NCI: Leo KingBombardier won the 20-trainset order from Amtrak for the 150 mph Acela Express trains, and Renfe Talgo won the Cascades race in the Pacific Northwest but who will win the competition in the Southeast and Midwest high-speed corridors?
Florida's governor signs rail bill
High-speed rail in Florida draws closer;
route construction must begin by 2003
For 19 years, Peter Peyser has toiled behind the scenes for public and private sector clients. Among them is the State of Florida, whose voters last November let their political leaders know clearly they want fast trains - really fast trains. Amtrak is also a topic he gives thought to.
Peyser is a Washington-based lobbyist and public affairs guru for clients who are looking for ways to develop major transportation projects. He also picked up where DOT Secretary Norman Mineta left off at NCI's May 10-11 conference in our nation's capital, and expanded on some of those ideas.
"There's no doubt that Amtrak has a lot of problems financially and politically, and I think the key to addressing those problems is not to wring our hands over how to preserve today's Amtrak, but to think beyond to what we want."
He said, "It is no longer an option just to survive, but Amtrak needs a new life."
He agreed that all states and the DOTs at all levels should help support Amtrak financially - and Florida's residents have given their legislature a place to see a future for high-speed rail. It will remain up to the legislature to decide what kind of rail system they want. It may not be on existing rail, nor conventional rail at all, for that matter. CSX has already said flatly it wants no 120 mph passenger trains operating over its 60 mph freight lines.
The voters, Peyser said, "were ahead of the legislators in implementing what was in the referendum." Construction, he added, "must begin by 2003."
He said the outlook is promising, and noted a circular route from St. Petersburg around Tampa Bay, in the 60-mile range, will turn northeasterly between Orlando and Tampa, some 80 miles in a straight line drawn on a map. That is expected to be the first completed segment, and the route plan is 15 to 20 percent completed, he said. The total estimated cost of the project will be about $2.2 billion, not including trainsets, and will take about $70 million annually to operate. That line will eventually extend southeasterly another 200 miles to Miami.
He said it compares in some ways to the failed Florida Overland Express (FOX) but is much smaller than the FOX program would have been.
In a separate story, we report that Bombardier and Talgo are vying for contracts not only in the Southland, but also in the Midwest high-speed corridors as well. Both will be worth many millions to the winners.
NCI: Leo KingPeter Peyser, left, USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and James P. RePass greet the conferees at the May 2001 gathering in Washington.
Another man who takes a great interest in Florida passenger rail transportation is Nazih Haddad, who is the passenger rail development manager for the Florida DOT in Tallahassee. He is responsible for all planning activities for passenger rail service in the state, and serves as chief contact with Amtrak and the railroads regarding implementation of these services.
Haddad previously served as finance director for Florida's first high-speed rail plan, the FOX project, and was responsible for the development of the overall financing package. That plan did not pass incoming Gov. Jeb Bush's (R) muster, so it was cancelled within days of his taking office some two years ago.
This spring, however, state lawmakers put the wheels in motion for fast trains to connect Florida's biggest cities, sending the governor a bill creating a new agency to start work on high-speed rail.
Haddad told D:F last week, "The governor has not signed the bill yet, but is expected to do so by this weekend." Its name is the Florida High Speed Rail Authority Act, which the governor received from the legislature on May 4.
The Jacksonville Times-Union reported the authority won't be able to build any high-speed routes without coming back to the lawmakers, but the enabling legislation allows the state to get started on preliminary development and environmental studies. It also allows the state to start seeking help to pay for the project from the federal government and private industry.
One of the measure's key supporters, Rep. Paula Dockery - and wife of C.C. "Doc" Dockery, who was a principal player in getting the original question to the voters - said the governor had assured her he would sign the bill. Paula Dockery is chair of the House Transportation Committee.
Haddad told his audience at the NCI conference, "The state's high-speed rail authority should be appointed during the next thirty days." Sunshine State voters approved by a 54-46 percent margin a constitutional amendment, which requires tracks to start being laid by November 2003.
He gave the voters credit for being "ahead of the legislators in implementing what was in the referendum." He also credited Doc Dockery who spent about $1.5 million of his own money to get the required quarter-million signatures to get the question placed on the ballot. The question requires the state to lay a guideway, and not necessarily conventional tracks, among the five most populated communities. The legislature will select the final track structure.
"The Orlando-Tampa segment is 15 percent or so done," Haddad said, and that is to be the first section built. The state will spend about $70 million annually until the job is finished.
Haddad said the entire project will take about $2.2 billion from start to finish, in year 2000 dollars, but that "doesn't include vehicles."
He said that last year, he "didn't think Dockery had a chance of getting the question on the ballot. When it went to the voters on November 7, I didn't think it had a chance of passage. Governor Bush has indicated he will sign the enabling legislation."
In brief, the intent of the constitutional amendment, Haddad said, "is to reduce traffic and increase travel alternatives. This amendment provides for developing a high-speed rail system linking Florida's five largest urban areas and directs the state to begin construction of the system by November 1, 2003."
Florida's permanent, year-round population is about 15.7 million people, according to the 2000 estimate, which reflects the most recent census, but not including people in jail. The seven densest areas are Miami and Dade County, which account for 2.2 million people; Broward County (Fort Lauderdale), north of and adjacent to Dade County, 1.5 million; Palm Beach County (Palm Beach), adjacent to and north of Broward County, 1.1 million; Tampa and Hillsborough County, 996,000; Pinellas County and the Clearwater area, 902,000; Orlando, in Orange County, 880,000; and Jacksonville, which is also Duval County, 773,000.
In order to bring the task to a reality, he said, "The act will require a nine-member commission which will oversee a preliminary engineering and environmental assessment. Its report will be due by January 1, 2002."
The state will spend $4.5 million for its first-year funding, he added, which is mostly the organizational phase.
He noted Bush killed the Florida Overland Express (FOX) high-speed rail plan within nine days of taking office two years ago.
Voters could have been taken for a ride - the FOX consortium was guaranteed a 14 percent profit regardless of how the company performed, whether it actually turned a profit or not.
He said funding sources for the current plan could include federal TEA-21 money, and explained that the High-speed Rail Infrastructure Act now pending in the Congress would see the funding go to Amtrak, which would determine where funds would be allocated. In short, Amtrak would be the manager.
Haddad explained Highway and Air Travel in Florida is expected to dramatically increase in the next nine years, as it is in the rest of the country.
Florida DOTFlorida's first high-speed route will begin in St Petersburg, at the far left; continue to Tampa, then on to Orlando. Eventually reaching Miami and Jacksonville. The purple line is the I-4 route and the red line is the CSX alignment. Expected total costs are inserted in the box for various modes of rail development.
"Intercity trips in the Miami-Orlando-Tampa corridor are expected to Increase from 72 to 100 million in 2010 a 39 percent gain. He added, "total enplanements and deplanements at five major airports are expected to increase from 103 to 164 million by 2010 - and that's a 59 percent increase."
Haddad, who is the Sunshine State's top passenger rail service planner, is also the point man with Amtrak and the freight railroads.
He told the May 11 gathering in Washington's Marriott Hotel, that Amtrak and Florida have a "Vision Plan, a 20-year rail development program." In phase one, they would restructure Amtrak's long-distance service (during 2002), and during the second phase, new corridor services would start - Tampa to Orlando during 2003, Miami to Orlando during 2005, which then would also allow more frequent Tampa-Miami service.
For example, two Amtrak trains currently operate over CSX tracks between Miami and Orlando, but none solely between Tampa and Orlando. By 2005, he expects eight trains to be operating. Where there is now only one train between Jacksonville and Tampa, three would operate in four years.
"Phases 3 and 4 would further corridor service development between 2006 and 2020," he said.
Haddad pointed out other states and regions were appropriating big money for rail improvements toward high-speed corridors. The biggest of them is California, with $750 million on the table. Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin are each appropriating $200 million; Washington State, $125 million; New York, $93 million, and North Carolina, $75 million. Georgia has money bills pending in its legislature, but none have yet come up for a vote.
A rail feasibility study, first proposed by the Central Florida Technology Transit Consortium, led the state legislature to authorize a study last year, which led to an appropriations bill, and directed the state DOT to conduct it. They selected STV Inc., which began the study in July 2000 and determined that the higher the technology options, the higher the costs.
For example, low-speed rail, operating up to 79 mph like most commuter rail operations, would be the least expensive, and magnetic levitation, at the high end, would cost the most. Steel-on-steel, with trains operating in the 190 mph range, like the French TGV, are toward the upper end, and maglev, with equipment whizzing along at airliner speeds of 300 mph, like Germany's Transrapid, is at the highest end.
In a coast-to-coast study, a recommended alternative between downtown Tampa to Orlando's airport would use Interstate 4's median and a short segment of the Beeline Expressway. Engaging non-electric, high-speed rail technology, at 125 to 150 mph, capital costs would be about $1.2 billion, Haddad estimated.
Haddad and the Florida DOT see a revenue model developing. In intercity service, they forecast 1.6 million riders. Local service would garner about 1.5 million for total ridership to be about 3.1 million people.
The revenue stream generated would be in the neighborhood of $24.5 million from intercity service, another $8.1 million from so-called local service - commuters - for a gross income of around $32.6 million.
Operating and maintenance costs are expected to be in the $34.5 million range.
The service would operate at a deficit, around $1.9 million, before so-called "revenue enhancements" were added in.
Haddad said they could make up for the shortfall in ticket revenue by those revenue enhancements, which would include advertising, expected to bring in about $2 million.
"Concessions would add $2 million, and mail and freight forwarding, another $9.9 million, so the total annual revenues with enhancements would be about $17.6 million."
He said, some of the "money raised would come from bonds," and added, "The bonding capacity, with assumed partial use of TIFIA, with 120 percent coverage, 30 years' term and 6 percent interest, would come to $293 million." That "TIFIA" is the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act used to help finance large infrastructure projects. It is part of TEA-21.
He explained that "a projected net surplus from system operations do not provide sufficient capacity to leverage sufficient resources to cover the capital costs of system development, so the shortfall is $907 million."
Since the May NCI conference, other developments have occurred around the country on new or proposed operations. Central Pennsylvania got a boost when New Jersey helped out. That story follows elsewhere in today issue. In the Midwest, lines radiating outward from Chicago, especially to Michigan and St. Louis, are whizzing right along, as a related story in "Corridor lines," below, explains.
Renfe TalgoWhether it is called Talgo XXI or Lakeliner, Talgo's trains could haul people up to 150 mph under catenary, or 140 mph in the diesel version. Both produce 1,500kW with 17 tons over each axle.
Two world-class corporations are vying for contracts to build fast passenger trans for U.S. markets. Bombardier Transportation of Canada, and Talgo of Spain, both have plans to build trainsets for Florida's high-speed rail system as well as the high-speed Midwest corridors radiating from Chicago. Both firms most likely will also bid on the Southeastern high-speed rail corridors as they develop.
Looking under the hoods, there are new, innovative designs incorporated in the locomotives. For example, Talgo's trainsets have "independently guided wheels" to "reduce wear and tear," according a slick, four-color brochure the builder produced.
The brochure writers also stated, "Talgo tilting technology does not require expensive electronic/hydraulic systems," a barb directed at Bombardier and some other builders.
Bombardier's plans revolve around a locomotive based on its HHP-8 carbody designed for Amtrak (similar to its Acela sets), but the carbody is built around a 5,000 HP turbine engine that is now at the AAR-DOT test track in Pueblo, Colo.
The stand-alone engine is designed to run up to 165 mph, the builder stated in a brochure, but its maximum operating speed will be set at 150 mph. It is intended to haul coaches identical to the Acela Express trains operating between Washington and Boston. Each engine is 69 feet, 7-3/8ths inches long, 10 feet, 5 inches wide (over its side sheets) and 14 feet, 2 inches above the rails. Each weighs 215,000 pounds.
Bombardier TransportationBombardier's turbine locomotive develops 5,000 HP and runs at 150 mph in service.
Bombardier states clearly not every region can afford to electrify its tracks.
"For some corridors considering increasing the speeds of their passenger rail operations, the cost to electrify rail rights-of-way can be prohibitive. In addition, in its passenger safety standards, the Federal Railroad Administration requires stringent structural requirements for all passenger equipment, and for Tier II operations (speeds up to 150 mph), equipment must meet crash energy management requirements."
Bombardier claimed, "Amtrak's Acela Express equipment is the only equipment currently being certified as being built to meet" those FRA standards. The company stated the engine's "longitudinal compressive strength of the cab is 2,100,000 pounds."
In brief, what that means is if the engine ever gets into a head-on collision, its crushable zones will begin a "controlled deformation and collapse of designated sections to absorb collision energy." It will also "reduce decelerations resulting from dynamic forces." The engines will be capable of absorbing eight megajoules of energy, the first five of which would be ahead of the cab. Bombardier stated the front-end skin is "equivalent to a one-half-inch steel plate with a 25,000-pounds-per-square-inch yield strength. It is also designed "to rest safely on its side or roof in a worst-case scenario." It has three collision posts, and two corner posts in the front.
Bombardier TransportationUnder the hood, Bombardier paints an impressive picture. The gas turbine engine (1) supplies energy to the gearbox (2) which transfers it to alternators (3) and the motor block (4). From there, the energy travels to the four AC traction motors on the axles.
To read the TIFIA law, point your browser to http://tifia.fhwa.dot.gov/. It's a USDOT site.
Bush expected to sign Florida law over weekend;
solons to plan rails
Destination: Freedom staff report
Look for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to sign a new law over this weekend to create a new state agency that will begin planning the Sunshine State's high-speed rail development.
The new law will create Florida's High-Speed Rail Authority. The enabling legislation, only 12 pages long - and double-spaced, at that - creates a monumental task, that over the course of its life, will probably spend billions of dollars - and time is already getting short for a body politic that has not yet even been created.
The authority's governing board will have nine voting members. All are appointive jobs, and Republican Governor Bush will appoint three of them, "One of whom must have a background in the area of environmental concerns, one of whom must have a legislative background, and one of whom must have a general business background." Republicans will also appoint the other six jobs.
Senate President John M. McKay will appoint three more members, one of whom "must have a background in civil engineering, one of whom must have a background in transportation construction, and one of whom must have a general business background."
House Speaker Tom Feeney will appoint the other three members. One "must have a legal background," another must have "a background in financial matters," and the third "must have a general business background."
None will need to be confirmed by the Senate, and none will be paid, but each can be reimbursed for travel and other expenses.
The initial term of each member appointed by the governor will be for four years, those appointed by the Senate President for three years, and the House Speaker's appointments, for two years. State Transportation Secretary Thomas F. Barry, Jr. is an ex-officio member.
The documents states, "Succeeding terms for all members shall be for terms of four years," and "initial appointments must be made within 30 days after the effective date of this act."
When the authority convenes to begin its work, its plate will be full.
The authority "shall plan, administer, and manage the preliminary engineering and preliminary environmental assessment of the intrastate high-speed rail system, the document states. The authority will have the same powers granted to corporations under the Florida Business Corporation Act, "except the authority may not incur debt."
They will be authorized to seek federal matching funds or any other funds to fulfill the requirements, may employ an executive director (either permanent or temporary), and "shall determine the qualifications and fix the compensation."
A mandate is included in the bill in which the body "must apply in developing the preliminary engineering, preliminary environmental assessment, and recommendations."
The guideway system shall be capable of traveling speeds in excess of 120 mph, "consisting of dedicated rails or guideways separated from motor vehicle traffic."
The initial segments of the system "will be developed and operated between St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Orlando, with future service to Miami," and the authority is charged with trying to find private enterprise to get on board, to develop and invest in "a model that uses, to the maximum extent feasible, nongovernmental sources of funding for the design, construction, and operation of the system."
The authority will have to select "the preferred locomotion technology to be employed from constitutional choices of monorail, fixed guideway, or magnetic levitation, write a business plan, determine preferred routes between the designated cities," and preferred station locations.
They will also be required to draft any changes that may be needed in state statutes or federal laws which would make the proposed system eligible for available federal funding; and "any other issues the authority deems relevant to the development of a high-speed rail system."
The members will also have to determine "The frequency of service between the cities" outlined, propose a "fare structure for passenger and any freight service, propose trip times, system capacity, passenger accommodations, and amenities," and develop "methods to ensure compliance with applicable environmental standards and regulations."
In short, they are being charged with building a railroad from the ground up. They will have to write a marketing plan, "including strategies that can be employed to enhance the utilization of the system, prepare a detailed planning-level ridership study," and consider revenues that may not come from the farebox - "Revenues that may be derived from the sale of development rights at the stations, license, franchise, and lease fees, selling or leasing advertising space" aboard trains or at stations, or any other "potential sources deemed appropriate."
They will also have to prepare an estimate of the "total cost of the entire system," including, but not limited to, "the costs relating to designing and building the stations and monorail, fixed guideway, or magnetic levitation system, acquire any necessary rights-of-way, purchase or lease rolling stock and other equipment necessary to build, operate, and maintain the system."
They will also be required to prepare an estimate of annual operating and maintenance costs for the system and all other associated expenses, as well as estimate the value of assets the "state or its political subdivisions may provide as in-kind contributions for the system, including rights-of-way, engineering studies performed for previous high-speed rail initiatives, land for rail stations and necessary maintenance facilities, and any expenses that may be incurred by the state or its political subdivisions to accommodate the installation of the system."
Another chore will be to estimate annual funding required "from state funds for the next 30 years for operating the preferred routes" between its primary, first-phase cities, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Orlando.
The authority must prepare a "report of its actions, findings, and recommendations and submit the report to the governor, the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives on or before January 1, 2002."
The new law states the agency may ask for help, if it needs to. It may "enlist assistance or input from the private sector and from existing rail and fixed guideway system vendors or operators, including Amtrak," and the state DOT "is directed to begin, as soon as possible, collecting and organizing existing research, studies, and reports concerning high-speed rail systems in preparation for the authority's first meeting."
Relatives claim Amtrak
caused dancer's death
The New Year's Eve death of world-renowned flamenco dancer Jose C. Greco has been certified as a homicide by a forensic pathologist, the Lancaster, Pa., Intelligencer Journal reported on May 29.
Dr. Wayne K. Ross, who also serves as Lancaster County's forensic pathologist, was hired by Greco's family to probe the cause of death. He said tissue cultures taken from Greco's heart indicate he died of an infection, bacterial endocarditic, that attacked one of his heart valves, and that the infection was the result of complications from a traumatic foot injury Greco suffered.
Greco suffered that injury, Ross said, at the hands of Amtrak police officers based in Trenton, N.J., three months before his death.
Spain, through diplomatic channels, is expected to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to have the FBI investigate possible criminal charges against the unnamed Amtrak officers, said David R. Morrison, an attorney representing Greco's estate. Greco was a national treasure of Spain and was knighted by the Spanish government in 1962.
According to records the newspaper reviewed, the injury to Greco's right foot, and an injury to his artificial right hip (which was not a factor in his death), happened when Greco was pulled off a train heading to Lancaster from New York Sept. 18. "His death was due to the trauma he got to his foot during that altercation," Ross said.
"This involved a use of force that precipitated a series of complications that led to Mr. Greco's death, and when one person causes another person's death, that's homicide."
Greco apparently was not feeling well when he left New York, so he stretched out across two seats, according to the reports. When a conductor told him to sit up, Greco refused, telling the man he was ill.
When the train arrived in Trenton, several police officers boarded and a scuffle allegedly ensued as they tried to remove Greco and handcuff him. In doing so, Greco's right foot was injured.
|Tentative July schedule adds Acelas|
There will be a fifth weekday Acela Express roundtrip between New York and Boston effective July 9, according to a tentative schedule.
The first eastbound morning train will become No. 2154, due out of New York City's Penn Station at 10:00 a.m. and due in Boston three-and-a-half hours later at 1:30 p.m.
The new westward express will be No. 2191, due out of South Station at 6:45 p.m. and into New York City at 10:15. Weekend service will also increase.
The tentative schedules:
Thanks to Howie Dash
|More P-40 units New England-bound|
P-40s 800 and 803 have been transferred to the Northeast Corridor, and assigned to Ivy City Yard in Washington for Washington, Richmond, and Newport News service, replacing the last F-40PHs assigned there.
Amtrak engine 805 is assigned to Albany-Rensselaer, the first so far to replace the Albany F-40s there.
Engines 806, 817, 818, 820, 821, 823, 827, and 828 are having ACSES cab signaling systems installed so they can operate in the high-speed mix with Acela Express trains between New Haven, Conn., and Boston. Eight engines are replacing the remaining F-40s on that route.
Amtrak West has six F-40PH units, but it might be only five soon. One had a major failure recently. Intercity has none in road service. All this is due to the fast delivery of Amtrak's new P-42 units from General Electric, which is experiencing a bit of a slump in freight engine orders.
Amtrak F-40PH units 315, 320, 391 and 400 have been leased to the Long Island Rail Road, as we reported last week. LIRR needs to remove their new Super Steel-General Motors DE-30 units for retrofit to address several problems, including a tendency to catch on fire.
Thanks to Gene Poon
|Greenbush line environmental report is ready|
A final environmental impact report (FEIR) for the MBTA's proposed Greenbush line rail restoration project is available for review and public comment. The full FEIR was filed with the executive Office of Environmental Affairs and will begin a public review on June 9.
The rail line is an 18-mile branch off the Old Colony line.
The FEIR presents, as the MBTA's preferred alternative, commuter rail service to Scituate with an 800-foot underpass under Hingham Square. The FEIR presents the required environmental analysis to support this conclusion, the MBTA stated in a press release.
Passenger rails ahead
Pocono region inches forward
We learned on May 30, through the pages of the Pocono Record, that a deal to bring rail service closer to central Pennsylvania is a little closer.
Writing for the newspaper, reporter Matt Birkbeck told his readers, "New Jersey has agreed to pay $21 million for the Lackawanna Cutoff, clearing a major hurdle towards the restoration of passenger rail service between the Poconos and New York City by 2005."
The struggle to bring passenger trains back to the region - and eventually to Wilkes Barre, Scranton and the Steamtown National Park site - has been going on for at least ten years. The price includes "buying the Slateford Junction Bridge, which spans the Delaware River, and nearly one mile of track into Pennsylvania.
"The purchase agreement was reached between the New Jersey DOT and businessman Jerry Turco, who owned the cutoff and the bridge."
New Jersey had condemned the Lackawanna Cutoff in 1997, after years of fruitless negotiations with Turco.
Twenty-six miles of track lie between Port Morris, N.J., and the Delaware River. The value of the cutoff was left up to the courts, but NJDOT and Turco finally reached agreement to prevent further haggling over the Slateford Junction Bridge. Pennsylvania officials sought to purchase the bridge, but negotiations stalled, and the Monroe County Railroad Authority moved toward condemning the bridge. The condemnation proceedings would have taken several years and delayed plans to restore rail service. New Jersey decided to buy the bridge and recoup some of its costs later from Pennsylvania. State Rep. Kelly Lewis (R), wants to include $4 million in this year's state budget to be used as Pennsylvania's contribution toward buying the cutoff and the bridge.
The last major hurdle to clear before actual construction can begin is to acquire 10 miles of track between Slateford Jct. and Analomink. Talks between the track's owner, Norfolk Southern, and the Monroe County Railroad Authority are moving along, said Lawrence Malski, executive director of the Lackawanna County Railroad Authority and a consultant to the county rail authority.
Once that purchase is complete, Pennsylvania and New Jersey can begin drawing down the $184 million approved by the federal government for the project some two years ago. $1 million has already been appropriated for preliminary engineering work, and officials are seeking another $4 million to finish that work next year.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey must still negotiate an operating agreement to run New Jersey Transit trains into northeastern Pennsylvania.
Eagle rerouted; Illinois moves
closer to 110 mph trains
Amtrak began rerouting its northbound Texas Eagle on weekdays on May 30 as track improvements begin to permit faster train speeds on the Chicago-St. Louis line. The reroute will last all summer, Amtrak stated in a press release. Up to two hours travel time will be added, and because of the track work, other passenger trains operating on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor may be delayed 15 minutes to a half-hour.
The track improvements will eventually shorten trip times, "and are an important step in the implementation of high-speed passenger rail service on the route," said Edward V. Walker, President of the Amtrak Intercity.
Illinois and eight other Midwestern states are working to bring high-speed passenger rail service to the Midwest.
"Construction on the high-speed rail network will require temporary service disruptions as we work with our partners to implement permanent improvements to rail passenger service," Walker said.
The Texas Eagle, a daily long-distance passenger train, operates between San Antonio and Chicago over the Union Pacific Railroad.
The northbound Texas Eagle will be rerouted between Springfield and Joliet, Ill., Monday through Friday with the train operating on its normal schedule on Saturday and Sunday.
The train will turn northeastward at Springfield toward Clinton and Gilman, where it will then continue to Chicago over track owned and operated by the Canadian National and Illinois Central Railroad. The rerouted Texas Eagle will take approximately 90 minutes to two hours of additional travel time.
"It's important to remember the critical role high-speed passenger rail service will play in easing transportation congestion in the long-term," Walker said. "These track improvements are vital to enhancing access between our urban business centers and providing attractive transportation options."
Amtrak will make the following service adjustments due to the reroute of the northbound Texas Eagle while the reroute is in effect:
Texas Eagle passengers traveling to Bloomington-Normal, Pontiac and Joliet, Ill., will be bused to their respective station stops from Springfield. They will leave the train and board buses at a transfer point located about a mile-and-a-half east of the Springfield station. Springfield riders will be shuttled to the Springfield Amtrak depot from the transfer point. Other temporary bus routes will also be operated.
The Illinois DOT has received $70 million for a series of statewide rail improvements. The funds are being used to provide high-speed rail improvements on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor as well as improvements to other passenger corridors in the state. High-speed rail will allow for future passenger train speeds of up to 110 miles per hour on the Chicago-St. Louis corridor, significantly reducing travel times.
Rail infrastructure improvements in Illinois are part of an effort underway across the nation to plan and implement enhancements to existing passenger rail corridors to provide improved and faster access to our nation's urban business centers, including projects in 38 states. Long-term federal funding is critical to the successful implementation of intercity passenger rail corridor improvement programs.
The High Speed Rail Investment Act of 2001, currently before Congress, allows $12 billion in bonds to be financed by non-federal rail authorities over 10 years. This will provide critical capital investment funds for high-speed passenger rail service by leveraging private and state funding by issuing bonds.
|Rail, highway advocates clash|
Advocates of more highway construction have taken to the airwaves and the Internet, enlisting the aid of a popular comedian and branding folks who favor public transportation as "custodians of congestion" and "radical transit extremists, " reports the San Francisco Chronicle, and proponents on both sides are getting nasty.
Transit supporters accuse the "highway huggers" of wanting to pave San Francisco Bay, and contend that they have resorted to such unsportsmanlike tactics as swiping the rights to the Web site that bears the acronym of the region's largest pro-transit coalition.
At the heart of the battle is a long-running dispute over how to solve the region's traffic problems. The fighting has intensified in recent months as the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the agency that coordinates transportation funding and planning in the Bay Area, has begun revising its 25-year spending plan.
Getting any project - from a new freeway interchange to a BART extension - on the 25-year plan means it has a pretty good chance of being built. Failing to make the list virtually assures that it won't.
About 85 percent of the $81.4 billion expected to be spent on Bay Area transportation during the next 25 years will go toward maintaining and operating the highways and transit systems that already exist. What's left can be spent on improvements, including highways and transit.
Transit advocates, which is a collection of environmental, community and social justice groups called the Bay Area Transportation and Land Use Coalition, and the highway industry, represented by the California Alliance for Jobs, a coalition of contractors and unions, are each trying to convince the commission that their starkly disparate programs have the broadest Bay Area support.
Coalition members lean heavily on increased bus and rail service. Among their favorites: a regional express bus system using carpool lanes, electrification and a downtown San Francisco extension for Caltrain, increased night and weekend transit service, and incentives for development near transit hubs. The coalition's platform includes no highway projects.
Dennis Oliver, an Alliance for Jobs spokesman, describes the transit advocates as "people who don't like cars."
"They don't want people to drive," he said.
Not so, says Stuart Cohen, executive director of the transportation coalition.
"We don't have a blanket opposition to roads," he said. "But we have a large highway infrastructure out there already, and there are plans for it to grow. But we need better transit. For us, the issue is not roads versus transit. The issue is parity."
With that in mind, the coalition prepared for the battle early, releasing a "world-class transit" report last year and rallying its members.
"The highway lobby has always benefited from decisions made without much public input," Cohen said. "For the first time we are seeing people supporting smart growth, equity for low-income communities and sustainable transportation.
The highway lobby has felt the need to respond. They feel we are starting to define the debate."
Oliver said the Alliance for Jobs is simply giving a voice to people behind the wheel.
Minnesota Power, BNSF enter 10-year coal deal
Minnesota Power and BNSF have entered into a ten-year agreement to haul coal to the utility's generating station near Grand Rapids, Minn. As a result, "Minnesota Power will not pursue construction of an alternative railroad line to serve the generating station," the companies stated in a joint press release.
"Fuel costs represent a major portion of our customers' energy costs," said Don Shippar, Minnesota Power's COO.
"Over the next several years, this new agreement will provide ongoing stability in our fuel delivery costs. In addition, this contract will keep our generating plants competitive in the wholesale energy market."
Under terms of the agreement, BNSF will ship all Minnesota Power's coal needs, some four million tons annually through 2011, to the Boswell Energy Center near Grand Rapids and to the Laskin Energy Center near Hoyt Lakes. Minnesota Power uses low-sulfur, sub-bituminous coal exclusively from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming. Other terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
"We're excited to continue this long relationship with Minnesota Power," said Tom Kraemer, Group Vice President of BNSF's Coal Business Unit. "Minnesota Power was the first utility in the early 1970's to ship Powder River Basin coal via unit trains from the western United States, and we've enjoyed a strong and growing relationship ever since."
Minnesota Power serves 144,000 customers in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin.
|New York shortline starts operations|
The first train run from Jamestown, N.Y. to Corry, Penna. in more than 10 years was made May 25 by two coupled engines of the new Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad.
Gary E. Landrio, the line's vice president of engineering, said, "We just have the two engines to determine if we can safely run the whole corridor." He said the trip took about three hours each direction, operating at slow speeds for safety concerns. Under regular operations, the run would require 90 minutes or less.
"This is very exciting for us," Landrio said, " reversing the trend of rail transportation by opening up Jamestown and Chautauqua County to the natural flow of rail traffic that wants to come in from the west."
He said the line became operational April 23 between Olean and Jamestown, but the Olean to Corning section is not expected to be in use until next year.
"The railbed is in better condition than we expected," he said, and added, "We're spending almost $120,000 on brush cutting, new ties and rebuilding a railroad crossing.
Western New York & Pennsylvania is a subsidiary of the Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad, a Central New York shortline.
TGV sets world endurance record
A special French Railways TGV train set an endurance record on May 26 by running from Calais to Marseilles, a distance of 662 miles (1,067.2 km), in 3 hours 29 minutes, at an average speed of 190 mph (305.32 km/hr). The eight-year-old TGV, that had already logged nearly 1.6 million miles, set the world high-speed endurance record traveling between Calais and Marseilles.
According to French Railways, the intent was not to set a record, but to test the equipment in preparation for introduction of the TGV Méditerranée, on June 12. This is the first time a TGV has covered such a long distance nonstop.
The train averaged 227 mph on a 155-mile new section of the high-speed rail network between Valence and Marseilles, which will be opened for revenue service on June 10, following its ceremonial opening by French President Jacques Chirac on June 7.
"This is a triumph for French industry and for all French railwaymen," said French National Railways President Louis Gallois. "It is now a record to beat."
|TFM shut down for two days in Mexico|
The Mexican government shut down the Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana's (TFM) main line between Mexico City and Monterrey for two days last week, citing excessively numerous highway-crossing accidents. Fifty accidents, in which 56 persons died, occurred on the line between December and March.
The closure took place Sunday morning and halted rail traffic not only from Mexico City to Monterrey, but also between Mexico City and the US-Mexico border.
Mexican authorities suspended service on the busy main line in the Monterrey area in the wake of several grade crossing accidents, including a collision between a bus and a train that injured six people on Saturday.
TFM is a joint venture between a Mexican shipping company and Kansas City Southern.
TFM, which is partially owned by Kansas City Southern Industries, defended the line's safety record and said the government should pay a share of the costs for installing improved grade crossing protection on the busy route.
"We believe and we know that TFM has been running an extremely safe railroad," a Kansas City Southern spokesman told Reuters.
"They have adopted and stuck to the U.S. safety regulations for railroad operations."
|Alstom gets Renfe contract|
Renfe, the Spanish National Railway Operator, has awarded the ALSTOM and CAF consortium a contract to supply and maintain 20 new regional high-speed trains for 14 years. These trains, which will have a speed of 250-270 Km/h, will operate on the Spanish high-speed lines.
The new contract is worth 440 million euro dollars. ALSTOM, as the consortium leader, will provide the traction system and half of the mechanical equipment for the high-speed regional trains.
The trains, which can carry up to 237 passengers, will cover distances of up to 250 km between major cities. The first trains will be delivered in 2003, and are expected to begin operating in regional service in the same year. The trains will largely be built in ALSTOM's industrial units in Spain.
Fred Francis, and the Dick and Jane book
For those who long ago abandoned the "dumbed-down" nightly "newscasts" offered by the Big Three television networks, you've been missing some great entertainment.
Who cares about information?
You tune in the tube to be entertained.
We present here Exhibit A in:
Why few Americans understand the basic issues in transportation.
Our Exhibit A is a report May 2 by Fred Francis on NBC's Nightly News. It is part of the NBC series on "The Fleecing of America." Let's listen.
Francis: Amtrak is celebrating 30 years on the rails this week.
Comment: Savor that sentence. It is a rare accurate and non-misleading statement in the entire report.
Francis: Some say there's nothing more romantic than riding the train.
Comment: Here we have a subtle hint that trains are for the engineers caps and goggles set, rather than for serious people desiring to get from here to there while taking refuge from delayed or canceled flights and clogged and boring freeways.
Francis: Others (He doesn't say who they are) say there's no bigger waste of your money.
Comment: Ponder this. Last year's tab on "your money."
$33 billion for highways. Yes, that's a "b."
$14 billion for air transport. Yes, that's another "b."
$521 million for passenger rail. Yes, that's an "m."
Who's fleecing whom?
Francis: A train with two passenger cars, two freight cars carrying pet food, and only one passenger, Denise Moore epitomizes Amtrak's fleecing of America.
Comment: Webster's dictionary describes "epitomize" as "to be or make an epitome of. "Epitome" is described as "a person or thing that has the ideal features of the whole class."
That means Francis wants us to believe that this train, carrying one passenger, had "the ideal features of the whole class," i.e. the best Amtrak can do.
Not a word about the "pet food" shipment contributing to Amtrak's bottom line.
Not a word about having to make sleeping car reservations months in advance on Amtrak's long distance trains because Amtrak doesn't have the money to buy enough equipment to meet the demand.
Not a word about sold-out Metroliners and Acela Express trains.
Not a word about the fact that Francis's "epitome" train was a failed experiment aimed at testing the market for express traffic.
No, Francis or his producers decided the point they were going to "prove" and set out to find the one lightly used train to make the "facts" appear to fit their preconceptions. After all, if we picked a (more typical) crowded train, then we couldn't call this "the fleecing of America," could we? Editors are fussy about things like that.
Francis: Basically there are 70 seats on the train to Janesville and it ends up that Moore is queen for a day.
"I guess so," says Moore, "I guess I am."
Comment: No putting words in the interviewees mouth here. Not at all.
Francis (quoting Moore): But as business person, as a taxpayer, "something is not right," says Moore, "Something needs to change."
Comment: Like explaining to interviewees when they're being set up to "prove" a preconceived notion.
Francis: It did. Amtrak canceled the run after NBC rode the train in February.
Comment: It's not nice to tell half-truths about an experimental train that was not necessarily destined for a long life in the first place.
Francis: Yet, taxpayers continue to grease Amtrak's rails as they have for 30 years with $23 billion in subsidies, never close to turning a profit.
Comment: See figures above. Airways eat up more government subsidies in two years than Amtrak does in 30 years. Highways beat the Amtrak 30-year cost in a single year.
And by the way, can anyone tell me the last time that I-95 turned "a profit?"
Francis: There was another record loss last year, $944 million, a General Accounting Office estimate.
Comment: If the nation's airlines had to build and maintain their own airports and pay for the air traffic controllers, they would be "losing money" too.
Francis: "It is an endless siphoning of taxpayer dollars to subsidize a relatively few number of Americans," says Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Comment: Now there's a true fountainhead of knowledge. Though he chaired the Senate Commerce Committee for years, Senator McCain, in an open hearing last year, stumbled badly when he let it be known that he was unaware that Amtrak served (and still serves) his own state.
Francis: But why is that the case when more Americans than ever are traveling?
Comment: Ah! Now we may be hitting paydirt. Senator McCain, during confirmation hearings for Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, commented that only the Northeast Corridor and California were "viable." This caused Trains magazine writer Bob Johnston to say, "Gee, Senator, you've singled out the two places where capital investment dollars have actually been spent. Could there be a connection?"
Francis: An oversight board's answer points to "fundamental institutional flaws." The GAO tells NBC that Amtrak won't meet Congress' demand to be self-sufficient by the end of next year.
Comment: This is a failure to mention what Congress really "demanded." Congress clearly wanted Amtrak to be operationally self-sufficient by 2003. Railroads, unlike airways or highways, do not enjoy government support for their infrastructure. For the railroads, that means the tracks, stations, signal systems, bridges, tunnels, etc. Amtrak President George Warrington says the system will pay its way for operations (running the trains, mail and express) on time.
Francis, or his producers, either:
Did not know the difference.Francis: While there have been some improvements,
Comment: Those six words represent the sum total of NBC's coverage of the first high-speed train in America (the Acela), the Cascades in Washington State, the California corridors, and the sold-out long distance trains, just for starters.
Francis: Amtrak is chronically in a crisis and Congress is always bailing it out.
Comment: Um - Do you think it would bore your audience, Mr. Francis, to explain that Amtrak started off on the false premise that any major passenger conveyance anywhere in the whole wide world could pay the cost of infrastructure and operations and make a "profit?"
Where has that happened?
Name the airline, bus company, or railroad.
Congress has never faced up to this blind alley, and someone has said the best definition of insanity is doing the same thing year after year and expecting different results.
Francis: Again, the question is why? Critics like Joe Vranich, who quit Amtrak's reform council, says it's pork.
Comment: Joe Vranich has written two interesting books on passenger rail. One of them, Super-Trains is actually quite good. It makes the case for high-speed rail and contains some food for thought. Even some of his wild fantasies (like running high speed trains through subway tunnels), while not realistic in our lifetime, add spice to the tome. Every thinker is entitled to dream a little.
Joe also wrote a more recent book titled Derailed, in which he concluded that Amtrak was not only not the solution to the problem, but was the problem in and of itself. That book was less realistic because while Amtrak has some institutional problems, you can't beat something with nothing. And until something better comes along, Amtrak is the "bird in the hand," so to speak. I think Vranich ought to go back to writing about running high-speed trains through subway tunnels.
Francis (quoting Vranich): "The quid pro quo is that Amtrak adds a train through a congressman's district, and the congressman turns around and votes for the upcoming $10 billion Amtrak bailout legislation," says Vranich.
Comment: Oh, Joe, Joe, Joe! That so-called "bailout legislation" provides bonding authority aimed at infrastructure support so that this country can start building new high-speed rail corridors around the country. You wrote a book advocating high-speed rail, Joe. Are you repudiating it? What about appropriations for the FAA? Is that a "bailout" for United Airlines, Continental, Delta and the rest? And by the way, Joe, the new bill provides $12 billion, not $10 billion.
Francis: Amtrak President George Warrington denies the allegation.
"This business and this system is not politically grounded any more," says Warrington. "That's not the way I do business. This is about making money."
But it's more like raising money with Warrington boldly asking (Comment: He should be timidly asking?) Congress for another $30 billion over the next twenty years, lauding a plan to turn things around. The money is supposed to be used to replace dangerous Civil War era tunnels and rickety bridges that are supposed to make the high speed Acela train a profit center.
Comment: This is bad?
Do we need fatalities in a tunnel fire or collapsing bridges?
Does saving lives qualify as "fleecing?"
The last sentence indicates passenger rail critics cannot be pleased. They're unhappy when the trains don't make a profit. And they complain when they do. The other modes don't achieve "profitability" through chicken-feed investments either.
Francis: This is not easy, considering that Amtrak loses an average of $16.38 on every ticket.
Comment: Here we go again. See above. When was the last time I-95 turned a profit? And if United Airlines had to pay for its own infrastructure, it would "lose" X amount of dollars on every ticket too. At least one study says every automobile in the country, on average, and considering all subsidies-hidden and otherwise, is taxpayer-supported to the tune of $2,500 a year. How's that for "fleecing"?
Francis: "We do not have a national airline company in this country, we do not have a national bus company," says Vranich. "It is proven now that a national railroad passenger system won't work."
Comment: You have to forgive and pity Fred Francis. He probably doesn't know any better. In terms of understanding transportation economics, he is akin to the blind man badly in need of a Seeing Eye dog. So he let that comment pass. But Joe Vranich has no excuse for a half-truth like that. Surely, he understands that any airline that had to worry about building its own airports and providing its own traffic controllers wouldn't "work" either.
Francis: With a 2003 Congressional deadline for self-sufficiency (Comment: for operational self sufficiency, Fred) looming, critics (Comment: He doesn't name them) say sell Amtrak to private industry or reorganize it.
Comment: Provide the infrastructure and someday, perhaps some private company would be willing to run the trains.
Francis: Anything to end a fleecing of America critics (Comment: unnamed) say is a great train robbery every day.
Comment: Good entertaining rhetoric. But any viewer hoping to get a clear picture of Amtrak's real problems was - well, fleeced.
Last week, we published a letter from Matt McKrell of Raleigh, N.C., who was wondering bout North Carolina rail issues, specifically, the Southeast passenger rail corridor, and a proposed regional rail project in the Raleigh-Durham area. We asked Patrick B. Simmons, the Rail Division director for the North Carolina DOT and an NCI member, if he would care to respond. He agreed.
We told Simmons we would be publishing McKrell's letter last Tuesday (Monday was Memorial Day) "but I need not have your reply by then; I can prepare it for the following week, June 4." Simmons was agreeable.
He makes reference to the Independent, an on-line publication.
Here is his reply:
In the best interest of colored journalism, I consider the Independent article to be a good example of yellow journalism. I actually like the author but he did not check his facts and his article served to fuel the fire of public confusion about the project.Patrick B. Simmons
Regarding the opening photo on the D:F page, the train shown cannot possibly be turning as No. 155 when it deadheads to New York.
Train No. 155 operates on weekends only. Since No. 164 is a Sunday-only train, its next assignment out of New York would be a 180-series train on a regular weekday schedule on Monday, May 21. The only weekday morning trains that originate from New York for Washington are No. 691 at 7:15 a.m., or No. 181 at 8:10 a.m.
The only way this would have worked would be one week later, Memorial Day weekend, when a weekend (Sunday) schedule was operated on Monday, May 28. Could the photo have been taken on Sunday, May 27 rather than the 20?
League of Railway Industry Women
Spring-summer conference and seminar at Drury Inn and Suites, Kansas City Airport, Kansas City, Mo. Contact Connie Sumara, (847) 318 8000.
2001 Union Pacific steam trips
Union Pacific reports two steam excursion scheduled so far this year. Challenger steam engine No. 3985 on June 10, 2001 from Council Bluffs to Sargeant Bluff, Iowa and return.
Contact The Camerail Club
Challenger steam engine No. 3985 on June 19, 2001, from St. Louis to Gorham, Ill., and return. St. Louis Chapter, NRHS is also hosting the 2001 annual NRHS convention, June 19-23.
Contact St. Louis Chapter, National Railway Historical Society
How to plan, execute and win
From 9:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Environmental Law & Policy Center
Thirty experienced Midwest environmental activists will share what they have learned over the past decade about developing and implementing comprehensive strategic advocacy campaigns against sprawl-inducing and environmentally destructive transportation projects.
Attorneys, policy analysts and communications specialists from ELPC and other Midwest organizations will present the strategic and practical "how-to" ideas on using key legal tools, successfully evaluating environmental impact statements, developing and promoting better, faster and cheaper positive alternatives, effective organizing and communications tactics, and raising the necessary funds in order to win.
NCI: Leo KingIt's 1995, and Groton tower in Connecticut is still open, not yet a victim of modernized dispatching from Boston on the Shore Line and Centralized Electrification and Train Control. The catenary has not yet even begun to be strung, and the only road power we ever see are F-40s. There are some new engines out in California (P-32 something-or-other), and we hear Amtrak is going to buy some high-speed trains following the X2000 demonstration, but, truth be told, we'll believe it when we see it.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.
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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 Site in Boston.
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