Destination:Freedom Newsletter
Destination:Freedom
The Newsletter of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
Vol. 4 No. 22, June 2, 2003
Copyright © 2003, NCI, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - James Furlong
Editor - Leo King

A weekly North American rail and transit update

 


Chicago Skyline -Rail yards at Union Station

For NCI: Dave DiQuinzio

May 21 at noon was a “beautiful, sunny, not-too-hot day in Chicago,” writes photographer Dave DiQuinzio, whose job requires him to inspect equipment on roofs of large office buildings. This one is in The Loop, he says, “and, at 37 stories, offers good views – with the exception of lightning rods that get in the way.” Looking south and a little west, Amtrak’s yards south of Union Station are in plain view, along with the Roosevelt Road overpass, and farther away, the rail line that provides access to Union Station from the Illinois Central route. Earlier, DiQuinzio walked across the Roosevelt Road overpass. “Evidence of David Gunn’s express and freight reduction in the form of idle RoadRailer equipment can be seen in that portion of the yard immediately adjacent to the Chicago River, South Branch,” he says.

 

Penn station congestion threatens quagmire

Gunn: fund Amtrak or shut it down

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

Fish or cut bait! That’s David Gunn’s challenge to policymakers who write the checks for Amtrak. He is skeptical of some new mechanisms for funding rail – though he has yet to examine them, and he warns that New York’s Penn Station may be heading for a congestion crisis.

Speaking before the Transportation Table at the National Press Club May 23 shortly after his first year as Amtrak’s CEO had run its course, Gunn said he was hired to do what needs to be done to put the rail service in shape, and he is going to do just that. Waiting for Congress and the White House to decide whether to give him the money to do the job, he indicated, is something akin to waiting for the proverbial cows to come home.

“If you don’t want me to do it, tell me to stop – because I’m doing it,” said the determined top Amtrak official, defying the ditherers ad infinitum. This “Not-only-can-do-but-WILL-do” attitude first manifested itself in last July’s interview with D:F when Gunn said he was not about to wait around for the policy honchos to give him the green light to repair damaged equipment that had been sitting idle at Beech Grove.

That effort continues, as between 15 and 20 cars are either back in service or well on their way, with more to come.

He cites what he sees as nit-picking hair splitting over long distance train costs as just another issue he confronts almost on a daily basis.

Some on Capitol Hill – notably Senate Commerce Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) – have told Gunn he ought to get rid of the Sunset Limited because it’s a money-loser – a claim that in and of itself has been challenged.

“They say it’s the worst train [in terms of losses],” Gunn said, “So if I get rid of the Sunset Limited, then they’ll tell me to get rid of the next worse train.”

Bottom line: What’s the purpose of the exercise of running passenger trains?

“If saving money is the whole purpose, then for God’s sake, shut it down because you will save money,” he said.

Though most of the growth in rail passenger service will come in urban corridor operations, Gunn said, the long distance trains serve a purpose. If you note many of the smaller towns they serve, “some of them are remote and hard to get to.

“The federal government has some responsibility” to serve them (emphasis his).

As Gunn was speaking, new funding ideas were being bandied about, both on and off Capitol Hill, which would provide a stable funding structure for rail operations. When D:F asked him about one bonding proposal that had been discussed at NCI’s annual conference in late April, the passenger train boss let it be known that he has yet to be convinced, though he did not dismiss it out of hand.

“If this proposal just means that the government borrows more money to pay for rail infrastructure, it won’t work,” he responded.

Tim Gillespie, a former Amtrak official who is now a consultant, later that day e-mailed D:F with his reaction to Gunn’s comment, and outlined the plan put forward by the Railway Supply Institute’s Michael Pracht who chairs its Passenger Transportation Committee.

Obviously, Gunn had not yet seen the plan, Gillespie told us.

“Under our proposal, the government does not assume any debt,” he explained, adding, “This proposal sets up a private corporation, the Railroad Finance and Development Corp. (RFDC) or whatever Congress decides to call it. It is that corporate entity that assumes the debt. Here’s how it works: The government gives RFDC the authority to sell tax credit bonds. They sell the tax bonds to whoever has a tax liability and the purchaser of the bonds can reap the benefit of a tax credit and reduce the amount of tax they owe he federal government. The only loss to the federal government is revenue that does not come into the Treasury from people who use these credits. States that apply for grants from the proceeds of these bonds will be required to provide a non-federal match of between 20 to 30 percent.”

For further details on the RSI plan, see previous D:F accounts of the April 28-29 annual conference.

That plan would be aimed specifically at upgrading rail infrastructure. As D:F reported last week, another plan by Sens. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) would set up a bonding process that would apply to all modes of transportation, including rail.

During his May 23 talk, Gunn agreed that railroading in general – passenger and freight – had been shortchanged in the transportation mix where other modes have stable “trust funds.”

The freight carriers, he noted, “don’t generate enough cash for adequate control and equipment. They carry about 40 percent of the total gross freight tonnage, and derive 7 percent of the bill. In many cases, they are forced to single-track where growth would argue for double tracking, he noted.

Surely, he added, some kind of stable funding mechanism for both rail freight and passenger service would be justified.

Gunn warned of an intolerable – and perhaps dangerous – congestion that could totally bog down rail traffic at New York City’s Penn Station.

The Secaucus Connection which soon will enable more New Jersey Transit trains to enter the tunnels into Penn Station, will add considerably to the already extremely busy rail traffic there. The facility accommodates hundreds of trains each day not only from Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, but also from the Long Island Railroad. The latter comes from the east using four tunnels, also used by some Amtrak trains. It is Amtrak and NJT coming from the west using just two tunnels under the Hudson River that are going to run into trouble, as Gunn sees it.

Either a new tunnel will have to be built or the schedule simply will “defy the law of physics,” he warned. Every single train will have to arrive at Newark (just 15 minutes outside New York) on time, “or at least within 60 seconds,” he said. Gunn has already pushed forward with upgrading of the Hudson and East River tunnels due to safety factors.

Amtrak’s CEO will have none of this ping-pong Democrat-Republican “blame-game” on issues related to the company.

“The Bush administration: Friend of foe?” asked one of the political animals which are well-represented in Washington audiences.

“Historically, Amtrak has been neglected by everybody,” the Amtrak president said in dodging that bullet, perhaps recalling not only complaints about the Bush Amtrak budget, but also the Clinton failure to budget any more than 50-60 percent of what was promised in 1997 as part of the so-called “reform” effort.

That’s another word that bugs the passenger train chief: “Reform.” Reform can mean any one of several things, from eliminating the service to providing efficient service at the lowest cost for the taxpayer.

In the absence of an average of $1.7 billion in each of the years of his five-year plan, “we will have a very serious problem,” he cautions.

Things are looking up, despite Amtrak’s historical trials and tribulations. For example, in its third week, the fare slash for the Acela Express between New York and Boston had resulted in a gain of 50,000 passengers. “There is a lot you can do with frequency and quality.”

He noted Amtrak is getting rid of the wooden ties on the Northeast Corridor – another 1,875 being replaced with concrete.

He said on non-NEC corridors, progress continues, including (with participation of the states) such success stories as the San Diego and Capitol corridors in California; and the Seattle-Portland Cascades Corridor in Washington State and Oregon.

*Gunn intends to replace worn down equipment such as 50-year old switch engines and auto racks on the AutoTrain that actually pre-date Amtrak. There are 50 Heritage cars, many of them diners, which can be rebuilt but should be replaced.

“Is there an Amtrak in our future?” Transportation Table emcee Alex Bilanow asked as he introduced Gunn.

“The short answer is yes,” replied the Amtrak boss.


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The Coast Starlight

For NCI: James B. Toy

California planners have rejected a high-speed rail route that would take it along many of the state’s beaches. On May 16, a Coast Starlight was headed northward through Monterey County, a few miles north of Castroville, Cal. An Amtrak California F-59PHI was leading that day, as is often the case when locomotives are being shuttled between Oakland and Los Angeles.

 

California high-speed board rejects route

Planners of California’s high-speed rail routing agreed to drop consideration of several controversial alignments along the coastline as it prepares to select a route for connecting San Diego and Orange Counties to the state’s proposed high-speed train system through Union Station in Los Angeles.

At a meeting on May 27 in Irvine City Hall, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHRA) board voted unanimously to drop alignments matching existing Amtrak Coastliner tracks along the Del Mar Bluffs in San Diego County and in Orange County along the beach at San Clemente and through the historic district in San Juan Capistrano.

“This was an important decision because it sets the ground rules for our final selection of the passenger rail path linking San Diego to the high-speed train network,” said Rod Diridon, chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Board.

“This lets everyone focus on practical design options and lets folks along the coast know that we will not intrude on their beaches.”

A stream of public officials took the podium to praise the staff recommendation approved by the board. They were virtually unanimous in their support for alignments farther inland.

“I am really happy today to be able to support the staff recommendation for Del Mar and Encinitas,” said Orange County Supervisor Pam Slater. She commended the staff for paying attention to local input.

San Clemente Mayor Stephanie Dorey called the board’s decision “a win for the environment, a win for transportation and a win for our communities.”

She said the CHRA staff had been “directly responsive to the major policy concerns we have.”

Several speakers urged the board to also drop an option that would place the tracks near the beach in Dana Point, but the board decided to delay that decision until more information is available.

CHRA Executive Director Mehdi Morshed noted the beach alignments have been contentious for decades.

“It has been refreshing to work with a group of people who had an interest in not just pushing against something but working toward a solution,” he said. “This turned out to be one of the best examples of how the environmental process can work to better our transportation as well as our communities.”

Now, the beach alignments will not be part of the massive environmental impact report CHRA is preparing for the largest proposed public works project in the nation, a plan to create a 700-mile network of high-speed trains connecting California’s major cities with 200-mph service. That environmental report is expected to be released in late August.

A $9.95 billion bond issue currently is scheduled for the November 2004 statewide ballot to finance the first phase of construction of the high-speed train system.


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Proposed Texas Amtrak route
would move through Panhandle

Tickets sales are a long way off, but there is a chance Amtrak will begin service coming through Deaf Smith County in far West Texas.

A member of U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s staff told the Hereford Brand in Friday’s editions that Amtrak officials have initiated discussions about the possible addition of a line that would move diagonally through the Texas Panhandle into New Mexico.

The trains would run on Burlington Northern & Santa Fe lines that roughly parallel U.S. 60 through the Panhandle into Clovis, N.Mex., The AP reported on Friday.

New Amtrak lines are on hold, however, until further notice, the carrier’s CEO said last year, and until its finances are stable.

Hereford is the county seat of Deaf Smith County, 47 miles west of Amarillo.

U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, who was in Hereford on Thursday, said he was aware of the proposal but said it is a long way from reality. “I wouldn’t buy a ticket any time soon,” he said.

Deaf Smith County Judge Tom Simons said he also had learned of the Amtrak plans but had no idea how far along the planning is.

If the proposal becomes reality, the new line would complement the Texas Eagle, which is the state’s leg of Amtrak’s route from Chicago to Los Angeles.

In early 1997, Amtrak targeted the Texas Eagle for elimination, but a joint federal-state effort saved the line. The effort to save Amtrak in Texas was spearheaded by Hutchison, a staunch supporter of a national passenger rail system, and state Sen. Bill Ratliff (R). Then-Gov. George W. Bush also backed retaining the service.


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US Airways restores shuttles

A day after its chief shuttle competitor, Delta Air Lines, moved to resume hourly flights, US Airways said yesterday it would restore its own hourly shuttle service today.

Passenger levels on Amtrak’s high-speed Acela Express train have increased 9 percent during the first six months of the year over the same period a year ago, according to Amtrak officials.

US Airways will reinstate flights at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. between Washington’s Reagan National Airport, Boston and New York, the Washington Post reported on May 29. The flights were eliminated in April because of low demand. Other flights had continued to operate.

With the restored service, US Airways will run 15 round-trip flights on weekdays between Washington and New York, and 14 between Washington and Boston.

Delta stated on May 27 that by today, it would restore the flights it had cut because of a drop in passenger counts.

Business travelers had come to rely on hourly shuttles ever since the now-defunct Eastern Airlines began offering the regular service in 1961. The flight cuts – the first since the carriers trimmed their schedules after the 2001 terrorist attacks – had alienated some travelers who expected the hourly service.

Many started riding Amtrak’s Acela Express trains between Washington, New York City and Boston, which offers downtown-to-downtown service, and no baggage inspections as the airlines are required to do.

While Delta had planned to resume its service on June 2, US Airways had targeted May 3. Ben Baldanza, US Airways’ senior vice president for marketing and planning, said recently that the airline was not sure when it would resume the flights, but that officials were gauging passenger demand. US Airways spokeswoman Amy Kudwa said last week that the airline wanted to resume service by June, which it expects to be a strong travel month.

The shuttles, including American Airlines’ new operation, have seen their year-over-year passenger traffic drop 20 to 40 percent as cost-conscious travelers fly less or take the train.


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Virginia town misses its morning train

Ashland, Va. Passenger train riders have noticed that Amtrak’s morning train from Washington blows right through town these days. It used to stop there.

A fortnight ago, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Amtrak officials meeting in Richmond explained the strange sequence of events that led to the cancellation of the southbound train that used to stop in Ashland around 8:15 a.m.

While Ashland continues to have Amtrak passenger rail service – with six stops a day – the loss of the morning train in late April has raised the town’s awareness of the need to keep a close eye on one of the town’s transportation assets.

“We want to make sure they know how important rail service is to our community,” said Ashland Mayor Angela LaCombe.

Deborah S. Wetter, director of planning for Amtrak’s Southeast region, said earlier this year, the carrier’s scheduling officials were putting together a new itinerary for trains heading south from Washington’s Union Station. The schedule change followed the railroad’s decision to scratch its Twilight Shoreliner service between Washington and Newport News.

In the past, the train stopped in Ashland around 8:15 a.m., allowing riders to come down from Washington or Alexandria – but Amtrak had other ideas as it scrapped the Shoreliner and redid its Boston-Washington service. The railroad also added a stop at Franconia-Springfield in Fairfax County to provide access to the Washington Metro subway.

With this juggling act, something had to give. Otherwise, the new train, No. 77, would never travel the 187 miles from Washington to Newport News in the allotted four hours.

“They had to find whatever time they could” in the schedule, Wetter said, so, out went the morning stops in Quantico and Ashland.

Amtrak was also counting on stopping at Main Street Station in downtown Richmond by June, another factor that led to the Ashland cutback. The saga took another twist as delays at the Main Street renovation meant the station would not be ready to open in June.

When it became evident they were alienating some riders in Ashland, Amtrak officials started rethinking the change – then came yet another twist:

Amtrak doesn’t own the railroad it operates on. CSX Corp. owns the tracks and allows Amtrak to use them with proper notice. By the time Amtrak reconsidered its decision, officials realized that no one had informed CSX.

“There was a critical step that somehow got lost in this,” Wetter said ruefully. “Talking to the railroad.”

CSX, often criticized for rigidly enforcing its rules, actually gave Amtrak two weeks to decide where it wanted to stop – Ashland or Franconia-Springfield. The freight railroad agreed to adjust its own movements accordingly.

Finally, Amtrak President David Gunn decided it made no sense to speed through the decision-making process, so the schedule would stand as-is – for now.

Wetter said she plans to meet with officials in Ashland, as well as the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit, to take a hard look at local train service.

“One of the issues for us with Ashland was that not many people were using that train,” Wetter said last week.

Once Main Street Station opens, perhaps by the fall, Wetter said, it could catch on. It might be possible to get people off Interstate 95 and ride the train to downtown Richmond.

Certainly that’s the hope at Randolph-Macon College, whose students already ride trains to Northern Virginia, Washington and beyond.

“Our hope is that Amtrak will promote it more, and more people will know about it,” said college spokeswoman Anne Marie Lauranzon.

Ashland’s train service has been a nice perk for Randolph-Macon, she said. “We tell students they can hop on the train and get to the nation’s capital.”

Maybe in the not-too-distant future, they could ride down to the state capital, too.


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Another tower fades into history

Amtrak’s Clara Street Tower at New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal officially shut down at 6:00 a.m. on May 29. All jobs are abolished at the close of shift on Wednesday, one day earlier.

Amtrak 21st St. Tower in Chicago has been operating the switches and signals in New Orleans for several weeks. They are identifying themselves on the radio as “Amtrak Clara Street Tower, Chicago.”

Clara Street Tower will remain standing for use by the signal department until Amtrak relocates the signal equipment, which is on the first floor of the building. After such time, the tower will be torn down, although that is not scheduled to happen until next year. The tower was placed in service when New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal opened in 1954.

There will only be two manned towers left in Louisiana, East Bridge Jct. and West Bridge Jct., at each end of the Huey Long Bridge. Both date back to 1935 when the bridge opened for traffic.

Thanks to Michael M. Palmieri in New Orleans. – Ed.


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Budd cars lead the way for a daily ‘extra’

More than 50 years after the last passenger train left Astoria, Ore., the Lewis and Clark Explorer train pulled into town on Saturday afternoon to the sound of cheers, music – and sighs of relief from organizers who scrambled to save the new service from a bureaucratic snafu.

Local and state dignitaries and other guests enjoyed the views of bald eagles, rural farms, fishermen and the Columbia River during the four-hour excursion as the three-car train made its way along the 91-mile route, wrote The Daily Astorian.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Jan Mitchell of the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Assn., “Especially between Westport and here, you see a lot of stuff you don’t see otherwise.”

The train offers regular daily passenger service between Portland and Astoria Thursday through Monday each week. The trips began May 23.

At a brief kickoff ceremony Saturday morning at Union Station in Portland, Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury lauded the efforts of Rep. Betsy Johnson (D) to keep the fledgling program from ending after Amtrak announced its intention to back out.

“Many of you are blessedly unaware of the contortions, sometimes extortions, and arm-twisting Betsy has done behind the scenes to put this train on the tracks,” he said.

Johnson thanked the efforts of Oregon’s Congressional delegation, which lobbied U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta on behalf of the program.

She then rang a ceremonial bell and shouted “All aboard!”

For a time it appeared that Saturday’s trip might be the train’s only run after Amtrak’s last-minute surprise decision that it would not lend its support in staffing, insurance coverage or ticket sales to the long-awaited project because of proposed cuts in state support for other Amtrak lines and a ban on the ailing federal agency setting up new service.

As late as May 21, Amtrak officials stated they would not allow the service to run after Saturday’s VIP trip, and that they were canceling reservations and giving refunds to people who had already booked trips this summer, but the next day, state officials announced that an agreement had been reached to have Portland and Western Railroad, a private, regional operator which owns the Portland-to-Astoria rail line, take over the service and provide the necessary insurance. Amtrak will continue to handle ticketing and reservations.

Some guests on the inaugural trip included former U.S. Sen. Mark Hatfield.

The rail line runs through north Portland’s industrial area and parallels U.S. Highway 30 for most of the first half of the route, including through Scappoose and St. Helens. After Rainier it veers off and follows the river shore, along stretches not visible from the highway.

At several spots along the way people waved and took photos of the train as it passed. One angler in a boat displayed a sturgeon he’d caught. Near Rainier, the engineer had to blow the whistle to alert a group of people hiking along the tracks.

The Saturday trek was preceded by a safety and security run Friday. The train still stopped at three small drawbridges along the way so that crewmembers could double-check that the mechanisms were secured.

Passenger trains ran between Portland and the North Coast for more than half a century before the service was abandoned due to low ridership in 1952. Organizers of the Lewis and Clark Explorer train hope to take advantage of the growing interest and crowds expected to come to the Lower Columbia area for the upcoming Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. Brochures handed out to train passengers Saturday included the history of various landmarks along the route, along with entries from the explorers’ journals during their stay in Oregon.

Oregon DOT officials said 1,300 seats had already been reserved before the Amtrak dispute arose.

“It will be great when we can make transportation part of the experience,” said Mitchell, whose group is organizing Clatsop County’s Bicentennial events.

The train’s departure point remains in doubt. Saturday’s trip left from Portland’s historic Union Station, but because of Amtrak’s resistance organizers were planning to use the train station at Linnton north of Portland as the loading point. Johnson said organizers plan to continue talks with Amtrak officials to see if Union Station can be used.

Johnson spearheaded the state effort to launch the service, winning support in January for $442,000 in state funding to purchase the three Budd cars from British Columbia. Another $2 million in federal dollars were approved for improvements to the tracks.


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Amtrak posts large gains in ‘Eagle’ riders

Amtrak reports for the third straight month its Texas Eagle trains, operating between Chicago, San Antonio and Los Angeles, increased its ridership by double-digits over the previous year.

In April, ridership on the Eagle was 13,353, a 37.2 percent increase over April 2002. In March, ridership rose to 15,588, up 39.4 percent from the previous year. February ridership, at 9,980, was up 13.5 percent from February 2002.

An Amtrak press release stated, “Special promotions at the local level, attractive fares and Amtrak’s national ‘1-2-Free’ promotion all brought riders to the Texas Eagle.”

“We are very encouraged by the recent growth in ridership on the Eagle,” said Bill Pollard of TEMPO, a volunteer group that helps develop and support grass roots marketing for the train. He added, “These numbers show conclusively that trains like the Texas Eagle have a rightful place in America’s transportation mix.”

More people are riding in the train’s sleepers as well, according to Amtrak. Some 2,780 passengers traveled in April, up 24.7 percent from April 2002, continuing a trend that began in March when Eagle sleeping car ridership increased 25.2 percent.

Nationally, Amtrak’s total ridership in April was 2,098,901, against 2,048,398 for April 2002.


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High-speed rail gets a few Florida dollars

The Tampa-Orlando route of the voter-approved high-speed rail system will see $7 million for planning and engineering, while intermodal hubs in six cities along routes statewide will receive $4.9 million. The Florida legislature passed the measure in a special session that ended last week.

Though this year’s budget is essentially resolved, senior lawmakers from both chambers warned that new taxes or fees might be unavoidable next year. Several costly constitutional amendments – such as the initiative to build a high-speed rail system – will require hundreds of millions of dollars in additional spending. The high-speed rail system could cost the state up to $2.7 billion.


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LABOR LINES...  Labor lines...

Railroaders get small unemployment gain

The maximum daily benefit rate payable for claims under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act increases to $55 from $52 in the new benefit year, which begins July 1, according to the Railroad Retirement Board.

RRB said “Benefits are normally paid for the number of days of unemployment or sickness over four in 14-day registration periods, so maximum benefits for biweekly claims will total $550.”

During the first 14-day claim period in a benefit year, benefits are payable for each day of unemployment or sickness in excess of seven, rather than four, which, in effect, provides a one-week waiting period.

The board also stated “initial sickness claims must also begin with four consecutive days of sickness. However, only one waiting period is required during any period of continuing unemployment or sickness, even if that period continues into a subsequent benefit year.”

Claimants already on the rolls will normally not be required to serve another waiting period because of the onset of the new benefit year, according to an RRB press release.

The board members also explained to qualify for normal railroad unemployment or sickness benefits, “an employee must have had railroad earnings of at least $2,750 in calendar year 2002, not counting more than $1,100 for any month. Those who were first employed in the rail industry in 2002 must also have at least five months of creditable railroad service in 2002.”

RRB is online atwww.rrb.gov.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Rhode Islanders look to MBTA

Rhode Island transportation planners are considering a commuter train network that could extend to the former Wickford Jct. in North Kingstown to help relieve growing road congestion.

The plan would tie Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority commuter rail service with a rail network connecting Providence, a multi-use transportation depot near T.F. Green Airport in Warwick and the Wickford Jct. shopping center off Route 4.

The original junction was located at milepost 19.36, according to a 1955 New York, New Haven & Hartford employee timetable.

Spurs and sidings at a former station were ripped out several years ago as Amtrak prepared to install catenary between Boston and New Haven. Amtrak owns its main line between the Massachusetts-Rhode Island state line and New Haven, Conn.

The Wickford phase of the plan is being studied presently to gauge its effect on the environment, said RIDOT director James Capaldi, according to The AP of May 27.

The push for researching commuter trains comes because planners are reluctant to solve congestion problems by building more roads.

”Trains are the first thing that I think can work” to relieve congestion, Capaldi said.

The state also is studying commuter rail service to Newport, but that would be contingent on MBTA extending its service south to Fall River, Mass. There already is a low-speed rail line along Aquidneck Island used by dinner and sightseeing trains.

The state is spending $600 million on five projects –replacing a major bridge across the Seekonk River, relocating a section of Interstate 195 in Providence replacing the Sakonnet River Bridge connecting Portsmouth and Tiverton, and creating freight rail service and a new access highway serving Quonset Point in North Kingstown.

Rhode Island is borrowing against future federal grants to pay for the projects.


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Future is dim for Bay State rail route

Massachusetts transportation officials seem to be pleased with efforts to extend Falmouth’s four-mile “Shining Sea Bikeway” by removing abandoned tracks between North Falmouth and Falmouth Center. The proposal, however, would effectively mean the end of the line for rail advocates, who hoped one day to revive passenger rail service through downtown Falmouth to points off Cape Cod – like Boston.

In a key step forward for bikeway proponents, according to the Cape Cod Times of May 29, state Transportation secretary Dan Grabauskas recently asked the Division of Capital Asset Management to offer 6.5 miles of state-owned track to the town under a 99-year lease agreement.

As part of the agreement, the town would be free to remove the unused track between Skating Lane in Falmouth Center and County Road in North Falmouth.

“A 99-year lease is as good as a conveyance,” said state Rep. Eric Turkington, D-Falmouth, who has repeatedly filed bills to remove the tracks. “We’d be happy with that.”

Rail advocates, however, have reacted with dismay.

“That would negate the use of rail at Falmouth Station, and it would also negate any possibility of a connection with the (station’s) Steamship Authority shuttle to Woods Hole,” said Albert Pisani of the Cape Cod Passenger Rail Coalition.

In 2001, then-Transportation Secretary Kevin Sullivan refused to relinquish the track, citing the possibility of bringing back the trains.

Year-round passenger service to the town ended in 1959, and seasonal passenger service was last provided in 1988.

In an about-face from his predecessor, however, Grabauskas noted that future passenger rail service to Cape Cod would more likely connect to Hyannis, rather than Falmouth.

“I think you have to prioritize, because I don’t think you’ll have unlimited money for every spur,” Grabauskas said in a recent interview.

Extension of the popular Shining Sea Bikeway has been complicated by efforts to revive the trains, which had a brief renaissance in the 1980s.

The new lease proposal abandons previous efforts to attempt to run the bikeway parallel to the rail bed.

A compromise plan called for the bikeway to diverge onto Route 28A to avoid the environmentally sensitive area of Sippewisset Marsh. Turkington said the estimated cost of that proposal would be prohibitive, more than $8 million, compared with $1.75 million for a bike path down the centerline of the track.

Grabauskas and other transportation officials have said the chances of reviving a commuter service to Falmouth in the near future are slim, in part because of the deteriorating condition of the tracks.

Passenger train service would also require public subsidy, an unlikely prospect given the weak state of the economy. Even projects already under way, such as construction of the MBTA’s 18-mile Greenbush commuter rail corridor from Braintree to Scituate, have been put on hold by the governor’s office in light of the state fiscal crisis.

Still, sensitive to mounting traffic concerns and a growing year-round population, town officials have floated the possibility of building a transportation terminal off Route 151 in North Falmouth, near the Route 28 interchange, that would include rail service.

Some rail advocates argue a terminal at that location would do little to reduce traffic.

“We feel the line would be less viable if it terminated in North Falmouth,” said Pisani, noting that travelers would have to take shuttles or taxis down Route 28 to the Woods Hole ferry docks roughly 10 miles away.

Kevin Flanigan, deputy director of DCAM, said his department would most likely be able to discuss the proposed bikeway lease with the town after July.

Although Falmouth town administrator Robert L. Whritenour Jr. said he did not anticipate having to pay the state any money for the long-term lease, state officials would not confirm if the land would be free.

“We haven’t yet gotten that far. The cost issue has yet to be determined,” Flanigan said.

Falmouth Town Planner Brian Currie said designs for a section of trail stretching roughly two-thirds of a mile from Skating Lane to Carlson Lane have been completed. Once an environmental permitting process with the state is complete, the project may be put out to bid before the end of September, pending lease agreements.

That section of corridor will be paid for with $560,000 in state and federal funds, but funding for the remainder of the bikeway project is still up in the air, Whritenour said.


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$75 million buys land under
Beacon Park Yard for Harvard

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority voted on Friday to approve the $75 million sale of 91 acres of Allston land – much of it used as CSX’s Beacon Park Yard and a truck depot – to Harvard Univ. The vote came one day after the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority won use rights on part of the site. The site is about three miles west of Boston, and the freight yard is about one mile long.

The sale marks another big step by the Cambridge school in its years-long expansion across the Charles River. It already owns hundreds of acres in Boston, the Boston Herald reported, but the Boston Globe had a different take on the story, when it reported that late in the afternoon the deal hit a snag because some of the required paperwork was missing.

Moments before the land sale was to be officially accepted on Friday at the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds, Secretary of State William F. Galvin halted the process when a clerk was unable to find language about crucial easements for a rail line that was supposed to be part of the deal, according to Transportation Secretary Daniel A. Grabauskas.

Witnesses at the registry said Galvin’s interruption ignited a heated exchange with lawyers from Harvard insisting to the clerk that it was too late to stop the approval process after the first page of the document was stamped.

“It’s a complex transaction and we want to make sure all the documents are in order,” Galvin said after stopping the deal, a rare move for any state official. By late Friday night, state officials and Harvard’s lawyers were trying to complete the documents in an effort to have them ready to be approved on Saturday.

Harvard said it will have no plans for the site for several years, but has suggested several Allston options to neighborhood leaders, including relocating university museums and graduate schools.

This latest acquisition, like many prior Harvard land deals, has generated controversy.

First proposed several weeks ago, the sale was held up after T officials raised concerns over maintaining a commuter rail yard on part of the site. While those reservations were resolved last week, the deal brought to the surface the longstanding uneasiness both among Allston activists and in City Hall about Harvard’s growing presence in the neighborhood.

“It is another large chunk of land and it certainly means that, in the long run, the potential growth of Harvard, and the potential impact of Harvard in Boston and in Allston is likely to be even greater,” said Bob Van Meter, head of the Allston Brighton Community Development Corp.

“I think there will be further discussions between Harvard, the city and the community,” he said.

Under the rail yard agreement, the T dropped its bid to seize 47 acres of the Allston Landing parcel by eminent domain in exchange for rights to use about one-half for train storage, and for a second main rail line through the area. The T agreed to pay Harvard and the Pike $1 each for the rights.

Turnpike Authority spokesman Sean O’Neill said the mix-up was the result of a complicated series of transactions that were not properly recorded.

Alan Stone, vice president for government, community, and public affairs at Harvard University, called it “an odd event for which we should be given the benefit of the doubt.”

Grabauskas said Friday night he had spoken to Turnpike Authority and Harvard officials as lawyers worked to conclude the paperwork, and was “confident that we will be able to get this thing, finally, once and for all, done.”

Still, he said, the MBTA has reserved its right through Monday to take the land by eminent domain “if it would be necessary.”

Before an agreement was reached, the MBTA approved taking by eminent domain 47 of the 91 acres. On May 8, the MBTA agreed to drop its eminent domain plan in exchange for several key concessions that will ensure rail access through land.


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Sound Transit’s rail service grows

Sound Transit has reached a preliminary agreement with The Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. (BNSF) to begin operating the popular Sounder Commuter Rail Service this year between Seattle and Everett.

Sound Transit Board Chair – and King County Executive – Ron Sims said on May 28 the preliminary agreement “also allows Sound Transit the option to purchase 21 miles of track from Tacoma to the Thurston County line, clearing the way for expansion of service along a 100-mile corridor between Everett and the Pierce-Thurston county line.”

He said the final details on both segments would be worked out over the next 90-120 days.

“I am proud to have brought people together to help solve an important transportation problem,” said Sen. Patty Murray, who apparently lent her influence to the project.

“I commend both Sound Transit and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for working so hard to reach a solution that will have positive impacts on people’s lives for years to come.”

Track and signal improvements are expected to increase capacity for both passenger and freight, and enhance the economic competitiveness of the region.

“We can now move forward on service between Lakewood and Tacoma, providing a new option to commuters in south Pierce County,” said Sound Transit Board member (and Lakewood City Council member) Claudia Thomas, “but the deal is even better than that; in gaining access to this additional track, not only is it possible to expand the commuter rail corridor, we also give the region control over the service on that section of track.”

Under terms of the preliminary agreement, Sound Transit will operate one round-trip train between Everett Station and Seattle’s King Street Station before the end of this year. Details on start up of the additional three round-trip trains will be determined as part of the final agreement.

In the south, Sound Transit will also purchase or lease 21 miles of BNSF track between Tacoma and the Nisqually Delta, expanding the commuter rail corridor from 82 to nearly 100 miles. It provides the means for completing the voter-approved commuter rail connection between Lakewood, Piece County’s second-largest city, and Tacoma. It also makes expansion of rail service to Dupont and points south possible in the future.

Final details of the agreement, to be negotiated over the next three to four months, will be subject to approval by the entire Sound Transit Board and BNSF. Sound Transit will pay BNSF a total of $224 million, plus interest, over four years for the segment between Seattle and Everett and $27 million to purchase or lease the Tacoma-to-Nisqually section of track.

Sounder service began September 2000 and currently serves about 14,000 passengers per week with three round-trips each weekday between Tacoma and Seattle.

In 1996 voters approved funding for Sound Transit to provide a regional system of transit improvements, including Sounder commuter rail, ST Express regional bus service, numerous capital improvements (including park-and-ride lots, transit centers and direct access ramps) and Link light rail.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

CSX engines at rest

NCI: Leo King

CSX engines 299 and 336 are taking a breather on May 29 after a hard night’s work in Palatka, Fla. The railroad is spending $65 million this year in property improvements in Florida. It also won the “Silver Award” in the annual Harriman awards while Norfolk Southern took the gold – for the 14th consecutive year. Meanwhile, the land under the railroad’s Beacon Park Yard in Massachusetts has been sold.

 

GAO: new rail security law may be needed

From our Washington bureau

A Congressional “watchdog” agency says a new government plan on rail security, particularly with regard to hazardous materials may be needed, while the rail industry says such a proposal could be “redundant.”

In a report ordered by Reps. Martin T. “Marty” Meehan (D-Mass.) and Elijah Cummings (D-N.Y.), auditors for the General Accounting Office (GAO) say the “adequacy of [the rail industry] plan to protect communities is unclear since TSA [Transportation Security Administration]…has not developed a plan to specifically address the security of rail transportation, even though it has started developing a risk-based intermodal transportation system security plan.”

The report suggests several government agencies cooperate in formulating a plan on “the security of the nation’s rail infrastructure and the time frames for implementing specific security actions necessary to protect hazardous material shipments.”

Railroad reaction to the study was not long in coming.

“We question the need for development of a redundant plan by government agencies that would cover no new ground and lack desirable flexibility,” declared Association of American Railroads [AAR] President Edward R. Hamberger.

Meehan, though, said the study spotlights “an extremely dangerous situation.” He chastised federal officials because “[while] the government has focused on airline security, far more needs to be done to make sure the spills and accidents...don’t happen again and to ensure that terrorists cannot gain easy access to hazardous materials in rail yards.”

“There is no way that, post-nine-eleven, we should not have hazardous material passing through residential neighborhoods with no one watching it,” the lawmaker added.

The GAO report itself states such a concern must be “balanced against the security risks that disclosure could pose.” A terrorist up to no good presumably would love to know just exactly where and when a hazmat shipment was about to roll through a given community.

Most local community leaders interviewed indicated they had plans to deal with hazmat disasters should they occur.

FRA Administrator Allan Rutter had complained the GAO was implying the industry was paying “insufficient attention to the security risks.”

“[N]ot our intention,” say the congressional auditors who credit the “timely effort to address risk by the Association of American Railroads which was performed with a number of chemical manufacturers.”

The AAR’s Hamberger, the Washington voice for the Class I railroads, noted the TSA, as the GAO acknowledges, had “credited AAR for its efforts in conducting a very aggressive vulnerability assessment.”

The AAR CEO also cites statistics showing that hazmat incidents “are almost 30 percent more likely to occur on highways than on rail,” and also that “the vast majority of [rail hazardous materials] shipments arrive safely at their destination.”

Hamberger referred to statements by Rutter, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and others commending the industry for its security efforts.

In fact, he said, the rail industry plan is “a living document because the risk assessment plan is a continuous one.”


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CSX to spend $65 million in Florida

CSX Transportation Inc. said it will spend more than $65 million this year to maintain and upgrade its network in Florida.

The Jacksonville-based company owns 1,750 route miles in Florida, with key facilities in Tampa, Orlando and Pensacola, CSXT said in a news release.

CSXT’s customers represent some of the state’s largest industries, specializing in processed foods, phosphates, fertilizers, forest products, and manufactured goods. CSXT employs about 5,700 Florida residents.

“Our rail network touches nearly every aspect of Florida’s economy through the intrastate and interstate movement of its goods and services,” said Randy Evans, CSXT vice president of real estate and industrial development. “CSXT is positioned to work side-by-side with the state to assist in drawing additional resources to attract new businesses and jobs.”

CSXT, which is a division of CSX Corp., operates the third-largest railroad in the United States.


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Safety honors go to railroads, employees

By Wes Vernon
Washington Bureau Chief

Norfolk-Southern Corp. again this year scored the top Gold Award at the railroad industry’s prestigious annual Harriman-Hammond Memorial Safety Awards luncheon in Washington May 16.

NS has won the top honor in the E.H. Harriman Award for Group A – the Class I carriers – for 14 consecutive years.

The event, which seeks to spotlight the industry’s strong emphasis on safety concerns, has drawn an attendance each spring by almost everybody who is anybody among the captains of American railroading.

It is not uncommon for company office cars to be parked at Washington’s Union Station during what is seen by many as the event of the year for the railroaders and their honored employees. The awards ceremony itself was held at a hotel within easy walking distance of the station. The railroads spare no effort to give this event a high profile.

The Harriman awards were founded in 1913 by the late Mrs. Mary W. Harriman in memory of her husband, a pioneer (Union Pacific) railroad builder.

The Harold F. Hammond Award, so named in honor of its former chairman, is presented to individual railroad employees demonstrating outstanding safety achievement during the preceding year. This year there were two Hammond winners – one from Montana Rail Link, the other from CSX Transportation.

Runner-up to NS in the Group A (Class I) category was CSX Transportation, which took the Silver Award. The Bronze Award went to Burlington-Northern & Santa Fe.

Dennis L. Greenwalt, a carman with Montana Rail Link in Laurel, Mont. (having begun his career in 1972 with Burlington Northern), was a Hammond Award recipient.

MRL President Daniel K. Watts had written that Greenwalt “was a presenter in two recent MRL programs encouraging employees to accept accountability for each individual’s actions” and for the employees to be “warning each other of unsafe conditions and behaviors.”

The other Hammond Award recipient was Jerry D. Richardson, a locomotive electrician with CSX Transportation at Waycross, Ga.

CSX President and CEO Michael J. Ward, in nominating Richardson, cited his “leadership and ingenuity” which he said “were reflected directly in the safety performance of the Waycross Locomotive Shop which broke all local records in 2002 by compiling 500,000 consecutive man hours without a reportable injury.”

Association of American Railroads (AAR) President Edward R. Hamberger hailed 2002 as “the safest year on record ever, in terms of employee safety” and that 2003 was going “in the same direction.” Hamberger added the industry would not be satisfied until the safety incidents were “down to zero.”

Federal Railroad Administrator (FRA) Allan Rutter congratulated the honorees, adding that safety in the industry “is not just a slogan.”

Honorees in Group B (essentially regional railroads) for the Harriman Awards were Gold to the Illinois Central Railroad (Canadian National); Silver to Metra (Chicago commuter), and Bronze to the Kansas City Southern Ry. Co.

For Group C (basically short line carriers), Gold went to the Guilford Rail System; Silver to the Elgin, Joliet, and Eastern Ry. Co.; and Bronze to the Paducah and Louisville Ry.

For switching and terminal lines, the Terminal Railroad Assn. of St. Louis took the Gold Award; Conrail Shared Assets took Silver; and the Bronze went to The Belt Railway of Chicago.


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Six Chicago railroads work to ease congestion

After four years of work, six major freight railroads have reached general agreement and are working out final details of a $1 billion comprehensive plan to reduce rail and highway congestion in the Chicago area.

The improvements are designed to move freight trains in and out of Chicago more quickly and reduce the vast amount of intermodal truck traffic now needed to move cross-country freight from one rail line to another, Crain’s Chicago Business News reported on Saturday.

The plan, which entails a large number of infrastructure upgrades and trackage rights, would depend on funding from the railroads as well as the state and federal governments. Sources say there’s “deadline pressure” for an announcement later this month.


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NTSB to consider BNSF wreck investigation

Two topics will be on the National Transportation Safety Board public meeting tomorrow (June 3), but apparently key to both is cell phone usage.

Two Burlington Northern & Santa Fe freight trains collided near Clarendon, Texas on May 28, 2002. The engineer of one of the trains was apparently using a cell phone at the time he was to have stopped his train. One locomotive engineer was killed. The collision resulted in a fire, causing damages in excess of $8 million.

The other topic will look into a Maryland highway crash on February 1, 2002. The driver of a Ford Explorer was apparently using her cell phone at the time of the crash.

The meeting begins at 9:30 a.m., in the NTSB boardroom at 429 L’Enfant Plaza, S.W., Washington, D.C.


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Hudson Bay to upgrade some track

Hudson Bay Ry. has been awarded a contract to rebuild and recondition 14-miles of track on the Manitoba Hydro rail spur off the Hudson Bay Ry.

The project will include installing “geotextiles” to help with the subgrade of the track’s stability, track grading, rail change-out and upgrading, railbed bank widening and installing culverts.

Hudson Bay is an OmniTrax railroad.

Work is scheduled to begin the first of June and must be completed by the end of August. OmniTrax will have 19 people working on the project. More than 9,100 man-hours will be required to complete the job.


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QUARTERLY RESULTS...  Quarterly results...

Bombardier

Bombardier Inc. (TSX:BBD.A) (TSX:BBD.B) reported on May 27 its earnings per share for the last quarter, ending April 30, was a nickel ($0.05).

The firm also reported consolidated revenues of $4.9 billion, earnings before taxes (EBT) reached $125.8 million, and overall order backlog stood at $48.8 billion.

Bombardier Transportation signed contracts with Metronet consortia valued at approximately $7.9 billion over 15 years.

The firm also offered a “Successful equity issue of 370 million Class B Shares (Subordinate Voting) for total net proceeds of $1.2 billion closed on April 17.”

The company also reported on May 23, it sold Belfast City Airport to Ferrovial of Spain for $77.7 million; also non-binding offers were being received on the 27th for Bombardier Recreational Products, and the “sale is expected to close over the summer.” The firm is also selling its Defense Services, and those plans are “proceeding as planned, with negotiations ongoing.”

The manufacturer also reported a “23 percent reduction of wind-down portfolios at Bombardier Capital.”

All that follows Bombardier being in the red for the previous quarter.

“Although we have made good progress on the action plan announced on April 3, this first quarter has been extremely difficult and I am not satisfied with our results,” said Paul M. Tellier, President and CEO.

“The decline in the business aircraft market, unfavorable economic conditions and the continued uncertainty in the commercial aviation industry remain concerns.”

Tellier, a former Canadian National Ry. CEO, said, “I spent my first three months at Bombardier working closely with the financial community to address the liquidity issue and ensure more flexibility for the corporation going forward. Our financial bank covenant has been amended, our equity issue was overwhelmingly successful, and a sound action plan was put in place to divest assets, including Bombardier Recreational Products.”

He stated, in detail, “In the last six weeks, I have been increasingly focused on managing this corporation. All our people are aligning their actions in order to improve our bottom line. Cost reduction programs are being implemented, accountability and financial discipline have become a priority at all levels of the organization. We now have to execute and continue to focus on value creation. Our fundamentals remain strong and we have a sound course of action.”

Aerospace as he alluded to, has been a troubling segment of the conglomerate. People are being laid off, labor agreements are being rewritten, and production adjustments are being made based on market demand.

A press release stated “Net loss from discontinued operations totaled $1.4 million for the three months ended April 30, 2003, compared to net income of $17.9 million for the same period last year.”

Watercraft, all-terrain vehicle and outboard engine sales were off as were aircraft sales. The firm delivered 63 airplanes in the last quarter, compared to 65 in the first quarter of the previous fiscal year. This number includes deliveries of 16 business aircraft and 47 regional aircraft.

Bombardier Transportation earned revenues of $2.4 billion, its earnings before taxes EBT reached $108.2 million, its new order dollar value was $9.2 billion, and its order backlog totaled $31.7 billion.

For the first quarter ended April 30, 2003, Bombardier Transportation’s segmented revenues amounted to $2.4 billion, compared to $2.3 billion for the first quarter of the previous year. This increase in revenues is mainly due to the strengthening of the Euro, “which had an impact of approximately $250 million, partially offset by lower revenues following the completion of the Virgin contract in fiscal year 2003 and a lower level of activities on certain major contracts in North America.”

Bombardier is online at www.bombardier.com.


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NYRR

New York Regional Rail Corp. (Symbol:NYRR) CFO Joel Marcus said the firm reported improved revenue vs. the prior year’s period for the first quarter ended March 31, but reported a loss for the quarter.

The company’s quarterly revenues were $1,289,709 compared to $1,104,253 in revenue during the corresponding quarter ended March 31, 2002, an increase of $185,456, or 16.8 percent, but the CFO reported a “net loss for the quarter” of “$75,802 versus a loss for the three months ended March 31, 2002 of $51,097.”

The company recorded a loss from operations of $30,466 compared to income from operations of $5,405 for the quarter ended March 31, 2002.

Marcus said, “Our results continue to show improvements in overall revenue, however, they were negatively impacted by the slowness in the economy, the affects of an unusually harsh winter and increases in costs due to the effects of the war in Iraq.”

Marcus said, “The affect of substantial ice formation in the harbor caused downtime and delays, which increased manpower and marine towing fees at our rail subsidiary. Additionally, the rise in fuel prices during the quarter increased operating expense for our trucking subsidiary, which, as a result, reported a loss of $15,516 compared to $32,366 in operating income for the quarter ended March 31, 2002. We believe the factors which affected our quarterly results are temporary and, with the end of the war in Iraq and warmer temperatures, we can expect a return to historic margins that should manifest itself in improved bottom line results.”

New York Harbor Railroad is online at www.nyrr.com.


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Intermodal traffic reported up on nation’s railroads

Intermodal traffic was up while carload freight was down slightly on U.S. railroads during the week ended May 24 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the Association of American Railroads (AAR) reported May 29.

Intermodal traffic totaled 190,749 trailers and containers, up 4.7 percent from the comparable week last year. Carload freight, which doesn’t include the intermodal data, totaled 330,813 cars, down 1.8 percent from last year, with volume down 2.0 percent in the East and 1.6 percent in the West. Total volume was estimated at 29.1 billion ton-miles, down 0.3 percent from last year’s 21st week.

Increases were reported in loadings of coke, up 28.5 percent from last year; pulp, paper and allied products, up 6.9 percent; and stone, clay and glass products, up 4.4 percent. Eleven of 19 commodity groups were down from last year with metallic ores off 14.4 percent; primary forest products down 12.3 percent and metals and products off 11.9 percent.

The AAR also reported the following cumulative totals for U.S. railroads during the first 21 weeks of 2003: 6,739,550 carloads, up 0.5 percent from last year; intermodal volume of 3,876,752 trailers and containers, up 7.2 percent; and total volume of an estimated 596.2 billion ton-miles, up 0.8 percent from last year’s first 21 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 also reported gains in intermodal traffic but a decline in carload freight during the week ended May 24. Intermodal traffic totaled 39,386 trailers and containers, up 3.3 percent from last year. Carload volume was 60,127 cars, down 3.6 percent from the comparable week last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 21 weeks of 2003 on the Canadian railroads totaled 1,300,147 carloads, down 1.7 percent from last year, and 852,243 trailers and containers, up 10.1 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 21 weeks of 2003 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 8,039,697 carloads, up 0.2 percent from last year and 4,728,995 trailers and containers, up 7.7 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 24 totaled 8,721 cars, up 4.7 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,906 originated trailers or containers, up 16.7 percent from the 21st week of 2002. For the first 21 weeks of 2003, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 181,790 cars, up 3.4 percent from last year, and 74,303 trailers or containers, up 37.3 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)29.51028.620
Canadian National(CNI)50.46050.580
Canadian Pacific(CP)23.76023.740
CSX(CSX)32.75032.540
Florida East Coast(FLA)28.68027.000
Kansas City Southern(KSU)11.93011.500
Norfolk Southern(NSC)21.92021.680
Union Pacific(UNP)60.99059.970


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

Virgin fares rise 18 percent

Passengers in the British Midlands have been warned to expect a “summer of discontent” on the railways as Virgin Trains increases fares by a staggering 18 per cent.

Virgin Cross Country, which runs through the region, hiked standard open fares on May 18, according to the Birmingham Sunday Mercury of May 18.

Transport 2000 blasted the Birmingham-based company, claiming that fare increases coupled with cuts in services would make train travel less appealing to the public.

In January, the Strategic Rail Authority announced plans to axe 12 daily Virgin Cross Country services.

As of May 18, trains from Birmingham will no longer run as far as Portsmouth and will instead terminate at Reading.

Trains between Birmingham and London’s Paddington Station have also been canceled, and there will be alterations to the service around Gloucester.

Mick Duncan, Transport 2000’s public transport campaigner, said, “This combination of fares hikes and service cuts will only make rail less attractive and less user-friendly.”

Virgin Trains, which is set to cancel 12 daily services through the Midlands, claim that fare rises are a normal part of the summer timetable and that service cuts are being introduced to make the timetable run more smoothly.

John Balmforth, deputy chairman of the Midlands Rail Passengers committee said, “I am disappointed because we are going to lose all the additional services we got last year and we have paid for it in increased ticket prices.”


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OFF THE MAINLINE...  Off the main line...

O Winston link/Sminthsonian Steam Train Image

©Smithsonian Magazine

Winston Link was a professional photographer who took time out to study heavy Norfolk & Western steam in the Alleghenies. In the October 1955 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine, the editors wrote, “Link set his camera at a low angle so as to enhance the size of locomotive No. 2172 against the water tanks.” The magazine is online at http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/.

 

Link’s ex-wife accused of marketing photos she stole

The former wife of O. Winston Link, a photographer famed for fine train photographs, especially Norfolk & Western steam, spent five years in prison for stealing 1,400 of his prints.

The photos were never found, and throughout her trial and even after her release 18 months ago, she never uttered a public word about their whereabouts but a recent foray into the art market, authorities said, has landed her back in a New York jail, The New York Times reported last week.

The ex-wife, Conchita Link, 67, and the man she married after O. Winston Link’s death two years ago, were arrested and charged on May 29 with conspiring to sell 31 of the photographs through an antiques dealer in Millerton, Dutchess County, said the Westchester County district attorney, Jeanine F. Pirro.

The antiques dealer, who was not charged and who cooperated with investigators, put the photos up for sale on the e-Bay Internet site for an average minimum price of $5,000, Pirro said, below the going rate of $6,000 to $12,000 for one of her former husband’s images on the art market. The dealer did not know about the disappearance of the prints or about Ms. Link’s conviction, she said.

“This is a fascinating example of how you never really get away with it even when you think you got away with it,” Pirro said, adding, “I guess she thought the time was safe.”

Thomas H. Garver, the photographer Link’s former agent, led investigators to the prints. Garver said he regularly surfed e-Bay, waiting for the missing prints to pop up. On April 23, he said, he came across an extremely rare Link print and called the dealer, who confirmed that the former Mrs. Link was the source.

“It was this charming and most effective woman who came in the door and convinced him these prints should be listed,” Garver said.

He said he alerted the district attorney’s office, which arranged a sting operation in which an undercover officer posed as a buyer.

Link’s lawyer, J. Edward Meyer, said he had long expected Link’s widow to try to fence the prints after her husband died on Jan. 27, 2001, at age 86. “She was going to do it,” he said. “Greed wins out.”

Conchita Link and her current husband, Edward Hayes, 63, were held pending arraignment.

Garver said investigators told him that the former Mrs. Link said the prints had been given to her as gifts. In the past, she never tried to explain the disappearance of the 1,400 prints except to say that her husband had made up the story, said Darien J. Zoppo, the lawyer who represented her at the criminal trial.

Although the missing photos were prints, not negatives, they are considered valuable because they were made, signed and stamped by the photographer. There was no word where the negatives are.

Link’s mid-century photographs of steam engines and railroad towns evoke an era of small-town American innocence that contrasted starkly with the years of ugly legal battles with his wife, who was convicted in 1996 of stealing the photographs, worth more than $1 million.

At the time of her sentencing, the photographer said, “In my 81 years, I have never met nor heard of anyone more evil than her.”

The couple began their public fight in 1992 with a divorce and related civil action. They exchanged charges of physical and psychological abuse. Mr. Link said she had turned him into a virtual prisoner by forcing him to make prints in the basement. He eventually won a $5 million judgment against her for taking prints, photographs, antique coins and other valuables, Mr. Meyer said.

At the criminal trial that followed, gallery owners testified that she had tried to deceive them into thinking Mr. Link had Alzheimer’s disease, so she could take control of his business affairs. At her sentencing, Mrs. Link said she did not know where the 1,400 prints were. She maintained that position even when asked about them while in state prison, Meyer said.

“Winston’s greatest focus at the end of his life was to recover what had been stolen from him by his wife,” the lawyer said. “I just wish he was alive today to see this.”

He said he hoped a bargain could be struck with her, for leniency in return for the other prints. She faces four more years in state prison if she is convicted.

Link and Hayes, a consultant to gravel and asphalt companies, lived in Gettysburg, Pa., the district attorney said. Zoppo, her former lawyer, said she had relatives in Millerton.

O. Winton Link chronicled the waning years of the steam train, from 1955 to 1960, taking painstakingly lighted black-and-white pictures of the Norfolk & Western Ry. in the Shenandoah Valley and coal towns of the Allegheny Mountains. He returned to commercial photography after the railroad retired its last steam engine.

“His pictures are much more than railroads,” said Robert Mann, owner of the Robert Mann Gallery in Manhattan, which exhibited Link’s work.

“They’re about a whole generation, a whole period of American life in the ’50s.”

“If in fact it means all the stolen Winston Link photos have been discovered, it’s going to be a great day in photography,” he said.

The 31 prints that were recovered were emblematic of Link’s work. They included the image titled Hotshot Eastbound, Iaeger, West Virginia, Meyer said. The 1956 photograph shows cars at a drive-in in front of a movie screen showing an airplane, as a locomotive steams by in the background.

“It’s pretty much the quintessential Winston Link,” Mann said.


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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

An observation on the observations from Chalmers Hardenbergh in your May 27 edition.

My personal favorite style guide, the Gregg Reference Manual, clearly states in section 313(b) that it is perfectly acceptable to capitalize a title of honor for high-ranking government officials when it is used in place of the person’s name. In addition to the President, this includes the Attorney General, Chief Justice, and Secretary of State.

More importantly, however, the U.S. stopped recognizing the King of England as its monarch 200 years earlier than 1976, as noted in Mr. Hardenbergh’s letter.

Assuming that this was not an error on the part of D:F in reprinting his comments, perhaps it would serve him better to spend a little more attention to proofreading his own writing, rather than focusing on whether or not the President’s title deserves deference.

Eric Olesen
Fort Worth, Texas

From “Day One,” we have made a point of publishing various points of view, whether we agree with them or not. One of the founding principals of our nation is freedom of speech, which we hold dearly, along with freedom of the press. – Ed.


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

Wabash Steam Engine

NCI: Leo King collection: Wabash Railroad

The Wabash Railroad ran spiffy passenger trains and heavy freight service.

 

‘Wabash’ was an Indiana line named for a river

A railroad, like so many others, named after a river. For a good part of the watercourse’s journey, the stream forms the largest southward-flowing tributary of the Ohio River, rising in Grand Lake in western Ohio. It flows generally westward across Indiana past the cities of Huntington, Wabash, Logansport, and Lafayette, then southward to Terre Haute. Just south of that city it forms a 200-mile boundary between Indiana and Illinois and then enters the Ohio in the southwestern corner. In 1942, the railroad was renamed as it was reorganized.

The Wabash Railroad ran heavy freight trains drawn by 4-8-4 No. 2902, which operated under 250 pounds per square inch of steam pressure, jammed through 27-inch-by-32-inch cylinders, and developed 70,817 pounds of tractive effort. It was 100 feet long, including the coal-laden tender… and weighed 375 tons – yes, 750,600 pounds.

The railroad also ran spiffy passenger trains.

On June 2, 1946, in conjunction with the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads, the new train, the City of St. Louis, began operations. In addition to drastically reducing the over-all running time between St. Louis and the West Coast, the new train offered St. Louisans through service in both coaches and Pullman sleeping cars to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, or Seattle.

On November 26, 1947, another new streamliner, operating between St. Louis and Kansas City, was placed in service. Called the City of Kansas City, the train met with instantaneous success and was highly acclaimed by many new passengers attracted to Wabash rails.

A Wabash streamliner on February 26, 1950, marked the first time that dome cars were operated between St. Louis and Chicago. The new Wabash Blue Bird, containing four dome cars in its six-car consist, was put into service and offered Wabash passengers a new view of Wabash territory. The carrier operated between Buffalo, Toledo, Chicago, Kansas City and Des Moines.

On October 15, 1964, the Wabash merged with the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (the Nickel Plate Road) and the Norfolk and Western Ry.


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.

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