NCI: Leo KingAmtraks half-dozen FL-9 locomotives have found a new home on the Morristown & Erie in New Jersey. FL-9 No. 486 was on relief service at Southampton Street yard one year ago, and made a trip up the chute to go west on the Dorchester Branch with Dave Luna at the throttle. The story is below.
|Congress puts Amtrak over the hump for the summer|
A House-Senate conference committee has approved $205 million for Amtrak as part of the giant supplemental appropriations bill.
That is a major victory for supporters of the nationwide rail passenger service. There was an open question as to whether it would come to fruition. The Bush administration wanted to place conditions involving its proposed reforms on the system as the price for getting the money to keep the trains rolling until September 30.
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta had earlier granted a loan to Amtrak, stipulating that this was a down-payment, and that Congress would have to participate too.
Congress did, not with a loan but with an appropriation so that the hand-to-mouth existence for the passenger railroad would end, at least until the end of September, and allow Amtrak to be like a business, as many of its critics have urged.
The Bush administration had proposed that Congress cough up only a loan of up to $170 million. U.S. Sen. Ernest Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.) and other lawmakers said that makes poor fiscal sense because new credit only adds to Amtraks debt of nearly $4 billion.
The White House said an emergency appropriation would provide a blank check that would not hold the railroad management accountable for short-term reforms it would require as part of a loan package.
The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) congratulated its members Thursday night in a special Internet message for their letter-writing to Capitol Hill.
Congressional Quarterly reports that Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd has set a tentative date of July 23 to begin considering the Fiscal Year 2003 transportation spending bill. That is the measure dealing with whether or not the trains keep rolling after September 30.
The administration hopes to tie release of money for Amtrak in the new fiscal year to the reforms it has proposed i.e. splitting off the Northeast Corridor infrastructure to another entity so Amtrak can concentrate on running the trains, and taking first steps in setting up a system of franchising long distance routes.
A key senator is warning the White House not to go there.
In a letter to Mineta, Hollings said that is a non-starter. Better, he said, to work with Congress on a passenger rail bill already approved by his committee.
The Hollings bill not only provides funding for Amtrak to operate a first-class passenger rail system, but it also sets in motion a high-speed rail system, and provides for long-term planning so Amtrak can know what is expected of it beyond the next Congressional appropriations hearing.
The senator has considerable political capital in the bank for his legislation. It passed out of his committee on a hefty 20-3 bipartisan vote. Hollings told Mineta he will resist all efforts to tie administration reforms to a one-year appropriations process.
Amtrak is seeking $1.2 billion in aid for the next fiscal year, which begins October 1. The Bush administration has proposed $521 million. It has not ruled out more money, but has insisted on tying it to reforms, which, in fact, have not been formally presented to Congress. Mineta announced the reforms in a speech to the District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce nearly two months ago.
The Hollings bill would provide $4.6 million annually for the next five years and $1.3 billion for rail security upgrades.
If the administration is worried about short-term reforms, that appears to be a problem that is taking care of itself. Already, after only two months on the job, Amtrak President David Gunn has rearranged the Amtrak organization, cutting the fat, reducing the number of mangers and vice presidents, and generally slimming things down.
Railpace magazine for July notes, for example, that Gunn presented the Amtrak Board June 7 with a massive reorganization that would concentrate management decisions in headquarters in a traditional railroad structure, and that is just for starters. Look for far-reaching changes from the new Amtrak CEO whose ideas differ markedly from those of his two most recent predecessors.
The new CEO told the Railway Safety Gazette International that his first order of business is to bring stability to the company, starting with its finances and its operations.
On the operational side, he said, weve got to return the plant and equipment to a state of good repair. That will take some time, but it will be done. (In an earlier interview with the Washington Times, Gunn said that he found that even routine maintenance had been deferred. This was part of the effort to reach Congressionally mandated self-sufficiency by the end of 2002 a goal which was abandoned months ago.)
While Washington ponders whether to keep Amtrak on a short leash lest there be no accounting for its expenditure of dollars, interesting developments were noted with regard to other transportation modes. It seems they have financial difficulties and subsidy too.
Transportation officials and stakeholders at a Congressional hearing on Tuesday outlined their ideas on what to do about providing long-term funding for the Highway Trust Fund. It seems that this pot of money, long touted by highway enthusiasts as a means of paying for highway transport and keeping it free of government subsidies, is not making ends meet all that well.
Mandating a sizeable increase in ethanol use was reviewed. House Transportation Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) told state officials that unless you think your state can live with (a ten percent reduction in trust fund receipts) we need some serious thought about the policy of mandating a fuel that doesnt pay its fair share into the Highway Trust Fund.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft warned that the Trust Fund is at risk.
In air transport, Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) announced that airports in his state are now eligible to apply for a new federal grant aimed at addressing air service challenges particular to communities in under-served areas.
Incidentally, Thomass under-served state of Wyoming has lost Amtrak service twice, both because of subsidy problems.
D:F has documented the government subsidies that are available for airline service all across the nation. No one has talked about putting them on a short-leash with a loan to make sure they implement reforms.
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|Money tops Amtraks wish list|
Amtrak made it clear in a message to employees on Friday it has legislative priorities, the greatest of which is funding. In an unsigned letter apparently sent to employees and the media, the writer stated, Amtrak requested $1.2 billion in the Fiscal Year 2003 transportation appropriations bill to manage and operate the current systems basic needs. The appropriation would cover $840 million in basic and mandatory capital investments, $200 million to subsidize long-distance service, and $160 million to cover excess railroad retirement taxes. This level of appropriation does not address the systems $5.8 billion capital investment backlog, improve service or reduce trip times. An appropriation below this level might require the elimination of long-distance service as early as October 1, 2002.
The letter writer updated his epistle by adding, 164 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter supporting $1.975 billion for fiscal 2003 ($1.2 billion plus $775 million for increased security), and 54 senators signed a letter of support for $1.2 billion for fiscal 2003. The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to mark-up the Senate Transportation Appropriations legislation during the last week of July, and the House Committee will be following thereafter.
The writer noted that on June 28, Amtrak and the USDOT signed an agreement for $100 million loan from the federal government, and agreed to jointly seek the balance of the funds from Congress in July.
The Senate and the House have included the full $205 million for Amtrak in the Supplemental Appropriations bill, S. 2551, entitled, 2002 Supplemental Appropriations Act for Further Recovery From and Response to Terrorist Attacks on the United States.
The writer stated The Senate-House Conference Committee is currently negotiating with the Bush Administration on the final makeup of the bill, and the Amtrak funding is one of the items in dispute.
On July 17, House Appropriations Committee Chairman C.W. Bill Young announced that the House-Senate conferees on the supplemental appropriations have agreed to report the bill with a $205 million appropriation for Amtrak.
On another funding front, the National Defense Rail Act (S. 1991) introduced by Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.) provides a blueprint for the future of passenger rail in the United States by authorizing funds for high-speed rail corridors, short distance and state-supported routes, long distance trains, and research.
The bill authorizes Amtrak for five fiscal years, from 2003 to 2007, and provides $4.6 billion annually for the development of passenger rail in the country. Each year, the bill authorizes $1.55 billion to the USDOT for federal high-speed corridor development, $1.31 billion for the Northeast Corridor, $580 million for long-distance train operations and capital, $270 million for short distance and state supported routes, $500 million operating, fleet, infrastructure, stations and facilities, mandatory excess railroad retirement, environmental and Americans with Disabilities compliance.
It also funds a cooperative research program, and provides a one-time allocation of $1.3 billion to Amtrak for security needs in fiscal 2003. So far, the bill has 38 Senate cosponsors.
Meanwhile, Hollings is working with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-N.D.) to schedule floor time for consideration this year, before the Congress adjourns for recess in the fall.
Hollings is focused on passing the bill through the Senate this year, in order to begin next years authorization process on solid ground, the writer stated.
The High-Speed Rail Investment Act (H.R. 2329/S. 250) provides $12 billion in bonding authority to be invested in high-speed rail corridors nationwide. States will be required to invest 20 percent of the cost of the project as a match, ensuring close coordination and cooperation with Amtrak. The federal government provides tax credits to bondholders in lieu of interest payments. The funds would be invested in upgrading existing lines to high-speed rail, constructing new high-speed rail lines, purchasing high-speed rail equipment, eliminating or improving grade crossings, station development and for other capital upgrades. Each corridor is limited to $3 billion. The House bill has 192 cosponsors; the Senate bill has 56 cosponsors.
The bill has been incorporated into legislation (called RIDE-21) that provides state and federal bonding authority for development of high-speed rail nationwide. This bill is likely to not move out of the House this calendar year, but may be reintroduced next Congress.
In other Amtrak money issues, current ticket sales are ahead of last year.
Ticket Sales for July, as of the 18th, totaled $70,280,787, which is up from last year by $2,355,985, or 3.47 percent.
CEO Gunn sent another letter to the field on Friday, and he clarified some of the weeks actions.
He told them, It appears we are meeting with some success regarding securing funding for the remainder of fiscal 2002.
He stated A supplemental funding of $205 million, which should be approved next week, would allow us to operate until October. Yet, our struggle for survival has just begun. This funding merely allows us to live to fight another day.
He said Amtrak must improve its managerial reputation.
In order to secure adequate funding over the long term, we must develop a reputation for sound management and precise operations. The companys fiscal 2003 operating and capital budgets must clearly show that we are dealing with predictable issues of efficiency and productivity. We have a reputation on Capitol Hill that we must overcome. Our current reputation is that we are inefficient and not worthy of support. This reputation is what drives and strengthens those seeking to destroy us totally or gives credence to the myth of privatization. First, we must come to work every day we are scheduled, then, we must work hard each and every day.
He reiterated he had made a commitment to you to fight to keep Amtrak whole. In order to do this, we will be seeking reductions in staffing levels and more efficient work practices for management and hourly employees alike. The process of change will be painful and difficult at times, but absolutely necessary if we are to succeed in securing adequate funding for the next fiscal year and beyond.
Will this be Amtraks last hurrah?
In many respects, the $205 million supplemental appropriation is being given to us because the members of Congress are willing to give us one last chance. I have met with many of you in the stations and on the trains I ride. I know all of us want Amtrak to succeed and with hard work and focus, we will be successful.
He also made it clear he will not tolerate sleeping on the job.
You probably heard that several employees were recently caught sleeping on the job. I will not tolerate this conduct and you should not either. This kind of behavior jeopardizes our jobs and everything we are fighting for.
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|Is Amtrak express service doomed?|
Amtrak Express may not have a future. President and CEO David Gunn said as much during a C-SPAN interview by callers on Friday morning, which underscored what he told union leaders a day earlier
Gunn said express services are losing money and degrading the movement of passengers and mail.
Reports last disclosed 100 loads of express were backlogged at Los Angeles because of bad-ordered boxcars, and that Amtrak had to spend $85,000 deadheading serviceably empty MHC cars down from Emeryville to start moving the goods.
The Emeryville cars fell far short of the capacity needed to eliminate the backlog. Gunn has slapped a 20-car limit on train length, and those cuts are expected to come from the express cars, not the passenger or mail cars.
Gunn told union leaders he wants to restore Amtrak to its traditional role of moving passengers and mail, opposes what he calls fanciful ideas to privatize its routes or separate train operations from track ownership in the Northeast Corridor and especially wants to restore Amtraks credibility among lawmakers, other decision makers and opinion leaders.
That was the message Gunn delivered in a one-hour July 17 meeting with United Transportation Union International President Byron A. Boyd Jr. and Assistant President Paul Thompson in his Union Station office, which, in contrast to predecessors, is decorated as one might expect from a career railroader. A reproduction of a classic painting of New York Centrals Twentieth Century Limited hangs with other passenger railroad artwork. Gunn began his railroad career with the former New York Central.
Many of the remarks Gunn made to Boyd and Thompson later were made at a luncheon speech before the Transportation Research Forum, also in Washington, D.C., where Gunn recognized Boyd and Thompson as the only representatives of labor who took time to attend.
Gunns choice of transportation from his office across town to the luncheon site was via the Washington, D.C., subway system known as Metro, which he formerly headed.
He has given up a chauffeur-driven automobile used by his predecessors and also makes use of an Amtrak business car to travel Amtrak routes, another traditional rail routine shunned by his predecessors. In fact, Gunn was slightly late for his appointment with Boyd and Thompson because he was walking about Union Station, chatting with Amtrak employees.
Those suggesting that private operators bid on long distance trains are engaging in a tongue and cheek method of saying, lets get rid of long distance trains, Gunn said. As for the notion of separating Northeast Corridor dispatching, signaling and maintenance from Amtrak, Gunn called it a fanciful idea. The British tried it and failed and it cost three transportation ministers their jobs, he said. Such suggestions are exercises in problem avoidance, Gunn said. It is a red herring to get wrapped up in whether to shoot a specific passenger train or let it continue operating. It wont make a difference as far as Amtraks long-term strategy is concerned, because we still have to come up with operating subsidies, Gunn said.
There are three Amtraks, Gunn said. Amtrak operates short-haul trains over distinct corridors, operates or hosts commuter trains and operates long-distance service. All lose money and none recover capital costs, he said, indicating long-term, predictable and consistent subsidies are essential - just as are received for highways and aviation. Those who say put Amtrak in the free market speak as if highways and aviation are in a free market. That is pretty disingenuous, Gunn said.
An immediate objective Gunn has for Amtrak is to stabilize the existing system and not play God over shedding routes. We have got to get service levels back to where toilets flush and lights work, Gunn said. We must also determine how Amtrak proceeds from here. We must build consensus on federal, state and local roles regarding subsidies. Gunn also wants to recreate an effective and lean management-team structure capable of getting control of quality service. The transit strategy of combining federal, state and local subsidies is a proven winner, Gunn said, and should be adopted for Amtrak.
Amtrak participated in a charade called a glide path to self-sufficiency for too long, Gunn said. It created a big credibility problem and now Amtrak is running out of cash that emergency federal loans are intended to solve until a longer-term plan can be devised by Congress next year following mid-term elections in November.
Where Amtrak had a cash shortfall of $40 million in 1997, it faced a $219 million cash shortfall in 2000 and $439 million in 2001, Gunn said. Thats how Amtrak got to a position where it was going to have to shut down in July without the $100 million loan approved by the Bush administration - with another $170 million emergency loan being negotiated. The operating cash shortfall was the lifeblood draining out of Amtrak, Gunn said, chastising his predecessors for putting out a flashy 2001 annual report he characterized as looking like the product of a Fortune 500 company. Then he paused, thinking aloud of Enron and WorldCom. They (his predecessors) talked about revenue being up and ridership being up and ignored expenses that were rising so fast that the only glide path was toward insolvency, Gunn said.
We must move from a bi-annual subsidy fight (by which Amtrak begged Congress for operating and capital subsidies every two years) to a predictable and consistent source for subsidies, Gunn said.
One hole out of which Gunn is trying to dig Amtrak is a past policy of taking on long-term debt to pay short-term operating expenses. The result has left Amtrak much in the position of a consumer who maxes out credit cards to buy groceries and then cant even pay the interest on the credit card debt. Much of Amtraks crushing debt was built around a myth that Amtrak was going to turn into a profit maker, Gunn said.
We have a lot of friends but no sense of direction, Gunn said. Our organization structure and sense of direction soon will be radically different than it is today.
Among areas Gunn intends to give a hard look are Amtraks policy of moving express freight, which critics say detracts from passenger-train quality and does not add meaningful bottom-line results. Amtraks role in moving U.S. mail is secure, Gunn said. Mail traditionally was handled by passenger trains without disruption. Express has more of an impact on operations, Gunn said, because RoadRailers limit speeds in some corridors and impose switching delays everywhere.
Our primary business is moving people, Gunn said. Then we move mail. As for express, we have to be darn sure that where we operate express the impact on the passenger business is not negative.
Boyds meeting with Gunn followed a lengthy private meeting with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Federal Railroad Administrator Allan Rutter in June during which the Bush administration officials assured Boyd that the administration would give Gunn financial and political support to keep the national intercity rail passenger network operating.
Mineta had invited Boyd to his DOT office to reveal details of the $100 million loan the administration was preparing and to hear Boyds views on transportation public policy.
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Shoreliner: NHRHTSNew York, New Haven & Hartford EDER-5 FL-9 No. 2052 trailing a DERS-4 (a GP-9) passes the West Warwick, R.I. passenger station in January 1964. (New Haven Railroad Historical and Technical Society: Brad Smith [Shoreliner, Vol. 24, Issue 2, 1993]. Reprinted with permission)
|FL-9s find new home on M&E|
The 158-mile Morristown & Erie Railroad of New Jersey is buying all six of Amtraks ex-New Haven, ex-Penn Central FL-9 locomotives. They are the last on Amtrak with a history that reaches back nearly fifty years.
M&E President and CEO Wesley Weis told D:F, We did indeed bid on the six FL-9 locos. We have not yet been formally informed of the outcome of the bid process. Ours was a rather generous bid, and we anticipate a sale to us shortly, as Amtrak has not returned our deposit check that was submitted with the bid.
He said they intend to store them on line at the M&E, but he didnt specify where.
Weis added, All the blue cards are expired the MAP-100 documents, so the 2,000 HP engines wont be able to travel under their own power anywhere until those are brought up-to-date, although they could be hauled dead-in-tow without the cards.
He said last week (on Monday) he did not yet know the delivery date nor routing. He added, Four will be coming from Bear [Del.], and two from Albany, N.Y. Amtrak has a heavy locomotive repair shop at Bear.
He also noted, They are not basket cases, however they have not run for a long period of time. They will need to be pre-lubed and bared over before we start them. As for a bargain, we offered a more than a fair price. The price must remain confidential.
The New Haven Railroad Historical and Technical Assn. states on its web site, The short-lived and controversial administration of New Haven Railroad president Patrick McGinnis, which began during April 1954 and was over in January 1956, put the New Haven through a comprehensive corporate image design project which gave the railroad a new NH logo, and a red, white, and black corporate color scheme. The New Havens president during the latter half of the 1950s, George Alpert, was an early champion of government subsidies for money-losing railroad passenger operations and purchased the unique dual-powered EMD FL-9 diesel-electric-electric locomotives.
The FL-9s originally were configured with third-rail shoes for operation into Grand Central Terminal. The trucks were distinctive because the front truck was a two-axle assembly while the rear truck was three axles, and was where the shoes were located. The locomotive was also contained a diesel engine for conventional propulsion. It is unclear when the shoes and electrical gear was removed, but it was quite some time ago.
Metro-North Railroad also continues to operate a handful of FL-9s. The New Haven was the only railroad to buy the EMD model.
The M&E operates four lines in Morris County, all connected by trackage rights over NJ Transit. Freight is interchanged with Norfolk Southern at Lake Junction.
In service on the his railroad, Weis said, They are to be used for current service, planned future services and excursions. The excursion mentioned in Railpace could possibly use three units. Railfan online e-zine Railpace Newsmagazine (at http://www.railpace.com) broke the story last week on the locomotives disposition.
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Keep em clean, boys and girls...
Taking a page out of the David Gunn playbook, Amtrak operations boss Stan Bagley last week told employees in a system-wide post-script to another message, Our locomotives are leaders. I want to be sure our engineers and on-board crewmembers can be proud of their train as it enters cities and towns across this great country. Was the power consist washed before departure? If not why not? First impressions are lasting impressions!
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|Amtrak gets $80 million mail deal|
Amtrak operations chief Stan Bagley said last week the carrier has receive an $80-million contract to haul U.S. mail. They also got approval for a plan to move mail cars without having to wait for top postal service approval before doing so.
The United States Postal Service has awarded Amtrak a new two-year contract to carry more mail. It involves 43 trains and 42 stations and includes strategies to tighten security in the post-9/11 environment. The base contract is for $80 million per year, which does not include overflow volumes, he told employees on June 15.
Bagley said, As in the past, we can and will exceed the base amount if Amtrak remains a responsive and reliable contractor.
He added, In addition, a new supplemental service matrix was added to outline Amtrak service options on non-contracted routes. The matrix outlines service times and costs and provides the ten Postal Services Distribution Networks the authority to request additional services without waiting for USPS headquarters approval.
He warned employees that The new contract specifies higher penalties whenever Amtrak fails to live up to tight contract requirements.
In short, the mail, meaning also the trains, must run on time.
We must be alert to ensure that equipment is in good condition, switch moves are made promptly, all mail is scanned, and routing is accurate.
The only acceptable failures, he said, would be catastrophic events, like a hurricane or an earthquake.
On-time delivery is assured except in cases, such as very severe weather (force majeure), where Amtrak is not at fault.
Elsewhere on Amtrak, a reliable source reports Amtrak President David Gunn has his attorneys looking into seeing if Amtrak is, in fact, obligated to follow through and participate in three notions, and if not, cancel them.
The areas include the much-delayed and trouble-plagued Super Steel Schenectady rebuild program on the Rohr Turboliners, of which we understand, only one is in service; restructuring Silver Service via the Florida East Coast; and building a new shop in Oakland, Cal.
Elsewhere, in Florida, opponents to high-speed rail were short about 420,000 signatures last week, so a grass-roots group pushing for a November referendum on the voter-approved bullet train missed Mondays deadline to file petitions with the Supervisor of Elections.
Petition organizers say theres still hope to stop what they call a billion-dollar boondoggle. Having collected about 70,000 signatures in the past five months, they plan to continue the campaign until they amass the required 489,000 signatures from at least 12 legislative districts.
State Sen. Ron Klein (D) said he will file a resolution for the referendum when he returns to Tallahassee this fall. In November 2000, voters narrowly approved a constitutional amendment requiring the state to develop and operate a high-speed train system linking Floridas largest cities.
Opponents say voters have never received details about the projects cost, and they worry it will drain the states budget at the expense of education and health care.
Each petition is good for four years from the date it was signed, and were not stopping until we get 500,000, said David Goodstein, executive director of Derail the Bullet Train.
I could hand them in to [to the Supervisor of Elections], but Id rather just keep collecting them. Were not calling it quits.
In the next few months, Klein said, railway officials will have enough information for private companies to bid on the project. Klein said he expects private companies to shun the project for its high cost, estimated between $6 billion and $20 billion.
The private sector is not going to do anything meaningful and it will fall on taxpayers to pay for it, he said.
Along with Palm Beach County, 15 other counties and municipalitiesincluding Ocean Ridge, Gulf Stream and Broward Countyhave passed resolutions in support of repealing the bullet train amendment.
The bulk of the signatures came from Palm Beach County, where Goodstein, a West Boca resident, has tapped opponents in unincorporated Boca Raton, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. The bullet trains proposed route from Orlando to Miami would most likely run along Floridas Turnpike.
If Kleins resolution wins support in the fall, the referendum question would come to the public in the November 2003 election.
Out in Beech Grove, Indiana, we learned on Friday from Amtrak President David Gunn on an interview on C-SPAN, that 94 pieces of roll stock are in various states of disrepair. Meanwhile, a man who visited the Midwest heavy repair facility took notes of what he saw in lines and lines of engines and cars.
He reported there were 93 F-40PH locomotives, which also included one wrecked cabbage, and 19 Genesis engines. He also counted 47 ex-Santa Fe hi-levels, 33 Superliner coaches, 11 Superliner sleepers, 11 Superliner diners, eight sightseer-lounge cars, seven transition dormitory cars, 46 baggage cars, and 36 miscellaneous cars, including 10000, one Surfliner, and some private cars
The F40PHs in storage included 203, 206, 207, 210, 211, 217, (Cabbage) 90224, 231, 233, 237, 238, 239, 249, 256, 258, 267, 275, 276, 277, 284, 285, 286, 290, 295, 296, 297, 298 and 299.
Also 300, 304, 307, 308, 309, 310, 317, 318, 328, 329, 322, 323, 324, 326, 330, 332, 333, 334, 338, 341, 342, 343, 344, 346, 347, 350, 351, 352, 353, 355, 356, 359, 373, 375, 381, 386, 387, 388, 389, 393, 396, 397, 398 and 399.
Also 11 of the last and newest batch 401, 402, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 409, 410, 412 and 415.
The Genesis power (P-42s) included 55, 59, 65, 94, 98, 131, 143, 149, 151, and 163; also P-40BH 807 and 829.
Other power included ex-Go Transit 452 and 460; SW-1200s 551, 554; P-32AC-DMs 703 and 709.
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Bill OBrienYardmaster Bill OBrien is not one to let a beautiful sunset go by without taking a look at it particularly if it is where he works, at Amtraks Southampton Street Yard in Boston, where his crews sally to and fro making up departing passenger trains and pulling apart arrivals with shop cars. Obie, as his friends call him, was in the yard on July 12 when he looked up at the sky at those incredible colors at 7:36 p.m
|Oklahoma joins Texas for more trains|
Oklahoma officials are joining with a Texas senator to bring more Amtrak passenger rail service to Oklahoma.
Apparently, Oklahomans have latched onto a proposal by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas, to reroute Amtraks Southwest Chief, which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, according to the Oklahoma Journal Record of July 16.
Under the route Hutchinson has proposed, in an effort to add Amarillo and Lubbock to the national systems, the Southwest Chief would veer southward in Kansas and cut an almost straight line across northwest Oklahoma to Amarillo.
Thats not enough, Oklahomans say. Besides, if the Southwest Chief were to go south out of Newton, through Wichita, it would have a better, more cost-efficient route, according to Dean Schirf of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.
Making this route change would bring the train through Perry and west to Enid, Avard, Woodward and on west to Amarillo. This would provide the opportunity for more Oklahomans to connect with train travel, according to state Sen. Dave Herbert (D).
Amtrak, though, is not aware of any negotiations to make the route change.
That (route change) is nothing that we are pursuing at this time, said Howard Reifs, of Amtraks public relations office in Chicago.
Im not aware of any negotiations going on. Youll have to contact UP (Union Pacific Railroad), because its their line.
Changing the Southwest Chiefs route to include a big portion of western Oklahoma would allow the train to avoid an uphill climb in Colorado it now has, Schirf stated.
For Oklahoma, especially central Oklahoma, the benefit would be that the Heartland Flyer could easily be extended to Perry to meet up with the Chief, Schirf said. We then would not have to go to Newton, Kansas, with the Flyer to connect with the Chief as has often been mentioned.
The rail line going east out of Perry, operated by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, goes directly to Tulsa, thus potentially providing rail passenger access to northeastern Oklahoma residents, Herbert said.
Changes along these lines would give more Oklahomans access to train travel, without costing the state a lot more money, he said. Since this is part of the national rail system, then it wouldnt cost us (Oklahoma) a penny more to bring it to Perry, Herbert said.
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|Thanksgiving Surfliners to be all-reserved|
The Pacific Surfliners, which normally operate with unreserved coach seats and reserved business class, will become all-reserved service for departures from November 26 through December 2, Amtrak reports.
The reserved space was being entered into the system last week, so travel agents and reservation clerks were told last week.
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|ATVs threaten rail safety|
Irresponsible all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riders have been blamed for damaging wetlands, digging up shorelines and causing erosion, and now they are being criticized for causing conditions that could lead to train derailments.
Stephen Arnold, operations manager of New Hampshire Northcoast Railroad in Ossipee, N.H., which transports sand to Massachusetts, said four-wheelers have eroded stone shoulders that stabilize their tracks, according to The AP in a report on July 16.
People riding all-terrain vehicles straddle the tracks, but the tires cause ballast to fall off, weakening the entire system, he said, adding, It could cause a derailment.
Northcoast Railroad paid $50,000 recently to fix ATV-caused damage, he said.
He explained that if a locomotive engineer sees an ATV operator on the track, he has to decide whether to brake normally, which takes about a mile, or use the emergency brake, which decreases stability and increases the possibility of derailment.
Warden Mark Hensel of the state Fish and Game Department said other ATV problems are at a record high.
He said too many ATV operators ride through private property, disturbing the quiet and damaging land, ride along the right-of-ways of highways, or ride on roads. Hensel said the vehicles are getting more popular and at the same time are becoming more powerful and destructive.
He said signs placed at popular riding locations, such as railroad tracks, often are destroyed or stolen.
They usually last about two days, he said.
ATV riders often complain there is no place to ride. For example, Strafford County and Carroll County, where the Northcoast Railroad is located, have no state trails, but, said Hensel, Rockingham County has a number of state trails, yet is experiencing the same problems.
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|Rail fatalities rise by 25|
Transportation fatalities in the United States last year increased 0.6 percent over the total for 2000, according to preliminary figures released last week by the National Transportation Safety Board.
For the year 2001, preliminary figures show that 44,461 persons died in rail, highway, aviation, marine, and pipeline accidents, up from 44,196 in 2000. Increases in fatalities were registered in rail and aviation while highway, marine, and pipeline fatalities declined.
Rail fatalities increased by 25 in 2001 to 795, up from 770, reflecting a rise in pedestrian fatalities associated with intercity rail operations.
Deaths among passengers on trains declined from 4 to 3 for the year.
Fatalities occurring on light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail dropped from 194 to 175.
Aviation fatalities rose from 779 to 1,162 in 2001, with the increase largely attributable to the deaths resulting from the terrorist acts on September 11.
Highway fatalities, which account for about 94 percent of all transportation deaths, declined slightly from 41,821 in 2000 to 41,730 in 2001. Fatalities at railway crossings at grade also declined by seven, from 425 to 418.
Marine fatalities in 2001 dropped from 801 to 767, with most fatalities occurring in recreational boating. Cargo transport and commercial fishing fatalities also declined while the number of commercial passenger deaths remained unchanged at 23 from the previous year.
Pipeline fatalities dropped significantly from 38 to 7.
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|Klein is Amtraks new mechanical chief|
Amtrak has appointed Jonathan Klein as the companys Chief Mechanical Officer.
He is one of four officers operations, mechanical, engineering, and safety-security who will be reporting to Chief Operations Officer Stan Bagley.
Klein has been a technical consultant to domestic and international railroads over the past ten years. He is a former chief mechanical officer at Southeast Pennsylvania Transit Authority, and a director for customer service, at Bombardier.
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|Vendors irked at cash-short Amtrak|
Reports from the field indicate some of Amtraks vendors are so irritated at not being paid they are withholding some services.
Amtrak conductors and assistant conductors can no longer get replacements for old (dark blue) uniform items, because Amtrak has not paid the vendor.
Recently, train No. 6, the eastward California Zephyr operating between Chicago and San Francisco, already several hours late, waited at Lincoln, Nebraska for a fuel truck.
The train is supposed to fuel at Denver and then at Omaha, but it doesnt any more, account Amtraks failure to pay the fuel vendors, source said, who added, Amtrak was able to get diesel fuel from BNSFs fuel supplier at Lincoln, but a lot of passengers missed their connections and Amtrak paid to bus or fly them, or pay for overnight hotel stays.
Earlier, Amtrak quit getting headrest covers, because they could not pay the vendor.
The carrier was no longer allowed to put crews into some accustomed away-from-home hotels, account failure to pay the hotels; now, its diesel fuel, the source added.
This situation with fuel vendors refusing to supply fuel due to delinquent bills has been reported from the Southeast several times, and, apparently, things are not getting any better.
He asked, How much of the $100 million DOT loan will be used up just paying bills that the Warrington administration stonewalled?
Elsewhere out in the west, another fellow informed us that there is some delay toward a new commuter rail line just west of Portland, Ore.
He said, The feds said that because passenger units will run on tracks belonging to Union pacific and the Portland & Western, the advocates cannot electrify the line. That means the first rolling stock will have to be 50-year-old self-propelled diesel units.
That means self-propelled Budd rail diesel cars RDCs. There are no others.
He added, The commuter people rejected a separate diesel unit pulling unpowered cars. There apparently are several car builders playing with new designs, but it doesnt sound like their frames meet any modern crush standards. One of the promising candidates is a Colorado shop in the old Denver yards. If I remember right, this was the shop created to restore old varnish units for the American Orient Express and a new luxury line that will run from Portland to Glacier.
He noted that On another historic line once supporting 85 self-propelled cars a day, it looks like a rebirth lies ahead. The Willamette Shore Trolley, now a museum-run tourist line that uses museum cars to run between Lake Oswego, Ore., and Portland, has been adopted by the Portland-based regional transit agency, Tri-Met.
Our source reported Several jurisdictions have kept the line in running order to protect it. Now there is a $500,000 grant to work on some of the towering but short wooden trestles.
The line cuts through the back yards of some of Portlands nicest neighborhoods, he explained, but there is little chance to double up the track. Fred Hansen, Tri-Mets general manager, said he will electrify the line, put in eight or 10 stops, each with a passing siding, then run streetcars on a 20-minute headway. The arrangement also will preserve some use of the tourist trolleys.
At the north end of the line, It will join the year-old Portland Streetcar line, possibly at the Riverside terminus of a proposed aerial tram to the parking-starved Oregon Health Sciences University on nearby Marquam Hill.
He noted, One possible conflict is the Buy American law. Portland Streetcar, which just took delivery of Skoda vehicles six and seven from the Czech Republic, went overseas for cars because it did not use a federal transit grant. Rick Gustafson, chief operating officer for Portland Streetcar, said one solution would be for his system to buy more low-floor Czech cars, then lease or sell them to Tri-Met.
Portland Streetcar is expected to order its rail in August for a 0.6-mile extension from its current terminus at Portland State University, down to an existing Willamette River development, including hotels, offices, residences, retail shops and a marina. That project, estimated at $18 million, will break ground in early 2003, and start operations in 2004.
Tri-Met now operates three light rail lines, has built 65 percent of a new light rail line, and is contemplating which of two other light rail routes to start.
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Economists report public transportation
is best environmental way for nation
The American Public Transportation Assn. reported on July 17 that a new, independent study by three top economists demonstrates that increasing public transportation use is the most effective, and possibly the only way to improve air quality and reduce energy consumption without imposing new taxes, government mandates or regulations.
Based on the findings of the new national study, energy and environmental savings have been calculated for more than a dozen major metropolitan areas in the United States.
Conserving Energy and Preserving the Environment: The Role of Public Transportation, concludes that public transportation generates 95 percent less carbon monoxide (CO), 92 percent less in volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and about half as much carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx), per passenger mile, as private vehicles.
The report was authored by Dr. Robert J. Shapiro, managing director of Sonecon, LLC, and non-resident Fellow of the Brookings Institution and the Progressive Policy Institute; Dr. Kevin A. Hassett, resident scholar of the American Enterprise Institute; and Dr. Frank S. Arnold, president of Applied Microeconomics, Inc.
In energy conservation, reports APTA, the study shows that public transportation already saves more than 855 million gallons of gasoline or 45 million barrels of oil a year. This number is equivalent to the energy used to heat, cool and operate one-fourth of all American homes annually, or half the energy used to manufacture all computers and electronic equipment in America annually.
We all know that a rail car or bus carrying 40 people is far more efficient than a car moving just one person. What people may not realize is exactly how much energy is being saved, and how these savings add up to millions of barrels of oil conserved and millions of tons of harmful emissions avoided each year, Shapiro said.
He added, Increased use of public transportation is an important answer to two national challenges greater energy independence and a cleaner environment that our nation has been grappling with for decades.
The study also shows that if one in ten Americans used public transportation regularly, U.S. reliance on foreign oil could be cut by more than 40 percent. This is nearly equivalent to the amount of oil we import from Saudi Arabia every year. Environmental benefits would also be significant. Without any new government mandates, regulations or taxes, the United States would be able to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 25 percent of the standard set under the Kyoto Agreement.
Among the studys other major findings, even small increases in transit usage would help many of the 16 major U.S. cities, which currently fail to meet EPA air-quality standards for CO or smog, improve air quality.
For every passenger mile traveled, public transportation is twice as fuel-efficient as private automobiles, sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and light trucks.
If one in seven Americans used public transportation for their daily travel needs, they would help prevent global warming in the United States by cutting CO2 by the equivalent of nearly 20 percent of the CO2 emitted from fuel burned for residential uses and more than 20 percent of all CO2 emitted by commercial enterprises.
If one in five Americans used public transportation daily, it would help reduce CO pollution by more than all the CO emitted from the entire chemical manufacturing industry and all metal processing plants in the United States.
This study clearly shows that more energy is used getting people from place to place than in producing all goods or running all the homes in America, said William W. Millar, APTAs president.
The non-profit organization commissioned the study.
We can continue to debate domestic oil exploration, emissions requirements, and the stability of foreign sources of energy, but any serious plan to reduce oil dependency and clean up the air must include ways to increase public transportation use. This is simply our countrys greatest opportunity to conserve energy and improve the environment.
Millar remarked, Increasing the use of public transportation needs to be an essential element of our national energy and environmental policies. If we dont make transit a national priority by increasing investment, Americas enduring economic and environmental health will be in jeopardy.
Noting that the report was especially timely because July 17 was classified as a Code Red day, Washington Metro CEO Richard A. White said, Our Washington Metro region is on the verge of reclassification by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a severe non-attainment area for air quality. Unless the region can show it can meet federally imposed air quality standards, construction of new transportation projects will be postponed. I believe fervently that the Metro system offers our region the most immediate opportunity to improve our air quality. If we get can get more people out of their cars and onto the Metro system, we will notice a marked improvement in the regions air quality.
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|Group accuses Bush of cronyism|
A public interest group is accusing Bush campaign contributors of trying to railroad Amtrak passengers, and a privatization plan smacks of more crony capitalism.
Public Citizen published its findings on the web on July 15, and stated the Bush administration and Amtrak recently reached a financial deal to allow the passenger train service to continue operating, but looming over that agreement is the administrations proposal to eliminate rail passenger service in many parts of the country and turn over federal funds used for rail passenger service to private contractors who are campaign contributors and would cherry pick the most profitable routes, according to a Public Citizen analysis.
Citing the rail passenger carriers struggling finances, the administration has called for eliminating federal funds for Amtrak, farming intercity routes out to private companies and divesting the carrier from ownership of stations and tracks. Lawmakers this week are scheduled to discuss a supplemental spending bill that includes $205 million for Amtrak. Public Citizen urges lawmakers to keep the Amtrak money in the measure.
Amtrak does not make a profit nor does any other rail passenger system in the world. What Amtrak does do is allow hundreds of thousands of commuters and other rail passengers to get to work without cramming the roadways with hundreds of thousands of cars, it averred.
Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizens Critical Mass Energy and Environment program, said, By putting the routes at risk through a privatization scheme, the administration is inviting dirtier air, increased fuel consumption and longer commutes. Drilling for oil in Alaskas pristine wilderness is a Bush administration priority; encouraging efficient mass transportation isnt, and, she noted, The administrations Amtrak proposal resembles other Bush agenda items, particularly energy policy, in that it appears to be heavily influenced by generous campaign contributions made by corporate cronies close to the administration.
She said the Administrations proposal is nearly identical to proposals pushed by rail industry-backed lobbyists and think tanks, particularly a privatization plan put out by the conservative Discovery Institute in 1995. When Congress established an Amtrak Reform Council in the mid-1990s, its membership was stacked with anti-Amtrak voices, including the president of the Discovery Institute. The councils plan, released earlier this year, closely followed the Discovery Institutes and subsequently served as the basis for recommendations outlined by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.
The organization explained that Public Citizen analysis tracks how architects of Amtrak privatization are lobbyists for or have close business ties with rail interests who stand to profit from Amtraks privatization, including the National Rail Construction and Maintenance Association, and Norfolk Southern Railroad.
She said Many of those interests provided tens of thousands of dollars in hard money contributions to Republican campaigns in the 2000 election cycle. Union Pacific, one of the largest freight railroads and whose corporate board formerly included Vice President Dick Cheney contributed more than three-quarters of a million dollars to Republican campaigns in the last election cycle. This year alone, the nations leading freight railroads, some of which stand to benefit if passenger rail is taken off their freight lines, have contributed more than a half-million dollars to the Republican National Committee.
Hauter said It is so very, very painfully clear to the public right now that corporations and their leading executives will rush to cut corners, cook books and do whatever else possible to enrich a mere handful of powerful tycoons. Rail passenger service is just that a service. It should be run efficiently and safely for the good of the communities it serves. It should not be held to a naked standard of profitability and then, for failing to attain an unrealistic goal, be thrown to corporate cannibals hungry for public subsidies and willing to put profits before people. Amtrak needs to protected and strengthened, not gutted.
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New York may cut MTA funds
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg tried to brace New Yorkers on July 17 for a new round of mid-year budget cuts and raised the possibility for the first time that the city might scale back its subsidies to the mass transit system.
Bloombergs suggestion came when many transit experts say that a bus and subway fare increase is inevitable anyway next year, wrote The New York Times last week. Just two weeks ago, the mayor, a MetroCard-carrying subway rider himself, acknowledged that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) could have to raise fares then.
The mayor made his remarks on the issue at a City Hall news conference. He was asked if he still thought that a fare increase was likely next year and he replied it was too soon to tell, but noted that the transit agency faces a deficit of more than $600 million next year that will have to be balanced somehow.
Bloomberg added, New York City subsidizes mass transit to the tune of roughly $500 million a year, and thats money that we do not have. We cannot go on having a deficit thats unfunded, or the city subsidizing something it doesnt have the money to do.
The mayor said, We have to do something about that. But neither the mayor nor his aides elaborated on what he might have in mind.
The mayor said that he planned to further reduce city expenses now, to help reduce next years gap. We will start to look, now that we have more time, at every single expense and not spend monies where we dont absolutely have to, he said.
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Here are some other transit headlines, from the pages of Passenger Transport, the weekly newspaper of the public transportation industry published by the non-profit American Public Transportation Assn. For more news from Passenger Transport and subscription information, visit the APTA web site at http://www.apta.com/news/pt.
SORTA unveils 30-year plan
The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), which operates Metro transit in Cincinnati, introduced the final MetroMoves plan for regional rail and bus service to greater Cincinnati on June 25.
Paul Jablonski, SORTAs CEO and general manager, said the plan proposes redesigning Metro from a city-based, city-funded bus service to a truly regional transit system, incorporating both bus and rail service to meet the regions growing transportation needs. It is expected to create more than 36,000 jobs and attract $2.7 billion in development, and it would be accessible to 90 percent of Hamilton County residents by foot or a short drive.
Jablonski explained that MetroMoves is designed to help ease traffic congestion, curb air pollution, connect more people to jobs, and improve the mobility of people with few options: lower-income residents, students, persons with disabilities, and the growing population of older adults. The plan also integrates the expanded bus plan with a regional rail plan to create a transportation road map for the next 30 years.
Under the plan, 90 percent of all Hamilton County residents would be just a quick walk or short drive away from transit services, including light rail. MetroMoves would generate $2.7 billion in residential and commercial development, and create more than 36,000 jobs.
The I-71 light rail line will become the backbone of the entire light rail system. The I-71, I-75, and eastside light rail lines share the I-71 corridor rail right-of-way south of the Xavier and Evanston hub, eliminating the need to build costly separate tracks into downtown. Cross-town light rail service has been added to the plan, spanning the breadth of the county without going downtown.
Jablonski said it would be accomplished by building a four-mile connector segment between the I-74 and I-75 light rail lines. The existing Central Parkway subway tunnel would be used to connect the I-74 light rail line to downtown. A new streetcar system would link the Cincinnati riverfront with those in Covington and Newport, Ky., and would connect to the University of Cincinnati, the hospital district, and the zoo.
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SunLine launches test center
The SunLine Transit Agency in Thousand Palms, Calif., recently established its Beta Test Center for Advanced Energy Technologies. This action was taken as part of a unanimous board vote to expand SunLines core mission from providing innovative public transit and community services to include advancing the commercialization of clean fuels and clean energy technologies.
The test center is envisioned as a place where manufacturers can take technology out of the lab and test it in a real-world setting prior to making products available to consumers.
That is vital to technology advancement and is likewise vital to Americas goals of reducing emissions and greenhouse gases, and reducing dependence on foreign oil, said Catherine Rips, SunLines director of marketing and resource development.
SunLines search for alternative fuel development dates back to 1994, when it introduced a fleet of buses operating exclusively on compressed natural gas. More recently, the agency has beta-tested equipment ranging from new CNG engines to ozone-reducing catalysts.
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Transit union proposes doubling transit funding
The Amalgamated Transit Union (AFL-CIO/CLC), recently released its recommendations for the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century that call for preserving the firewalls that ensure guaranteed funding for the federal transit program on an annual basis and increasing transit funding by 12 percent annually.
Under the proposal, Next Stop: Real Choices, the transit program would be funded at a guaranteed level of more than $14 billion, which is twice the current level, by Fiscal Year 2009.
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PT reports on Independence Day preparations
In the July 15 issue of Passenger Transport, reporter Federico Cura takes an in-depth look at preparations taken by U.S. public transportation agencies for the first Fourth of July observance since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Cura writes that many transit agencies adopted a number of measures to enhance security at community events. The efforts in several major cities were characterized by increased cooperation between transit police and other law enforcement agencies.
Although transit agencies have always ensured security during community July 4 celebrations, when many agencies experience their highest ridership, this year they focused more specifically on terrorism, many emphasizing security readiness. Cities reported heightened states of alert and transit police presence at subway systems, other rail transit facilities, and major bus transfer centers.
For example, The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority prepared for its July 4 activities by hosting a security briefing for law enforcement representatives from throughout the region, the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, and the FBI regional office. U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security that is part of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, attended the meeting during his visit that day to MARTA.
In the nations capital, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority stepped up its pre-July 4 planning efforts compared to previous years. To help ensure the security of visitors to Washingtons National Mall, WMATA police met with representatives of police, fire, and rescue agencies throughout the Washington area and federal agencies such as the FBI and the National Park Service.
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Villagers agree, rail yard is a good idea
John S. Gates Jr. harbors no delusions about the railroad industrial parks that his company builds, with their seven-day-a-week operations and streams of heavy truck traffic on neighboring highways.
No nice suburban neighborhood wants them in its backyard, said Gates, the co-chairman of CenterPoint Properties Trust, the largest owner of industrial property in the Chicago area; but in Elwood, Ill., a small farming village of about 1,600 people 40 miles west of Chicago, Gates has found a community that agreed to let his company build a 2,032-acre rail yard and warehouse complex and keep the tax revenue for itself.
The complex, on part of what was once the Joliet Arsenal, will open for use by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway by September. Though there will be no buildings yet, trains stretching thousands of feet long will roll in to be reclassified into smaller trains, or transfer their cargo to trucks, according to a report in The New York Times.
Theyre putting in these giant airport-like hubs for rail, and theyre landing these trains out in the prairie, said Michael Fonda, a senior director of the real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield in Rosemont, Ill., referring to this project and a smaller one in Rochelle, Ill., involving the Union Pacific Corp.
You cant do these huge rail ports inside the city anymore, he said.
The BNSF project, to be called the CenterPoint Intermodal Center, will be the largest in the country that combines two or more modes of freight transportation. CenterPoint predicts that it will eventually handle 480,000 transfers of freight a year.
In scope and function, the project compares only with BNSFs Alliance Intermodal Center, part of the Alliance Texas development near Fort Worth.
That development began as an airport but quickly integrated another BNSF line. The rail park now covers about 500 acres and handles 450,000 freight transfers a year.
Gates has convinced the Army, the State of Illinois and the railroad, among others, that the park will solve problems for them, and better still for CenterPoint, a publicly traded real estate investment trust. He has done a series of deals intended to minimize the financial risks to his company of the $650 million development. The cost is already offset by an estimated $200 million in entitlements from governmental bodies, including money to clean up the site and revenues from increased tax values to build infrastructure improvements, according to company filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
CenterPoint intends to build 15 million square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space on the site, which is zoned for heavy industrial use. So far, it has changed the elevation of the site by 30 feet; moved 9 million cubic yards of soil (when the Hoover Dam was built, 5.5 million cubic yards were excavated, according to the Interior Department); laid 38 miles of track; started work on 20 miles of roads and paved the acreage leased to the railroad with concrete and asphalt. It built a water tower and an asphalt plant to serve the construction crews.
The anchor for the project is a ground lease of 620 acres to BNSF at about 24 cents a square foot, or $6.5 million a year, according to Paul Sisher, the companys chief financial officer. Counting that, a 51-acre ground lease to Container Care International and two leases totaling 750,000 square feet of distribution space in buildings that CenterPoint will construct, the center is about 50 percent leased, Mr. Gates said.
To finish the project and fulfill the promises he has made Gates must attract tenants who need the railroad.
CenterPoint expects real estate taxes of 70 cents to 90 cents a square foot of commercial space, and the previous tax base was nonexistent because states cannot tax federal installations.
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|New York repeals onerous taxes|
The New York state legislature passed a Rail Infrastructure Investment Act on June 25, repealing a law which freight railroads, particularly CSX, viewed as onerous and regressive.
New York Gov. George E. Pataki hailed the bills passage.
He said the measure will spur economic growth and job-creation across the state, with a specific emphasis on Upstate New York. The governor had proposed measure for the past two years, and was included in his proposed Executive Budget.
We fought for this initiative because we knew how important it was to our efforts to continue spurring economic growth and job creation in Upstate New York, Pataki said.
This new measure will encourage the expansion of new rail lines across the State a key factor in economic growth and expansion. When combined with other economic growth initiatives included in the final state budget, such as $1 billion in new tax cuts, ten new Empire Zones, and the Centers of Excellence program, this measure will bolster our efforts create new jobs across the state.
The rail act will reduce local property taxes on railroad companies that own property in New York State and spur new economic growth, most notably in Upstate New York.
Historically, burdensome property taxes on railroads, specifically in Upstate New York, have stymied railroad expansion and rail service preservation, a key factor in creating and retaining jobs. The initiative will simplify and modernize the method of assessing rail properties for local taxation and exempt all newly constructed and renovated properties from property taxation for ten years from the date of completion.
The plan will also phase in a tax reduction of approximately 45 percent over seven years for transportation properties currently owned by railroad companies and ensure that the rail companies commit additional resources to make substantial enhancements in freight and passenger services, including greater safety, expanded access, and higher speed.
Finally, the proposal will establish a transition aid program, which will provide a total of $70 million over ten years to local governments to offset their revenue loss, beginning with $4.7 million in 2003-04.
The state budget enacted in May included a comprehensive economic development plan for New York that included new tax cuts totaling $1 billion over the next three years.
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|RailAmerica to buy back its stock|
RailAmerica, Inc., reported on July 16 that its directors approved a share repurchase program of up to two million shares of RailAmerica, Inc. common stock, effective immediately. The two-year repurchase program will allow the company to repurchase its shares from time to time in the open market and supersedes and replaces the Companys previous plan under which it repurchased approximately $4,000,000 of its common stock over the past two years.
At current price levels, we believe RailAmericas stock offers a tremendous investment opportunity for the company, said Gary O. Marino, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of RailAmerica. RailAmericas exceptional growth rate, high profit margins, strong balance sheet, low price-to-earnings multiple, and excellent business prospects, coupled with its reduced debt levels and high liquidity, clearly position its stock as significantly undervalued in the marketplace. The share repurchase program underscores the confidence of our board in the fundamental strength of our business as well as our future prospects.
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|CN buys 150 reefer containers|
Canadian National last week said it is buying 150 state-of-the-art refrigerated containers and an option to buy 150 more.
William K. Berry, CNs vice-president, intermodal, said the 53-foot containers will have eight per cent more cubic space than the 48-foot containers they replace, and weigh nine per cent less. CN moves the bulk of its grocery business on expedited intermodal trains between Central Canada and the western provinces. First introduced in June 2000, CNs Need for Speed intermodal trains cut transcontinental transit times by 24 hours and made CN fully competitive with long-haul team-driver trucking.
CN did not state who is manufacturing the containers, nor how much they cost.
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Union PacificIntermodality contributed to Union Pacifics record-setting bottom line for the last quarter. Uncle Pete earned $304 million in the second quarter, and is paying stockholders $1.15 per share. Here, the railroads 9426 with K-Line Containers-on-flat-cars pass through Oxman, Oregon in July 1994.
|UP earnings set record quarter|
Union Pacific Corp. reported Thursday it set a record net income of $304 million, or $1.15 per diluted share. That compares to net income of $243 million, or $.95 per diluted share in the second quarter of 2001. Operating income and earnings per share both had double-digit increases in the quarter with 22 percent and 21 percent growth, respectively.
This was an outstanding quarter for Union Pacific, said Dick Davidson, chairman and CEO
We have momentum in all aspects of our business. The railroad leveraged increased revenue, employee productivity gains and lower fuel prices into records for operating income, net income, and operating ratio.
Highlights, excluding its trucking line, Overnite Corp., reported record second quarter operating income of $583 million compared to $478 million for the same period in 2001, which is a 22 percent increase.
Railroad revenue increased 4 percent, employee productivity (gross ton-miles per employee) increased 9 percent to a second quarter record level operating ratio (operating expenses and operating revenue) improved 3.0 percentage points to a second quarter record 79.3 percent.
The freight railroad recorded its best overall quarter for operating revenue, operating income, and operating ratio. It was also its best overall quarter for total carloadings and revenue ton-miles for automotive, intermodal and industrial products.
All commodity groups, except one, had revenue growth ranging from 11 percent to 2 percent intermodal up 11 percent; automotive up 8 percent; chemicals up 4 percent; agricultural up 3 percent; industrial products up 2 percent.
Energy was the only commodity group that was down, at 1 percent.
The corporations trucking operation, Overnite Corp., reported a 2 percent increase in second quarter operating income of $18.3 million, compared to $18.0 million in 2001 on a pro forma basis.
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|BNSF to pay 12 cents per share|
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Corp. directors voted on July 18 to pay a regular quarterly dividend of 12 cents per share on outstanding common stock. Dividends on common stock will be paid October 1, 2002, to shareholders of record September 10, 2002. Common shares outstanding on June 30, 2002, totaled approximately 381 million.
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Londoners struggle during subway strike
Walking, riding bicycles and standing in overcrowded double-decker buses, hundreds of thousands of London commuters struggled to reach work last Thursday during a 24-hour strike that closed most of the capitals subway system.
By 7 a.m., a usually quiet, The AP wrote from the U.K., pre-rush hour time on Londons public transport, people were standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the famous red buses, or waited in growing lines at bus stops. Some unlucky commuters who tried to board already packed buses were held back by harassed-looking conductors.
Sidewalks were crowded with people walking to work, and many more cyclists than normal weaved in and out of traffic in a bid to beat the strike. In a city where the streets are often packed with slow-moving cars, buses and trucks, bad traffic jams were expected all day.
To make matters worse, Britain was still recovering from a one-day strike by 750,000 municipal employees on Wednesday that had closed schools, libraries and recreation centers in their first national walkout in more than two decades.
That strike, over a demand for higher wages, also had affected social workers, garbage collectors, school cafeteria workers and librarians.
Although that job action passed unnoticed by many Britons, especially in London, where nearly everything, including museums and tourist attractions, remained open, Thursdays subway strike was a different matter.
I got up an hour early to get into work before rush hour starts, and it is already pandemonium, said Mark Thompson, 32, on the Number 91 bus from north London to Kings Cross station. It is going to be a very long day.
The obvious strategy of beating the rush was a citywide failure.
The very first main-line trains of the day were already full, and on a north London line passengers could not squeeze onto some of the trains.
The strike immobilizing most of the London Underground, which carries three million passengers a day, began at 8 p.m. Wednesday. In addition to the chaos Thursday morning, the strike was to disable the city during evening rush hour, too.
Members of the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union walked out after talks with management aimed at averting the action failed Tuesday.
An official with the London Underground said Thursday morning that a skeleton service was still running, but only about 7 percent of the trains. Although RMT workers had voted 8-1 in favor of the strike, about a third of workers had not returned their ballot papers, said the official, on condition of anonymity.
Clearly there are some workers who did not want to strike, she said. She said about 39 trains were running Thursday morning, compared to 504 on a typical day.
The union complained London Underground management had failed to arrange full consultation with union safety representatives over the planned partial privatization of the subway system.
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Bombardier opens Chicago office
Bombardier Transportation said last week it is opening a Chicago office because of growing marketing opportunities for rail projects in Chicago and the surrounding area. Its office is located at 8410 West Bryn Mawr at Cumberland.
We are establishing a presence in Chicago to support rail projects in the entire region. The coming investment in the L, in Metra and northern Indiana, and in intercity rail in this region certainly supports this strategic move by the Company, said William Spurr, President, North America.
The appointment of Peter Stetler, Vice President, Government Relations, to pursue these market opportunities is a definite asset to our activities in this area, he added.
Bombardier Transportation is headquartered in Montreal.
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|DOT user fee idea riles freights roads|
U.S. DOT Secretary Norman Mineta has asked Congress for authority to collect user fees from railroads to help pay for safety monitoring of the industry by the Federal Railroad Administration, Railway Age reported last week. Fees would also be assessed for safety research and development. Railroads say this would cost them $100 million a year or more, and theyre likely to oppose it as discriminatory.
Grade crossing protection is the focus of another provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement bill that Mineta sent to Congress July 8. It calls for mandatory reporting of crossing data by railroads and by the states for the Federal Railroad Administrations computerized National Crossing Inventory. This is a database that the FRA says helps show where and what types of safety improvements are needed. Railroads provide data on train frequency and type of safety installation; states supply information on motor vehicle traffic.
On the current voluntary reporting basis, said FRA, some public crossings are not in the database at all, and information about others may be incomplete or obsolete.
The proposed new safety bill would authorize FRA to freely monitor radio communications on frequencies authorized to railroads by the Federal Communications Commission.
Current law arguably precludes FRA inspectors from monitoring safety-critical railroad radio communications without the presence of a railroad employee who is an authorized sender or receiver of the communication, said DOT. This is an impediment to the fulfillment of the rail safety objectives of accident investigation and accident prevention.
On the issue of post-September 11 security, DOT said existing law gives it authority to address threats arising from exploitation of railroad operations and equipment by terrorists.
One provision of the new bill that isnt likely to draw protests would permit DOT (with the concurrence of the Environmental Protection Agency) to establish permissible noise levels emanating from high-speed trains, including maglev, traveling at speeds in excess of 150 mph.
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C&TS quit at end of season
The Rio Grande Railway Preservation Corp. (RGRPC ) is throwing in the towel. After a season that was delayed by a Federal Railroad Administration-ordered shutdown for track repairs before the first train made the Antonito-to-Chama run, followed by closure of the Carson National Forest and then closure to the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad of the Rio Grande National Forest due to the extreme fire danger, RGRPC said last Thursday it wont return to operate the rail line next season.
Carol Salisbury, chairman of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad Commission, said Thursday the commission will be seeking a new company to operate the railroad for the 2003 season and beyond.
She said the RGRPC notified the commission on Thursday they are exercising a contractual right to terminate their operation of the railroad when the season ends in October.
The commission oversees operation of the 64-mile scenic railroad for the states of New Mexico and Colorado.
RGRPC had been formed as a non-profit corporation by the Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad to take over the lines day-to-day operations on a contractual basis in 1999.
The commissions relationship with the Friends group has always been quite strong, and we feel that relationship will continue regardless of who is operating the railroad in the future, she said.
Salisbury said the commission is looking into potential legal action to answer questions that have come about this season.
Some of the RGRPCs current difficulties grow out of the U.S. Forest Service action in issues banning Cumbres & Toltec rail operations this summer, she said, and I feel we need to resolve whether this Forest Service action was an unlawful taking of private property, so that the commission and future railroad operators will know whether they are subject to the whim of Forest Service edicts issued without any pretense of fair hearings or normal due process.
Salisbury further indicated the railroad is so important to the economic well-being of the Chama-Antonito region that the commission feels it must make every effort to find a competent railroad operator to continue operations in the 2003 season and beyond.
She said the C&T has been a primary economic stimulus for the region since a bi-state compact founded it in 1971, and Salisbury indicated the commission will explore every avenue of state, federal and private participation for support.
It was somewhat ironic that on the same day RGRPC announced it would not return to manage the railroads day-to-day operations, the Colorado legislature approved a $90,000 grant for rehabilitation work on the railroads rolling stock and the Antonito depot.
State Rep. Jim Snook (R) said the grant was approved unanimously by the Economic Development Committee, even though the committee was aware RGRPC would likely not be back for the 2003 season.
We figured that (RGRPC leaving) could happen. You cant take a hit like theyve been taking all summer and still continue to operate, he said, and this money is there for car updating and depot improvements that are actually capital improvements, anyway.
Working with Senator Lewis Entz (R-Hooper), Snook said the application for $90,000 to match a similar amount already appropriated by New Mexico was approved a day earlier by the Joint Budget Committee.
The tourist line lost out on a month of operations, making it nearly impossible for the railroad to turn a profit.
The Cumbres & Toltec was built in 1880 as part of the Rio Grande Railroads San Juan Extension, which served the silver mining district of the San Juan mountains. Like all of the Rio Grande at the time, it was built as a three-foot narrow gauge line, instead of the more common 58-_ inches that became standard throughout the United States.
The narrow gauge made it impossible to interchange cars with other railroads, and led the Rio Grande to begin converting its track to standard gauge in 1890.
Due to federal legislation and a shift in transportation demands, the San Juan Extensions usefulness declined rapidly during the early part of the 20th Century.
A post-World War II gas boom brought a short period of activity to the line, but in 1969 the federal Interstate Commerce Commission (predecessor to todays Surface Transportation Board) granted the Rio Grandes request to abandon its remaining narrow gauge line, ending the last use of steam locomotives in general freight service in the United States.
Most of the abandoned track was quickly recycled, but local civic interests and railway preservationists succeeded in rescuing the most scenic portions of the line.
In 1970, the states of Colorado and New Mexico paid $547,120 for the 64 miles of track and associated infrastructure that links Antonito to Chama.
The C&T has received national recognition. It was named one of the best 20 railway experiences in the world, by the Society of International Railway Travelers.
It was also designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the property is a registered State and National Historic Site.
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Two weeks ago, a reader inquired when the B&O Museum in Baltimore got its ex-C&O 2-6-6-2 Class H-6 steam engine. Reference librarian and photo archivist Anne Calhoun at the Watkins Research Library tells us The only information in the files say that No. 1309 became part of the B&O Museum collection in 1977, but there is no notation as to the location from which it came to Baltimore.
She added, In 1977 the railroad was the Chessie System, and it could very well have come from Huntington [W. Va.]. Perhaps someone at the C&O Historical Society in Clifton Forge, Va., could help you with that information.
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American Public Transportation Assn.
Las Vegas, Nev.
AREMA conference and exposition
European railway technology and infrastructure study trip
Co-sponsored by AREMA. This study trip leads up to EurailSpeed 2002 in Madrid. Trip itinerary will include visits to the UK, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Spain. For information, visit www.arema.org or contact Desiree Knight at (301) 459-3200, ext. 703. email@example.com
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NCI: Leo King collectionMissouri Pacific Lines cleaned up their ca. 1955 publicity photo for their spiffy EMD E-unit (an E-6, perhaps?) and billed it as a 4,000 HP passenger service diesel with two 1,000 engines inside each carbody. They were 12 cylinder, V-type engines, and the overall length of both units was 141-feet, one-and-one-quarter inch.
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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 webmaster in Boston.
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