Vol. 7 No. 31
July 17, 2006

Copyright © 2006
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

Destination:Freedom
The E-Zine of the National Corridors Initiative, Inc.
President and CEO - Jim RePass
Publisher - Jim RePass      Editor - Molly McKay
Webmaster - Dennis Kirkpatrick

A weekly North American rail and transit update

For railroad professionals
Political leaders at all levels of government
Journalists from all media

* Now in our Seventh Year *

This page is best viewed at 800 X 600 screen resolution

 

IN THIS EDITION...  In this edition...

  News Items... 
MBTA ramps up airport service as ‘Big Dig’ fails
Federal investigation of CTA fire underway
Worcester Mayor blasts Romney administration
   over rail progress
Costly tar hurts paving
  Off the main line… 
Amtrak Florida rail pass on sale for Florida residents
   through August
Pan-Am Boston-Maine airways wide-body operations denied
  Public relations lines… 
Documentary announcement: Contested Streets
  Commuter lines… 
MBTA expands south side service
New trains rolling in
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Across the pond… 
Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof rail station.
  Editorials… 
Is the Big Dig Doomed?
Connecticut’s boondoggle – there’s still time to stop it!
Let the state build Route 11? Absolutely NOT!
  End notes… 

TOP NEWS ITEMS...  News Items...

MBTA ramps up airport service
as ‘Big Dig’ fails

By DF Staff

Last week, a section of the tunnel roofing within Interstate 90 [the Massachusetts Turnpike] in Boston collapsed resulting in the death of an auto passenger that had the misfortune of passing underneath at the time of the structure’s failure. As a result, the main highway connecting Boston to the Ted Williams Tunnel, and this in turn connecting commuters and travelers to Logan International Airport, has been closed until further notice while inspections are conducted to look for additional construction failures.

Fallen ceiling panels crush car in Boston

Photo: AP via CNN news

Fallen ceiling panels crush a passing auto resulting in the death of a passenger. Miraculously, the driver walked away with minor injuries. The area is now a crime scene under investigation by both state and federal authorities.


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The roofing which failed, is essentially a suspended ceiling composed of steel and concrete panels, each weighing several tons. The incident is one more controversy in the saga known as “The Big Dig” where billions in cost overruns and numerous construction faults have been plentiful.

Last year, sections of Interstate 93 that was also part of the “Big Dig” started leaking ground water which froze in places due to winter temperatures, and which also resulted in closures and other traffic restrictions while repairs were made.

In response to the recent misfortune, the MBTA has ramped up its Blue line and Silver line services to help accommodate those needing to reach the airport while the number of highway access roads to accomplish that remains cut in half, and that resulting in daily gridlock.

The MBTA’s dual-powered busses on its Silver line are at present the only vehicles that are allowed eastbound through the Williams Tunnel to the airport via a special on ramp. The Blue line connects at Airport station with frequent and free MassPort shuttle busses that service all of the airport terminals in a continuing loop route. System-wide, the MBTA has also expanded many of its services by extending rush hour headways on subways and some bus lines to do what it can to relieve the resultant traffic jams entering and surrounding Boston.

At press time, the Massachusetts legislature had passed legislation giving emergency powers to Governor Mitt Romney to directly oversee an inspection of the “Big Dig” tunnel systems. The underground highways were built and overseen by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, an independent state agency which has been under heavy criticism for its handling of the construction and various failures that have come to light as the project has wound down toward completion.

[ Note: See an editorial on ‘The Big Dig’ further on within this newsletter – Ed. ]


Federal investigation of
CTA fire underway

On the Internet from CBS

CHICAGO, JULY 12 -- On Tuesday afternoon, July 11, just after 5 pm at the height of rush hour, a Blue Line a commuter train on Chicago’s Blue Line jumped the tracks and almost immediately material under the train caught fire.

Jay Levine of CBS reported that as many as 1,000 people were on the train heading to O’Hare when the incident occurred. More than 150 people, including three firefighters, went to area hospitals, many with smoke inhalation.

A thorough federal investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is underway which has uncovered an evacuation and rescue effort handled commendably by the train operator and the passengers.

Chicago Transit Authority President Frank Kruesi said the operator followed proper procedures. He left the cab to investigate, walked toward the back of the train, and evacuated the passengers when he saw smoke and heard reports of a fire, the article reported.

The operator waited until everybody got out of the tunnel before he himself exited, said Kitty Higgins, one of the NTSB investigators. He helped passengers get to the exit through the tunnel which was filled with smoke.

“This is a very serious situation,” said Mayor Richard Daley at a news conference. “All of these people kept it from being any worse than it had to be.”

Daley added, “This had to be a frightening experience, especially in light of the train bombings in India that occurred hours earlier.”

The lighting in the tunnel functioned well although visibility was impaired by the thick smoke.

One obstacle to the investigation is the absence of a data recorder, a piece of equipment similar to the black box on airplanes. A recorder would make it easier to reconstruct just what happened.

Investigators wanted to know why the train’s public address system was not used. Kruesi explained that the motorman would have had to go into a locked room to turn on the PA system and that takes valuable time in an emergency. Had he done that, the evacuation might have been delayed and not occurred as rapidly as it did.

“… time is the enemy in this situation,” said Kreusi.

He added: “The operator gave the direction. People were following it, and one of the things is that people were following together. Remember, we’re talking about an eight-car train with 1,000 people, and everybody was able to get out of that train.”

There is concern among emergency personnel about the inability of the system to communicate adequately to passengers. In this situation, the operator was not hurt and did an excellent job leading the passengers to safety, but if he had been hurt and the people had no one to direct them, the evacuation could have been jeopardized.

“Can you imagine the panic you would have had with people who considered themselves trapped on the train with no instructions and nowhere to go? It would have been chaos,” said Rick Harris with the CTA Drivers Union.

Officials are looking into the possibility of having instructions for passengers sent out from the Chicago Transit Authority’s command center in an emergency.

Besides interviewing the motorman, the 11-man team of investigators also will look at the train’s mechanics, the condition of the tracks and the train signals at the time of the accident.


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Worcester Mayor blasts Romney
administration over rail progress

From The Internet

FRAMINGHAM, MA --- Worcester Mayor Tim Murray has blasted state transportation officials for not making commuter rail expansion a top priority, demanding that a decision be made on increased service before this fall’s election, according to a July 12 report in the Metro West Daily News.

Reporter D. Craig MacCormack of the Daily News Staff wrote:

“Mayor Tim Murray, who came to the Daily News to discuss his campaign for lieutenant governor, also pushed for the governor to create a job of rail commissioner -- on par with the state highway commissioner. Murray is in a three-way race with Deborah Goldberg and Andrea Silbert for the state’s second-in-command post.”

“Murray said there is no reason to wait now that consultants HNTB, which conducted two studies for the MBTA, has filed its long-awaited report on how to expand service to people along the Framingham and Worcester commuter rail lines,” wrote the Daily News. “‘I don’t think there’s been a sense of urgency,’” the News quoted Murray, “pointing at state Transportation Secretary John Cogliano as being among the culprits. “‘There isn’t a recognition that there’s value in (rail expansion) and that we need to pay for it.’”

A spokesman for Cogliano defended the Romney appointee. “Eric Abell, spokesman for the state Executive Office of Transportation, said Cogliano himself rides the Providence-Attleboro commuter rail line to work and understands its importance,” reported the Daily News. “‘We share the mayor’s goals and we’re working closely with CSX to make sure expansion can happen,’” Abell was quoted as saying.

“While much of the talk in Framingham centers around a full depression of the tracks along Route 135 or of Route 126 into downtown, Murray looks at the Braintree-Weymouth solution, where a shallow cut for the trains created the same effect of allowing traffic to move freely at a fraction of the cost for the project,” the Daily News reported. “‘We want to see the goals and objectives with dates included so people know something is being done here,’” the News quoted Murray. “He said he wants state leaders to either negotiate with CSX to buy the tracks or move on and focus on the construction of rail spurs on the lines,” the News reported.


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Costly tar hurts paving

From the Internet via the Chronicle Herald

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA, JULY 15 – Motorists aren’t the only ones hurt by the high cost of oil these days. Paving projects in Nova Scotia have been affected, some delayed, because of the price hikes. The costs of liquid asphalt, which is made mostly from petroleum products, are up 20 to 25 per cent from last year, according to an article by David Jackson, Provincial Reporter for the Chronicle Herald.

Transportation Minister Angus MacIsaac said last Thursday that he didn’t know how many kilometers of work would be postponed, but it would cost an extra $8 million to do all the work originally planned. He said paving can cost from $300,000 to more than $600,000 per kilometer, depending on the type of job, so $8 million would cover roughly 13 to 26 kilometers.

Official Opposition Leader Darrell Dexter criticized the Canadian government for not being forthright about the increased costs in its pre-election budget.

“They marched around the province from community to community bragging about their road-building program on facts that they should have known were erroneous,” the NDP leader said.

The article continues: “Mr. MacIsaac said the department doesn’t know exact prices until they start coming in from contractors. He said factors driving up the cost of roadwork, other than the cost of asphalt, are higher wages for workers because of competition from Alberta, and higher diesel fuel prices.

“He said various factors will determine which projects will be delayed but he doesn’t anticipate politics will be one of them.

“Transportation Department spokesman Dan Davis said staff are looking at ways to use less new asphalt, including doing more preventive maintenance, using concrete, chip sealing and recycling old asphalt.”


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

Amtrak Florida rail pass on sale for
Florida residents through August

Source: Amtrak Media Relations

WASHINGTON – Floridians can avoid high automobile gas prices and get discounted rail fares while enjoying the many sights that make their state a great place to vacation. Available for a limited time, the Florida Rail Pass can be purchased by Florida residents at a discounted price of $199 – a $50 savings over the full priced pass. The discounted pass is available for purchase now through August 31, 2006. Since the increasingly popular program was launched in the summer of 2001, over 6,000 Florida Rail passes have been sold.

Amtrak’s Florida Rail Pass allows Florida residents unlimited coach travel, for one year from the date of purchase, to 28 destinations within the state. Perfect for leisure or business, Floridians can visit the state’s most popular cities, attractions and theme parks, including Disney, for a fraction of the cost of individual tickets. The pass is valid aboard the Silver Meteor, Silver Star and most Thruway motorcoaches.

“These passes are a perfect way to beat the busy summer traffic for a weekend getaway to the beach or an outing to a baseball game or theme park,” said Amtrak’s Florida Market Manager, Dennis Lyons.

When traveling, the passholder must present the pass on board the train, along with valid photo identification indicating they are a Florida resident. The pass may be upgraded to include sleeping accommodations, if available, with the payment of the applicable accommodation charge. The pass is not valid on Thruway motorcoaches between Deland and Daytona Beach or Miami and Key West. The pass is non-refundable and non-transferable and replacement passes are not available. No fare code is required to purchase the discounted pass. The price will return to $249 on September 1, 2006. Proof of Florida residency is required.

For more information on Amtrak’s Florida Rail Pass, visit www.amtrak.com, call 1-800-USA-RAIL, or visit your nearest Florida Amtrak station.


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Pan-Am Boston-Maine Airways
wide-body operations denied

From: Chop Hardenbergh’s
“ATLANTIC NORTHEAST RAILS and PORTS”

Subscribe at: www.atlanticnortheast.com

 

WASHINGTON DC --- The United States Department of Transportation has turned down Pan-Am Airlines application to operate wide-body aircraft.

“Based on our reexamination of the record before us, it does not appear as though BMAC has the financial wherewithal to conduct its proposed operations.” The US DOT has ruled.

Background

As readers may recall, Pan Am Airlines (a sister company to Pan Am Railway), with flights operated by Boston-Maine Airways (BMAC), has applied to the USDOT for authority to fly wide-bodied aircraft. Prodded by the Air Line Pilots Association, the department has held BMAC to its financial standards. BMAC submitted that ST would back up any financial shortfalls [see 06#01B], indicating that in 2004 and 2005 ST had provided to BMAC at least a million dollars a month.

That backing did not meet the USDOT standard, as a letter from the department to Mr. Nathaniel P. Breed, counsel for BMAC at the Washington law firm of Zuckert Scoutt & Rasenberger, described. The letter, sent by Acting Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs Michael Reynolds, was posted to the DOT website on 26 June.

Boston-Maine financial condition poor, says US DOT

‘Moreover, the record indicates that the company’s overall financial condition continues to be extremely poor. BMAC’s audited financial statements for calendar years 2003, 2004, and 2005 show the air carrier having negative working capital of $14 million, $26 million, and $22 million, respectively, and net losses of $8 million, $11 million, and $19 million, respectively. In addition, the financial statements submitted by Pan American Airlines, Inc. (PAAI), BMAC’s parent company, for calendar years 2002, 2003, and 2004, show PAAI having negative working capital of $41 million, $21 million, and $67 million, respectively, and negative stockholders’ equity of $54 million, $80 million, and $71 million, respectively.”

DOT states that Railroad cannot help enough

“Further, our review of the financial statements provided for Springfield Terminal Railway Company (ST), a related company which has agreed to provide BMAC with a $7.2 million line-of-credit, indicates that ST does not currently have funding necessary to support BMAC’s operations and capital expenditures, as well as its own.”

“Although ST states that it has provided funding to BMAC in the past from funds derived from its railroad revenues and expects to continue to do so through its anticipated revenues, it has been the Department’s policy not to accept projected or anticipated revenues as evidence of an applicant’s ability to meet our requirements. This policy holds true for both the applicant and any other entity providing financial support. Thus, we are unable to accept the proposed line-of-credit as a means to satisfy the Department’s financial fitness criteria,” the DOT statement continued.

How Boston-Maine can meet the financial conditions

‘The Department generally requires applicants for amended authority to have resources sufficient to cover all start-up costs, plus a working capital reserve equal to the incremental operating costs associated with the proposed operations. In cases where an applicant has negative, working capital, we typically add this deficiency to the amount of capital required to meet our financial fitness requirements. Under these circumstances, BMAC would need to demonstrate that it has access to $22 million to cover its current ‘ST does not currently have funding necessary to support BMAC’s operations and capital expenditures, as well as its own,” conclude the US DOT statement.

The future of Springfield Terminal and Pan Am Railroad is of concern because it is one of the largest freight railroads operating in New England, according to the newsletter.


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PUBLIC RELATIONS LINES...  Public relations lines...

Documentary announcement:


Contested Streets

A new documentary, Contested Streets: Breaking New York City Gridlock, by Transportation Alternatives, makes the case that NYC must reclaim streets from the automobile and make them more livable for our growing population.

The 57-minute film piece discusses the historical context of NYC’s transformation from a city crowded with pedestrians at the turn of the century to one overrun with cars and trucks. It goes further to explain the creation, in the middle of the 20th century, of the quintessential American notion that traffic is unequivocally good for the economy.

Unfortunately, much of city government appears to still believe this is the case, even though other large cities have realized that in order to compete as a growing, global city, they must make drastic improvements to the quality of street life and mass transit systems. The second part of the movie details the improvements made over a number of years in London, Paris, and Copenhagen where leaders have transformed streetscapes by taking space from cars in favor of dedicated lanes for buses, bicycles and pedestrians.

The images of NYC’s crowded, gridlocked streets where pedestrians navigate around trucks stopped in crosswalks and cyclists look endangered even in meager bike lanes are striking in juxtaposition to the organized, buffered, attractive transit- and pedestrian-friendly streets of London and Paris. The contrast is particularly apparent when one considers that our elected officials will not even ban cars from our green crown jewels, Central and Prospect Parks.

In the narrative, business leaders and others bluntly state that in order for NYC to maintain a competitive edge, it must do something to reduce congestion and create larger and safer spaces for pedestrians to walk and gather.

To obtain a copy of the movie or schedule a viewing in your community, please contact Dani Simons 646-873-6025 or events@transalt.org.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

MBTA expands south side service

By DF Staff & MBTA Press Release

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and its provider of Commuter Rail service, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Company (MBCR), have announced that the frequency of train service between Boston, MA. and Providence, RI. will increase later this month.

As part of a new schedule that takes effect on Monday, July 24th, the number of weekday roundtrips between Boston’s South Station and Providence Station will jump from 11 to 15. Under the existing schedule, the last train for Providence leaves Boston at 8:15 PM. The new schedule includes three departures from Boston between 9:00 PM and 12 Midnight.

In addition to expanding the weekday schedule, the MBTA is introducing new service on the weekends. Effective July 29th, commuter rail service between Providence and Boston will be available for the first time on weekends. There will be nine roundtrips on Saturdays and seven roundtrips on Sundays.

The expanded service is the result of a partnership between the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, which obtained federal funds for the expanded service and a new train layover facility in Pawtucket, RI.

In releasing the new service schedule, the MBTA’s General Manager Daniel A. Grabauskas also announced that the Attleboro/Stoughton Commuter Rail Line will be renamed the Providence/Stoughton Commuter Rail Line.

“More than a thousand people a day are boarding our trains in Providence,” said Grabauskas. “Rhode Islanders have helped make this Commuter Rail Line the busiest in the MBTA system, and we look forward to attracting even more customers with the new service being offered.”

“The Romney-Healey Administration has made customer service a key guiding principle, and this is a great service enhancement on the Providence/Stoughton line,” said Transportation Secretary John Cogliano. “We’re excited to expand the accessibility of rail service south of Boston.”

“The new Providence/Stoughton line provides another example of MBCR and the MBTA working together to improve service for riders,” said Paul Lundberg, MBCR’s general manager. “We are pleased to implement this new service.”

[ Note: This same line will eventually be extended within the next 1-2 years to a new station to be built in Warwick, RI at T.F. Green Airport – Ed. ]


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New trains rolling in

Source: Tri-state Transportation Campaign

JULY 7 -- Commuters will be happy to hear that every transit agency in the region will have new cars running within the next year.

New Jersey Transit expects to roll out 231 new bi-level rail cars by the end of 2006. The Port Authority paid for the first 100 cars in 2001 with some revenues from a toll increase at Hudson River crossings that year. NJTransit has allocated financing for the remaining 131 cars in this year’s capital budget. The new cars will run on the Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Lines, and on Midtown Direct service on the Morris & Essex Lines. The new rolling stock will give the system about a one-third increase in passenger cars over today’s fleet of 711, and seating capacity will increase further still thanks to the double-deck feature. Transit recently retired 74 older (Comet I) rail cars and is completely refurbishing 148 other cars for a longer service life.

The next generations of newer New Jersey trains is likely to be multiple unit (self-propelled, rather than drawn by locomotive) rail cars that can run on both diesel and electric power, and replacement of more electric rail cars. The diesel/electric rail cars (called DMU’s) would offer one seat rides from areas served by non-electrified lines once a new passenger rail tunnel is built under the Hudson River. That project has received strong bipartisan and bi-state support but is not anticipated to be open until 2015.

At NYC Transit, 660 new subway cars are also scheduled to arrive towards the end of the year. They are designed for service on “B Division” (lettered lines, like the A or L trains) though it is not yet clear which specific lines they will be deployed to. The 660-car order has options attached that could increase the ultimate number to 1,700, though transit officials tell us the decision to do so will depend on the quality of the cars they receive and what ridership indicators are (and we would add, the extent of future MTA capital programs) after the first cars are delivered. The NYC Transit says it routinely undertakes “Scheduled Maintenance System” or parts refitting of aging rail cars to keep them running longer. NYC Transit’s subway car fleet totals 6,210.

The Port Authority has contracted for the manufacture of an entirely new 340-car PATH fleet, to serve the New York City-New Jersey rapid transit system. PATH train cars in service now average about 34 years in age. PA press statements indicate the new fleet will cost about $500 million. New cars will begin to appear on the PATH system in 2008, with complete fleet replacement scheduled for 2011.

The cars will feature more doors, “on board video” and closed-circuit TV for security purposes. The new PATH cars are being assembled by Kawasaki at its Yonkers plant. The 340-car fleet level does not represent an increase in size over current levels, though federal data indicates the PATH system uses 268 cars in maximum service today. Presumably, other capital improvements to the PATH system such as track, signal and station upgrades may allow more cars to be used in peak periods as ridership grows, while the new fleet should allow a greater percentage of all cars to be available for service at any one time.

Together, the Metro-North and Long Island Railroads are nearly finished receiving a multi-year order of 1,172 modern M-7 multiple-unit, single level passenger train cars. As of the end of June, the LIRR had 674 of the new M-7 cars in service. It will have a total of 836 new M-7s by February. The M-7s are the most common type of rail car for the LIRR, making up 67% of their 994 rail car fleet. The agency says it is not yet sure whether the cars still to come will offer expanded service.

Metro-North ordered 336 new M7s, almost all of which are already in service. 244 replace old, outdated cars, and 62 have created capacity for new peak service on the Harlem Valley and Hudson lines. The agency says it hopes to work with ConnDOT to purchase new M-8s sometime this summer for the New Haven line. M-8s can run on power from overhead (necessary on the New Haven Line) or from a third rail underneath, so they can run on Metro-North line in both NY and in CT. For more on the pending M-8 purchase, visit ConnDOT’s website: www.ct.gov/dot/cwp/view.asp?a=1386&q=316746

ConnDOT still has not put into service 33 used rail cars it purchased from Virginia in October 2004. They are meant for use on Shore Line East service from New Haven and New London, and Waterbury and Danbury branches, so other cars can be moved to New Haven Line service. They too are being refurbished by Kawasaki. Officials say about half will be in service by the end of the year, with the other half in service in 2007.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)73.1075.71
Canadian National (CNI)43.1243.50
Canadian Pacific (CP)47.0348.91
CSX (CSX)64.4867.33
Florida East Coast (FLA)47.4550.07
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)29.2332.91
Kansas City Southern (KSU)25.2326.16
Norfolk Southern (NSC)49.3051.55
Providence & Worcester (PWX)18.7618.76
Union Pacific (UNP)86.1690.12


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

A photo essay by David Beale
NCI European correspondent

 

Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof rail station.

On a recent business trip, NCI’s European correspondent, David Beale managed to click off some photos of the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof rail station.

As the old saying goes, a picture says a thousand words, so we will let the images speak for themselves with a little help from David below. This is what happens when there is true backing of passenger rail by the government.


All photos: David Beale

The Station Is The Destination - view of south entrance - which faces towards the federal government quarter about a 5 - 10 minute walk away, including the Office of the German Chancellor and the German Parliament building. Although the station is nearly at the geographical center of the city, the major commercial, cultural, entertainment and residential areas are not particularly close to the station.

West side of station and view of upper level tracks

Inside south center entrance of the station - Americans will feel right at home in the station, it has McDonalds, Dunkin Doughnuts, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut, among other restaurants, shops and kiosks. There is also a DB reservation and customer service center, baggage check-in and storage, several tourist information offices, and a business class “frequent flyer” lounge for first class passengers and holders of premium level DB train travel cards.

Upper train platform level - trains going to eastern or western destinations, as well as the Berlin S-Bahn, a rapid-transit style urban commuter rail system use this level

In the above two images, we have more views of the upper train platform level. You can see the third rail used by the Berlin S-Bahn trains. In Berlin and Hamburg the S-Bahn trains operate mostly on dedicated tracks with third rail DC power. In all other large German cities with S-Bahn commuter rail networks, the S-Bahn trains operate off of the DB standard 15 kV AC overhead lines / catenary. Hamburg has started acquiring dual system S-Bahn EMUs which operate from third rail DC in the inner city area, then switch over to overhead AC power from DB wires in the outer suburbs.

An S-Bahn train leaves the station to the east

A view of the lower train platform - the tracks here are pointed in the north-south direction and serve trains arriving and departing Berlin in these general directions via the new underground tunnels. Hopefully the tunnels are not leaking in water from the Spree River anymore. Water leaks from the river were a major construction problem, project delay and significant unexpected expense for this decade-long project. The long bars mounted over the tracks are rails with the 15 kV AC traction power supply for the trains. In this underground / tunnel environment it did not cost significantly more to install these large overhead rails verses conventional practice constant tension trolley wires, and the maintenance cost and effort is significantly less than cantenary wires, plus they are less prone to damage and mechanical failure in the event of a train collision or derailment.

David continues...

It was kind of strange to me, when my ICE train glided through Berlin Zoo Station without stopping. Now that the new Hauptbahnhof is open, DB has downgraded the historic Zoo Station to mostly commuter and regional trains. People visiting or doing business in the western part of Berlin, including its sprawling convention center complex or the Olympic Stadium would probably save some travel time by deboarding their intercity train at Berlin Spandau, rather than at the new Berlin Hauptbahnhof, and then take one of the S-Bahn lines from Berlin Spandau to their destination. Berlin Schönefeld airport has direct train services to all four major intercity train stations in Berlin (Hauptbahnhof, Ost Bahnhof, Zoo and Spandau). Berlin Tegal airport is connected to Berlin Hauptbahnhof via a frequent (every 10 minutes?) bus service, using large airconditioned regional transit busses.


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EDITORIALS...  Editorials...

Is the “Big Dig” Doomed?

It is beginning to appear as if the American taxpayer has spent $14.6 billion on a highway project in Boston that was not only unnecessary, but may be dangerous as well.

This past week, as most people know by now, a section of the cement-slab drop-ceiling collapsed onto a car, killing one of its occupants and making a widower out of the other.

Leaving aside for the moment why anyone would make a drop ceiling out of concrete, or even why you would want to lower the ceiling height in a tunnel, the first question posed was, “Is the tunnel safe?” Outgoing Highway Commissioner Matt Amorello --- he says he is staying, but believe me, he is going --- a career politician given the plum job of supervising the largest construction project on earth by dint of his relationship with a former governor, immediately announced the fallen slab was “an anomaly.” That statement held up for about 10 minutes.

Almost immediately, inspectors began finding other ceiling slabs about to pull out of their supports and also come crashing down. First ten. Then 60. Now, 240 and counting.

When one or two failures happen, that’s an anomaly. When it’s ten, you’ve got a bad batch of work/materials/luck. But when 240 parts of a construction project are discovered to be on the brink of failure in exactly the same way, that’s a crime.

The weeks and months ahead will determine who did what, and why, to provide the taxpayers with a shoddy and now, criminally dangerous, highway. Eventually, the truth, as it always does in these stories, will come out. But in the meantime, we can ponder once again why Massachusetts took the political capital it had accumulated over 200 years of this Republic, and squandered it on a 1950’s-style highway project that has denuded the rest of the state’s transportation infrastructure, impoverished other future projects before they can be built, and now, it appears, wrecked what little reputation Massachusetts had left as a national role model of an intelligently governed state. What a pity for the Athens of America.


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Connecticut’s boondoggle – there’s still time to stop it!

Connecticut is in a struggle that is taking place all across our nation in towns and cities and suburbs - a battle between those who still believe that a transportation problem can be fixed by more paving -- “Widen that road!” “Build a by-pass!” “Finish that interstate!” and those who understand that we must stop making the same old mistakes of the past, that adding highway capacity only exacerbates the problem. The new road fills up soon after completion and we’re stuck with congestion again.

We must reprogram transportation dollars and develop a “Marshall Plan for America” by investing on a massive scale in infrastructure for rail and transit systems.

We must take back America from its over dependence on highways and oil and build systems that move people and goods efficiently and that help re-invigorate our town and city centers.

In Southeastern Connecticut, the battle right now is focused on the completion of a highway, Route 11, that was started in the 1960’s and never finished. (“In those days,” said one DOT engineer, “we used to draw a line on a map and then start acquiring the rights of way.”) The existing Route 11 is an eight-mile stretch in Southeastern Connecticut from a suburban town, Colchester, to a rural town called Salem. There, the highway ends abruptly (it was left unfinished in 1970 when the state ran out of money) and drivers must continue their journey south to the shore line on a local two-lane state road – Route 85. The joke is that Route 11 gets so little traffic it is almost empty most of the time. So why was it built in the first place? The story is that the then governor of Connecticut in the 1960’s had a summer home along the shore and wanted a limited-access highway from Hartford to the shore so he could get to his summer home quickly.

Since the mid-70’s a small group of proponents have been pressuring the state to “finish Route 11.” When Governor Lowell Weicker took office in the 1980’s, he approved of the project but was talked out of it by, of all people, the CT Dept of Transportation!! They said the project was infeasible, that to interconnect a new highway with two interstates at the shore line was an engineering nightmare and that the road should not be built. Governor Weicker conceded and issued a press release saying that “Route 11 was dead.”

The other agency that wanted it canceled, and still does, is the Environmental Protection Agency, District I. They say the project would do too much damage to wetlands and to large undisturbed forest blocks that provide habitat for many species that are interdependent on wetlands and uplands.

But the political leaders local legislators and town officials and a few citizens have kept pushing the project forward. The studies are almost completed and a Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is being sought.

Local residents and environmentalists are geared up for a long battle. The local weekly newspaper put the Route 11 issue in as their Question of the Week: “ Route 11 - boon or boondoggle?? Should the state build it? What is your opinion?

 

[ Ed - Below is DF editor Molly McKay’s response ]

 

Let the state build Route 11?
Absolutely NOT!

For decades, the “experts” have told us that the solution to our transportation problems is “more pavement.”  So we have overbuilt and overspent on roads and highways and neglected alternatives like rail and transit.

Where can you go in Connecticut without driving? Almost nowhere except to New York City from New Haven. With few exceptions our freedom of choice is gone, replaced by asphalt and exhaust fumes.

People and businesses are not coming here because of congestion on I-95. And it’s not just I-95. The secondary roads are getting clogged. ConnDOT even paved a section of the beautiful town green in Colchester --- because of traffic congestion! What will they pave over next -- town hall??

What would happen if we built Route 11? First of all, its true cost of approximately one BILLION dollars would freeze out money for real solutions like frequent, affordable commuter rail and integrated transit. ConnDOT’s current estimate of $650 million is far too low.

It doesn’t include the environmental mitigation required by law or the acquisition of property. And it misrepresents the cost of a giant asphalt extravaganza which is part of the project - the tri-level interchange 70 feet in the air where Routes 11, I-95 and I-395 would inter-connect! Transportation experts have informed us that an interchange like this one would cost a minimum of $500 million and could go as high as $750 million.

And do we really want that asphalt monster to be the gateway to Southeastern Connecticut??

Route 11 will spawn exit ramp development as do all other highways. Developers are waiting in the wings with six hundred acres already zoned for commercial and industrial use at the proposed interchanges - big box stores, warehouses, who knows just what --   but it will not be pretty.  And it will dump more trucks onto our roads, headed for I-95, where we already have a huge truck problem.

The hue and cry from proponents of Route 11 is “There are so many deaths on Route 85!! We need Route 11 for safety, to stop killing people on 85!!” Yet, a plan for safety improvements on Route 85 has been sitting on the shelf at the Dept of Transportation for six years. If officials are so concerned about Route 85 being dangerous, why don’t they urge the state to implement the plan?? Cost estimate is around $40 million, a tiny fraction of a new Route 11.

And the claim that 85 is so dangerous is a falsehood. A study conducted by Southeastern Connecticut’s own Council of Governments found that the accident rate on Route 85 was “low to moderate” except in the areas at each end of the road where there is heavy commercial development.

It’s time to get smart in the way we develop. The opportunity stares us in the face – right now!! A landmark transportation bill just passed this spring in the Connecticut General Assembly thanks to our state Senate President Don Williams and House Speaker Jim Amann along with other visionary legislators. This bill has many non-highway alternatives, including ---- GET THIS! significant expansion of Shore Line East commuter rail east of New Haven to Rhode Island. This could mean seven-day-a-week, frequent, affordable service that would boost ridership tremendously, bringing relief to the ever-congested I-95.

Check out Public Act 5844, AN ACT CONCERNING THE ROADMAP FOR CONNECTICUT’S ECONOMIC FUTURE.

Some of the solutions in this bill that will REALLY help Connecticut’s transportation crisis:

America’s highway culture is predicated upon cheap oil, cheap land, and cheap labor. Not one of those factors is still true, and we are riding into an economic disaster because of it. Stop this unneeded highway and support real solutions.

Let’s have progress, NOT stupidity.

Molly McKay
Transportation Chair
Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club


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End Notes...

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