|Amtrak pays hefty fines for polluting environment|
Locomotive pollutants getting into the southern New England water streams is going to cost Amtrak a hefty amount in fines and clean-up.
The carrier will pay a half-million-dollar fine and spend at least $900,000 to make environmental improvements. The environmental Protection Agency and the Justice Department also require Amtrak to conduct environmental audits at facilities nationwide, and voluntarily disclose and fix any problems.
Regulators discovered the violations in the late 1990s at Amtrak facilities in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, according to published reports.
The passenger railroad was cited for violating the Clean Water Act's storm water provisions, and for other infractions. Storm water discharges from rail maintenance facilities can carry oil, grease and metals into storm drains. The violations include failing to have required storm water permits, pollution prevention and spill prevention plans.
The settlement requires Amtrak, in certain areas, to launch wetland restoration projects, which will cost an estimated $400,000 and begin within 60 days. Work will be completed in October 2002.
Amtrak also will spend about $500,000 to lower toxic pollutants from 13 electric locomotive transformers.
New England roundup
Vermont service continues;
Amtrak and Vermont have agreed to a new contract that will continue passenger train service to Vermont for another year. Last weeks' agreement means the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen Express will continue to run at least for another year.
The Vermonter travels between Washington, D.C., and St. Albans and the Ethan Allen Express runs between New York City and Rutland.
Amtrak and state officials will meet within 60 days to discuss the new agreement and marketing plans for both trains, as well as to develop a five-year plan for passenger rail service in Vermont.
Meanwhile, several rail projects are on tap for Connecticut in the upcoming two decades - including running Amtrak commuter trains from New Haven into Penn Station, New York.
Lawmakers in Hartford were ready to approve the recommendations of the landmark Transportation Strategy Board last week and spending an initial $50 million.
A bill implementing the wide-ranging 20-year program cleared the House 118-to-0 last week after a brief debate and was set to pass the Senate later, as lawmakers raced to finish a special legislative session.
The legislation, triggered last September in a summit meeting on the issue and a subsequent study by a nonpartisan Transportation Strategy Board, requires a 20-year plan for solving traffic and transportation problems.
Selected rail targets for improvement include a two-year trial of Amtrak trains allowing monthly commutes to New York's Penn Station from Connecticut, buying land for a new rail service maintenance facility for the New Haven Metro-North line, and expansion of Shore Line East rail trains to travel west from New Haven, to Bridgeport, Stamford and Greenwich for a two-year trial.
Other plans call for a design for a new West Haven/Orange rail station. Funding high-speed ferry service from Bridgeport to Stamford and New York was also approved.
|Guilford reluctantly accepts 79 mph|
The Surface Transportation Board's (STB) June 30 decision to allow Amtrak trains to run at 79 mph between Boston and Portland, Maine, has led Guilford Rail System not appeal the STB's decision.
Service could now begin this fall.
Guilford had argued unsuccessfully, based on a consultant's engineering findings, that its 78 miles of track in Maine and New Hampshire would not safely support trains traveling more than 60 mph.
"We disagree with the ruling... but we will operate under the mandate and follow the law," said David Fink, the railroad's vice president. He noted that the STB and Federal Rail Administration will be legally responsible for any accidents.
The higher speed could cut the trip time between the city pairs to two hours and 25 minutes, saving 12 to 15 minutes, and increase the line's prospects of success said Mike Murray, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority.
The state and federal governments have spent some $52 million to rehabilitate the rail line between Portland and Plaistow, N.H. Guilford completed most of the work in mid-June, although station construction and some cleanup is still underway.
|Acela promotion starts in D.C.|
Amtrak has begun a promotion to introduce its passengers to the Acela Express service between Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) station and the national capital.
Tickets for Northeast Direct, Acela Regional, and Metroliner trains will be honored at the BWI station for travel southbound to Washington, D.C. ‚ but only between those two places, and southbound only.
So, if the next southbound train is an Acela Express train, the passenger with one of these ticket types may ride it without paying any additional fare. Neither ticket exchange nor reservation is necessary.
MARC commuter tickets will not be accepted, nor will Northeast Direct or Acela Regional tickets be accepted on Metroliners.
|Monro named deputy FRA administrator|
Elizabeth Monro has been appointed deputy administrator for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). She has more than 30 years of transportation-related experience, said USDOT Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. She is the former chief of staff for Rep. Mac Collins. Most of that experience was airline-related.
Monro is also a former chief of staff for Amtrak Reform Council chairman and former FRA administrator Gilbert Carmichael, from 1991 to 1993. She was an aviation policy advisor to former DOT Secretary Sam Skinner, from 1989 to 1991. She is a former director of Federal Legislation for Air Transport Association of America, a trade association of the U.S. airline industry, where she represented the interests of airlines on Capitol Hill.
Capitol now bypasses Elkhart
Amtrak's Washington-bound train is not stopping in Elkhart, Ind., any more.
The Capitol Limited train still operates through the city twice each day, but it no longer stops at the downtown station on Tyler Street.
Two other Amtrak trains, which connect Elkhart with Chicago, New York City, Boston and Philadelphia, will continue daily stops here, said Kevin Johnson, a spokesman for Amtrak in Chicago, according to a report in the Elkhart Truth.
The change is the second reduction in Amtrak service in Elkhart in the last couple of weeks. On June 22, Amtrak ceased staffing its ticket office, which also meant that passengers could no longer check baggage here before boarding their train.
Johnson said the nationwide intercity rail passenger service implemented the schedule change so it could guarantee that the Capitol Limited will arrive in Washington's Union Station in time for passengers to connect with other trains bound for Jacksonville, Fla.
"Everything we do is a matter of revenue," Johnson said. "We strongly believe that by making it possible to meet these schedules, we will enhance our revenues."
Local passengers can continue to board the Capitol Limited in South Bend, said Johnson. Besides the Elkhart stop, the Hammond-Whiting stop in northwest Indiana is also being eliminated, he said.
The two other trains serving Elkhart are the Lake Shore Limited and the Pennsylvanian. Another train, the Three Rivers, is routed through Nappanee.
The Capitol Limited made two stops in Elkhart. The eastbound train for Washington, D.C., arrived at 10:07 p.m. while the westbound train for Chicago slipped out of town at 6:31 a.m.
|Texas solons ok rail bills|
Some good news this week from Texas regarding rail projects. Tim Geeslin, president of the Texas Association of Rail Passengers (TARP) reports the Texas DOT was given a green light to loan up to $1.7 million to support upgrades to Amtrak passenger rail service between Dallas and Shreveport, La. The DOT was authorized "to enter into a loan agreement for this purpose and may require security for said loan guarantee."
Other rail-related items made it through the Texas legislature into the state's DOT budget, including a Commuter Rail Feasibility Study for a route along U.S. Highway 90A "and the proposed connection with the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County's proposed light rail mass transit system in Houston."
The study will "focus on the economic, financial, and transportation impact of commuter rail service on the cities of Houston, Missouri City, Stafford, Sugar Land, Richmond, and Rosenberg."
The Texas DOT was authorized to spend up to $175,000 for contracting with Metropolitan Transit Authority, Harris County, and the cities included in the study to share the cost of the study.
Elsewhere in the Lone Star state, the DOT can allocate $300,000 to buy abandoned railroad rights-of-way within and adjoining the Northeast Texas Rural Rail District.
|California authorities to take rail vote|
California's High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) is scheduled to vote on a proposal to focus its studies for the next year on one crucial segment of a planned 700-mile network ‚ the portion from Los Angeles to Bakersfield ‚ but the agency is starved for funding.
The agency may be forced to shift gears at its next meeting (on Aug. 1), and move toward planning the system in stages rather than all at once.
The segment is a "missing link" in the state's passenger-rail network and is currently served by Amtrak buses between the Los Angeles and Bakersfield stations. The route's construction is seen as a required step in building the statewide system, which would speed riders from San Diego to San Francisco and Sacramento at up to 200 mph; but the pending decision to focus on that segment is mainly the result of a steep reduction in state funding, from $5 million last year to an expected $1 million next year. The authority had asked for $14 million next year to continue its environmental studies and other preparations for the proposed $25 billion system.
"The plan hasn't been scaled back, but the money has been scaled back," said Ed Graveline, the authority's interim chairman.
"It's going to have to be incrementally implemented. There's no question about that."
The rail authority was created by the Legislature in 1996, after a special commission concluded that California needed to build a high-speed rail system to ease future congestion on the state's highways and in its airports.
Three subsequent years of work yielded an initial plan for a 700-mile system extending from San Diego to Sacramento, with branches or loops to San Jose and San Francisco, Riverside and San Bernardino, and Palmdale and Lancaster, as well as connections to other rail lines throughout the route.
CSX rebuilds two routes in five days
CSX's track department worked feverishly over a five-day span to repair 365 miles of track in Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida between July 2-6.
CSX stated it was a "first-ever maintenance project of this magnitude," and the railroad suspended rail operations "to refurbish highway-rail grade crossings, tracks and bridges."
The company "mobilized massive resources, including more than 800 people and 360 pieces of equipment, to accomplish in less than a week a project that ordinarily would take about three months to complete."
W. Michael Cantrell, senior vice president for engineering and mechanical, said "Customarily, we would perform this type of maintenance during narrow work windows over a period of many weeks," but "we decided to take a very aggressive approach to accomplish this work to minimize service disruption to our customers and the impact on the general public. While we've used this concept for smaller-scale maintenance jobs in the past, this is the first time CSXT has used the approach for a project of this magnitude."
CSXT stopped train operations between Montgomery, Ala., to New Orleans, and from Flomaton, Ala., to Pensacola, Fla., to permit uninterrupted track work.
Some 800 workers installed more than one million spikes, replaced more than 100,000 crossties, replace 18 miles of rail, rebuild or repaired 14 bridges and rehabilitated nearly 50 grade crossing surfaces.
More than 200 trains that ordinarily would have traveled both rail corridors were detoured over other CSXT routes or via other railroads.
About 26,000 crossties were replaced daily over 365 actual track miles on lines that ordinarily carry more than 200 trains over five days.
|P&W gets STB's okay for branch line|
The Providence and Worcester Railroad Co., headquartered in Worcester, Mass., has filed a motion with the Surface Transportation Board to operate on a single-track line owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), between milepost QVJ 0.6 and MP QVJ 3.1, about 2.5 miles, near Seekonk, Mass. Railroad place names are between Red Bridge and East Junction.
The freight carrier stated it could not begin operations over the line until a grade crossing at Newman Avenue, "which was removed by third parties in connection with a roadway improvement project, is restored." P&W notes that it has proceeded with discussions with MBTA and the Town of Seekonk and intends to press for prompt restoration of the crossing. The earliest the transaction could have been consummated was June 27, 2001, seven days after the motion was filed.
CSX Transportation has given up running rights on the track, but P&W indicated that CSX has not yet implemented its discontinuance, so CSX technically is still the line's operator.
|K&O starts up in Kansas|
Shortly after the brand-new Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad opened for business on July 2, orders from shippers for more than 1,000 cars poured into the shortline's offices.
"Orders far exceeded our expectations," said Ed McKechnie, a spokesman for K&O's parent company, Watco, which is based in Pittsburg, Kans. The firm also operates the Southern Kansas-Oklahoma Railroad, reports The Wichita Eagle.
For the dispatchers and managers of the new freight railroad, it meant a scramble to move cars that caused Watco's president and CEO, Rick Webb, to be out on a train switching cars at 3 a.m. the next day.
For the 72 people who regularly work on the line (formerly operated by the Central Kansas Railway [CKR]), most took a pay cut to work for the new railroad; but it means job security, even though at a lower pay rate. K&O employees are earning about 7 percent less per hour than they made in similar jobs on the CKR, according to Walter Keenen, Watco's personnel director.
K&O, a non-union business, is paying a starting wage of $8.50 an hour for laborers and up to $14.32 for transportation specialists, a category that includes conductors and engineers. That scale is below both the CKR's wages and union scales paid by the Class I railroads and the Kyle Railroad, which operates in northern Kansas.
The initial demand spike came as elevators spread the word that they are getting rail cars.
"I don't have a lot of time to empty out my elevators," said Mel Klein, who manages Mid States Farmers Co-op in Rush Center. "If I can get rail service, I'll use it." Klein was one of the many central Kansas elevators who had given up on rail service after disappointments in the past several years.
K&O is counting on customers like Klein to build a business that will allow them not only to retain employees but also to make more money to put back into the system and into wages.
STB ads web feature, quits some mailings
The Surface Transportation Board (STB) has added a new "environmental" feature to its website, and an old "friend," the mailed news release, is no more.
Starting June 20, the STB began publishing environmental information, including information on agency rules implementing federal environmental law in the area of transportation; significant transportation cases before the board involving environmental issues; a glossary of transportation and environmental terms; third-party contracting information relative to the preparation of environmental documentation; and a useful list of websites for other agencies involved in environmental matters.
As of July 13, the STB will no longer publish its printed news releases to subscribers by U.S. mail.
Transportation journalists around the nation found the releases quite useful, but technology is replacing paper. Words on a computer screen will get the news out faster and cheaper.
The STB stated "Releases will continue to be issued electronically, as events warrant, and posted to the board's website at http://www.stb.dot.gov; transmitted electronically to the agency's list of e-mail subscribers; and available in printed form at the board's headquarters."
A spokesman noted, "Since its creation in January 1996, the board has maintained a list for the postal delivery of printed releases. Releases destined for mail distribution are printed and issued at the same time as the official agency decisions they summarize, but are received by subscribers days afterwards."
The STB launched its website in November 1997, and the agency has seen "the number of subscribers to its postal mailing list for printed releases decline significantly to a current level of only several hundred, while, in contrast, free subscriptions to its electronically issued news releases - one of the agency's most popular electronic offerings - have expanded to nearly 3,000 in number, and that figure continues to grow."
The agency's last mailings for printed press releases is Friday (July 13).
Mexico liquidates federal railway
Mexico's Ferrocarriles Nacionales de Mexico (Ferronales) is defunct.
The nation's government liquidated its-state-owned railroad company on July 2.
The Mexican Communications and Transport ministry said it would shortly appoint a liquidator to dispose of the assets.
According to a report in Mexican financial daily El Economista, Ferronales officially ceased to exist June 4, with the country's railroads having been privatized in the late 1990s. Ferronales management will hand over administration of the company's assets to a liquidator as soon as the transport ministry names one.
All Mexican rail freight services currently are provided by two private companies, Ferromex and Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM). TFM is a subsidiary of Mexican transport conglomerate Transportacion Maritima Mexicana.
With the addition of more Acela Express trips on the NEC, exactly how many trainsets has Bombardier-Alstom delivered to Amtrak to date? I'm curious to know whether any of these trainsets make more than one city pair run in any given day...
Amtrak's Karen Dunn in Philadelphia replies, "I believe we've accepted 10, which would leave 10 for the consortium to yet deliver." Some express trains operate twice in the same day. For example, a one-way trip between New York City and Washington or Boston will see the train return the same day.
Amtrak Reform Council
Hearing: 9:30 a.m, - 3:30 p.m. (CST) ‚ Inviting Midwest and South-central region states to provide their views on the various issues and proposals in the council's second annual report published in March 2001.
Business Meeting 3:30- 5:30 p.m. (CDT)
American Assn. of Railroad Superintendents annual meeting
Doubletree Hotel, Missoula, Mont.
Contact Barbara Marlow, email@example.com or phone 219-922-1072
AREMA annual conference
Palmer Hilton Hotel, Chicago
NCI: Leo KingThe Readville Shuttle is the lowest of the low to most railroaders in Boston. After all, it only goes between Boston's South Station and Readville - a distance of ten miles - which is hardly grand main line running, even if the branch is double-tracked. Until the main line was electrified, the Dorchester Branch, which is its official name, was a secondary main line between "The Transfer," an interlocking on the main, just east of Route 128 station, and Boston. This commuter train plies back and forth hourly with a few passengers, but gets busier during rush periods, when up to three of the five or six coaches are used. Some ten years ago, Southampton Street Yard was being reconfigured and the MBTA was installing new tracks for a service and inspection building and other uses. There is no catenary in sight, yet, and the high-speed service and inspection building is not even a gleam in anyone's eye yet.
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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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