can only operate in the U.S with a temporary waiver. Even operation on a dedicated right-of-way might require a waiver of these laws.

Maglev again.

Good grief. I remember UTDC (Urban Transportation Development Corp.) extolling the virtues of maglev growing up in Toronto, Ont. in the 1970s. To be sure, there were advocates before then, and since, yet 30-plus years later, there really has been no commercially viable system built anywhere (Shanghai does not count in my book). Stick a fork in it – Maglev is done for at least 50 years, and serves today only as a distraction.

W. Jim Langston
Clearwater, Fla.

The writer is a transportation professional. – Ed.

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SORT OF OFF THE MAINLINE...  Sort of off the main line...

Martina Bruno’s soprano voice, clear as glass, penetrated through the crowd at Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal. No shy one, this Ms. Bruno. Her arms swept out as she plunged with gusto into George Gershwin's “Summertime” from his only opera, Porgy and Bess. Passing commuters slowed their pace and applauded.

It was not a bad start for one performer among the dozens who turned out May 17 to audition for the chance to entertain in about 25 MTA subway and commuter rail stations. It’s a rare chance at a fully formalized gig in the transit system – known officially as the “Music Under New York” program, wrote The New York Times on May 17.

This was her first time trying out for the transportation authority program, which was founded in 1985.

“I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Bruno, a Queens resident. “I just want to sing for people.”

She and the other performers will get a letter in two or three weeks informing them whether they have been picked. Those chosen will get a program banner from the authority and the chance to display their talent at busy transportation hubs where they might be discovered.

Sandra Bloodworth, the director of the authority’s Arts for Transit, which oversees the program, said the judges were searching for an elusive quality.

“We’re looking for magic. It can be many things, but when there’s something magical about the performer, it sort of transports you, and it goes a very long way to making it a good ride. You really want to find musicians who capture the spirit of New York.”

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End Notes...

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