Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 21, May 27, 2003
Copyright © 2003, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

 


A dozen people help us out with photos

We are gratified so many people “stepped up to the plate” to help us in our photo needs. About a dozen people in all contributed and I dare say our needs have been met, and will be for quite some time. Thank you, all. – Ed.


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Gordon Bell Painting

Noted Connecticut artist Gordon Bell painted this striking view of New York’s Penn Station. While not a railroad painter per se, Bell often paints the built environment (buildings, cityscapes, and so on) and his take on this deep and mysterious scene is unique and original. Penn Station is an oil painting (30” x 24”), and is for sale, for $1,200. Yes, its sale will benefit NCI. Destination:Freedom readers can express interest by contacting jprepass@nationalcorridors.org.

 

Transportation’s future: which way?

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

With bipartisan support, a ground-breaking transportation bill was unveiled on Capitol Hill on the eve of Congress’s Memorial Day adjournment. The measure, through a bond system, would provide $50 billion in additional funding for all modes of transportation.

Sens. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) announced they had teamed up to craft the Build America Bonds Act of 2003, which they termed “a major transportation infrastructure initiative with the potential to create millions of jobs.”

Although the senators don’t say so, the measure could be the first step toward a system of transportation funding that gives rail a reasonable shot at the pie.

The idea of putting bonds on the market specifically for rail is an idea that has been floating around Washington in recent weeks. Unlike that rail-specific proposal discussed late last month at the annual two-day NCI conference, the Talent-Wyden plan would apply to all transportation across the board, including surface, aviation, and water.

As Wyden put it, “By investing in Build America Bonds, Americans can put their money to work building and improving critical infrastructure like roads, bridges, transit, rails, and ports....”

“Each bond will represent a piece of prosperity--a new bridge, a safer road, a port improvement, or a light rail extension,” Talent added.

The rail-specific idea was met with some skepticism on the part of Amtrak President David Gunn.

The money would be welcome, he said Friday in answer to a D:F question at the National Press Club’s Transportation Table, but “Who would buy the bonds?” The Talent-Wyden proposal was so new that Amtrak itself had not had a chance to come up to speed on it. (For more on Gunn’s luncheon talk, see next week’s D:F)

The senators have taken a politically palatable approach of not trying to crack open the Highway Trust Fund for intercity rail, and also by including all forms of transportation without disrupting existing trust funds or programs. That way, the senators hope to rattle as few cages as possible and keep everyone happy

Meanwhile, House Republicans have been knee-deep in the debate over whether a gas tax increase should be approved. At times the battle has become vitriolic and personal.

The issue is of interest to mass transit advocates who hope to use a slice of such an increase to fund new rail projects around the country. They argue that if rail is ever to achieve its rightful place in a balanced transportation system, this is the vehicle and this is the time to go for it.

On the other hand, there is a school of thought that piling more money onto what some see as “pork-laden” highway interests and joining them in an “unholy alliance” to wade into a politically risky tax-hike thicket is too high a price to pay, and will leave rail projects at the short end of the stick.

The focus, for the moment, has come down to competing plans. One is the Bush administration’s SAFETEA proposal revealed several days ago, with a $247 billion dollar price tag and no hike in the gas tax. The other is a plan – yet to be formally introduced as legislation – that is being pushed by the leadership of the House Transportation Committee. This more expensive alternative, at $375 billion, would raise the gas tax by 5.4 cents per gallon and index it for inflation each year.

In support of the latter plan, Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) has trumpeted a study purporting to show that the measure “would provide a significant enhancement to the U.S. economy by adding $290 billion to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and increasing consumer disposable income by $129 billion over the Administration’s budget proposal.

“Our economy needs a lot of help and this legislation will provide it,” Young told a recent news conference on Capitol Hill. He also cited a previous study indicating the committee’s funding proposal “would boost the national economy by creating more than 1.3 million new jobs.”

Opponents are not buying it. A microcosm of the entire debate showed up in the Washington Times Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday the Times (under the headline “A Republican Tax Increase?”) editorialized that Young’s figures were impressive, but added, “We do not think the causal relationship between higher taxes and job growth pans out, and the economic history of our country has shown that an economic boost (JFK’s tax cuts of the 1960s and Reagan’s tax cuts of the 1980s) would be greater if the funds were left in the private sector which tends to waste less and invest wiser than government bureaucrats.”

The next day, the road pavers struck back with an ad in the same newspaper. Possibly because the Times is read by conservatives not only in Washington but elsewhere throughout the nation as well, the ad by the Transportation Construction Coalition argued, “Ronald Reagan Loved Cutting Taxes, But He Raised the Highway User Fee to Strengthen the American Economy.” And this: “It’s okay to be conservative and support an increase in the federal highway user fee.”

However, some Republicans on Capitol Hill argue that in terms of practical politics, that was then, this is now. They fear that if the gas tax is raised on their watch as the Congressional majority, the Democrats will beat them over the head with it next year. Moreover, they point out, not every conservative thought it was “okay” to boost the gas tax even in Reagan’s time. Then Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) tried to kill it with a filibuster.

D:F stumbled across an example of what the GOP fears in the present day political mix. A little noticed release by Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), the Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, on March 6 warned “GOP Seeks Middle Class Tax Hike.” Calling the Young gas tax increase “nuts,” Obey said, “I can’t imagine any Congress in its right mind adding to (price at the pump) by increasing gas taxes....”

Obey’s release did not refer to the fact that his fellow Democrat, the Young Committee‘s ranking minority member James Oberstar (D-Minn.) also favors the bill, though perhaps not with quite as full throated enthusiasm as the chairman would like. When DF asked an Oberstar spokesman if the congressman still backs the committee proposal, he said yes, but then added it was still “a work in progress,“ and that (again) the measure had not yet been formally introduced.

The fear of Democrat attack has helped get the Republican leadership’s back up.

“Republicans were not elected to raise taxes,” House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says when queried about boosting the gas tax.

The same attitude prevails at the White House where, according to DF sources, an internal debate came to a screeching halt when DOT Secretary Norman Mineta, who at first was willing to buy in to gas tax increases, was reportedly told “Norm, we would hate to lose you to the private sector.”

Meanwhile, it was learned Thursday that the Bush administration was backing a revolt among Republican House members against Young’s gas tax plan. Guy Short, spokesman for Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.) the ringleader of the revolt, told D:F that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had phoned the lawmaker’s office and offered its assistance in the battle against raising the gas tax.

Add to this mix a very high decibel and personal confrontation between Chairman Young and Congresswoman Musgrave. During a vote on the House floor Monday, the chairman refused to shake her hand, and while standing one step above her, proceeded to read the freshman lawmaker the riot act. As he pointed his finger at her, she moved closer to him and declared she would not be intimidated.

When D:F got wind of this on Tuesday , both Young’s and Musgrave’s offices acknowledged the conversation took place, but did not go into specifics. However, when Musgrave was asked about the confrontation at her Wednesday news conference she replied that his tongue-lashing contained “language and gestures” unlike those of her husband or any other man she had dealt with as a legislator. (She had previously chaired the Transportation Committee in the Colorado State Senate).

Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) tried to smooth things over by saying Young’s background as a trapper in Alaska had perhaps given him some “rough edges,” but that the chairman and Musgrave had adopted “different styles of communication.”

In his comment to D:F, Young spokesman Steve Hansen said the chairman had talked with Mrs. Musgrave about the gas tax issue and also “her request” for road projects in her district.

Musgrave spokesman Guy Short said that perhaps the gas tax money Coloradoans pay into the federal till should remain in Colorado. While Colorado is a net loser, getting back just 93 cents for every gas tax dollar it sends to Washington, Young’s Alaska gets back $6.60 on the dollar.

Despite his unquestioned clout in the Halls of Congress, Chairman Young is up against a presidential election year that cools much of the enthusiasm for boosting the gas tax. D:F will watch how that plays out.

Two things to remember: The Young plan has support among rail backers, who, according to the American Public Transportation Assn., stand to get as much as 20 percent of the take at most. The rest is for roads. Sharing the Highway Trust Fund with transit is a relatively new phenomenon, and transit supporters want to hold on to it. Secondly, both the Young and the administration proposal all but ignore Amtrak and intercity rail.

It has been said that watching the twists and turns of the legislative process is “like watching sausage being made” or “watching grass grow.”

The Talent-Wyden bond plan could ultimately develop into a substantive inroad for long-delayed railroad projects. Young’s Tea-21 re-authorization package and the Bush administration's more modest SAFETEA are not likely to look anything like they do now once the “sausage is made” and the “grass grows.”


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Lewis and Clark extra operates after all

The Lewis and Clark Explorer train began as scheduled Friday after all, but it is not an Amtrak operation, as previously planned. The train's start-up was questionable, and even now, its future is anything but secure, said Claudia Howells, rail coordinator with the Oregon DOT. The Oregon Legislature is contemplating cuts to Amtrak funding that supplements its service within Oregon. Anticipating the cuts, Amtrak two weeks ago backed out of the Explorer deal and stopped taking reservations.


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‘Rea’ interlocking opens in New York

By Leo King
Editor

At 1:00 a.m. on May 19, Amtrak finished its most recent phase of its new signals and switches installation between New York City’s Penn Station and Newark, N.J. The new plant, named Rea, is just east of Newark, and is carved out of what used to be “Hudson” Interlocking, which still remains but with smaller territory.

The new interlocking will allow more train frequencies, most of which will be New Jersey Transit, through a reduction of permissible minimum headways through the Hudson River Tunnels from three minutes to 90 seconds; at least until the throat to Penn Station clogs up. According to an Amtrak’s employee timetable, 8.8 track miles lie between the two stations.

The interlocking is named for Samuel Rea, who was a vice-president of the Pennsylvania Railroad at the turn of the century, and who was placed in overall charge of the entire project of constructing the railroad’s access into and through New York.

New Jersey Transit (NJT) increased service into Penn Station at its last schedule change. More changes will come soon when the Secaucus Transfer station opens. The train frequency increases were delayed after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks took out the PATH World Trade Center station. The new Port Authority of New York and New Jersey station at Exchange Place is expected to open on June 29. A new trade center station should open in November, which will shift substantial traffic back to PATH.

The PATH work is separate from the ongoing Centralized Electrification and Train Control (CETC) signal rationalization program on Amtrak. The slip switches within “A” Interlocking have all been replaced, but few delays are expected because the traffic density will increase slowly.

Last weekend, Amtrak’s engineering department cut Rea Interlocking into service.

Old Hudson Interlocking was at about the location where Manhattan Transfer was built and opened for service in 1910 as part of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s mammoth project of building its access into New York from New Jersey. The project was undertaken ca. 1900-1910 and included the construction of the “High Line” across the Jersey Meadows, the North River tunnels under Bergen Hill and the Hudson River, Penn Station and its support facilities, the East River tunnels and Sunnyside Yard together with the connections to the Long Island Rail Road in Queens. Trains there originally operated with D.C. power from a third rail. Electric operation extended as far west as the Manhattan Transfer facility where the DC electric engines were swapped for steam locomotives.

Amtrak’s New York Division General Superintendent, Walter R. Ernst, said Rea “is a part of the capacity improvements that have been underway for the last 10 years leading to greater capability for more trains to access Penn Station from New Jersey.”

He added, “Most of these improvements have been paid for by NJT deriving funding from federal and New Jersey sources. These have included the new frequency converter station at the east end of Sunnyside yard, track improvements at Sunnyside, the new 7th Avenue concourse station within Penn Station that opened last September, the high-density interlocking signal system that will be fully in service at the end of June between “Dock” and “A” tower, and the Kearny Connection between the Northeast Corridor at “Swift” Interlocking and NJT’s Morristown Line.”

“A” Interlocking is located at MP 0.2 west of Penn Station, Swift at MP 7.2, and Dock, a movable bridge, at MP at MP 8.5.

The Secaucus Transfer Station between “Allied” (MP 4.0) and “Portal” (MP 6.0) is expected to open “for weekend service in September, and weekday service in the fall or early winter of this year, Ernst said.

“Combined with the jointly funded Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak control center, these have added up to major improvements in New York,” he continued.

In May, 1996, just before NJT’s June opening of Midtown direct service using the Kearny Connection at Swift, he pointed out, “253 total trains per day, counting both directions, operated between Penn Station and Swift through the North River tunnels and over the High Line. As of the April timetable change just implemented, that number has grown to 421 trains per day.”

He added interlocking clearance problems at JO tower (MP 0.1 east of Penn Station) and the project to fix it “is about wrapped up after extraordinary work by engineering employees working with the transportation employees of the three user railroads. The restrictions prohibiting parallel moves at JO are expected to be removed in June which will improve the flows of trains between the station and Lines 1 and 2 of the East River Tunnels – $20 million spent for improved capacity.”

He praised the Pennsy’s Rea, who rose through the ranks to become the railroad’s president.

“The planning and investing for the future that was such a hallmark of Samuel Rea and the Pennsylvania Railroad of a hundred years ago is still present at Penn Station today, albeit in a much-changed institutional setting. Meeting our customer’s needs and the growing transportation requirements of today’s congested world consistently and safely is what we are about. Working together and recognizing the challenges, we can do it.”


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The last Twilight Shoreliner

For NCI: The Rev. Randy Becker

The last Twilight Shoreliner leaves Williamsburg, Va. On April 27. Southbound No. 67 called on Williamsburg at 10:10 a.m., and northward No.66 at 5:25 p.m. The next day, the renamed train – the Federal – departed from and terminated at Union Station, Washington, but kept the same train numbers. While Williamsburg has been cut back to a single day train from Boston and one stub train from Washington, it remains a featured Amtrak vacation destination, writes The Rev. Randy Becker of Williamsburg. “When the Shoreliner ran, the trap on the sleeper was usually opened to let off some of those lucrative First Class passengers…”

 

Crane slices Jersey catenary; trains stop

Train service between New Jersey coastal towns and Manhattan was shut down during the morning rush on May 19, disrupting the workday for thousands of commuters, after a boom on a crane aboard a barge sliced through seven high-voltage wires high above an open swing bridge on the Raritan River.

The severed electrical lines tumbled in a shower of sparks about 7:00 a.m., and power was lost for both catenary and signals for trains on the North Jersey Coast Line between Bay Head and Penn Station, New York.

Thousands of angry, confused and frustrated commuters, some of them stranded on station platforms, scrambled throughout the morning to find other ways to get to work and arrived hours late, if at all, according to The New York Times.

By 7:15 p.m., all the wires were repaired, and train service was restored by 8:00 p.m.

During the morning, the Coast Guard started investigating the mishap and gave tests for alcohol and drug use to the crew of a tugboat that had been pushing the crane-barge up the Raritan River near Perth Amboy when the wires were cut.

In late afternoon, Petty Officer Matthew Belson of the Coast Guard said that the alcohol tests were negative. Results of the drug tests are pending, he said.

Belson declined to discuss reports by some transportation officials in New Jersey that a flagpole fastened to the top of the boom had sliced through the wires.

New Jersey Transit identified the operator of the tugboat as Charles Brogan, 56, an employee of Roehrig Maritime Services of Glen Cove, N.Y. Ken Miller, a spokesman for New Jersey Transit, said Brogan had told investigators that the crane’s boom had struck the wires.

Miller said the wires span the Raritan River above the swing bridge, and at their highest point are 140 feet above the river at high tide.


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California high-speed rail authority
to select route plan tonight at meet

In what should put to rest a hotly contested debate over options for connecting San Diego and Orange Counties to California’s proposed high-speed rail system, the state’s High-Speed Rail Authority will vote on eliminating some conventional rail design options along the corridor tonight (May 27).

Most notably, the board will consider an inland route that avoids the Del Mar Bluffs, the beach at San Clemente, and the historic district in San Juan Capistrano.

Several mayors and other local officials are expected to testify about their positions on the new conventional train route proposed for connection to the high-speed terminal in Los Angeles.

Other topics will include a review of the schedule and anticipated release of the 700-mile high-speed train system’s environmental impact report, the largest project environmental review ever undertaken in the country.

The authority is also expected to discuss an overview of design options being considered for integration of high-speed train service into Union Station in Los Angeles.

The meeting begins at 9:00 a.m. in Irvine City Hall’s city council chambers.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority is online at www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov.


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Pottsville set to start station work

With questions on concept, rights-of-way and deeds answered, Pottsville, Penn. is moving to clear the path to allow rail service to return to its Union Station Square project.

By mid- or late July, an excavation team should being work under the Mauch Chunk Street bridge to dig the proper clearance. It’s 13 feet now, but 18 feet are needed for trains to pass under the relatively small span.

John E. Levkulic, president of Levkulic Associates, Pottsville, said the original bridge was arched, but when the rail service ended, the old bridge was replaced with the current flat one, reports the Pottsville Republican.

Rather than incur the expense and time needed in replacing the bridge, the city will look to make the current bridge fit a new scheme, Levkulic said. Crews will dig about five feet down to add to the bridge clearance, the making a gentle grade in both directions to allow trains to enter and exit the proposed Union Station Square. A retaining wall will be added on the sides.

The project is expected to be completed this fall, including landscaping a parking lot, adding several showpiece retired passenger coaches, and passenger pavilions for the trains, to be completed in subsequent phases.

Levkulic estimated the initial phase will cost about $300,000 when completed, using up about half of the grant funds the city obtained in planning and designing the project.

“We’ve got to start,” he said. “The whole plan is more than the grants. It’s time for nuts and bolts.” The blueprints of the plan must first gain approval from the state DOT before Levkulic can advertise for bids. He said it is possible the bidding will begin July 1 with working starting later that month.

He expects all the work, including the rail setting, to be done by the end of the year. He said when Union Station Square becomes a reality, it will be the new town center.


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Downs gets a new job

Former Amtrak CEO Tom Downs is getting a new job.

The Eno Transportation Foundation of Washington disclosed last week Downs is the non-profit organization’s new president and CEO. He is currently the director of the National Center for Smart Growth at the Univ. of Maryland.

Lillian Borrone, chairman of the Eno board of directors, said Downs “will be able to build on the excellent reputation that the Eno Transportation Foundation has developed in recognizing emerging issues and preparing transportation leaders at all levels to address them through its policy forums and leadership programs. As we watch the continued globalization of national and world economies, one priority for transportation will be the need to view the different modes of transportation as elements of a transportation system, and to help current and emerging leaders understand the implications of that concept as they consider policies, operational priorities, financing alternatives, and human-resource requirements.”

Eno states on its website it is “dedicated to improving all modes of transportation—ground, air, and water.”

It was founded in 1921 by William Phelps Eno, with the goal of improving traffic control and safety. Since then, the foundation’s activities have evolved in response to changes in transportation and society.

Downs succeeds Damian J. Kulash, who is retiring this month.


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$220 million gets rail into Texas 130

It will cost $220 million or more to redesign the Texas 130 toll road to accommodate high-speed freight rail, a price tag that might prove daunting for the lofty goals attached to the idea. Adding fast freight service to Texas 130 is a key element in a wish list that could satisfy nearly every Central Texas transportation desire, the Austin American-Statesman reported on May 14.

Determining how much it would cost is a detail that elected and transportation officials have been waiting for months.

Lone Star Infrastructure, a consortium building Texas 130, submitted a cost estimate between $220 million and $240 million, but state officials would not confirm an exact price. The estimate includes engineering changes and preliminary dirt work but not the actual rail segment.

Texas DOT officials are trying to decide whether they will order the rail-related changes now, as Texas 130 is being designed, or wait until construction is well under way. Rail has long been envisioned as part of the Texas 130 project, but it was not included in the final agreement for the 49-mile toll road, the money approved for the road or the contract under which Texas 130 is being built.

The state’s preliminary estimate of how much the rail changes would cost “may not have been as great as what we are looking at now,” DOT spokeswoman Gaby Garcia said, “so that is certainly something to consider.”

The $200 million-plus price tag would only increase as more time passes, and rail supporters question how long the state should wait.

Without the redesign, freight trains could not travel at the 70 mph speeds envisioned to entice Union Pacific Railroad to move off its current tracks along MoPac Boulevard (Loop 1) and onto the Texas 130 corridor in eastern Central Texas.

If UP’s through freight service left the former Missouri Pacific tracks, the MoPac median could be used for commuter rail and local freight service.

Special lanes for vehicles with at least two people, who pay to use them, could also be built, with the money those high-occupancy toll lanes generate being used for noise walls for MoPac neighborhoods.

The wish-list, sketched out in February by state Rep. Mike Krusee ® also assumes fewer trucks on Interstate 35 if a successful high-speed freight rail system is built along Texas 130, thereby persuading shippers to move more goods by rail.

Texas 130 will be built with a 103-foot-wide median that could accommodate freight rail, long-distance commuter rail, shorter-distance passenger rail, more traffic lanes or high-occupancy-vehicle lanes.

There is also room along the sides of the road and planned, intermittent frontage roads.

In trying to fulfill Gov. Rick Perry’s plan for 4,000 miles of road-rail-pipeline corridors across Texas, beginning with Texas 130, Krusee, the House transportation chairman, has pushed the state to accept the redesign.

Trains require straighter, flatter runs, so the state has asked Lone Star Infrastructure to make sure its designs do not preclude rail along Texas 130. The changes in question concern lowering the grade already designed for the road so, as Garcia puts it, Texas 130 would be “more rail friendly.”

How to pay for the changes, should they happen, is another problem. None of the money already approved for Texas 130 – from bonds, the federal government, the state, Austin, Round Rock and Williamson and Travis counties – would be used, Garcia said.

Central Texas governments probably would be asked to give more money to the project while the Texas DOT scours its own accounts for more cash.

“That figure you mentioned, that’s a sizable dollar figure, and you need to figure out how you make that happen,” Garcia said.

The DOT is also wary of upsetting Wall Street, whose $3.2 billion in bonds is paying for the bulk of Texas 130, Texas 45 North and a tolled MoPac northern extension. The bond agreements require the state to have all three toll roads open for traffic by December 2007.


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Washington’s Locke signs transportation bill

Washington’s gasoline tax will jump by a nickel a gallon in about six weeks, the first visible sign of a $4.2 billion transportation fix signed by Washington State Gov. Gary Locke (D) on May 19.

A jubilant Locke said the package would ease traffic congestion, boost the economy and make the state more attractive to Boeing as it scouts locations for its new 7E7 aircraft assembly plant, according to the Portland Oregonian.

It’s the first gas-tax increase approved in Olympia since 1990, and follows overwhelming voter rejection of a $7.7 billion referendum last fall that would have bumped the tax up by 9 cents a gallon.

The nickel increase amounts to about the cost of a can of pop a week for the average motorist, said Sen. Dan Swecker (R). The state tax will be 28 cents a gallon after the increase on July 1. The finance package includes other fees and tax surcharges.

The 10-year package includes approximately $3.4 billion for highways, $605 million for public transportation and $100 million for four new auto ferries and work on existing vessels and terminals – but the package could still unravel.

Locke gave equal credit to Republicans, including former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, who was his cochairman for the losing Referendum 51 campaign last year.

“The improvements will make our roads safer, speed up commutes, improve freight mobility across our state on highways and on railroad tracks, replace four auto ferries that were built in the 1920s, and improve public transportation and Amtrak service,” Locke said.

Gorton called the package a “magnificent beginning” to repair both the roads and the public cynicism that plagues government. He praised the “persistence and diligence and hard work” of the governor in pursuing a transportation deal.


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California lawmakers now say
they oppose widening highways

A California legislative leader, bowing to public anger over the possibility of destroying hundreds of houses and businesses to widen the 101 Freeway, said last week that she now opposes the proposal, while a key transportation panel voted to oppose similar plans for the Long Beach Freeway.

Their voices join a growing chorus of public officials who have expressed skepticism or outright opposition over expansion projects on opposite ends of Los Angeles County that could displace homes, schools, parks and places of worship, the Los Angeles Times reported on May 15.

State Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D), a major player in an ongoing study of the 101 corridor, had enthusiastically endorsed a proposal to widen the Ventura Freeway – a project that, if implemented, could destroy nearly 700 homes and 250 businesses along the roadway, according to the latest estimates by the California DOT.

While some business groups and weary commuters have spoken out in favor of the proposal, Kuehl’s office was flooded with angry e-mails and calls from San Fernando Valley residents who live along the corridor.

“There was such an outpouring of grief and concern,” Kuehl said, “People were so upset it really wasn’t worth it.”

Also declaring her opposition was Assemblywoman Fran Pavley (D), who cited the “terrible toll” and “human cost” that freeway-widening would bring.


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Illinois searches for ways to keep Amtrak trains

Illinois transportation officials are negotiating with Amtrak to maintain three subsidized passenger train routes through downstate at additional cost to taxpayers, reports Copley News Service from Chicago.

The discussions came around May 19 as Amtrak argued in Washington, D.C., for more money to preserve its national rail system, which nearly shut down last summer because of a lack of funds.

The Illinois DOT’s proposed budget for fiscal 2004 tentatively earmarks $12.1 million for daily round-trips on a trio of rail corridors linking Chicago with St. Louis via Springfield and with Carbondale and Quincy.

Illinois’s current annual subsidy is $10.6 million, under a three-year contract that expires June 30.

IDOT Bureau of Railroads Chief John Schwalbach said Amtrak faces increased costs in providing the in-state service. A final amount still is being hammered out, and IDOT officials are evaluating Amtrak’s on-time performance and customer satisfaction to ensure “we’re getting a good value for our dollar,” he said.

“It’s just working out the details,” Amtrak spokeswoman Karina Van Veen said of the new agreement.

Besides the downstate routes, IDOT’s subsidy helps finance about one-fourth of the cost of Amtrak’s daily trains connecting Chicago and Milwaukee. The state budget estimates 678,000 people will ride the combined trains in the coming fiscal year at a public cost of $17.85 per person, an increase from the current $15.48.

Long-distance trains that pass through Illinois, including the Texas Eagle that stops in Springfield, are part of Amtrak’s national system.

Ambitious plans for a federal high-speed rail program have stalled, although a White House proposal would include some capital money for corridor development. IDOT officials and Gov. Rod Blagojevich hold out hope that Congress eventually will offer matching funds to help the state finish an upgrade of the Chicago-to-St. Louis corridor.

Illinois set aside $100 million for the high-speed rail project under former Gov. George Ryan, but the sum may pay for only about a third of it. The state is strapped for additional high-speed rail funds.

“This is still certainly a priority for this administration,” Blagojevich spokeswoman Abby Ottenhoff said last week. “Our goal is to ask the federal government to look at the investment we’ve made to date and make a match based on that.”


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

MBTA train derails in Canton, Mass.; no injuries

Commuter trains from Boston to Stoughton, Attleboro and Providence ran very late following a commuter train derailment during the height of the afternoon rush hour on May 19. The derailment occurred at about 4:45 p.m.

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority spokesman Joe Pesaturo said the rear wheels of locomotive 1025, an F-40PH, and the front wheels of the first car came off the tracks at Canton Junction station (milepost 213.9), some 15 miles geographically south of Boston.

No injuries were reported. Amtrak sent cranes to rerail the train, and the MBTA ran shuttle buses for stranded passengers.

The westbound engine was on a crossover that leads to the Stoughton Branch

Reports stated Junction Interlocking was under manual control at the time of the mishap, so the switches were being hand-cranked by Communications and Signal forces, including movable frogs. The crossovers permit 45 mph speeds.


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Amtrak workers jump ship for MBCR

The new operator of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s commuter rail system has reached a tentative agreement on a contract with the 14 unions representing the network’s 1,400 workers.

A deal with the workers was the key hurdle before the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. takes over operation of the T’s commuter rail from Amtrak on July 1, wrote the Boston Herald on May 19.

Sources said a half-dozen Amtrak dispatchers are moving to the new company. The five-year deal, agreed to in principle a fortnight ago by union leaders, is similar to an earlier proposal proffered by MBCR that would give each worker a $2,000 signing bonus, annual 3 to 4 percent pay hikes and two additional sick days per year.

“In this day and age, it’s a good package,” said one union source.

The contract must be ratified by each of the unions. Sources say some already have signed off on it.

Union and MBTA officials were keeping silent.

With just six weeks before MBCR takes over from Amtrak, time was running out for the deal. Had there been a standoff, the commuter rail could have ground to a halt July 1.


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New group urges Greenbush line completion

A new pro-train group is urging the South Shore’s ‘‘silent majority” to flood the Romney administration with letters in favor of the Greenbush commuter rail line.

‘‘He needs to hear from you,” said Ralph Rivkind, head of Greenbush on Track (GOT), a grass-roots group backed by the South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

The group has advertised by hanging signs on overpasses above the Southeast Expressway, according to The Patriot Ledger.

There are about 200 members in the group’s database, chamber officials said.

About 36 residents attended a recent inaugural meeting of GOT at Scituate Country Club, a short distance from where the Greenbush layover station would be built.

Nearly everyone at the meeting was either a commuter tired of spending three hours a day driving in and out of Boston, or a labor leader excited about the 450 hard-hat jobs that the project would create.

‘‘These are local guys that spend money in the community, coach the local youth sports teams,” said Braintree resident Howard Chadbourne, a member of Quincy-based Laborers Local 133.

The Romney administration is analyzing the Greenbush commuter rail project’s cost benefit as part of a broad review of state capital spending.

Concurrently, the MBTA is three months into a six-month work stoppage on the $464 million project. In February, the agency said it needed to suspend construction in order to resolve outstanding permitting and land-use issues. Work on the North Street Bridge in Weymouth, which was begun before the work-stoppage order, was allowed to proceed.

Terry Fancher, general manager of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, called on residents to keep the project on the administration’s front burner by sending letters and E-mail and making phone calls.

‘‘He needs to know there is support for it,” Fancher said. He noted Romney’s business background is a boon to the pro-Greenbush effort.

‘‘He’s going to look at it unemotionally; he’s going to look at it factually,” Fancher said. ‘‘He’s asked business-based questions, and he’s getting business-based answers.”

For the past three months, the chamber has been quietly meeting with Romney aides, plying them with data and lobbying for support, Fancher said.

At a chamber breakfast last month, Romney said the Greenbush project scores well when compared with other large state transportation projects.

Also last month, the chamber released the results of a survey in which 64 percent of the respondents were in favor of restoring the Greenbush line.

Opponents criticized the survey because it included opinions from Norwell and Marshfield residents, who do not live in the Greenbush corridor.

However, Rivkind said Norwell residents have a right to weigh in on the issue considering that they fight traffic on the Southeast Expressway and would stand to benefit from the Greenbush line.


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MBTA temporarily pulls EPA permit

Massachusetts transportation officials say their decision to halt environmental permitting in the Hockomock Swamp does not signal an end to a Fall River-New Bedford commuter rail plan.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has asked the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to put the permitting process on hold while Gov. Mitt Romney analyzes the costs of all rail expansion plans, DOT spokesman Jon Carlisle said.

“The MBTA has not taken the Fall River-New Bedford line off the table,” Carlisle said. “But it would be imprudent to spend staff time and money on the project right now,” according to the Taunton Gazette of May 14.

The MBTA was getting federal permitting for work it plans to do near the abandoned rail bed in the Hockomock Swamp, an area of critical environmental concern, as it extends the Stoughton route south through Easton and Raynham.

A May 13 letter to Andrew Brennan, MBTA Environmental Affairs director, stated Brennan told Corps staffer Alan Anacheka-Nasemann that his agency “was no longer pursuing the project at this time and did not presently plan to extend rail service to New Bedford and Fall River.”

“Therefore, we have administratively closed your file without prejudice,” Crystal Gardner, chief of the Permits & Enforcement Branch of the Corps’ Regulatory Division, responded to Brennan.

Carlisle said the “T” plans to ask the Corps to resume the permitting as soon as the project gets the go ahead from Romney.

Kyla Bennett, New England Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (New England PEER) and a former Environmental Protection Agency biologist, said the case is closed as far as she is concerned.

“It’s a matter of semantics. The Corps is in the driver’s seat. It can close the file when there is no activity and take their people off the case,” she said.

The report marks the second rumored demise of the commuter rail project.

Last month, rail opponents celebrated after a Romney aide told the Boston Globe the governor was shifting his focus and funds to improving existing rail service within the Boston area and was pulling his support from rural and suburban projects to discourage sprawl.

A few weeks later, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey told Taunton Gazette editors the report had exaggerated the governor’s intention.

Like other rail opponents, however, Bennett believes the $720 million project will not continue because it offers no economic benefit and harms the environment.

She is calling on Romney to transfer the ownership of the abandoned rail bed over to the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

“It makes sense to close this door once and for all,” Bennett said. “This isn’t smart growth. This is stupid growth.”


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‘No tunnel,’ urge two Bay State solons

Two Fall River, Mass., legislators are pressuring Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority officials to scrap plans for an $8 billion railroad tunnel in Boston, and instead focus their resources on extending commuter rail service to Fall River and New Bedford.

State Rep. Robert Correia and state Rep. William Straus, both Democrats, issued the call May 6 when they co-sponsored a budget amendment calling for the MBTA to consider eliminating its plans for the so-called “North-South Rail Link.”

The Fall River Herald News reported on May 9 the $8 billion rail link project calls for the boring a one-mile-long tunnel to connect Boston’s North and South stations. Proponents have touted the project as one which would lead to a more attractive and efficient regional rail system.

Correia said he sees the project as an “$8 billion gorilla” that prevents the MBTA from properly proceeding with its other transportation projects. The city’s commuter rail extension project, and several other Boston-centric transportation projects, are currently on the MBTA’s to-do list.

“As long as that is on the schedule, we all have a problem. So Bill Straus and I put in an amendment forcing the MBTA to come up with a final decision by September 15,” explained Correia.

Correia said plans for the rail link have been on the MBTA’s books for years, and that it is time to do away with the expensive project.

“It’s a project that was ill-conceived. It’s been on the books for 18 years and it’s gone nowhere,” said Correia.

“As long as it remains on that (MBTA) board, it casts a shadow over these other projects. If we eliminate that project from the board, that raises our project right to the top,” he said.

It doesn’t appear as though the MBTA will fight the amendment, as the Legislature’s desire to drop the expensive project is shared by Gov. Mitt Romney’s administration and MBTA officials.

“There is a growing concern with us that this project is too expensive for the transportation benefits it would provide,” said state DOT spokesman Jon Carlisle.

With state funding scarce and the federal government unlikely to contribute resources to another multi-billion dollar tunnel project in Boston, Carlisle said there is no longer much appetite for the project on the state level.

“It’s too costly and probably should not be undertaken,” he said.

Correia and Straus hope elimination of the project will thrust commuter rail extension to Fall River and New Bedford to the top of the MBTA’s future projects list, but even if plans for the North South Rail Link are dropped, there is no guarantee the $600 million commuter rail extension being sought by Correia and Straus will be green-lighted.

Carlisle said Romney’s new Office of Commonwealth Development is continuing to review all state transportation projects. He said OCD Chief Doug Foy, Transportation Secretary Daniel A. Grabauskas and Environmental Secretary Ellen Roy Herzfelder are overseeing the review process, and that “the jury is still out” on the rail line extension.

Carlisle did not say when the review would be completed, but indicated it would be “in the relatively near future.”


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Bridgeport gets barge deal

The Connecticut Transportation Strategy Board voted a fortnight ago that Bridgeport should receive up to $7 million in state funds to host a Long Island Sound container barge feeder service. The decision comes after a year of strategy board debate and several years of competition between the cities over the barge facility.

The news was reported in Mobilizing the Region of May 19, published by the non-profit Tri-State Transportation Campaign.

The barge port is designed to help reduce truck traffic and congestion on I-95 between New York and New Jersey ports, and southwestern Connecticut. If approved, $1.5 will be available to Bridgeport immediately, while $5.5 in additional funds will be available in three years.

Newspapers posited several reasons for the choice – Bridgeport asked for less money up front than New Haven; Bridgeport is more economically distressed than New Haven, and thus could use the investment; and Bridgeport city officials are closer to the Rowland administration than are New Haven’s.

New Haven elected officials opted for the latter explanation. They criticized the decision, noting that New Haven is better situated for the project geographically. New Haven is further east along I-95, and sits at the I-95-I-91 intersection, so arguably has better northward and eastward highway access than Bridgeport.

The General Assembly could overturn the vote.


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WMATA, Oregon get 128 million from feds

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) received a $59 million grant from USDOT for its Blue Line extension to the Largo Town Center in Largo, Md., and got $69 million. The grants were disclosed May 16.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta said the commuter carrier would get “$59,014,944. The Blue Line extension to Largo Town Center will be the first Metrorail segment to extend beyond the Beltway in Prince Georges County.”

The Largo extension is a 3.1-mile extension of the Blue Line Metrorail from the existing Addison Road Station to Largo Town Center. The extension includes two new transit stations – Summerfield, which is at the mid-point of the alignment, and Largo Town Center, which is at the new terminus. The opening of the extension is projected for December 2004.

The total project cost under the current proposed Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) is $433.8 million, with a federal share of $260.3 million. This grant provides the third increment of federal funding.

An “FFGA” is the federal government’s commitment to support a transit project over the course of several years, contingent upon the availability of funds. As funds are appropriated, the full funding projects receive priority consideration.

USDOT also granted $69 million to the Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon for the Interstate MAX project, a 5.8-mile light rail extension between the Rose Quarter and the Exposition Center in the Portland metropolitan area.

“This grant represents the Bush Administration’s commitment to transportation as a strategic investment that strengthens the economy, protects the environment and maximizes the freedom of mobility for all Americans,” said Mineta.

Initial installments of funds include the purchase of light rail electric propulsion cars; purchase and construction of line equipment; signage; renovation of the Ruby Junction administration and maintenance facility; traction power equipment; train control signal; civil and systems final design; property acquisition; and program administration.

During a press conference in Portland, Ore., Federal Transit Deputy Administrator Robert Jamison presented a ceremonial check for $68,850,768 to TriMet.

“The FTA is pleased to partner with TriMet to provide common sense transit solutions to residents in the Portland area,” said Jamison.

“This extension of the Interstate MAX Line will allow even more people to experience the many benefits of public transportation, including a healthier economy, increased community mobility, reduced congestion, energy conservation, and protection of the environment.”


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House okays deal to keep NSTB

The House approved legislation on May 15 reauthorizing the federal agency responsible for investigating and making recommendations to prevent transportation accidents. The measure is now in the Senate for consideration.

H.R. 1527, The National Transportation Safety Board Reauthorization Act of 2003, which passed the House unanimously, is essentially the same legislation that passed the House last year, but was not acted on by the Senate. NTSB has been without an authorization for a year.

“This bill addresses the problem of delays in implementing important NTSB recommendations,” said Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

He added, “The NTSB is a small but extremely important part of the federal government. Its dedicated staff investigates a broad range of transportation accidents each year. This bill addresses the problem of delays in implementing important NTSB recommendations”

Young said, “While the NTSB has a good track record of working with agencies to ensure that its recommendations are implemented, some important NTSB recommendations remain open for years.” He pointed out “While we cannot expect instant results on complicated issues such as these, neither can we afford to wait five to 10 years or more to address important aviation safety problems,” said Young.

The four-year reauthorization contains provisions to fund the agency at $76.7 million from now until September 30, when the fiscal year ends. $83.7 million is earmarked for fiscal 2004; $88.0 million in fiscal 2005; and $92.7 million in fiscal 2006.

It also authorizes an increase in the NTSB emergency fund, which pays for the necessary expenses of accident investigations not otherwise provided for, and authorizes funding for the NTSB Academy.

The legislation, in its current form requires the NTSB to notify aircraft owners and operators of their right to appeal a board employee’s decision classifying a particular event involving an aircraft as an accident, and requires an annual report from the USDOT on the regulatory status of all significant safety recommendations it has received from the NTSB.

The bill also allows the NTSB to turn over family assistance responsibilities to the FBI if it turns out that the crash was the result of a criminal act.

Young, Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.), the full committee ranking Democrat, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the Aviation Subcommittee ranking Democrat, introduced the legislation.


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B.C. would lease its railway

The British Columbia government says it wants a private company to operate provincially owned BC Rail, Canada’s third-largest railway.

The B.C. Liberal Party government, which has been weighing the fate of the debt-laden railroad for more than a year, said on May 15 it would seek a private company to lease the 1,504-mile line.

The long-expected announcement, according to Reuters, could spur a bidding war. BC Rail is one of the last mid-sized railways in North America not to have been taken over by a larger line.

“We intend to be a player,” said Mark Hallman, a spokesman for Canadian National Ry., which is also negotiating the purchase of the Ontario Northland railway from the Ontario provincial government.

Canadian Pacific Ry. Ltd. and shortline firm Omnitrax have also expressed interest publicly, and officials of Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Corp. met last year with representatives of towns served by BC Rail.

Transportation Minister Judith Reid said the change would revitalize the railway, which was greatly expanded by the province in the 1950s and into the 1970s to develop natural resources in central and northern B.C.

BC Rail’s unions and the opposition New Democratic Party have accused the government of overstating the railway’s financial problems, noting that it made a profit last year.


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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
http://www.apta.com/news/pt.


Mineta Unveils Reauthorization Plan; APTA Responds

The Bush Administration officially unveiled on May 14 its $247 billion reauthorization proposal, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003, that proposes $45.7 billion in transit funding during the six years of the program.

At the Washington news conference, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, joined by U.S. DOT’s modal administrators, heralded SAFETEA as the “largest surface and public transportation investment in U.S. history.”

For public transportation, annual funding starts at $7.2 billion in Fiscal Year 2004 and increases to $8.1 billion in FY 2009, an average annual increase of 1.9 percent. Under the first year of SAFETEA, transit would be funded at essentially the same level as current FY 2003 funding under the final year of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, which expires in less than five months in September 2003.

APTA expressed disappointment that the reauthorization proposal does not adequately address substantial and growing infrastructure investment needs for both transit and highways. “Investing in public transportation is a vital element of our economy, generating $6 or more in economic activity for every dollar invested,” APTA stated in its May 14 news release. “The levels of funding proposed for public transportation will hinder national economic growth.”


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House Panel’s TEA 21 Investment Plan Could Provide ‘Major Boost’ to Economy

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) hosted the release of an economic analysis on May 13 quantifying the way in which his committee’s recommended funding levels for a bill reauthorizing the surface transportation programs would help stimulate the economy and create jobs.

During a Capitol Hill press event, Young cited the report to show that the T&I Committee’s bipartisan, six-year investment plan for $375 billion to reauthorize the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century would provide “a major boost” to the U.S. economy. Over the next six years, the funding level would boost the nation’s Gross Domestic Product by $290 billion above and beyond any GDP gains accomplished by a six-year funding schedule based on the Bush administration’s Fiscal Year 2004 proposed budget.

The report, which focuses on the incremental economic benefits between the T&I proposal and the six-year funding schedule or baseline that includes flat-lined funding for transit, was prepared for APTA and the Transportation Construction Coalition by Global Insight Inc., an economic forecasting company.


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U.S. House Forms Goods Movement Caucus

A bipartisan group of U.S House members has created a Goods Movement Caucus to address the impact of traffic congestion and inadequate infrastructure on freight mobility and economic development.

Reps. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) and Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) are co-chairs of the new caucus that has 19 members. Millender-McDonald, whose district includes the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, said the caucus would serve as an idea “incubator” for improving freight movement in the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.


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Higher TEA 21 Investment Will Stimulate Economy, Governors and Mayors Testify

Governors and local officials testifying before a congressional panel May 7 agreed that increased federal investment in the nation’s surface transportation infrastructure would stimulate the economy and generate other benefits for the nation.

Appearing before the Highways, Transit and Pipelines Subcommittee of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the elected officials provided the state and local perspective on growing surface transportation infrastructure needs. This hearing, held by subcommittee Chair Tom Petri (R-Wis.), was another in the ongoing series by the committee as it prepares its proposal for reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.


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Sarbanes Proposes Legislation Supporting Transit in National Parks

U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.), ranking member of the Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs Committee, recently introduced the Transit in Parks Act: legislation that would provide $90 million annually over the next six years in grants to support the development of public transportation and alternative transportation services for national parks, wildlife refuges, federal recreational areas, and other public lands.

The proposed legislation has 13 co-sponsors from both parties, and support from organizations including APTA, the Community Transportation Association of America, Amalgamated Transit Union, and Surface Transportation Policy Project.

The program will provide funds for transit projects, including rail or clean fuel bus projects, pedestrian and bike paths, or park waterway access, within or adjacent to these lands.


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Kansas City ATA, Union Agree on Contract Extension

The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1287 have agreed on a contract extension effective through Aug. 31, 2004, that calls for no wage increases for 2003. The previous contract expired Dec. 31, 2002.

The agency’s 625 employees, who are members of Local 1287, will receive a one-time-only lump sum payment of $419 for each full-time employee and $200 for part-time employees. According to KCATA, the agreement will permit the agency to stay within the framework of its 2003 budget.

Union employees will get a 3.5 percent raise in April 2004. KCATA employees received their last wage increase in January 2002.


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Connex TCT’s James Niemeyer Dies; Industry Veteran in Scheduling and Planning

James Niemeyer, vice president of scheduling and operations planning for Connex TCT in Knoxville, Tenn., died April 29 in Plano, Texas, after a long battle with cancer. He was 57 years old.

Connex TCT President Kevin Adams said Niemeyer was “a leader, an innovator in his field,” who helped establish the industry’s standard for scheduling and planning.

Niemeyer’s 40-year career in public transportation began in 1963 as a scheduler with the Bi-State Development Agency in St. Louis. He left Bi-State in 1974 as the assistant director of scheduling to join Phoenix Transit as director of planning, scheduling, and marketing.

In 1979, he joined ATE as director of intercity operations, and later was named director of systemwide scheduling for the start-up and operation of the Public Transport Company in Saudi Arabia. After returning to the U.S., he joined Trailways Commuter Transit as the head of planning and scheduling for the award-winning Dallas Area Rapid Transit Suburban System.


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LABOR LINES...  Labor lines...

Court denies ‘Hours of Service’ case

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers reports a United Transportation Union locomotive engineer lost a case in which he argued the carrier forced him to violate the law – but a federal court disagreed.

On May 12, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion on the Hours of Service Act, which may have far-reaching effects on railroad crew members.

The court ruling in this California case dealt with the application of “respite” or releasing a crew from duty for an “interim” period. When a crew is put on “respite,” the crewmembers must be off duty for a period of at least four hours, not exceeding eight hours. The time before “respite” and the time after “respite” count toward the total time on duty, the BLE explained.

The ruling opens a door where, in the future, railroads may not allow crews to receive a minimum of four hours uninterrupted rest when placed on “respite” or “interim” rest, contrary to past practices.

The California Legislative Board of the United Transportation Union argued that if this interim period is interrupted by a duty call when the crew has not received an uninterrupted four hours off duty, then the entire time must count toward the hours of service, including the time before, during and after “respite” time.

The FRA argued that a duty call does not interrupt an interim rest period of a minimum of four hours. The court agreed with the FRA in denying UTU’s arguments. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) intervened in support of the FRA.

The controversy arose when the Union Pacific Railroad deadheaded a train crew from the East Los Angeles yard to Yuma, Ariz. The crew left East Los Angeles at 6:00 p.m. and arrived in Yuma at 11:15 p.m. The crew was released at 11:15 p.m.

Yuma is the designated terminal, so a rest period there of four hours or more would count as “off-duty” time. Three hours later, at 2:15 a.m., one of the crewmembers received a call from the railroad telling him to report for duty at 3:45 a.m. He reported at 3:45 a.m. and operated a train to West Colton, Calif., which arrived at 9:45 a.m.

The union complained to the FRA, contending that the 2:15 a.m. duty call interrupted after three hours what otherwise would have been a four-and-one-half hour rest period. The FRA ruled that the single duty call at 2:15 a.m. did not interrupt the rest period in such a manner as to cause it to fall below the four hours required for it to constitute time off duty. As a result, the crew member’s on-duty time on either of the two days involved did not exceed 12 consecutive hours, and therefore did not violate the Hours of Service Act.

The case is No. 01-71941 (California State Legislative Board, UTU, v. Norman Y. Mineta, Secretary of Transportation, FRA, with the Association of American Railroads as intervenor-respondent).

The entire opinion is online at the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers website, http://www.ble.org/pr/pdf/01-71941.pdf.

[ Note: PDF viewer software required - free at www.adobe.com - Ed.]


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

CP RR Kentucky Derby extra

For NCI: Chris Starnes

New Albany, Ind. is nearly completely shut down as Canadian Pacific’s southbound Kentucky Derby extra enroute to Louisville and Churchill Downs does some street running on May 2.

 

Canadian Pacific chief says rails,
governments should join hands

It is time for North American governments to invest more in the continent’s rail infrastructure through public-private partnerships to address such major public-policy issues as border security, traffic congestion and air pollution, Rob Ritchie, President and CEO of Canadian Pacific Ry., said May 19 in Philadelphia.

He said railroad public-private partnerships, or “P3”, can save shippers, the public and governments billions of dollars in return for relatively small investment, citing a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). The report said public investment in freight railroads of $4 billion a year over 20-years would save shippers $401 billion, highway users $635 billion and highway costs of $27 billion.

“Rail has solutions to some of the biggest public-policy issues that our federal, state, provincial and local governments are grappling with today,” Ritchie said in a speech to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Assn. annual conference.

“Big issues like the traffic congestion that is plaguing our cities; the deterioration of our overburdened highways; post-nine-eleven border security; air pollution; and the efficiency, productivity and competitiveness of the North American economy.”

He explained that in the past decade alone, the rail industry has invested more than $100 billion to modernize itself. Today, railroads move over 40 percent of all freight shipped between cities in the U.S.

However, he said, “given the projections for economic and freight-tonnage growth, there is also a need for a level of investment that is greater than the railways are capable of funding on their own.”

Ritchie’s P3 model calls for the public sector and the railways to jointly invest in projects that require government investment as a catalyst to provide services with public benefits.

“I am saying that where there is a public benefit – like reducing road congestion and increasing economic productivity – public participation is appropriate.”

Ritchie said there are many viable P3 proposals already on the table that will give the rail industry the opportunity to do more for the North American economy.

He said one example is the discussions between the railroad industry and the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois on a proposed $1.2-billion infrastructure project to speed freight and passengers to, through, and around Chicago.

“If an agreement is reached, the freight railroads would pay for the benefits they receive and the public for the benefits it receives.”

Ritchie said the AASHTO report, which represents highway and transportation departments in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, shows some policy makers appear to be coming around to his way of thinking.

AASHTO said in its groundbreaking Freight-Rail Bottom Line Report that “relatively small public investments in the nation’s freight railroads in the U.S. can be leveraged into relatively large public benefits for the nation’s highway infrastructure, highway users, and freight shippers”.

Ritchie said he knows that many state governments are supportive of rail, and he hopes the AASHTO report will encourage them “to invest more in modernizing the rail infrastructure through P3s, just as they have funded the growth of our over-burdened highway systems. The time is right for P3.”

Canadian Pacific is a 14,000-mile rail network. It is online at www.cpr.ca.


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KCS, TMM, TFM complete Mexrail transaction

Kansas City Southern (KCS) (NYSE:KSU) and Grupo TMM, S.A. (Grupo TMM) stated on May 9 that “in accordance with the Mexrail Stock Purchase Agreement entered into on April 20, 2003, KCS has completed the purchase of 51 percent of the Mexrail stock from TFM, S.A. de C.V. (TFM).”

KCS placed the stock into an Independent Voting Trust pending approval by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) of KCS’s common control of the Texas Mexican Ry. Co. (Tex-Mex; Mexrail’s wholly owned subsidiary), The Kansas City Southern Ry. Co. (KCSR), and the Gateway Eastern Ry. Co. (GWER).

Kansas City Southern already indirectly owned a significant minority interest in Mexrail through its ownership interest in TFM, which had wholly owned Mexrail before this transaction. As a result of the transaction, KCS will own 51 percent of Mexrail, but its controlling ownership will be in trust pending approval by the STB of the common control application. KCS holds an option to acquire the remaining 49 percent of Mexrail from TFM. KCS stated it anticipates filing its common control application soon.

KCS paid $32,680,000 for the Mexrail shares. The purchase was financed by KCS from its existing cash.

Thomas F. Power, Jr., former president and CEO of the Wisconsin Central Transportation Corp., has been named as trustee of the Independent Voting Trust and will exercise control over Mexrail and Tex-Mex until the trust is dissolved and KCS has received approval by the STB of its common control application. James Riney will continue as Tex-Mex general manager.

A KCS spokesman said railroad management “believes that the transaction should be treated as a ‘minor’ transaction under current STB procedures, since it only involves common control of a Class I (KCSR), Class II (Tex-Mex) and Class III (GWER) carrier in an end-to-end manner, with no reductions in the number of carriers serving any customers.”


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Guilford Rail named safest in the nation

Guilford Rail System has been issued the E.H. Harriman Award for 2002, distinguishing it as the safest railroad in the nation, according to Guilford officials.

Guilford, based in North Billerica, Mass., achieved an injury ratio of .70 injuries per 200,000 man-hours worked.

The prestigious Harriman Award is the one commendation everyone in the railroad industry strives for and is an acknowledgment and reminder of the importance of a safe workplace, according to a statement issued by Guilford officials.

“A safe work place doesn’t just happen,” Guilford President Tom Steiniger said.

“It takes complete and total dedication by every manager and every employee on the property. Our people should take great pride in the accomplishments of 2002, but we must strive for zero injuries in 2003. Winning the Harriman is both an acknowledgement of the past year’s success and a call to do better in the future.”

The annual rail employee safety awards were founded in 1913 by the late Mary W. Harriman in memory of her husband, Edward H. Harriman, a pioneer in American railroading.

For many years, Harriman’s sons, E. Roland Harriman and the Hon. W. Averill Harriman, sponsored the program, both now 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.

When the Harriman awards were founded, railroading was considered among the nation’s most dangerous occupations. However, employee injury rates have declined sharply since then, with a 70 percent decline just since 1980, according to Guilford officials. Today, railroad employees have injury rates comparable to those experienced by employees in retail stores and lower than those experienced by workers in other modes of transportation, officials said.

A committee comprised of members in the transportation field chooses award winners. Awards are issued to railroads on the basis of the lowest casualty rates per 200,000 employee hours worked, a formula that takes into account the volume of work performed as well as the number of fatalities, injuries and occupational illnesses confirmed by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Guilford operates freight lines in New York, Atlantic Canada and in all the New England states except Rhode Island. The carrier also won Harriman awards in 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001 and 2002.


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Freight traffic registers modest gain

All three measures of rail freight traffic were up on U.S. railroads during the week ended May 17 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported May 22.

Intermodal traffic totaled 194,858 trailers and containers, up 4.4 percent from the comparable week last year. Carload freight, which doesn’t include the intermodal data, totaled 332,779 cars, up 1.6 percent from last year, with volume up 3.4 percent in the East and virtually the same as last year in the West. Total volume was estimated at 28.9 billion ton-miles, up 2.5 percent from last year’s twentieth week.

Twelve of nineteen commodities registered gains from last year, with coke up 46.5 percent; nonmetallic minerals gaining 8.7 percent; and pulp, paper and allied products rising 7.6 percent. Loadings of petroleum products were down 8.5 percent; primary forest products were off 8.2 percent; and metals and products declined by 6.9 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 20 weeks of 2003: 6,411,113 carloads, up 0.7 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 3,686,003 trailers and containers, up 7.4 percent; and total volume of an estimated 567.1 billion ton-miles, up 0.9 percent from last year’s first 20 weeks.

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

Canadian railroads reported gains in intermodal traffic but a decline in carload freight during the week ended May 17. Intermodal traffic totaled 44,828 trailers and containers, up 9.6 percent from last year. Carload volume was 63,075 cars, down 5.4 percent from the comparable week last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 20 weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 1,240,020 carloads, down 1.6 percent from last year, and 812,857 trailers and containers, up 10.4 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 20 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 7,651,133 carloads, up 0.3 percent from last year and 4,498,860 trailers and containers, up 7.9 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended May 17 totaled 8,824 cars, up 3.3 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,655 originated trailers or containers, up 17.3 percent from the 20th week of 2002. For the first 20 weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 173,069 cars, up 3.4 percent from last year, and 70,397 trailers or containers, up 38.6 percent.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: Bloomberg.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)28.26028.620
Canadian National(CNI)48.30050.580
Canadian Pacific(CP)22.84023.740
CSX(CSX)31.06032.540
Florida East Coast(FLA)27.59027.000
Kansas City Southern(KSU)11.85011.500
Norfolk Southern(NSC)21.33021.680
Union Pacific(UNP)59.27059.970


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IN THE DESERT...  In the desert, and elsewhere...

Iraqi trains run again from Baghdad to other cities

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld says the trains are running again in Iraq.

He said at a Defense Department news briefing on May 20, “Passenger rail service between Baghdad and Basra has resumed, and regular service between Baghdad and Mosul and Baghdad and Umm Qasr have been restored.”

The New York Times reported U.S. and British forces worked to pay the railroad workers and get the trains going again from Baghdad to Basra. A Times reporter went to the Baghdad railroad station with military leaders where they met with Iraqi railroad managers to sort things out, get the payroll records, and hammered out a plan to fix the broken stretches of track.


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Germans vote with their feet over
Deutsche Bahn’s ticket price hikes

By David Beale
NCI European Correspondent

Germany has reformulated Deutsche Bahn AG’s (DB) price system for intercity travelers using DB’s ICE, IC, EC and IRE intercity trains. DB backtracked big-time on its new – since December 2002 – complex ticket pricing system.

The criticism in the public arena, from various politicians and from numerous consumer groups of DBAG’s airline-style pricing system for intercity trains has been unrelenting since its introduction. Added to that are the weak financial results that DB’s Reise and Touristik division (which operates all long-distance, intercity DB trains) of the past 5 months.

Many analysts and DB critics have stated that the new pricing system was responsible for the dramatic downturn in DBAG’s intercity passenger revenue and volume in the past five months.

DBAG dug its heels in regarding one of the often-repeated demands from various critics, and refused to return to the old Bahn Card discount program.

Under the Bahn Card program, a rider could buy a card for one year at a cost of about €100 (Euros) per adult. The card gave the subscriber a 50 percent across-the-board discount on all DB tickets except for commuter and local trains, certain special weekend fares on regional trains, and a few other special programs.

The more one traveled by train, the more the savings. Three or four long-distance (intra-Germany) trips in a year were typically the break-even point for the average traveler.

The new Bahn Card costs considerably less to subscribe to, but the savings on ticket purchases are similarly less, typically a 25 percent discount with more restrictions.

Reuters reported the system was too complicated even for ticket sellers. The assured efficiency of German rail has been rattled, airline-style pricing has seen passengers abandoning the network in droves, and even the bosses have had to admit it was all a huge marketing flop.

Deutsche Bahn chief executive, Helmut Mehdorn, said recently the complex pricing system would be overhauled after customers rejected efforts to mimic budget airlines and other European rail operators.

“The new pricing system has had a negative impact on our business and hasn’t worked out as we planned,” Mehdorn conceded after reporting heavy losses and a dramatic drop in passengers.

“We failed to properly explain our new price system and the customers haven’t accepted it.”

The system, designed to encourage advance bookings while punishing last-minute travelers with higher fares, outraged Germany’s millions of rail passengers accustomed to clean, punctual trains and simple tariffs.

“The pricing system is too complicated for anyone to understand,” said Daniel Cutter, 37, a computer expert in Berlin.

“Even ticket sellers don’t understand it. It’s so tricky they can’t work out the cheapest ticket on offer,” he said.

Having stubbornly rejected the need for change since the tariffs were introduced in December, the about-face was a grave humiliation for the legendary German institution. Executives who dreamt up the scheme have been sacked.

It has brought back memories of the same “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” marketing blunder of Coca-Cola in 1985, when the company scrapped its traditional formula for a New Coke drink, only to see sales plummet and the new recipe abandoned.


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Boy stops train approaching broken rail

An 8-year-old boy named Saddam Hossein – the spelling is different – waved his red shirt to stop an approaching commuter train in Bangladesh last week from a possible derailment due to a broken rail. It was loaded with more than 1,500 university students, The AP reported. The boy was walking to school when he noticed the rail. Seeing a headlight in the distance, he pulled off his shirt, tied it to a bamboo stick, and ran down the tracks waving it as a warning.


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

Hungry critter ferrets out his lunch aboard train

A hungry ferret caused chaos on a commuter train in central England on May 19, leaping from passenger to passenger before ducking into the driver’s cab and devouring his lunch.

The wild ferret jumped on to the northbound Midland Mainline train as it picked up passengers at Leicester Station, Reuters reported.

“It ran up and down the train causing more than a little consternation – although it is hard to say if the ferret or the passengers were more frightened,” a company spokeswoman said.

“It then got into the driver’s cab and ate his lunch – a cheese sandwich I think – before he realized what was going on,” she said.

The quick-thinking engineer radioed ahead for experts from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) to meet the train, capture the ferret and remove it so the journey could continue.

“So we have a hungry driver and a full ferret – which is spending the night with the RSPCA while they try to find it a new home,” the spokeswoman said, adding that it was a first for the company.


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OPINION...  Opinion...

Congress must commit to Amtrak solvency

By Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.)
From The Hill, Washington, May 20

A little less than a year ago, Amtrak was on the brink of a system-wide shutdown. The vaunted Acela train was having serious reliability problems, a fleet of wrecked and damaged cars was sitting outside repair shops, employee morale was at an all-time low and the company’s coffers were nearly empty. Fortunately, with the help of a $200 million loan from the Department of Transportation, a major crisis was avoided and the trains kept running.

Since that time, under the industrious stewardship of David Gunn, Amtrak has streamlined its workforce, begun discussions on providing parity on state-supported trains, begun a repair regimen to return the wrecked and damaged cars to service, terminated unprofitable lines of business and refocused the company on its core mission – moving passengers.

Despite these recent successes, Amtrak is still teetering on the brink of financial insolvency. As it limps along each fiscal year, held hostage by its annual appropriation, a single setback could cause Amtrak to miss its payroll. We can no longer afford to provide Amtrak with just enough money to ensure that the current system fails. Congress must act now to provide stability to our passenger rail system.

A major obstacle facing Amtrak is the condition of our rail infrastructure, both passenger and freight, which has been suffering for years from a lack of long-term capital investment. The Northeast Corridor, the only section of track owned by Amtrak, is in need of major rehabilitation. Tunnel improvements along that system are estimated to cost billions.

But before tackling infrastructure concerns, we must first decide what role inter-city passenger rail service plays in our national transportation system. Currently, a disparity exists between whether Amtrak should be a public service with a substantial and continuous flow of federal funding or a privately run, for-profit train operation with minimal state or federal contributions.

Recently, the Bush administration submitted the framework of its vision for passenger rail service in America. The plan expresses their desire to separate the Northeast Corridor, create federal-state compacts and privatize long-distance routes.

I am encouraged by the administration’s recognition of the need for capital grants for corridor development and I look forward to working with the states to explore ways to provide necessary service at a reasonable price to the federal government.

When the final details of this proposal are transmitted to Congress in the next few weeks, discussions on the future of Amtrak will begin in earnest. During those negotiations, I will remain firmly committed to a national passenger rail system — one that cannot be simply fixed by eliminating the unprofitable long-distance trains.

Quinn chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear editor:

Your lead story on SAFETEA and the gas tax revolt [D:F May 19] leads me to two observations:

First, most families in America are not having trouble making ends meet, unless one defines “ends” as riding lawnmowers, and full cable TV, which, last I looked, were not necessities. So I say, yes, raise the gas tax to pay for the highway needs and the intermodal needs.

Second, enough deference is already paid to President Bush; witness the ire against the gas tax increase. Mr. editor, please do not capitalize ‘president’ except when attached to his name. See rule 7.18 in the Chicago Manual of Style. We got rid of our ‘King’ (note capital) in 1976!

Thanks,

Chalmers “Chop” Hardenbergh
Yarmouth, Maine

Mr. Hardenbergh edits Atlantic Northeast Rails & Ports, a twice-monthly newsletter.

Dear Mr. Hardenbergh:

We read different stylebooks. Chicago is passé – Mostly because that’s what Microsoft used for its grammatical notions – but Kate L. Terabian, who edited an early scholarly stylebook, did so while at the Univ. of Chicago when she crafted A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing), last revised in 1996. Her first edition was published 60 years earlier. Terabian (1893-1987) was dissertation secretary at the university from 1930 to 1958.

We use The Modern Language Assn. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 2nd. Ed., Edited by Joseph Gibaldi (New York:1999) to prepare Destination:Freedom. The stylebook does not address “President” vs. “president” per se, so it falls to my editorial judgment to make it capitalized, because I am referring to a particular President. The U.S. has only one President, regardless of whether one agrees with his policies or politics. I am not referring to the president of Amtrak, nor Norfolk Southern’s president, nor Bank of America’s president, etc.

A footnote – Although not strictly a style book, William Strunk, Jr.’s (1869–1946) The Elements of Style remains one of the earliest guides for American writers. At only 43 pages, it was first published in 1918 while he was a professor of English at Cornell Univ. Much of his “little book” is now antiquated, yet it still contains some gems for writers with its tools and notions.

Many people also use the Associated Press stylebook, particularly if they are concerned with non-fiction writing. I have not seen a copy in years, so I’m no longer closely familiar with its newspaper-oriented guidelines.– Ed.


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

Fairbanks-Morse road switcher leaves East Side Tunnel (1953)

NCI: Leo King

Way back in November 1908, electrified East Side Tunnel in Providence, R.I. opened for business, but was abandoned in the 1980s. Ca. 1953, New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad’s orange and green Fairbanks-Morse road-switchers, like the 594, were daily visitors to the hole, traveling to and fro to East Providence over the Seekonk River Draw and SS K-315, the New Haven’s name for a signal station – in this case, the bridge’s tower.

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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