Copyright © 2001, Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Silver Meteor hits truck, driver dies;
no one aboard train is injured
Amtrak's northbound Silver Meteor, train No. 98, slammed into a tractor-trailer rig at a grade crossing approximately 20 miles northwest of Daytona Beach, Fla on Friday afternoon, killing the truck driver and strewing twisted metal along nearly a mile of CSX track.
The truck driver, whose name had not been released by Saturday morning, had picked up a load of roofing material around 2 p.m. at a trucking terminal south of Seville, Fla.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers said the driver probably didn't see the northbound train when he pulled onto a railroad crossing near Turkey Shoot Road. The railway crossing has a sign to warn vehicular traffic of the tracks, but no crossing gate, said Amtrak spokesman Kevin Johnson, from Amtrak's Intercity business office in Chicago.
Another truck driver heard the crash from inside the terminal, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.
"It happened so fast. Very fast," said trucker Marco Almarac, who was picking up an order of roofing material as well.
"I heard the train make a lot of noise and the breaking of glass."
A trooper said a check of the truck's registration showed the semi had been reported stolen. Trooper D.A. Sims would not elaborate.
The train was traveling about 79 mph, the maximum speed for that stretch of track, when it hit the truck, Sims said. He said the truck driver would have had "unlimited vision" at that particular crossing. The force of the impact twisted and shattered the truck's cab, dragging part of it for nearly a mile until the train came to a stop.
The truck driver's body was found on the track about halfway between the point of collision and where the train eventually stopped. The man was pronounced dead at the scene, EVAC spokesman Mark O'Keefe said.
None of the train's 186 passengers or 11 crewmembers was seriously injured, said Amtrak's Johnson, but the lead engine, P-42 No. 60, sustained some damage from the collision, Sims said. Emergency officials were called in to clean up a hydraulic fluid leak from the engine. The 11-car train made a stop in DeLand before the accident, and the next scheduled stop was Palatka.
Passengers had to remain onboard for nearly four hours until emergency crews could remove the truck wreckage.
Johnson said Amtrak officials would examine data that downloaded from the engine's automatic recording devices, which are similar to an aircraft's "black box." He added, the train resumed its journey around 6 p.m.
Amtrak is on shaky fiscal ground,
says Warrington; cuts may be coming
Amtrak's president and CEO, George Warrington, sent a message to all employees on Friday warning of possible negative changes in the carrier's future, if the economy continues to slow. He said the train business is up, but peripheral businesses are slow. For the first time, he said Amtrak may not meet its financial goals for self-sufficiency.
Warrington told readers of the railroad's Weekly Advisory, "As I have often said, Amtrak's success as a business is based on growth: improved service, increased ticket revenue, and expanded non-core performance."
Warrington said he wanted "to be honest and candid about our financial results. The slowdown in the nation's economy over the past six months, especially in the service sector, is having an adverse impact on all segments of the travel industry, from airlines to car rental, hotels, and even us at Amtrak. While some economic analysts believe they see signs of a recovery, last week's news of the first quarterly employment contraction in the service sector in more than 40 years was disappointing."
He said the railroad's "determination to grow has been fairly successful over the past several years," and added, "We've had four straight years of passenger and ticket revenue growth, and last year set a record, serving 22.5 million guests."
The Amtrak president and CEO noted the carrier "has not been hit as hard as others in the service sector, such as the airlines, which analysts believe will collectively lose as much as $1 billion this year as the number of their passengers has declined overall since last year." He said Amtrak had grown above its financial results of the same period last year.
"Our June ticket revenue of $107.6 million was up 5.4 percent over last year, and was our best June on record. Despite the adverse economic conditions for the last nine months, we have sustained about a 10 percent growth in ticket revenue as compared to the same period last year, but our non-passenger revenue is currently down about 4 percent, hurt in part by slowing revenue in our contract shop work, as well as our mail and express business, which had seen annual growth of more than 20 percent for the past two years."
He said Amtrak is not meeting its financial goals, crucial to the railroad's future under current law. The passenger railroad is required to stand on its own by fiscal year 2003, which begins Oct. 1, 2002.
"We are not meeting the forecasts we set before the economy took a downturn. So in this fiscal year, we've had to reduce expenses even more diligently in order to meet our financial targets." He added, "The second impact of less-than-forecast growth this year means that we start with a lower base from which to forecast growth for the coming year. While I am hopeful that the economy will improve, we need to plan next year's budget with the assumption that the economy will continue at a slower pace."
Warrington told his readers, "This is significant, and will require an in-depth review of every aspect of the way in which we do business. This review is underway right now and will continue through the summer. I expect that many, many ideas for cost-cutting will be reviewed, with some implemented, some discarded, and others held onto as options. Depending on economic conditions and the performance of our business, fewer measures or more measures may be necessary.
He stated top managers would be "monitoring the market to capitalize on adjustments to our business plan, whether it's changing equipment or offering special promotions, such as our Summer 30-percent-off fare," and added, "We will review and implement efficiency proposals, some of which may involve organizational restructuring when they become final."
The newsletter is faxed Fridays to employees at all levels around the country, although it is primarily intended for managers.
'Paper' delays a train while
a lost 'shoe' stalls another
Amtrak's newest Acela Express began its first day of operation with less than sterling performance.
No. 2191 was delayed in South Station for about a half-hour on July 9 because a "MAP-100," a paper form that certified the engine was serviceable, had not been updated. They are supposed to be changed every 24 hours on every locomotive.
The mechanical department had to send an inspector over to the station from Southampton Street Yard to correct the deficiency. The engine and entire train had been inspected and serviced in the yard, but not the paperwork.
The train is due out of the Boston terminal at 6:42 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.
Three days later, D:F learned, westward Amtrak train No. 2155, another Acela Express which had left Boston at 7:12 a.m. en route to New York and Washington, sustained mechanical problems near Metro-North Railroad controlled point 234.
At 10:06 a.m., MN's power director reported "a ground" on track No. 1 between CP 234 and CP 230. The rail traffic controller (RTC), which M-N calls its dispatchers, said 2155 was in the section and was stopped, and routed from track 2 to track 3 at CP 234.
That three-mile stretch includes Cos Cob movable bridge, Riverside, Old Greenwich, CP 234 where the New Canaan Branch begins, and Stamford.
The train's crew reported a pantograph shoe had come off the rear unit (2033), and they were stopped with the rear of the train still fouling CP 234's interlocking. The dispatcher determined he would have to single-track No. 4 track with M-N's locals.
A report was passed on to M-N operations and Amtrak's "40 Office." That is an Amtrak desk in New York City that responds to other than normal occurrences.
Ten minutes later, M-N's operations manager reported he walked the route of 2155 and took "no exception" to the overhead wire at CP 234; meanwhile, electrical technicians and mechanical people were en route to assist in locking down the rear pantograph on the stalled Amtrak liner.
By 10:40 a.m., M-N's ops manager reported that the ETs and mechanical forces were at the scene, and requested the catenary power be shut off on track 3 so they could climb atop the power car and lock down the rear pan.
The power director in New York City de-energized that track section.
The 13,000 volt power supply was returned by 11:11 a.m. - one hour and five minutes after the train stopped, and the commuter railroad's ops chief reported at 11:20 the pantograph was locked down on the rear unit, everyone was in the clear, and it would be okay for the engineer to raise the lead unit's pantograph, atop 2027.
At 11:31, the RTC reported 2155 was on the move west under its own power, nearly 90 minutes late.
M-N crews and trains were also affected by the lengthy delay. No. 1048's crew and equipment were swapped for No. 1347, and 1316's crew for 1349's.
Elsewhere in New England, Engine 837 and cab control car 90214 (ex-F-40 214) travel almost daily now to Portland, Maine, from Boston in training crews for Maine service. The exceptions are Thursdays and Fridays, the crew's relief days.
The Corridor Clipper geometry car operated on the train up to Portland on July 8, and reports indicate few exceptions were taken, and all were minor.
The load-testing vehicle is expected to travel to northern New England next, most likely in late July or early August. The AAR/DOT vehicle is traveling from Colorado.
Speculation now suggests an early October start-up date for the Portland-Boston service, possibly Columbus Day. Amtrak engine and train crews have begun qualification work.
Back on the Shore Line, trains 66 and 67, the Twilight Shoreliner (formerly the Night Owl), is now running daily with an AEM-7 on the head-end. The permanent changeover to electric engines began on July 9 with engine 905 on the point of No. 67. The trains run from Boston to Washington with "toasters," and a diesel hauls them to Newport News, Va. That was the last Shore Line train to make the conversion from F-40PHs. Now, if an F-40 hauls a train between New Haven Conn., and Boston, it is most likely because of a power shortage.
Inland route trains via Springfield, Mass., and Hartford, Conn., continue to operate with diesels. GE P-40s and P-42s are replacing the few remaining EMD F-40s. The Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited (448-449) generally operates with P-42s.
Last week, we reported Amtrak had accepted ten Acela Express trainsets so far. Since then, we have learned that is only part of the story. Bombardier and Alstom have, in fact, delivered 14 trainsets, leaving six to go. Amtrak's Karen Dunn was right, though, when she said ten, because those ten are the machines that have been accepted and are in daily service. The other four have been conditionally accepted, and are being tested on the Northeast Corridor.
We come by this information via Prodigy Online's railroad site, edited by Dave Warner and Harry Sutton, at http://communities.prodigy.net/trains/acelaexp.htm.
The pair point out they list the "trainsets that have been on Amtrak property, as well as trainset one that had been in Pueblo, Col., for testing in 1999 and 2000."
They also list the delivery dates and conditional acceptance by Amtrak. The most recent, No. 14, was received on June 26, 2001.
The power car (engine) pairings are (trainset 6) 2030, 2031; (7) 2032, 2034; (8) 2014, 2019; (9) 2035, 2039; (10) 2016, 2038; (11) 2036, 2017; (12) 2006, 2037; (13) 2027, 2033; (14) 2010 2015; (15) 2028, 2007; (16) 2012, 2013.
That's as high as the numbering goes, so far.
Our thanks to Todd Glickman for reminding us of this excellent site.
|Congress faces full rail plate|
You're going to see a flurry of rail-related activity on Capitol Hill during the last half of this year. Freight rail-related bills, railroad retirement, Amtrak appropriations, and new starts or extensions for light rail and rail transit in general are all important.
To track the movement that promises to revolutionize transportation in the United States and how Americans think about it, keep your eye on the ball - the "ball" being the High speed Rail Investment Act (HSRIA).
The Senate version (S. 250) has 57 sponsors. Although that is a comfortable majority, as Congress raced down to the wire on adjournment at the end of last year, no fewer than 83 senators had signed on. That is not just a majority. It is veto-proof. We don't know yet whether a veto-proof majority will be needed.
As reported in previous issues of D:F the new administration is still finding itself on rail matters. The new FRA administrator, Allan Rutter, is scheduled to be voted on by the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow, and supposedly will be voted through on the Senate floor the same day. Barely six months into a new presidency, we are just getting an FRA administrator. There are lots of reasons for that, most of them irrelevant to the issue at hand.
On the House side, however, the story is different. If you're looking for the focal point of this battle where you can most effectively let your voice be heard, this is it. As of Friday, 137 members had signed on, but 218 are needed to provide a majority.
As with anything else, the best place to start is at the beginning. The House Subcommittee on Railroads is that place. It is a subcommittee of the House Committee on Infrastructure and Transportation.
Of the subcommittee's 22 members, these solons have signed on to the high-speed bill:
Jack Quinn (R.-N.Y.); Chairman; Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.); Spencer Bacchus (R-Ala.); Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.); Todd R. Platts (R-Pa.); Michael Ferguson (R-N.J.); Gerald Nadler (D.-N.Y.); Nicholas Rahall (D-W.V.); Robert Borski (D-Pa.); Bob Clement (D-Tenn.); Bob Filner (D-Cal.); Earl Blumenauer (D.-Ore.); John Baldacci (D-Me.); Richard Larsen (D-Wash.); Bill Lipinski (D-Ill.); Elija Cummings (D-Md.).
Those members deserve a message commending their position, particularly if you happen to live in any of their districts.
Six subcommittee members have not signed on:
Thomas Petri (R-Wis.); Howard Coble (R-Ariz.); John Mica (R.-Fla.); Jerry Moran (R-Kans.); Jim DeMint (R-S.C.); Robert Simmons (R-Conn.).
That is a 16-to-6 vote, but the bill needs all the supporters it can get, and the best place to start is with the originating subcommittee. Accordingly, those six members should be urged to add their backing to the measure. You need not threaten any lawmaker by pointing out that your political support of him depends on how he deals with issues important to you. In a free society, he already knows that; besides, threats rarely accomplish anything.
Here are some of the major features of the HSRIA (House H.R. 2329):
Points that might reinforce an argument can include, but need not be restricted to:
|Legislature fails to fund rail station|
Rhode Island's legislature went home on July 7 without approving a bond issue worth $170 million to build a new railroad station in Warwick. The station was expected to be a centerpiece of transportation renewal in America's smallest state, but a political leader, who saw his district as not getting enough compensation, quashed the measure. Now, proponents of the so-called "Station District" project, were still trying to judge whether the last-minute political blowup had scared off the private companies they had wooed as partners, according to a report in the Providence Journal.
Nine car-rental companies have agreed to make the move out of T.F. Greene Airport one-quarter mile to the new rail station. They would bill their customers for the biggest share of the project's costs, and The Bullfinch Cos., of Needham, Mass., the firm selected over two Rhode Island rivals as principal developer of the district.
The bond legislation collapsed when the House went home and the Senate returned the measure to the House for a vote - after the House had adjourned. The key sticking point was how much money Warwick should receive as compensation for airport noise and pollution.
By week's end, the state Airport Corp. was proceeding as though the General Assembly's failure to approve financing was a temporary setback that would soon be remedied, perhaps in a special legislative session in August or September, or in January after the new term begins.
The bonding authority, requested by the Airport Corp., was meant to underwrite construction of an Amtrak train station combined with a 4,000-car parking garage. The quarter-mile-plus distance between the station, on Jefferson Boulevard, and the terminal at T. F. Green Airport, on Post Road, would be bridged by an automated "people mover."
Mayor Scott Avedisian said that he hoped to meet with all House and Senate members from Warwick, at City Hall, to reach agreement on how much airport compensation Warwick wants.
"There's no point to a special session if the House and Senate members can't agree," he said.
The most modest package would have given Warwick about $1.4 million a year to settle its decades-old grievances over airport noise and pollution. Sen. John C. Revens, a Warwick Democrat and former majority leader, said the city's delegation to the Senate was insisting on $4 million.
"If the governor's not willing to give more and the mayor's willing to accept it, then I wouldn't stand in the way," Revens said.
Revens predicted that the train station would be built, even if the political horse trading over bonding and compensation issues does "slow it up a bit."
A lawyer, Revens currently serves on the Labor and Judiciary committees.
In neighboring Massachusetts, the trains still won't arrive until 2005, but the stations and highway connections should start to gel by next summer, according to the latest construction schedule for the Fall River-New Bedford commuter-rail extension project.
Bay State Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Sullivan included the schedule with a recent letter he sent officials in both cities, updating them on the status of the $610-million project that will bring trains from Boston to their cities.
Sullivan reported that the MBTA's directors approved $8 million for engineers to complete the design for the stations and track south of Cotley Junction in Taunton, Mass.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is still waiting to receive all the necessary permits. The environmental permitting process has been slowed by residents in the towns of Easton and Raynham, who complained about the potential impact of trains running through Hockomock Swamp. The land in question is one of the largest tracts of wetlands in Massachusetts, but in order to meet the 2005 completion goal, the MBTA plans to move ahead with construction on the southern branches of the rail line while environmental issues on the northern portion of the rail are sorted out.
"We're getting things in place while it's a good time to do it," said Jon Carlisle, spokesman for the Executive Office of Transportation and Construction.
In his letter, Sullivan reported that the transportation authority recently opened bids to reconstruct three railroad bridges in New Bedford and hopes to award the construction contract next month. Three more New Bedford bridges and two Fall River bridges are scheduled to be advertised in November, with construction to begin next spring. The reconstruction work is necessary to rebuild the existing track from freight-only use to commuter rail standards.
CSX serves shippers and receivers in both cities. The branch was originally part of the Old Colony Railroad from Boston, and later part of the New York, New Haven & Hartford. Later, the lines became blurred as Penn Central took over the failed New Haven Railroad, and then failed itself. During that period, PC gave up all commuter lines, and Conrail was created, as was the MBTA.
Sullivan said the MBTA plans to advertise next spring bids on nine highway intersections to be located in Fall River, New Bedford, Taunton and Freetown. Construction would begin in one year.
Two Fall River commuter stations and a New Bedford station are also slated for a similar advertisement and construction schedule.
The main Fall River station, to be built at Pearce and Davol Streets on the former site of Old Colony Depot and other industrial operations, will include a parking deck with capacity for 500 cars.
The smaller Fall River station, planned for a vacant industrial lot off Water Street near the Marine Museum, will have room for only six parking spaces.
Currently, the nearest stations for Bristol County commuters are in Providence, South Attleboro, and Lakeville. Parking for all three stations fills up quickly, forcing some commuters to drive north until they can find a station with free spots.
MBTA ridership studies project that service from Fall River and New Bedford will attract 4,280 daily commuters.
The Providence Journal is online at http://projo.com
Wisconsin feels bumpy rail road
Wisconsin lawmakers felt some bumps in the road a fortnight ago. While citizens packed public hearings on whether to start running 110 mph trains between Milwaukee and Madison, lawmakers in Madison and Washington were traveling down different tracks on how, or even whether, to pay for the service.
Hearings in three communities, including Milwaukee, highlighted the division of opinion on the trains. People who live near the tracks led the opposition, but appeared to be outnumbered by the train line's supporters, many of them environmentalists, rail fans and Watertown business leaders, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Tiffany Richter, whose Pewaukee home is 150 feet from the tracks, said she feared the speeding trains would endanger her 3-year-old daughter and force her family to sell their home at a loss.
Supporters such as Maurice Williams, a representative of Citizens for a Better Environment, replied that parents could teach their children to stay away from tracks, and that trains would give people an environmentally friendly alternative to traveling among drunken drivers on the highways.
Meanwhile, state Assembly Republicans moved to slow down funding for the rail plan in Madison, while a bipartisan group of lawmakers advanced federal funding for the deal.
Amtrak and the Wisconsin DOT have proposed starting the Milwaukee-to-Madison service in 2003, as the first leg in a planned nine-state network of fast, frequent trains.
By 2009, the plan calls for a 110-mph line linking Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and the Twin Cities, with 79-mph service to Green Bay. The Madison line would start with six round trips daily, increasing to 10 in 2005, with stops in Brookfield, Oconomowoc, and Watertown. Fares are estimated at $20 to $33 each way; but funding for the $176 million line and the rest of the $4.1 billion Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, depends on Congressional approval of borrowing $12 billion for high-speed rail projects nationwide. Rail planners are counting on Congress to pay 80 percent of the cost, while the state has set aside $50 million in bonding authority for its share.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel can be found online at http://www.jsonline.com.
Senator 'disses' passenger rail
Utah solon would support Northeast
One of Utah's senators recently told the nation his state does not need Amtrak trains, and suggested his state's share be spent on existing routes.
National Association of Railroad Passengers Executive Director Ross B. Capon told D:F, "At the June 28 hearing of the subcommittee on Transportation of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Robert Bennett (R), indicated that Utah did not need Amtrak train service. He said he would be happy to support continued service on the Northeast Corridor and some other areas where the service is integral to the economy. He sees no reason to keep the long-distance trains, and he is willing to sacrifice Utah's service to put money elsewhere.
Capon said Bennett "suggested that Amtrak will get much more support for federal investment if they don't focus on 'money-losing long distance trains.' If their efforts are directed toward corridors, they will receive broader support. He also said that Utah only had one rail station, Salt Lake City, and that there was no train service connecting Denver and Salt Lake City."
Jon Esty, a passenger rail supporter, brought the senator's statements to light when he wrote online that NARP's Capon had informed him of the senator's remarks.
Capon reported, wrote Esty, "Senator Bennett said he would be happy to support continued service on the Northeast Corridor and some other areas, but he saw no reason to keep the long-distance trains. He also said that Utah only had one rail station (Salt Lake City), apparently forgetting Provo, Helper and Green River. Finally, he said there was no train service connecting Denver and Salt Lake City."
In fact, Utah has four stations, and the state is served by trains 5 and 6, the California Zephyr, which operates daily between Chicago and Emeryville, Cal. (near Oakland and San Francisco) via Denver.
Esty reported he "called Sen. Bennett's office Friday morning and spoke with his transportation staffer, Shaun Parkin.
"I explained that Amtrak has been providing daily service between Denver and Salt Lake City since 1971 and that it is a very popular service and is often sold out during much of the year.
"Mr. Parkin replied that the train arrives departs Salt Lake City at early morning hours [12:32 a.m. westbound, 3:25 a.m. eastbound] and as a result, 'Only a few passengers get on or off.'"
Esty said he "was not aware of the boarding counts in Salt Lake City, but I told him last year 153,307 people boarded the CZ in Denver with an additional 79,662 people boarding the train in other Colorado cities."
He said he was citing Amtrak's figures.
"I added that Utah's support for the train was needed to preserve the service for other states which want it between Chicago and San Francisco."
Parkin replied, Esty wrote, "'years ago, Senator Bennett experienced a very long, dirty, and dull ride on the train between Salt Lake City and Denver.' He did not know whether it was on Amtrak or the prior service provided by the Union Pacific through Wyoming or the Denver & Rio Grande through eastern Utah and western Colorado.
"I told him that the current trip through the Rockies is considered to be one of the most scenic rail trips in the country, and that he and the senator should consider taking a ride to update their knowledge of the service and its popularity."
Esty continued, "Mr. Parkin said that Senator Bennett was supportive of the creation of Amtrak and agrees with Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), who is a prime sponsor of the High Speed Rail Investment Act (S. 250) now before the Senate, that Amtrak was initially undercapitalized. He no longer agrees with Sen. Biden that Amtrak as a national system should be maintained."
Esty urged railroaders and railfans alike, as well as the public, to contact Bennett's office "and let them know you ride or support the CZ and a national passenger rail system." He added, "If you have friends in Utah, please ask them to contact Senator Bennett and Utah's senior Senator, Orrin Hatch."
He also noted that senators and representatives pay more attention to personal calls and letters than to e-mail correspondence.
|Jersey county looks to three-route rail growth|
Bergen County, N.J., officials want to create an expanded multibillion-dollar rail system that would include three new routes along with links among them and three existing commuter lines.
County executive William Schuber said on July 9 the broader, integrated network would include building the first new stations in Bergen in 50 years. He said it would ease highway congestion, spur economic growth, and provide the first rail links between communities in the western and eastern halves of the county and the Meadowlands sports complex in East Rutherford, reports The New York Times.
The system was similar to an expanded rail plan proposed for Bergen County, for which New Jersey Transit (NJT) is holding public hearings this week. The main difference is the timetable, by creating the three new lines and five transfer stations simultaneously, and connecting them to existing lines. NJT has not committed itself to anything so ambitious, nor would it comment on the proposal. For now, the agency has not backed the construction of any of the three proposed new rail lines or any transfer stations linking them and existing lines.
One estimate stated the project would cost several billion dollars and take at least 10 years to build, but an official said the projected costs would not be known until the studies were finished. The federal government would provide the bulk of the money for any expanded system, NJT officials said. The three proposed new lines once carried commuter trains, but now only haul freight.
One, the Northern Branch, would link the Englewood-Teaneck area with NJT's main train terminal in Hoboken. Another, the New York, Susquehanna & Western, would run from Hawthorne in Passaic County through Bergen to Hoboken. Commuter service on both routes ended in 1966. Light rail lines similar to the new, trolley-like Hudson-Bergen line between Bayonne and Jersey City, are proposed for both routes.
The third proposed line, the West Shore, would run from West Nyack, N.Y., in Rockland County, through eastern Bergen to Hoboken. Commuter trains last ran on it in 1959.
The New York Times is online at http://www.nytimes.com/
|Talgo now runs with full 12-car trainset|
D:F has learned that Amtrak is now running the "Bellingham Talgo " (Nos. 761 and 762) with a full Talgo set of 12 cars. Power remains an F-59 with a standard cab car on the rear end. All are painted in Cascades green, brown, and white.
"Quite a change from the short, mixed consist that was running until about a week ago," an observer said.
The Talgo consist is occasionally run north of Bellingham and turned at the Intalco-Cherry Point branch wye, then brought back to Bellingham yard for the night.
Thanks to Al Currier, Bellingham, Wash.
|Dallas planners view commuter rail at airport|
Construction of a commuter rail station at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport will be fast-tracked as part of a strategy to make the airport the hub of a regional rail system, airport officials said recently.
A large system of commuter rail or light rail will help relieve congestion on the freeways near the airport, maintain relatively easy access to the terminal areas and boost the region's 2012 Olympics bid, according to the officials, and a report in the Dallas-Fort Worth Star-Telegram of June 10.
Few details of the plan were solid, other than the location of the rail station, which would be in the median of International Parkway, equally distant from Terminal C and Terminal E, but the project must start soon to be ready for the Olympics.
"If we're going to do this, we have to start in 2002 to get it done in 2010," DFW Chief Executive Officer Jeff Fegan said during the first meeting of the airport Regional Transportation Committee.
[Beijing, China will host the 2006 summer Olympics. - Ed.]
The plan's big question concerns connecting the station to existing rail lines. Options include adding to the Trinity Railway Express line with direct connections from the east and west to the terminal area, building a north-south line between the CentrePort-DFW Airport station and the terminal, or building an underground tunnel from Dallas to the terminal area for a light rail line.
Airport officials, who have seen far-fetched plans roll this way before, said they would have an implementation plan completed and environmental assessments under way by the end of the year.
"I'm excited about this study because, finally, we're going to have a solution instead of just a lot of plans," Fegan said.
Officials said the period for the $750,000 "planning and implementation study" is short and the focus is on achievable goals. Also, rather than dealing with the politics and timing of future commuter rail lines, such as the increasingly controversial Cotton Belt line, the study will focus only on the airport and its immediate surroundings.
"We don't want this to be another dreamy-eyed thing, so we're going to find the market of good rail passengers out there and serve them," said Julie Dunbar of Dunbar Transportation Consulting, the airport project manager.
During the initial phase, which will cost about $197,000, officials will identify which neighborhoods would use a Dallas-Fort Worth train the most, and will evaluate rail line options.
The second phase will cost about $432,000 and will include the selection of a strategy and public input.
The remaining $120,000 will be used as a contingency fund or for the final engineering and environmental analysis, Dunbar said. At that point, it should be clear which federal agency would be asked for money. The Federal Transit Administration and Federal Aviation Administration are among the possibilities. Another consideration is who will be doing the asking.
The public gets its first glimpse of the project this month, when DFW conducts its first focus group. After a list of viable options is compiled, there will be a public meeting, probably in early August, officials said.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram is online at http://web.star-telegram.com
|Florida county okays passenger rail|
The St. Johns County Commission in Florida last week agreed to return passenger trains to St. Augustine, possibly making the city one of eight new stops between Jacksonville and West Palm Beach offered by Amtrak.
The 4-1 approval, with Commissioner Nick Meiszer casting the only "no" vote, followed a similar resolution by St. Augustine City Council. The council approved its resolution to support the idea on July 9, reports the Jacksonville Times-Union.
Other stops along the Florida East Coast (FEC) route would be in Daytona Beach, Titusville, Cocoa-Port Canaveral, Melbourne, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, and Stuart. FEC and Amtrak recently agreed to operate Amtrak passenger trains between Jacksonville and South Florida, but a start date has not been set yet.
For St. Augustine, it would be the first time since a violent railway strike in 1968 that the county would have passenger railroad service.
Florida DOT has set aside $15.5 million for what is estimated to be a $62.5 million project, said Edward Wuellner, executive director of the St. Augustine-St. Johns County Airport Authority.
"I think it's a transportation alternative that we should have gotten involved in a long time ago," commission Chairman March Jacalone said.
A transportation center proposed by the St. Augustine-St. Johns County Airport Authority would combine the existing airport with new bus and passenger rail service. An elevated walkway would connect the airport, which primarily serves smaller planes and corporate jets, on the east side of U.S. 1 with an Amtrak terminal and other facilities to the west on undeveloped land.
The transportation center would include access to rental cars, taxis and shuttles to residential and business centers in St. Johns County. The center also would have shops and restaurants.
Meiszer said although he supports railway service, he thinks the county should think about using a railway station south of the county complex instead of considering building a new one.
"The railroad already has a station here in good condition that isn't in use," he said.
|Pittsburgh maglev gains a booster|
After touring the factory of a proposed low-speed maglev subcontractor in San Diego last week, Pittsburgh, Pa., City Councilman Bob O'Connor said he is poised to start another push for the transportation technology soon.
The proposal for a $147 million magnetic levitation train, linking a Hill District parking garage with downtown, has long been stalled. Developers have not secured needed approvals from such agencies as the Sports and Exhibition Authority and the city Planning Commission, and Mayor Tom Murphy and Hill District Councilman Sala Udin have long been wary of the project, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on July 11.
O'Connor said the technology, which could provide a mass-transit link from Downtown to Oakland and the North Shore, should at least be tested, perhaps on a test track by the Pittsburgh Technology Center in South Oakland.
"Transportation is maybe the key issue if you look around the country," O'Connor told reporters after yesterday's council session. Pittsburgh "should be looking 10 years down the road."
One week earlier, O'Connor and state Sen. Jack Wagner (D), visited the San Diego facilities of General Atomics, a high-tech company that has spent years developing superconducting magnets and is among the companies pushing Pittsburgh to build the world's first low-speed maglev line.
A track would be built 30 feet above the ground upon which small passenger vehicles would be levitated about 2 inches above the track using super-cooled electromagnetic technology. The vehicles would be propelled up to 50 miles an hour, linking a 5,000-car garage near Mellon Arena with the Port Authority's Steel Plaza light rail station downtown.
The maglev ride would be free but parking would cost $11. General Atomics would be the subcontractor providing the sophisticated equipment for the project.
Western Pennsylvania Maglev Development Corp. officials said the downtown track could not be built until 2007 at the earliest. In the meantime, they are planning to build a test track, perhaps by 2004. Developers also have to contend with proposals for a new hockey arena, which could affect their garage plans.
The proposal is different from high-speed maglev, which is being pushed by Monroeville-based Maglev Inc. It plans to use levitation trains capable of reaching 300 mph in a proposed 47-mile demonstration project linking Pittsburgh International Airport, Downtown, Monroeville, and Greensburg.
|Setback for Kansas City light rail|
Kansas City's light-rail proponents suffered two setbacks July 10 when the boards of the Greater Kansas City and the Northland Regional chambers of commerce came out against a proposed sales tax increase that would help pay for the system.
The business groups said they could not support the plan for a 25-year, half-cent sales tax increase, which will appear on the Aug. 7 ballot, the Kansas City Star reported on July 10.
The opposition came as two other civic groups began to marshal resources against the plan. Collectively, those efforts could signal trouble for the proposed 24-mile, $793 million light-rail system, which would run from Vivion Road in the Northland to 75th Street, south of the Missouri River.
"We believe it's too much money, for too long, for too few riders less than 17,000 riders" a day, said G. Richard Hastings, chairman of the Greater Kansas City Chamber's board.
City leaders have said this is the last, best chance for Kansas City to develop a community consensus and get in line for federal aid to help build the line.
The Kansas City Star is online at http://kcstar.com
Seattle, BNSF dispute over blocked streets
Seattle will get another chance to limit the blocking of street crossings by freight trains when the state's highest court weighs in on the issue late this year.
Five of the State Supreme Court's nine justice agreed on July 10 to hear the city's appeal of a February State Court of Appeals ruling that threw out the city's limits on how long and when freight trains can block crossings, according to a report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Appeals Court Judge Kenneth Grosse ruled in February that federal law prevents the city from enforcing its ban on freight car switching at street crossings during rush hours and limiting blockage to no longer than four minutes at other times.
The city at the time argued that Grosse's ruling would lead to increased congestion. It said 17 other cities have similar ordinances.
The decision will allow the city and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway to argue once again their positions in court in an ongoing battle in which each side has won skirmishes along the way.
The city issued 28 citations against the railroad between May 1996 and January 1998, alleging that the railroad twice violated the four-minute limit and on 26 occasions violated the ban on blocking streets for switching operations during rush hour. Each citation carried a fine of up to $1,000.
The railroad tried without success to get the convictions reversed in King County Superior Court, then took them up to the Court of Appeals. Grosse said federal law grants "exclusive jurisdiction" over operation of railroads, even over multiple tracks located in the same state.
He said the two city ordinances "interfere with the railroad's ability" to conduct its business. Permitting local governments to impose regulations on railroads might mean "a railroad might be prevented from operating a line."
The argument is expected to go to the state Supreme Court this fall.
|Is D&H for sale - again?|
Canadian Pacific Railway Co. (CPR) is reviewing options for its Delaware & Hudson subsidiary, fueling speculation that the historic U.S. railway may soon be sold.
Spokeswoman Denise Nepveu told the Toronto Globe and Mail the review is intended to improve performance at the railway, largely unprofitable since CPR rescued it from bankruptcy for $25-million (U.S.) in 1991. Nepveu would neither confirm nor deny a trade magazine report that said CPR has been shopping the railway to CSX Corp.
"As part of the ongoing process, we might be talking to some parties, but I wouldn't say it publicly or I wouldn't confirm it," Nepveu said.
Industry observers say that if CPR decides to spin off the D&H line, it could go to either CSX or Norfolk Southern Corp. of Norfolk, Va., or be split between the two U.S. railways. It is also possible that a smaller regional railway, or even Canadian National, could be interested if the price is right, observers said. CN bid on the line in 1991, but lost out to CPR.
D&H track stretches from Montreal to Albany, N.Y. and Sunbury, Pa., as well as to Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia over 1,000 miles of track with running rights over other railways.
CPR paid $25-million to purchase the railway in 1991 from Guilford Transportation Industries, but has spent tens of millions more to upgrade the track. The line was in such poor shape before the acquisition that shippers referred to it as the "Delay & Hesitate."
To find the Toronto Globe and Mail, go online to http://www.globeandmail.com.
Mexico City suspends commuter trains
following two deaths last week in crash
The Mexico City government last week suspended commuter train service for one month to find ways to improve safety in the wake of a fatal crash that left two people dead. The city's transportation secretary stated in a news release that it would evaluate and educate conductors as well as develop a plan to make the transportation safer.
The action follows two separate accidents involving commuter trains in the past two months. In the most recent, on July 5, a train collided at a signal crossing with three passenger buses and a car, killing three people.
The car was completely flattened and several people were trapped temporarily under twisted metal.
Investigators later blamed the accident on the train's inexperienced engineer, who they said ran a red signal, was traveling at three times the speed limit established for the area, and did not take necessary actions to avoid the crash.
On May 21, two commuter trains collided, killing one person and injuring 33.
As part of their personnel review, city transportation officials will submit employees to drug tests and conduct general physical examinations.
They also will review the employees' level of training and conduct classes to improve their skills, while improving safety standards and signalization at various train crossings.
SNCF to repay some passengers for delays
The high-speed railway service linking Paris and Marseilles will have to pay 5 to 6 million francs (about $900, 000 U.S.) in compensation to delayed travelers one month since it was put into use, French National Railway Co. (SNCF) said last week.
Only three-quarters of the newly launched high-speed services arrived on time or within 10 minutes off the schedule in the past four weeks.
Guillaume Pepy, the railway's customer services manager, said the firm will compensate delayed clients.
The three-hour Paris-to-Marseilles link, or Mediterranean TGV, opened in June after 10 years of work and at a cost of 25 billion francs (about $3 billion), and travelers have experienced a series of delays caused by switch problems, thunder, suicide attempts or weekend rave-parties along the rails.
SNCF is returning one-third of the ticket price to travelers if their trips were delayed by no more than half an hour, and 100 percent of the price in certain especially annoying cases, the manager said.
Legal battle echoes the old West, DRGW
The modern-day Royal Gorge Railroad war appears to be headed out of the old west into a modern-day legal battle, just as the original rail war did in 1877, reports The Pueblo Chieftain.
One-hundred and twenty-four years ago, the railroad war was fought between the Santa Fe and Denver & Rio Grande railroads, both battling for a chance to win the silver hauling business in Leadville.
Each group laid down tracks in different parts of the gorge by day, and then each night, they would dynamite each other's progress.
The battle became so heated that rock forts were constructed and shots were exchanged. The courts eventually awarded the route to the D&RG.
The modern-day railroad war is a battle over use of those same tracks that the D&RG constructed. Although the skirmishes are not as dramatic, the battle between the Canon City and Royal Gorge tourist railroad and the Rock & Rail quarry freight train operation is no less fierce.
"Both sides are headed toward a legal showdown," according to Mark Greska, co-owner of the Canon City and Royal Gorge (CC&RG) tourist train.
"It is headed for arbitration before the (federal) American Arbitration Association, probably sometime in August or September," said Fred Jones, chief executive officer of Rock & Rail.
Union Pacific officials sold the 12-mile stretch of track from Parkdale to Canon City to the two businesses in 1998. Rock & Rail has since been sold to Ray Marshall of Colorado Materials in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Rock & Rail continues to run trains laden with rock and gravel from the Parkdale quarry to Colorado Springs, plus it also serves customers such as Cotter Corp. in Canon City and the Portland Cement Plant near Penrose.
During the summer, the tourist train makes three runs daily, while winter runs are limited to noon each Saturday and Sunday. In 1999 and 2000, the tourist train carried about 75,000 passengers through the Royal Gorge.
During one weekend last December, the tourist train was unable to run because a Rock & Rail high-rail maintenance truck was blocking the track.
"As a passenger railroad, customers demand punctual departures and returns. We lose business without the ability to run a tight schedule," Greska said, pointing out that Rock & Rail trains are running too close to the tourist train's departure times and running "track checks" in maintenance vehicles that delay the train's arrival in Parkdale by as much as 30 minutes with "alarming frequency."
Jones characterizes the scheduling problems as "minor. Both of us are experiencing delays due to one another's operations," he said.
The dispute does not end with delays and cancellations, but also extends to track maintenance, relations with the rafting community, billing and "serious safety issues," Greska said.
"My major safety concern is a rock coming off that gorge wall and injuring someone on that (tourist) train, especially with the open cars. I also have concerns about the congestion around the depot area and their blatant refusal to park off the main line when their train is not in use," Jones said.
"We are forced onto the siding to go through there and we've had to lower our track speed as much as two-thirds to try to negate an accident," Jones explained.
The legal battle likely will test the mixture of passenger and freight traffic on a single rail line.
"Rock & Rail has tried, in the past, to invoke federal common-carrier regulations, claiming those rules give freight operations priority and exclusive control over the track. That would effectively end the passenger train's independence and would stifle the growth of passenger rail service in the U.S. at a time when it is making a comeback," Greska explained.
At the same time, the Federal Railroad Administration has begun drafting rules governing freight railroads and passenger railroads that operate on the same track. The administration "has been watching activities in the gorge closely, and certainly any new regulations will seriously impact both organizations.
This could be a precedent-setting case," Greska said.
Greska said the implications could affect all of Colorado.
"The Union Pacific considered abandoning the entire Tennessee Pass line three years ago. If the remainder of the line is abandoned, Colorado can expect a bidding war and passenger trains will find it very difficult to operate from Pueblo to the mountains if they cannot easily get through the Royal Gorge," Greska said.
In the "The Way We Were" feature [July 9] appeared the words, "... until the main line was electrified, the Dorchester Branch, which is it's official name... "
You should know that the possessive of "it" is 'its," not "it's." By having basic grammar errors such as this you lose credibility with people like me. If you can't get the grammar right, why should I believe you can get the stories right?
Indeed, you are right. - Ed.
Am I losing it or did you use this, "The way we were" piece a couple of months ago? Thanks for the great newsletter, as usual!
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)
Hyatt Regency, One St. Louis Station,
American Assn. of Railroad Superintendents annual meeting
Doubletree Hotel, Missoula, Mont.
Sept. 10-13 AREMA annual conference
Palmer Hilton Hotel, Chicago
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