Vol. 6 No. 30
July 25, 2005

Copyright © 2005
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 - Leo King
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 Sixth Year *

This page is best viewed at 800 X 600 screen resolution

 

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

  News items… 
Terrorists strike London tubes again
NTSB to discuss Amtrak derailment
Empire Builder prepares for upgraded relaunch.
Empire Builder
The Great Plains are also remembered
Mineta offers veto threat. Senate subcommittee offers Amtrak
  $1.4 billion; bill moves to committee
Amtrak resumes Boston Acela service
Hiawathas get $1.5 million
NYPD patrols Amtrak trains
Susquehanna River. Maryland bridge gets new rails, ties
How things go wrong
  Builders’ lines… 
Bombardier gets two hefty orders
Bhel vies to build high-speed locos
  Labor lines… 
BLET looks for rule violation causes
  Safety lines… 
New tables, seats in the offing
FRA to take a hard look at Metrolink crossings
  Commuter lines… 
New York gets transportation plan
Utah may outsource commuter line
LIRR forced to replace bad ties
  APTA Highlights… 
U.S. Public Transit Systems Increase Vigilance
  After London Bombings
MacLennan Dies; Past Houston Metro GM,
  APTA Hall of Famer
Las Vegas Monorail Assumes Management Assets,
  Names New Head
Skoutelas to Step Down as CEO in Pittsburgh; Joins PB
Irwin Retires from BC Transit
  Freight lines… 
BNSF spends $13.5million upgrading Montana ‘Hi-Line’
BNSF, UP emissions deal gets review
Byrd supports freight rail bill
KCS leases five branches to Watco
Pennsy freight line reopens for traffic
KCS to continue over BNSF for a while
  Wall Street lines… 
BNSF
CN
CN buys back shares
G&W
KCS
UP
Rail traffic up in most recent week
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Endnotes… 

Terrorists strike London tubes again

Bobbies on watch

AP Photo: Matt Dunham

Police officers stand outside Shepherd’s Bush underground station in London following an incident at the station last week. Explosions struck London’s transport system Thursday, shutting down three underground train stations and blowing out the windows of a double-decker bus, authorities said, two weeks after four deadly suicide bombings.

Trafalgar Square

AP Photo: Matt Dunham

Police officers man a cordon on Whitehall in London as Trafalgar Square can be seen behind them, after a security alert in Whitehall, on July 21. Explosions struck London’s transport system Thursday.

Explosions struck the London Underground and a bus at midday Thursday in a chilling but far less bloody replay of the suicide bombings that killed 56 people two weeks ago.

Only one person was reported injured in the nearly simultaneous lunch-hour blasts, British Transport Police said, but they caused major shock and disruption in the capital and were hauntingly similar to the July 7 bombings by four attackers.

Panicked and screaming commuters fled the three affected Underground stations, sometimes leaving behind their shoes, The Associated Press reported.

Prime Minister Tony Blair appealed for calm and said it was too early to tell who was responsible.

“We can’t minimize incidents such as this,” he said at a joint news conference with the Australian prime minister at No. 10 Downing St. “They’re done to scare people, to frighten them and make them worried.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair called it “a very serious incident.”

Commissioner Blair said, outside Scotland Yard, “We know that we have four explosions or attempts of explosions, and it is still pretty unclear as to what has happened.”

He said, “At the moment, the casualty numbers appear to be very low... the bombs appear to be smaller” than those detonated July 7.

Police also said an armed police unit had entered University College hospital. Press Association, the British news agency, said they arrived shortly after an injured person was carried in.

Sky News TV reported that police were searching for a man with a blue shirt with wires protruding. Officers asked employees to look for a black or Asian male, 6 feet 2 inches tall, wearing a blue top with a hole in the back and wires protruding.

The attacks, which targeted trains near the Warren Street, Oval and Shepherd’s Bush stations, did not shut down the subway system, although at least two lines remained closed more than two hours later. The double-decker bus had its windows blown out on Hackney Road in East London.

Witnesses told The Associated Press they did not hear a bang but smelled something similar to an electrical fire at the Warren Street station.

Police in chemical protection suits were at the Warren Street station, but no chemical agents were found.

Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair gives a press conference at 10 Downing Street in London on Thursday just hours after incidents targeting London transport system. Blair appealed for calm in the wake of the incidents. London’s police commissioner confirmed there were four attempted explosions in London in what he described as a “serious incident.”

Stagecoach, the company that operates the stricken bus, said the driver heard a bang and went upstairs, where he found the windows blown out. The company said the bus was structurally intact and there were no injuries..

The incidents paralleled the July 7 blasts, which involved explosions at three Underground stations simultaneously starting at 8:51 a.m., followed quickly by a bomb going off on a bus. Those bombings, during the morning rush hour, also occurred in the center of London, hitting the Underground from various directions

Thursday’s incidents, however, were more spread out.

Emergency teams were sent to all three stations after the incidents, which began at 12:38 p.m.

“People were panicking, but very fortunately, the train was only 15 seconds from the station,” witness Ivan McCracken told Sky News.

McCracken said another passenger at Warren Street told him he saw a backpack explode. The July 7 bombs were carried in backpacks, police said.

McCracken said he smelled smoke, and people were panicking and coming into his carriage. He said he spoke to an Italian man who was comforting a woman after the evacuation.

“He said that a man was carrying a rucksack and the rucksack suddenly exploded. It was a minor explosion but enough to blow open the rucksack,” McCracken said. “The man then made an exclamation as if something had gone wrong. At that point everyone rushed from the carriage.”

Losiane Mohellavi, 35, who was evacuated at Warren Street, said, “I was in the carriage and we smelled smoke. It was like something was burning. Everyone was panicked and people were screaming. We had to pull the alarm. I am still shaking.”

The explosions came as Pakistani intelligence officials said authorities are seeking the former aide of a radical cleric in Britain in connection with the July 7 bombings.

The officials said British investigators asked Pakistani authorities to search for Haroon Rashid Aswat, who reportedly had been in close contact with the suicide bombers just before the July 7 attacks.

Prime Minister Tony Blair

AP photo

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Aswat, 31, was of Indian origin and may not be in Pakistan, according to two intelligence officials in Islamabad and one in Lahore, all speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media and because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

Aswat reportedly was once an associate of Abu Hamza al-Masri, the radical imam who is awaiting trial in Britain on charges of incitement to murder. Al-Masri also is wanted in the U.S. on charges of trying to establish a terrorist training camp in Bly, Ore.; involvement in hostage-taking in Yemen; and funding terror training in Afghanistan.

Quoting unidentified intelligence sources, The Times of London said Aswat visited the hometowns of all four London bombers and selected their targets. It also reported there had been up to 20 phone calls between Aswat and two of the bombers in the days before the attacks.

Aswat’s relatives in Batley, near the northern English town of Leeds, which was home to two of the July 7 suicide bombers, said they had not heard from him for many years.

“He has not lived at this house and we have not had contact with him for many years,” said his father, Rashid, who asked for his family to be left in peace. “There is no story that we can provide.”

Authorities are investigating whether the London bombing suspects, three of whom were of Pakistani origin and traveled to Pakistan last year, received training or other assistance from militants in that country.

One of the July 7 bombers, Shahzad Tanweer, 22, is suspected of visiting a madrassa linked with militants in Lahore, which has become a focus of the inquiry.

According to a report in a Pakistani newspaper, Tanweer revered Osama bin Laden.

The English-language Dawn newspaper said Tanweer visited relatives in November in a farming village near Faisalabad in eastern Pakistan. During his weeks-long stay, another suicide bombing suspect, Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, visited him, Tanweer’s uncle told the newspaper.

Pakistan has pledged to curb religious extremism amid international concerns that Islamic schools, or madrassas, are promoting extremism.

Associated Press writer Robert Barr and reporters Thin Lei Win, Kate Bouey in London and Christopher Torchia in Islamabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.


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NTSB to discuss Amtrak derailment

The National Transportation Safety Board will hold a public Board Meeting tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. in its Board Room and Conference Center, 429 L'Enfant Plaza, S.W., Washington, DC.

There is only one item is on the agenda – an Amtrak fatal derailment.

On April 6, 2004 northbound Amtrak train No. 58, the City of New Orleans, derailed on Canadian National Ry. track near Flora, Miss.

The entire train derailed, including a locomotive, a baggage car, and eight passenger cars. One passenger died in the derailment.

Safety issues discussed in the report include Canadian National’s continuous welded rail maintenance and inspection procedures and standards, Amtrak's emergency response training, and the FRA’s oversight of both.


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Empire Builder prepares

for upgraded relaunch

Refurbished trains arrive August 21

As the relaunch of enhanced Empire Builder service approaches, work is being completed on several fronts to introduce travelers to the model for long-distance train travel.

Plans are being completed to commemorate the launch with events in Seattle, Portland and Chicago on August 21; and Whitefish and Havre, Mont., and Minot, N. Dak. on August 22 that will showcase its amenities and services.

In the meantime, members of the media and convention and visitor’s bureaus are being offered an opportunity to experience the service. In addition, the Marketing and Sales team continues to promote the benefits of this new service to consumers and Amtrak’s travel agency community.

Among the improvements in coach will be offers for at-seat meal and beverage service and an invitation to visit the refurbished lounge car to enjoy the scenery or to play one of a wide variety of popular games including Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and Chutes and Ladders.

Some 380 Empire Builder conductors and on-board employees, including managers and supervisors, will have attended training classes in Chicago and Seattle that focused on the importance of delivering exceptional customer service, reports Amtrak Ink in its July edition.

“This initiative, aimed at improving the financial performance of long-distance trains, is being piloted on the Empire Builder, but we’re planning to extend it to other trains in the future,” added Service Delivery Chief Kevin Scott.

Mechanical employees at Beech Grove, Chicago, Brighton Park, Sanford and Los Angeles get the credit for refurbishing 63 cars that will comprise five dedicated Empire Builder trainsets. Over the last nine months, mechanics remanufactured 20 sleepers, converted 11 smoking cars to coach-baggage cars and upgraded 14 coaches, six lounge cars, six “transdorms” – crew sleeping cars – and six diners.

Inside the cars, the walls and surfaces have been updated with a frosty white and navy blue color scheme, accented by cherry wood grain laminate and cushions, carpets and drapes in matching shades of blue.

The bedrooms have been upgraded with newly designed toilet and shower units and on the lower level, and the public shower area has been expanded to include a vanity, larger changing area and a wider seat.

Passengers stepping aboard the Empire Builder will discover refurbished equipment, new amenities and improved service as part of Amtrak’s “Long-distance Train Margin Improvement Project.”

First-class passengers will be treated to service enhancements including an onboard wine and cheese tasting event in the lounge car featuring Minnesota cheeses and Washington state wines.

The changes are the start of a major initiative at Amtrak to improve passengers’ on-board experience on long-distance trains and improve the trains’ financial performance, as well.

Empire Builder

For NCI: Aaron B. Hockley

Amtrak train No. 27, the Empire Builder, passes through Lyle, Wash., on April 27 along the Columbia River. Amtrak will relaunch the train with all-rebuilt and renovated equipment August 21.
Empire Builder, Portland Ore.

For NCI: Kyle Weismann-Yee

The Portland, Ore. section of westward Empire Builder No. 27 heads for the wye at East Portland after leaving Union Station, Portland, on May 30. The southbound train cuts away from No. 7 at Spokane, Wash. at about 2:00 a.m.


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Empire Builder

Named for Great Northern Ry. founder James J. Hill, the first Empire Builder departed Chicago on June 10, 1929. Originally, the Empire Builder was operated by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad from Chicago to St. Paul. From St. Paul, it was operated entirely by the Great Northern (now part of BNSF) to Seattle and Portland, making the trip in 63 hours. Today’s Empire Builder connects the same cities in 47 hours.

The Empire Builder is the first train among the railroad’s 15 long-distance train services being upgraded. Already a popular route, last year the train served more than 437,000 passengers, with ridership up 5.1 percent over the previous year. The Empire Builder leaves daily from Chicago, at 2:15 p.m., and the West Coast – Seattle and Portland sections both at 4:45 p.m.

The train travels across eight states, from Chicago to Seattle and Portland.

“We’re pleased to dedicate Amtrak’s newly refurbished train equipment to the Empire Builder as part of our overall effort to enhance long distance train travel,” said Amtrak President David L. Gunn.

Gunn added, “The result will be even stronger demand for the service and a better financial performance. The Empire Builder is already one of Amtrak’s most popular trains, serving nearly half-a-million passengers annually.”

The Empire Builder travels through some of America’s greatest scenery. The train traverses portions of the upper Mississippi River valley, crosses the northern plains and offers superb vistas as it wends its way through the Rocky Mountains, Washington State’s Cascades Range and miles of seascapes along Puget Sound and the Columbia River Gorge. Along the way, top leisure travel destinations abound, including Wisconsin Dells, Glacier National Park and Montana’s Big Mountain ski area.

“The Empire Builder’s scenic highlights and popular destinations, combined with strong community support all along the route, will be a major marketing boost for the overall enhanced service of an already popular train ride,” said Barbara Richardson, Amtrak Vice President for Marketing and Sales.

Dining aboard a moving train is an experience rich in history. Aboard the Empire Builder, several special menu items have been created by the Amtrak culinary team to closely match the original recipes of the Great Northern Ry. At suppertime, along with the delicious regular Amtrak menu items, passengers will be invited to enjoy special entrees recalling the train’s lore – braised salmon shank with horseradish and cauliflower puree, Great Northern baked ham with sweet citrus sauce and English beefsteak potpie with braised tomatoes and white mushrooms.

At night, train attendants will encourage sweet dreams by offering a bedtime treat of a freshly baked cookie or similar goodie to first class passengers.

Coach passengers will receive a higher level of service aboard the Empire Builder starting this August, too. Coach passengers will be offered at-seat food and beverage service. In the lounge car, an upstairs snack bar is being added in the peak seasons to serve light food and beverages.

In the lounge car, one end has been changed to create improved seat groupings. These small seat groups have new small drink tables positioned between them. Dining tables and booths have been added to the other end. The interiors of the coach and dining cars have also been refurbished.



Amtrak Ink

Keith Bear, a member of the Mandan Tribe, makes a “Trails and Rails” presentation aboard the Empire Builder.

 

The Great Plains are also remembered

Another on-board enhancement of the Empire Builder service will be the expansion of the “Trails and Rails” program, presented during daylight hours between Chicago, Seattle and Portland, offering en-route lectures about the culture, geography and history of the Great Plains. Trails and Rails is an innovative partnership between the National Park Service and Amtrak designed to encourage sightseers who are not traditional National Park visitors to explore the natural and cultural aspects of several regions of the country.

In July, a new Trails and Rails program debuts on board the Empire Builder between Chicago and St. Paul, Minn., featuring information on the Mississippi River and the state and national parks throughout the region. Passengers may enjoy these informational talks delivered by interpretive rangers every weekend through the middle of September.

Beginning in August, the Trails and Rails program will be extended on board the Empire Builder near Williston, N.Dak., (eastbound) and Browning, Mont., (westbound).

Passengers will be offered hot chocolate during a “campfire-like” setting where the Trails and Rails program will continue to discuss the wonders of the surrounding area.


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Mineta offers veto threat

Senate subcommittee offers Amtrak
$1.4 billion; bill moves to committee

President Bush’s plans to close down Amtrak’s money-losing long distance routes were dealt another setback on July 19 as the Senate transportation subcommittee approved a sizable boost to the budget for the ailing passenger railroad.

The move earned an immediate veto threat from the Bush administration, The AP reported, through USDOT Secretary Norman Mineta.

The latest development in the struggle over Amtrak’s future came as the Senate Appropriations Committee panel unanimously approved a $136 billion bill for the fiscal year beginning October 1 for transportation and housing programs and other federal agencies.

Bush’s February budget proposed eliminating Amtrak’s operating subsidy and setting aside $360 million to run trains along the Northeast Corridor if the railroad were to slide into bankruptcy. The administration says the plan ultimately would produce a passenger rail system with stronger routes and entice subsidies from local governments.

Amtrak received a $1.2 billion subsidy for the current year but the Senate measure would boost that to $1.4 billion for next year.

Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee, said Mineta told him the higher funding could result in a veto.

He said Mineta called him just before the hearing and “was pleased to convey to me that without a major reform package, the President’s advisers would recommend a veto... with funding at that level.”

Bond originally proposed a significant cut to Amtrak’s budget, but was overruled by powerful Amtrak advocates such as Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss. Specter said the administration needed to come up with more specific reform proposals.

In a press release, the National Assn. of Railroad Passengers noted Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the subcommittee’s top Democrat, said DOT Inspector General Kenneth M. Mead has testified that Amtrak needs $1.4 to $1.5 billion to maintain current routes and service.

Amtrak has stated that $1.2 billion would severely disrupt Amtrak’s capital program. The railroad’s board of directors, all appointed by President Bush, had requested $1.8 billion. The House has approved $1.176 billion. The Senate version now moves on to the entire committee, then to on the Senate floor for an up or down vote.

Bond noted that the bill has language enforcing a prohibition on subsidizing food and beverage losses. Murray said, “It would be my preference to have reforms considered by the Commerce Committee,” which has authorizing jurisdiction. She said she understands Commerce will consider an Amtrak bill shortly.

NARP Executive Director Ross B. Capon remarked, “The subcommittee deserves praise for producing the $1.4 billion figure in the present budgetary environment, even though this amount does not address all of Amtrak’s needs. We share Senator Murray’s hope that legislative language will come from the authorizing committee and will avoid micromanaging Amtrak. We cannot repeat often enough the testimony of Amtrak Senior Vice President William Crosbie that ‘The primary purpose’ of food and beverage service ‘is to enhance ticket sales and ridership, not serve as a profit center.’”

Amtrak runs trains through almost every state, which gives it great support among lawmakers, especially in the Senate, where 92 of 100 senators represent states with Amtrak service. As a sign of Amtrak’s popularity, at least one senator, Conrad Burns, R-Mont., promised to resist a proposal in the bill to curb food and beverage service that loses, on average, $2 for every $1 in revenue.

“I don’t feel we have an advocate for Amtrak at the Department of Transportation right now, so that means we must win this fight here in Congress,” Burns said.

The administration’s plans would threaten iconic but money-losing routes such as the City of New Orleans route between New Orleans and Chicago, the Empire Builder across the Northern Plains and the Sunset Limited from Sanford, Fla., to Los Angeles.

“Amtrak needs to take a serious look at its long-distance routes,” said USDOT spokesman Robert Johnson, who declined to discuss the veto promise until Transportation officials have more time to examine the bill. “They shouldn’t just run regardless of how much they cost.”

An attempt by the House Appropriations Committee to cut the railroad’s budget by more than half and cut off subsidies for every cross-country route was reversed by the full House last month.

Taken together, the House and Senate actions make it plain that Congress simply doesn’t have the stomach to close down Amtrak routes. Still, the administration’s veto promise adds to pressure on Congress to pass a separate Amtrak reform bill.

Amtrak hailed the development.

“There’s still a lot more to be done at Amtrak,” said CEO David Gunn. “Adequate federal funding in the year ahead is both a sign of support for what we’ve accomplished to date and for the reforms and the improvements in passenger service we continue to seek.”


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New station in Oakland

Amtrak Ink

Amtrak now stops at the Oakland Coliseum. The newly built $6.6 million, 450-foot platform is an intermodal link for riders destined for the McAfee Coliseum and the Oakland Arena, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and the Oakland International Airport. The stop is also on Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor route. The city of Oakland built the station with funding from several state agencies. Employees, rail enthusiasts and government officials celebrated its completion on May 25.

 

Amtrak resumes Boston Acela service

Amtrak resumed Acela Express train service to Boston over the weekend for the first time since the railroad pulled the high-speed fleet out of operation in April after discovering cracks in many of the trains’ brake discs.

Amtrak is slowly putting its 20-train Acela fleet back into service after the cars are outfitted with new brakes. Amtrak resumed limited Acela service on July 11 from New York to Washington.

An Acela Express train arrived in Boston on Saturday afternoon, and departed the city on Sunday morning. Weekday service resumes Saturday with one roundtrip from Boston to Washington.

The railroad also plans to increase the number of Acela trains operating during the week between New York and Washington to six starting today.

Montreal-based Bombardier, Inc., which makes the trainsets, has said its target date for equipping the entire fleet with the new brakes, made from a different design, is September. Bombardier is still investigating what caused the millimeter-sized cracks in 317 of the Acela’s 1,440 disc brake rotors. The cracks were found on all 20 trains.

The cracks were noticed on April 14, when FRA safety specialist Rich Thomas found them during a routine inspection after a high-speed run to test whether Amtrak could speed up the Acela trains slightly on curves in New Jersey between Trenton and Newark. All the trains were pulled out of service the next day.

The first Acela Express trains to and from Boston will be restored weekdays starting today. New conversions to Acela are 2103, 2155, 2164 and 2124. Existing Acela trains remain 2102, 2106, 2120, 2122, 2107, 2109, 2121 and 2123.

On Saturday, weekend service was restored with new conversions to Acela 2250 and 2203 along with existing Acela trains 2207, 2216, 2220. Metroliner 2253 was renumbered 2263.

On Sundays, effective yesterday, new conversions to Acelas were 2253, 2256 and 2228. Existing Acela trains are 2213, 2222, 2225 while Metroliner 2220 was renumbered 2230.


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Hiawathas get $1.5 million

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said Friday he will use his veto pen to restore state funding for Amtrak’s Hiawatha service between Milwaukee and Chicago. Doyle increased the state’s share of funding for the service after Illinois lawmakers approved a reduction in their state’s budget.

The Capital Times in Madison reported on Friday Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee rejected Doyle’s proposal and set aside the funding so the state DOT could not access the money.

Doyle said Friday that he would veto the Republican changes and order transportation officials to find a way to come up with the needed funds.

In the first half of 2005, more than 200,000 passengers have used the service, an increase of 15 percent over the same period last year.


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NYPD patrols Amtrak trains

Amtrak riders at Penn Station may notice tighter security, as the NYPD began policing Amtrak trains for the first time one week ago today in response to the terrorist attacks on London’s mass transit system earlier this month.

Police officers are inspecting all Amtrak trains departing Penn Station, and there are also additional officers deployed in the station and on the platforms – in addition to Amtrak’s own police and National Guard troops, NY1News reported July 18.

The NYPD is also handing out cards that have a toll-free terrorism hotline number passengers can use if they feel they see anything suspicious. NYPD officials say this is just a precaution and is not in response to any specific threat.

Since the London attacks the Police Department has spent $2 million a week on mass transit overtime. The NYPD says the extra presence is coming out of its own budget but is reimbursable by the federal government.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority also plans to tighten up its security by installing high-tech surveillance cameras in underwater railroad tunnels that run into the city out of concern an explosion could breach tunnel walls and cause massive flooding.

Once installed, the agency will be able to monitor 14 tunnels connecting Manhattan to Long Island, New Jersey and the northern suburbs. The MTA plans to spend $400 million on anti-terrorist projects this year.


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At the Susquehanna River

Two photos: Amtrak Ink

An Amtrak regional train passes over Susquehanna River Movable Bridge, at milepost 60.2. One of two tracks has been closed over the span between Perryville and Havre de Grace, Md., during July and August for a 42-day, $3 million project to replace ties and rails.

 

Susquehanna River

Maryland bridge gets new rails, ties

Major track work began this month on the Susquehanna River Bridge, about halfway between Baltimore and Wilmington, Del. A host of Amtrak departments are working together on the rehabilitation project, and represents one of Amtrak’s largest bridge-tie replacement jobs in decades, according to the July issue of Amtrak Ink. The publication is a monthly report to employees systemwide.

Carrying nearly 90 Amtrak trains across the river each weekday, this 4,164 foot-long double-tracked bridge carries the Northeast Corridor.

Scheduled to take 42 days, the capital project upgrades No. 3 track, replacing cracked and worn ties and tieplates, which are approaching the end of their life cycle – and is in keeping with the company’s goal to put the railroad in a state of good repair.

The nearly $3 million project includes installing some 3,200 bridge ties (which were ordered in advance last year), installing new continuously welded rail, and replacing a full-length center walkway and handrail on the outside of No. 3 track.

The project requires that No. 3 track be out of service entirely, while night outages on No. 2 track allow work trains to carry materials to the job site. An electric traction team (or “gang,” on the railroad) has de-energized No. 3 track for the duration of the project and does the same with No. 2 track nightly when there are no more scheduled trains.

Working north to south, the Engineering department’s System Production Bridge Rehabilitation and System Production Track gangs remove existing guard and running rail and bridge ties, distribute and put in place new bridge ties and temporary jointed rail, and install the new continuously welded rail.

Bundles of replacement ties

Bundles of more than 3,000 bridge ties that are slated to be inserted on the Susquehanna River Bridge are checked by B&B mechanic Dave Settlemyre. The ties vary in size and are numbered according to their specific placement on the bridge.

 

Meanwhile, the Communications & Signals department provides around-the-clock coverage at Perryville to maintain signals once the rail line is “broken,” and makes temporary modifications at Perryville to accommodate single-track movement and the dispatcher’s control at interlockings.

Considering the scope of the project, the train delays are minimal because the block being worked on comprises a short distance. The single-track operation does not affect northbound trains, while southbound trains are experiencing minimal delays that result from trains crossing over to No. 2 track before the bridge, then crossing over to No. 3 track and finally to No. 4 track south of the bridge. The Operations Planning department worked closely with the Mid-Atlantic Division and the Engineering department to develop a revised operating schedule that includes minimal delays at Baltimore, BWI, New Carrollton and Washington stations.

The U.S. Coast Guard approved Amtrak’s request to close the bridge’s draw span to river traffic for the duration of the project.

Preliminary work to remove the pre-existing center walkway, handrail and escape bays on the outside of No. 3 track began approximately three months ago. Because of that, employees are equipped with fall protection in the form of full-body harnesses, retractable and static lanyards and anchorage points.

As an additional safety precaution, an Amtrak Bridges & Buildings work boat Clyde and an operator are available for use during tie removal and installation work to ensure worker safety, and to gather and remove any floating debris that may fall from the bridge and cause a hazard for boaters.

“These safety precautions are a critical part of this project – it’s like having someone work on a ten-story building,” said Tom Olechowski, Engineering’s program director.

At the conclusion of each shift, temporary wooden barricades are placed at the end of the completed walkway and handrail until the entire walkway and handrail installation is complete.

The project began in early July, and work is planned around the clock until August 19, when track No. 3 will return to full service. Other bridge tie jobs for much smaller bridges have been completed over multiple 55-hour weekend outages, but a job like the Susquehanna would require 30 55-hour weekend outages to accomplish.

“Instead of bringing the gangs and equipment back and forth for 30 or more weekends, it was determined that a single-track outage over 42 days would have the least impact on resources, manpower and our customers,” stated Olechowski.

A similar capital project for No. 2 track is planned next year.


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How things go wrong

Last Wednesday, a Union Pacific freight train rolling over BNSF tracks at Verdemont, Calif., eight miles east of San Bernardino, went on the ground.

It was aggravating, of course, but not an uncommon occurrence.

Meanwhile, eastbound Amtrak train No. 4, the Southwest Chief of July 20, departed Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (LAUPT) on Metrolink to Palmdale, then UP to Mojave and BNSF to Barstow, then its normal route. It was made up in reverse order because of the layout of the UP and BNSF junction at Mojave, so that once the power was run around, the train would be lined up properly.

BNSF had advised that one track would be open at 6:15 p.m. and that No. 4 could use its normal route after 11 westbound freight trains and four eastbounds had gone ahead of it.

Amtrak declined the offer, in part since the train was already made up in reverse order for the detour. The train was 42 minutes late out of LAUPT after the two-hour late arrival of No. 3, the westward Chief, and the time needed to make up the train in reverse.

The train then lost time waiting for a BNSF pilot, supposed to meet the train four miles prior to Mojave, who showed up late. Then it was delayed again at Mojave while the UP and BNSF road foremen worked out rules disputes regarding running the power around the train; and then when head-end electrical power would not go on after the locomotives had been tied on. It was necessary to “short loop” the HEP between the baggage car and the transition sleeper.

The total delay at Mojave was four hours.

The rest of the delay was due to BNSF freight congestion, which backed up after the wreck at Verdemont.


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BUILDER'S LINES...  Builders’ lines...


Bombardier

New York’s MTA is buying more Bombardier M7s for its Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.

 

Bombardier gets two hefty orders

Bombardier Transportation got an order from New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Friday for more M7 commuter cars, and one week earlier, got a Sprinter order from the Netherlands Ry.

The MTA is buying additional M-7 electric multiple unit (EMU) commuter rail cars under an existing contract for its Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad.

LIRR’s order consists of 158 options valued at approximately $345 million U.S., while Metro North’s new order consists of 36 options valued at approximately $80 million, or a total value of approximately $425 million.

With these options, Bombardier now has firm orders for 1,172 M-7 cars from the MTA’s two commuter railroads – 836 for the LIRR and 336 for Metro-North. It includes a base order of 192 cars (from MTA/LIRR) and 980 option cars (from both MTA/LIRR and MTA/MNR). Total value of the firm orders received to date is approximately $2.5 billion.

Should all remaining options be exercised, says Bombardier, the entire contract would total 1,266 cars and be valued at $2.7 billion.

To date, Bombardier has delivered more than 630 M-7 EMUs to the two commuter railroads.


Bombardier

Bombardier and Siemens are building 35 Sprinters for Netherlands Rys. (artist’s rendering)

 

Bombardier also said that it has been awarded a contract by Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS – Netherlands Rys.) to deliver, together with its partner Siemens Transportation Systems, 18 four-car and 17 six-car electric multiple units (EMUs).

The total contract is valued at approximately $298 million U.S. (€ 248 million). Bombardier’s share of the project is approximately $125 million U.S. or € 104 million, while Siemens, chosen by Bombardier as a major subcontractor, will earn approximately $173 million U.S. (€ 144 million) worth of the order.

Vehicles deliveries are scheduled to take place between September 2008 and October 2009. The order also entails an option for five consecutive additional packages of 16 four-car and 16 six-car EMUs. Should all options be exercised, this would bring the total number of new cars ordered by NS to 974, for a total value estimated at approximately $1.4 billion U.S. (€ 1.2 billion). In addition, a contract for spare parts delivery for the next 10 years has been concluded.

The final assembly of the trains will take place at Bombardier’s manufacturing facility in Aachen, Germany. Siemens, as a partner, will carry out a large portion of the production at its site in Krefeld-Uerdingen, Germany.

The vehicles will extend the commuter service in the Western metropolitan area of the Netherlands and gradually replace NS’s older rolling stock. The new trains are based on a Bombardier-Siemens design of the commuter train ET425, adjusted to the specific requirements of NS and the Dutch railway system.

The trains have a maximum speed of 160 km/h (100 mph). Visibility will be better than in older versions due to wider windows. An increased number of wide doors on the new trains will allow passengers to enter and leave more easily, cutting boarding time.

New features such as level accessibility and continuous floor height will enhance safety and no longer restrict passengers with mobility issues. The new trains will also be equipped with camera surveillance and a passenger information system.


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Bhel vies to build high-speed locos

Bharat Heavy Electricals, Ltd. (Bhel) of India is in talks with leading Japanese transportation companies to manufacture high-speed freight locomotives and rail cars in India. The $2.5 billion engineering firm is also exploring the possibility of setting up a fresh greenfield capacity project to produce such specialized locomotives and coaches.

The Financial Express of New Delhi reported on July 18 the project would specifically cater to requirement of the proposed railway’s 20,000 Crore high-speed rail corridor project, between Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Kolkata and Kolkata-Delhi. To come up with the Japanese assistance, a joint statement had also been signed between India and Japan in April this year during visit of the Japanese premier, Junichiro Koizumi.

Bhel CMD AK Puri said most of the Japanese transportation giants that accompanied Koizumi to India are in touch with it for a possible joint venture to manufacture locomotives and rail cars for high-speed corridors.

“As this offers several opportunities to get into transportation business, we are in touch with these companies who have already undertaken similar projects in Japan and other countries. Once we tie-up with one of these big Japanese companies, considering the similarity in the facilities and technologies required, we may also use this for doing similar ventures for the metro projects in the country. This will help us to move in a big way in the transportation business, where until now we have been a low key player,” he said.


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LABOR LINES...  Labor lines...

BLET looks for rule violation causes

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen is asking its members to participate in a voluntary program that will gather data to help eliminate the root causes of common railroad rule violations.

Members are asked to fill out a “Human Factors/Circadian Rhythms Questionnaire” if they are involved in a “Cardinal rule” violation (signals, speed, braking and track occupancy) as prescribed in 49 CFR Part 240. All information gathered from the questionnaire will be kept confidential, BLET stated in a press release.

Former BLE International vice-president Bill Keppen is spearheading the program.

“This is a tool originally designed to collect human factors data when train crews are involved in accidents,” Keppen said.

“Now, it’s being used to gather data on engineers involved in rule violations. Rule violations and train accidents are sometimes the result of human errors or performance lapses. If it is possible to identify the root causes of lapses and errors, then it may be possible to reduce rule violation and accidents,” he explained.

The questionnaire is designed to collect work, sleep, human factor and demographic information. Among other details, participants are asked to provide 7 or 10 days of sleep information, if possible.

“Truthful and forthright answers to questions are essential to the success of this project,” Keppen said.

“If our members are really concerned about safety, then they have a personal responsibility to fill out these questionnaires and respond. If we don’t get the date, then we not going to fix problems like train line-ups and staff shortages.”

Keppen said that participants would remain anonymous.

“This data will be kept confidential,” he said.

“The information will be kept by the union – the FRA and railroads will not see your individual information, but we will share group information with the FRA once an appropriate level of statistical data has been collected.”


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SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

New tables, seats in the offing

A Massachusetts company is looking for ways to design a safer seat and worktable for trains. The awards, from the USDOT, total $850,000.

TIAX, Inc., (pronounced Ty-ax) of Cambridge, are part of a five-year contract that the firm received last year from the Volpe National Systems Transportation Center to investigate ways to improve the crashworthiness of rail equipment. The Volpe Center is a federal, fee-for-service organization within the USDOT.

The first project involves designing and testing a workstation table that will absorb the impact of seated passengers who collide with it during a crash. In addition to reducing head, chest, abdomen, and leg injuries, the table will be designed to allow a way out from behind the table after a crash.

The second project calls for TIAX to develop and test a three-person commuter seat capable of absorbing the impact of passengers who collide with it from behind during a crash. The seat will be designed to reduce injuries to the head, chest, and legs of occupants, keep the occupants compartmentalized, and remain attached to the railcar.

“With more than 24 million railroad passengers each year, it is critical that our train equipment is as safe as possible, while still functional and comfortable,” said Kenan Sahin, TIAX CEO and founder.

“TIAX has a long history of working with the Volpe Center to improve rail safety, and we are pleased to be part of this effort to protect passengers from potentially debilitating and life-threatening injuries.”

TIAX experts, led by Robert Rancatore, have worked with the Volpe Center for more than a decade on a variety of projects concerning rail crashworthiness. These projects include designing, fabricating and installing an improved cab car crush zone in already existing rail equipment, and repairing previously designed coach car crush zones that have been successfully crash tested.


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FRA to take a hard look at Metrolink crossings

The feds wants to know if it is possible to restrict vehicle access to two Metrolink commuter train lines as a way to improve safety on routes that run from Los Angeles to Symar and Chatsworth, all in California.

The FRA said it would give Metrolink $250,000 to study a “sealed corridor” concept for its Antelope Valley and Ventura County lines. The study will evaluate whether it is possible to reduce or eliminate the chance of cars crossing into the path of trains.

In a “sealed corridor” approach, passenger and freight rail operators work with state transportation and local officials to analyze safety at all railroad crossings along a particular rail line. The purpose of the assessment is to decide which grade crossings should receive safety improvements or be permanently closed.

“A sealed rail corridor keeps passengers safe by keeping vehicles out,” said FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman. “When you reduce the chance of trains and vehicles crossing paths, you increase safety for rail passengers and motorists,” he added.

The study will evaluate 49 crossings on Metrolink’s 26-mile Antelope Line between Los Angeles and Symar, and the 32-mile Ventura County Line between Los Angeles and Chatsworth. It will consider current and projected traffic conditions, recommend safety enhancements, create a grade crossing improvement priority list, identify potential closures, and provide cost estimates to accomplish the plan’s objective.

Potential improvements may include four-quadrant gates, extended gate arms, grade separations, highway median separators, traffic signal upgrades, and permanent closures.

In addition, Metrolink will develop a program to construct locked gates and other barriers to deny access to its right-of-way at certain locations other than highway-rail crossings, including fencing to deter illegal trespassing, the leading cause of rail-related fatalities in the U.S.

The study will be modeled on the successful efforts of the North Carolina DOT to implement a sealed corridor between Charlotte and Raleigh. To date along that line, safety upgrades have been made at 67 crossings and 64 public and private crossings have been closed, with improvements at over 100 others still in various stages of project development.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

New York gets transportation plan

New York State’s governor and legislature have signed off on a $35.8 billion, five-year state transportation plan.

Rail related legislation includes a $2.9 billion Transportation Bond Act, subject to voter approval this November, which would be evenly distributed between DOT and MTA projects.

Plans include a $17.9 billion transportation capital plan administered by NYDOT, and a $17.9 billion Metropolitan Transportation Authority capital plan. The program, which will fund transportation needs through 2010, will help New York maintain and improve multiple elements of the State’s transportation infrastructure, including local roads and bridges, transit systems, the state’s freight and passenger rail network, airports, canals, and ferry and port facilities, The Empire Journal noted on July 19.

“This five-year Capital Plan will build on our commitment to providing a safe and reliable transportation network for New Yorkers all across the State – from New York City to Buffalo and from Plattsburgh to Long Island,” said Gov. George Pataki.

Other rail plans include $235 million for improvements to rail and port facilities to enhance freight and passenger movement.

Passenger and freight rail facilities will be enhanced with clearance and capacity track projects, inter-modal center development, and train station improvements. The bond act provides $135 million to support this program component.

Meanwhile, $17.9 billion is earmarked for MTA public transit systems, including New York City Transit, the Long Island Rail Road, and Metro-North Railroad.

The MTA Capital Program will invest $14.85 billion on core system improvements and repairs, and renewing improving the MTA’s existing infrastructure. The program also includes $2.5 billion to advance the design and construction of several major projects that will expand the transit network. The program will also spend $495 million on security to allow the MTA to complete the protection of its assets, which was begun in its last capital campaign. The bond act provides $1.45 billion to support these program efforts.

If approved by voters in November, the Bond Act funding will be used for DOT projects including $50 million for non-MTA lines and $135 million for rail and port improvements.

MTA Projects will include $450 million for East Side Access, $450 million for the 2nd Avenue subway, $100 million for the JFK Rail Link; and $450 million for core infrastructure needs.

In Nassau and Suffolk Counties, $110 million will go to reduce truck congestion on Long Island to improve rail freight access on Long Island.


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Utah may outsource commuter line

The Utah Transit Authority, which just recently won approval from the Federal Transit Administration to begin construction of its commuter line, is considering outsourcing operation and maintenance of its planned $580 million system.

John Inglish, the agency’s general manager, said he would prefer to use UTA employees to run the trains, but would look at operations in other cities for ideas, The AP reported last week.

“Our people are great,” he said, adding UTA bus drivers have shown the ability to adapt to TRAX operations – but commuter rail, with its diesel locomotives, requires more complex training.

The decision would have to be made by the spring in order to solicit contract bids, he said July 14.

Steve Meyer, UTA commuter-rail manager, said outsourcing is common in the transit industry. UTA is researching what other agencies have done, and has found that in general, the newer the system, the more likely it is to outsource.

The Southern California Regional Rail Authority in Los Angeles contracts with Amtrak to run its Metrolink commuter trains that connect six counties. In Baltimore, the Maryland Transit Administration has multiple contracts for services on its MARC system, said MTA spokesman Walter Hayes. Amtrak and CSX own the rails, but CSX employees operate the trains.

“That was sort of the deal, (because) we’re using their tracks,” Hayes told The Salt Lake Tribune.

Meyer said UTA will own its system’s 44 miles of track to avoid having to make deals with Union Pacific over use of the rails.

If UTA did contract out, the company chosen to run the trains would move into the UTA facility and would be under the agency’s control.

“I don’t think you could tell who was a transit agency employee or who was a contract employee,” Meyer said. “They have the same maintenance coveralls. I don’t think the public would see a difference.”

Robert Baty, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 382, said the union would like the 35 or 40 new commuter rail operators to be UTA employees.

“We’re going to do our best as a union to secure the work for our work force,” he said. “John (Inglish) has realities he has to deal with. It may turn out to be something we’re going have fight for.”

The heavy rail diesel-electric locomotives require more intense training than anything UTA now has, said Meyer. Amtrak operators undergo a year of training. UP engineers learn first on simulators, then have extensive cab instruction.

TRAX drivers have about a week of classroom instruction before they take their first run as operators.

Meyer said the benefits of keeping operations in-house include a more stable work force and not having to pay contractors. On the other hand, contracting out would mean getting experienced operators right away, lower wage and benefit costs and incentive-based systems to ensure quality service.


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LIRR forced to replace bad ties

Thousands of newly installed concrete railroad ties expected to last more than 50 years must be replaced after some of them started to crack and fracture, Long Island Rail Road officials said Thursday.

LIRR President James Dermody said not all of the ties are faulty, but so many have had problems recently that the railroad is replacing an entire 6.2-mile section of 16,000 ties between Jamaica and Long Island City that were manufactured by Rocla Concrete Tie Inc. of Denver.

Newsday, of Melville, N.Y., reported on Friday that Dermody blamed the problem on a bad batch of concrete and said that more ties may need to be replaced next year in the same corridor. Also, cracks have been discovered in another section of the railroad with ties manufactured by Rocla, along all four tracks between Jamaica and Queens Village that were installed in 2001.

“We’re convinced it’s a batch problem – the mixture that went into it,” he said.

An LIRR committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority approved spending more than $3.6 million on Thursday to replace the ties and complete other related trackwork. A total of 16,000 ties, which were installed in 1997-98, will be replaced.

The railroad has installed up to 200,000 concrete ties throughout the system so far, but has not found the problem in other locations. However, Dermody said both Metro-North Railroad and Amtrak have experienced similar problems with cracked ties made by Rocla. Metro-North is expected to start replacing some of its concrete ties next week.

The ties themselves are under warranty for 25 years, but the railroad and the manufacturer are working out the details of who will pay for installation and labor.

Rocla officials did not return a telephone call from Newsday for comment.

“The railroad shouldn’t be footing the bill for any of the repairs regarding the deteriorating railroad ties,” said James McGovern, chairman of the LIRR Commuter’s Council.

Dermody said routine inspections revealed the problem about six months ago and railroad workers starting replacing cracked ties, but as they discovered more cracks, railroad workers realized the problem wasn’t just with a few pieces. The railroad has since removed about 500 ties.

“It was more and more of a pattern,” he said.

“We’d get a bad one and have to remove one or two right alongside of it.”

Dermody said the LIRR plans to replace the ties starting in October with minor disruptions to the weekend schedule, but he also said it’s likely that another 16,000 will have to be replaced next year.

He also said the railroad has hired a consultant to oversee the manufacturing of the ties.

In 2002, railroad officials said concrete ties make the ride smoother and last much longer than their wooden predecessors.


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APTA HIGHLIGHTS...  APTA Highlights...

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.


U.S. Public Transit Systems Increase Vigilance After London Bombings

After four bombs exploded July 7 in London’s subway and bus system, U.S. public transit agencies stepped up precautionary security measures aimed at protecting their passengers and the infrastructure.

Federal officials responded later that day by elevating the alert for the nation’s rail, subway, and bus systems. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security raised the color-coded alert from yellow to orange, the second highest on a five-point scale. The higher alert remained in effect as Passenger Transport went to press July 13.

The elevated alert immediately translated into additional security measures at transit agencies around the country, such as increased police visibility, undercover security, canine patrols, and security sweeps on vehicles and at stations. Transit passengers were called on to be more vigilant, and to report suspicious activity.

“There is no priority more important to our nation’s public transportation systems than safety and security,” said APTA President William W. Millar.

“The federal government is responsible for national security, and should make transit security a top priority,” he stressed.


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MacLennan Dies; Past Houston Metro GM, APTA Hall of Famer

Robert G. MacLennan, 73, general manager of Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County from 1989 to 1998, died July 2. According to the system, MacLennan’s nine-year tenure was the longest of any chief executive in its history.

MacLennan joined Houston Metro in 1986 as assistant general manager for engineering, construction, and real estate. Earlier, he was deputy assistant director of the Public Works Department for the City of Houston; senior vice president and manager of operations with Bovay Engineers; and served in various jobs with the U.S. Corps of Engineers more than 23 years, retiring as a colonel.

MacLennan was active in APTA, serving as vice-chair for bus operations, and was named to the APTA Hall of Fame in 2001.


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Las Vegas Monorail Assumes Management Assets, Names New Head

The Las Vegas Monorail Co. has agreed to merge all assets from Transit Systems Management, the management company formed by the late Bob Broadbent, into the non-profit monorail corporation, and has named Curtis Myles as its new president, effective July 18.

Myles currently serves as deputy general manager of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. He has more than 19 years of experience managing transportation organizations. Prior to joining the RTC, he served as assistant director of aviation at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

When the Las Vegas Monorail Co. was created as a special-purpose, nonprofit corporation, it signed a management agreement with TSM that is set to expire at the end of August. Rather than renew the contract or seek bids from other potential management firms, Monorail Board Chairman John Haycock said that it “just made sense to take the management of the organization in-house; keep existing staff, assets, and capital equipment; and manage the organization in a more traditional way. We’ll no longer contract for management services. Instead, the board will hire a CEO and that person will manage the staff that currently works for TSM.”


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Skoutelas to Step Down as CEO in Pittsburgh; Joins PB

Paul P. Skoutelas, CEO of Pittsburgh’s Port Authority of Allegheny County and APTA secretary-treasurer, has announced that he will leave the authority effective September 12 to join Parsons Brinckerhoff as a senior vice-president and a principal consultant with PB Consult, PB’s management and strategic consulting subsidiary.

Skoutelas originally began his Port Authority career in 1980, serving in various planning and corporate capacities including deputy executive director. He rejoined the authority as its CEO in March 1997, after serving as CEO of LYNX/Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority in Orlando. LYNX became the fastest-growing transit system in the nation during his time there, with ridership doubling over five-years.

For APTA, in addition to serving as secretary-treasurer on the board of directors and executive committee, Skoutelas is a member of the American Public Transportation Foundation; Legislative Committee; Rail Standards Policy and Planning Committee; Rail Transit CEOs Subcommittee; Rail Transit Committee; and Rail Transit Conference Planning Subcommittee.


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Irwin Retires from BC Transit

BC Transit in Victoria, B.C., has announced that its president and CEO, Robert H. Irwin, plans to retire today.

During his six years with the system, Irwin has been responsible for delivery of transit services in 53 communities throughout British Columbia, Canada. Earlier, he served the city of Calgary for 18 years as general manager of Calgary Transit and director of transportation.

Irwin is active with APTA, currently serving as a regional director on the APTA Board of Directors and a member of the Bus and Paratransit CEOs Committee, Member Services Committee, and Research and Technology Committee. He served two terms on the APTA Executive Committee as vice chair-Canadian members, and was a member of the APTA Nominating Committee.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

EMD Demo engines

For NCI: Marcus Neubacher

EMD demonstrators SD70M-2 X75 and X76 roll by a golf course crossing in Danville, Va. on Norfolk Southern train No. S 25T on July 16. EMD states on its website the 4,300 THP locomotives are equipped with EMD’s 16-710G3C-T2 engine, which are EPA Tier-2 emissions certified. “Its tractive and braking effort capability,” says EMD, is “113,100 pounds continuous TE, 163,000 pounds starting TE and 86,850 pounds braking effort.” Train simulation results indicate that 3 SD70M-2s can replace 4 SD40-2s. The engines are expected to go to Chattanooga to be painted in the new NS scheme and to be renumbered 2701 and 2702.

 

BNSF spends $13.5million
upgrading Montana ‘Hi-Line’

BNSF Ry. is undertaking its largest railroad upgrade along the Montana Hi-Line in more than 25 years, part of a $54 million improvement project in the state, reports The AP from Malta, Mont.

Some 250 railroaders currently are at work on a $13.5 million project from the Chinook area to Bowdoin, just east of Malta, replacing about 82,000 wooden railroad ties and upgrading miles of rail along the 83-mile stretch.

Work on another stretch of track in the Stanford area wrapped up about six weeks ago, and crews are expected to make repairs on track from Havre to Whitefish, beginning in August.

“With the 80-plus trains that we run through Montana daily, and that includes local service as well as through trains, it’s critical to have an upgraded track program,” said Gus Melonas, a BNSF spokesman in Seattle.

“There’s always an anxious customer at the end of the line waiting for the cars’ safe and efficient arrival.”

The track improvements are expected to allow trains to operate at maximum speed across the Hi-Line – 70 mph for freight trains and 79 mph for Amtrak, Melonas said. Amtrak uses the Hi-Line route for its Chicago-Seattle Empire Builder.

Trains currently lose roughly 20 minutes in Montana from traveling through “slow order” zones where track conditions require slower speeds, Melonas said.

The rail improvement work has been a boon for Malta, where every hotel room was full on July 19 and local restaurants feeding the rail workers find business brisk.

“It’s been a very good deal,” said Lary Poulton, whose bulk fuel company, Ezzie’s Wholesale, Inc., is supplying diesel and oil for BNSF track equipment and locomotives.

“Their vehicles fueling up have been going to the local (gas) stations and that’s been a big boost for them, plus the snacks and the pop and the mosquito spray,” he added.

“It’s been a very positive impact on our community, especially the motels are seeing the benefit and the taverns, restaurants, grocery stores, Laundromats,” said Anne Boothe, director of the Malta-based Phillco economic development group. Malta often hosts railroad crews, “but not of this magnitude and not this length of stay,” she added.


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BNSF, UP emissions deal gets review

Stunned by a public backlash, California Air Resources Board directors Thursday promised to take a hard look at their staff’s secret pact to regulate rail yard emissions that threatens to intercept tougher standards sought by Los Angeles smog fighters and some lawmakers – but the directors’ intervention may carry consequences. The major railroads involved, BNSF and Union Pacific, could walk away from the voluntary agreement, costing the state an opportunity to reduce locomotive diesel exhaust by 20 percent over three years statewide.

The extraordinary and unanimous intervention, Copley News Service reported last week from Sacramento via the Daily Breeze of Torrance Calif., calls for a series of public workshops in August followed by a September 22 vote on the merits of the deal.

More broadly, the air board also moved to strip the executive officer of the power to strike similar deals in private. From now on, public notice must be given at the outset of negotiations followed by board review and approval.

However, air board members took great pains to make it clear that the response was not meant to be critical of the specifics of the deal and should not be taken as any signal that the agreement with the railroads will not be ratified. The board refused to act immediately to delay implementation of the pact that went into effect June 30.

The statewide deal calls for railroads to regulate idling, make an early switch to cleaner-burning diesel fuel and undertake health-risk assessments in nearby neighborhoods.

In Los Angeles, the South Coast Air Quality Management attacked the agreement as a ploy to ward off its efforts to tighten local standards. If the railroads win, other polluters, such as cruise lines, will be encouraged to press similar strategies, regulators warned.

“One of our concerns is they’re liable to duplicate this process and come up with a weak agreement,” said Barry Wallerstein, executive director of the AQMD.

Wallerstein said the agreement includes a so-called “poison pill” that would allow the railroads to walk away if an agency like the AQMD or the state legislature implements tougher standards than those folded into the accord.

“The poison pill provision is meant as a deterrent from legislation or any future regulatory action,” Wallerstein claimed.

Legislation is pending, including a measure that would extend the local air district’s authority to impose mitigation fees for environmental harm caused by locomotives and railroad yards.

A nagging problem for South Coast, however, is whether it has legal jurisdiction over an industry that crosses state lines.

Wallerstein argued that the AQMD is on solid legal footing, but the railroads disagree vehemently. Nevertheless, the industry supports an in-state agreement that provides for uniform regulation.

Kirk Marckwald, a San Francisco consultant helping railroads in the negotiations, said he is confident the public will embrace the plan once it receives a full airing.

“Breathers in and around rail yards are going to be better off for it,” he said. The deal will help bring about change “further and faster,” he added.

Marckwald didn’t convince those asking the board to reverse course.

“Have consideration for the kids,” urged neighborhood activist Leonard Mendoza of Commerce, whose group sides with the AQMD.

Several officials told of being shocked upon learning of the secret deal going into effect without public review.

“This caught us by complete surprise. We felt shut out,” said Todd Campbell, a Burbank city councilman and policy director for the Coalition for Clean Air.

Some air board members themselves were unaware a deal was in the works.

Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge, a member of the state air board and an AQMD director, called the process “disappointing,” “dismaying” and “upsetting.”

Cindy Tuck, chairwoman of the state air board, pointed out that this was only the fifth time staff had used its authority to cut similar arrangements with industry.

“It’s not like staff has been adopting these things every month,” she said. Thursday, however, was the first time a board had intervened in any way.

Tuck, appearing to embrace the argument that federal regulations would supersede state authority, called the voluntary steps “an important tool for getting additional emission reductions, particularly from federal sources that are subject to federal pre-emption. ... The goal is to do good things for clean air.”

Board member Sandra Berg, president of Los Angeles-based Ellis Paint Co., suggested that the pact is a good deal for California air quality despite the controversy over how it was put together.

“We are not going to be able to satisfy all of the community needs and keep the voluntary participant at the table,” Berg said.

Later, she added: “We’re not going to get everything we want, but we’re getting more than we had.”


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Byrd supports freight rail bill

Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va, is co-sponsoring legislation to increase protection for freight trains traveling in West Virginia and other states.

The Railroad Carriers and Mass Transportation Protection Act of 2005 would strengthen penalties for acts of terrorism targeting mass transportation systems, Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News reported July 22 via The Charleston Gazette.

Approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this spring, the bipartisan legislation is now poised for approval by the full Senate. The bill’s main sponsor is Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

“Dangerous and hazardous materials are transported by railways in West Virginia and throughout the country. Chemical products produced in the Mountain State are key exports in the state’s economy,” Byrd said.

“Freight rail lines move these products from our chemical facilities to national markets, and we simply are not doing enough to protect them.”

West Virginia is one of the nation’s leading chemical states, producing more than $5 billion worth of chemical products a year, according to the American Chemistry Council.

The state exports more than $1 billion worth of chemicals every year, according to the council.

“Without proper security measures in place, the transporting of West Virginia’s chemical products is vulnerable to attack or sabotage,” Byrd added.

The bill would criminalize acts of placing any biological agents or hazardous materials near railroad tracks, as well as acts designed to disable railroad dispatchers and conductors. The legislation also criminalizes “attempted” terrorist attacks by any individual who threatens or conspires to threaten people on passenger trains.

Earlier this week, Byrd introduced an amendment to provide an additional $1.33 billion to improve security on buses, passenger trains and freight traffic throughout the country.

In recent weeks, the senator has also urged the passage of legislation to increase security at chemical plants themselves.


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KCS leases five branches to Watco

Kansas City Southern is leasing five of its branch lines to the Watco Cos., Inc. (Watco) in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alabama.

Shortline operator Watco owns three railroads in those states.

The leased lines include the KCS Waldron Branch from east of Heavener, Okla., to Waldron, Ark.; the Nashville Branch from Ashdown to Nashville, Ark.; the Hodge Subdivision from Gibsland to north of Pineville Junction, La.

The other lines include the Minden Branch, including the Hope Subdivision from Springhill to east of Hinkle, La., and the Sibley Branch from Minden to Sibley, La.; the Tuscaloosa Branch, which includes the Tuscaloosa Subdivision east of Columbus, Miss., to Tuscaloosa, Ala., the Warrior Branch between Tuscaloosa and Fox, Ala., and the Brookwood Branch from Brookwood Junction to Brookwood, Ala.

“With the execution of these leases, KCS will free up resources to focus its energies on our core lines for the movement of NAFTA traffic,” said Art Shoener, KCS president and CEO.

“Watco will continue to provide quality, customer-driven service to our branch line shippers. We view this transaction as win-win for KCS and Watco, as well as our branch and main line customers.”

Under the lease, these branch lines will continue to receive rail service, but from the three railroads owned by Watco instead of KCS. The three railroads are the Arkansas Southern, the Louisiana Southern and the Alabama Southern.

“We are very pleased to have entered into this agreement with KCSR,” said Terry Towner, Watco president and COO.

“Watco has had a long and beneficial relationship with KCS and we look forward to continuing our outstanding relationship with these transactions.”

Towner said, “We are committed to continue delivering quality rail service to our new customers, KCS and the communities served by our three new railroads. We will have the people, the locomotives and the resources ready to achieve maximum customer satisfaction from the very first day, and we are very honored that KCS has chosen us to operate these lines.”

Both Shoener and Towner expect the transition of the rail operations to begin in September on the two Louisiana lines, with the Arkansas and Alabama properties to follow in October and early November. Specific dates will be announced soon.

Watco is based in Pittsburg, Kans., operates 12 shortline railroads, and operates rail transportation service facilities in 19 states.


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Pennsy freight line reopens for traffic

Pennsylvania has reopened a rail freight link in Indiana County that will help boost the region’s economy by retaining 700 jobs and creating 70 new ones while addressing its concerns about heavy truck traffic.

“Today, we mark completion of the reconstruction of 16 miles of rail line between Indiana and Homer City,” said Gov. Rendell said at a grand reopening ceremony on Thursday.

“My administration, the federal government and the Buffalo and Pittsburgh Railroad joined in making this improvement possible. This is one more step in our journey to a New Pennsylvania, a Pennsylvania with a thriving economy and good paying, family-sustaining jobs.”

The B&P will deliver coal to the Homer City Generating Station, operated by EME Homer City Generation L.P.

Rendell said the $9.6 million railroad infrastructure improvement project was financed with state and federal grants and private funds from the B&P Railroad. Work included installing 16 miles of continuous welded rail, 41,000 ties and 10 new switches. Thirty-four public and private road crossings were rehabilitated, five new bridge decks were installed, and approximately 30,000 tons of ballast was spread over the line.

“This was an opportunity where state government, joined by the FRA and the B&P Railroad, made a targeted investment that will build our economy and create new jobs,” Rendell said.

He added, “The project itself created 240 construction jobs. We’re looking at retaining the current 700 jobs and expect as many as 70 new jobs between the railroad and the electric utility.”

Rendell noted another benefit of rail transportation is removing an estimated 80,000 trucks a year from the region’s highways. The environmental benefits include reducing traffic congestion, improving air quality, reducing wear and tear on roadways and reducing fuel usage.

The start of service will mark the first time in about a dozen years that trains have crossed Indiana streets and nearby rural roads. The railroad and PennDOT’s Operation Lifesaver have worked with local elected officials, Indiana Univ. representatives, police, firefighters and emergency medical providers to teach residents, students and motorists how to safely deal with train traffic.

Two or three 40-car trains per week are expected to pass through the borough, including the university campus, crossing 19 borough streets, state and township roadways and a dozen private roads, including farm lanes.


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KCS to continue over BNSF for a while

The STB okayed a plan on July 11 between Kansas City Southern and BNSF to let KCS continue running trains over nearly 230 miles of BNSF tracks. The extension is set to expire on November 15. The trains operate over BNSF’s line between milepost 307.5, in Neosho, Mo., and milepost 3.5X, at Murray Yard, in Kansas City, Mo. The original trackage expired on July 21.


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WALL STREET LINES...  Wall Street lines...

BNSF

BNSF (BNI) directors voted Thursday to increase BNSF’s next quarterly dividend by 18 percent, or 3 cents per share, to 20 cents per share on outstanding common stock. It is an annualized 80 cents per share dividend, the firm stated in a press release.

The dividend of 20 cents per share on common stock will be paid October 3 to shareholders of record on September 12. Common shares outstanding on June 30 totaled approximately 373 million, according to BNSF.

The dividend increase follows the 13-percent increase and 25-percent increase approved by BNSF’s directors in July 2004 and July 2003.


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CN

Canadian National Ry. (CNI) last week reported significant financial and operating results for the second quarter and six-month period ended June 30. The diluted earnings per share of $1.47 for the second quarter of 2005 was up 30 per cent from $1.13 reported for second-quarter 2004;

Its second-quarter 2005 net income of $416 million, was an increase of 28 per cent from second-quarter 2004 net income of $326 million, and its second-quarter 2005 operating income was $713 million, an increase of 24 per cent.

In addition, the freight carrier reported a record second-quarter operating ratio of 61.2 per cent, a 4.3-percentage point improvement over second-quarter 2004 performance, and free cash flow of $787 million for the first half of 2005, compared with $587 million for the comparable period of 2004.

In a press release, the firm stated, “Strong results and solid outlook prompt management to increase full-year 2005 earnings guidance – diluted earnings per share for the year are now expected to rise in the range of 20 to 25 percent, compared with previous guidance of 10-15 per cent increase over 2004 EPS of $4.34.”

E. Hunter Harrison, CN president and CEO, said, “CN had a terrific quarter and first half of the year, demonstrating once again the power of the company’s business model – precision railroading and the pursuit of profitable, sustainable growth – along with the strength of our freight franchise. A key measure of our success was a record second-quarter operating ratio of 61.2 percent.”

On the revenue side, he added, “CN’s core merchandise businesses – including forest products, metals and minerals, and petroleum and chemicals – continued to register solid gains during the quarter.”

Harrison noted, “CN’s intermodal business also performed well, benefiting from strong container imports via the Port of Vancouver, as did our coal business, which saw shipments from new metallurgical coal mines in Western Canada. Grain and fertilizers revenues were affected by decreased availability of high-quality grain in Canada, while our automotive business experienced lower production at some of the southern Ontario production facilities we serve.”

He said the railroad’s “free cash flow performance was outstanding and will permit us to reward shareholders with a new share buy-back program effective July 25. Trading was halted for about 30 minutes on the NYSE while CN made the buy-back announcement on July 20.

CN said it plans to purchase for cancellation up to 16 million, or about 6 per cent, of the issued and outstanding shares of the company.

Second-quarter revenues increased by 10 per cent to $1,838 million, largely owing to freight rate increases, which included a higher fuel surcharge as a result of increases in crude oil prices, and the inclusion of revenues from the rail and related holdings of Great Lakes Transportation LLC (GLT) and BC Rail.

Partly offsetting these gains was the unfavorable $80 million translation impact of the stronger Canadian dollar on U.S. dollar denominated revenues.

CN consolidated the operations of GLT and BC Rail on May 10, 2004, and July 14, 2004, respectively.

Operating expenses for the second quarter of 2005 increased by three percent to $1,125 million, largely as a result of increased fuel costs and the inclusion of GLT and BC Rail expenses. These expense increases were partly offset by the favorable $50-million translation impact of the stronger Canadian dollar on U.S.-dollar denominated expenses, and lower labor and fringe benefits expenses.

The continued appreciation of the Canadian dollar reduced the company’s second-quarter 2005 net income by approximately $15 million.


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CN buys back shares

Canadian National Ry. (CNI) reported on July 20 that its directors authorized a “normal course issuer bid” to purchase for cancellation up to 16 million, or approximately 6 per cent, of the common shares outstanding of the company not held by its insiders on July 8, 2005. Approximately 275.4 million CN common shares were issued and outstanding on that date.

The price CN will pay for any common shares will be the market price at the time of acquisition, plus brokerage fees, the railway stated.

This new share buy-back follows the recent completion of the company’s 14-million common share repurchase program announced in October 2004, under which CN paid an average price per share of C$72.94.

The new repurchase program, starting today, and ending no later than July 24, 2006, will be conducted through the facilities of the Toronto and New York stock exchanges and will conform to their regulations.

Claude Mongeau, executive vice-president and CN’s CFO, said, “CN’s superior free cash flow generation capacity and strong balance sheet provide the company with considerable financial and strategic flexibility. CN’s management and directors believe this new share buy-back program is a sound use of cash to enhance shareholder value.”

CN also said its directors approved a third-quarter 2005 dividend on the company’s common shares outstanding. A quarterly dividend of 25 cents (Canadian) per common share will be paid on Sept. 30 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Sept. 9.


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G&W

David C. Hurley, Vice Chairman of PrivatAir, Geneva, Switzerland, was appointed last week as Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (GWI) newest director, effective July 15.


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KCS

Kansas City Southern (KSI) last week declared a cash dividend of $5.3125 per share on its outstanding 4.25 percent Redeemable Cumulative Convertible Perpetual Preferred stock. This dividend will be payable on August 15 to stockholders of record at the close of business on August 1. The directors’ executive committee also declared a cash dividend of $.25 per share on the outstanding 4 percent Non-Cumulative Preferred stock. This dividend will be payable October 4 to stockholders of record at the close of business on September 12.


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UP

Union Pacific Corp. (NYSE: UNP) reported on Thursday its second quarter 2005 net income was $233 million, or 88 cents per diluted share.

“This is a 47 percent improvement compared to the second quarter of 2004 when the company reported net income of $158 million, or 60 cents per diluted share” the railroad reported.

Operating income during the second quarter of 2005 was $468 million, up 30 percent from $359 million reported in the second quarter of 2004.

“We continue to see strong demand for our services and we are improving our ability to handle the increased volumes more efficiently,” said Dick Davidson, chairman and CEO.

Davidson added, “This is our first year-over-year operating income growth in six quarters. While we still have a lot of work to do, our progress is encouraging and we look forward to continuing this positive trend as we begin to see the benefits of our network management initiatives.”

The railroad stated in a press release its quarterly operating revenue “was an all-time record $3.3 billion compared to $3.0 billion in the second quarter of 2004.”

Commodity revenues also set an all-time quarterly record, up 10 percent to $3.2 billion. This compares to $2.9 billion in the second quarter of 2004 “and was driven by a 1 percent increase in volumes as well as higher fuel surcharge recoveries and improved yields.”

Second quarter 2005 operating income of $468 million was the highest reported since the fourth quarter of 2003.

The second quarter 2005 operating margin increased to 14 percent compared to 11.9 percent in 2004.

Two of the Railroad’s three key operating metrics, as reported to the Association of American Railroads, improved in the second quarter of 2005 versus the second quarter of 2004. Average terminal dwell time improved 11 percent from 30.9 hours to 27.4 hours and rail car inventory improved 2 percent to 318,434 cars. Average quarterly train speed fell slightly, from 21.3 mph to 21.2 mph comparing the second quarter of 2004 to 2005.

The railroad’s average quarterly fuel price increased 44 percent versus the year ago quarter, from $1.16 per gallon in 2004 to $1.67 per gallon in the second quarter of 2005.

The carrier said its second quarter commodity revenues increased over its 2004 figures – industrial products rose 19 percent; agricultural up 16 percent; intermodal up 10 percent; chemicals up 7 percent; energy up 5 percent; and automotive up 1 percent.

Davidson kept a bright eye on UP’s future.

“We are confident that the men and women of Union Pacific are taking the right steps to once again produce improving financial results for our shareholders and better service performance for our customers,” Davidson said.

He noted, “Today our company has more business demand than we are able to fulfill – a situation that I haven’t seen during my 45-year career. We are encouraged by the changes we see in our day-to-day operations and firmly believe that the long-term future of this great railroad has never been brighter.”


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Rail traffic up in most recent week

Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was up during the week ended July 16 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the AAR reported Thursday.

Carload freight for the week totaled 321,887 cars, up 1.2 percent from last year. Carload traffic was up 3.6 percent in the West but down 1.9 percent in the East.

Intermodal volume, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 226,580 trailers or containers, up 5.0 percent from last year, with containers up 8.0 percent but trailers down 3.6 percent.

Total volume was estimated at 32.6 billion ton-miles, up 1.9 percent from last year.

Nine of 19 carload commodity groups were up from last year with double digit gains reported in loadings of grain mill products, up 15.8 percent; grain, up 10.1 percent; and farm products other than grain, up 26.8 percent. On the downside, loadings of coke were down 19.0 percent; nonmetallic minerals declined 18.3 percent; and primary forest products were off 11.2 percent.

Cumulative volume for the first 28 weeks of 2005 totaled 9,291,314 carloads, up 1.6 percent from 2004; 6,079,306 trailers or containers, up 6.1 percent; and total volume of an estimated 884.9 billion ton-miles, up 2.4 percent from last year.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended July 16 carload traffic totaled 67,806 cars, down 3.8 percent from last year while intermodal volume totaled 42,550 trailers or containers, down 0.9 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 28 weeks of 2005 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,126,623 carloads, down 0.4 percent from last year, and 1,179,933 trailers and containers, up 2.1 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 28 weeks of 2005 on U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 11,417,937 carloads, up 1.2 percent from last year and 7,259,239 trailers and containers, up 5.4 percent from last year.

The AAR also reported that originated carload freight on the Mexican railroad Transportacion Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM) during the week ended July 16 totaled 7,624 cars, down 4.9 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 2,867 originated trailers or containers, down 9.5 percent from the 28th week of 2004. For the first 28 weeks of 2005, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 240,345 cars, up 0.6 percent from last year, and 106,543 trailers or containers, up 6.3 percent.

Railroads reporting to AAR account for 87 percent of U.S. carload freight and 96 percent of rail intermodal volume. When the U.S. operations of Canadian railroads are included, the figures increase to 96 percent and 100 percent. The Canadian railroads reporting to the AAR account for 91 percent of Canadian rail traffic. Railroads provide more than 40 percent of U.S. intercity freight transportation, more than any other mode, and rail traffic figures are regarded as an important economic indicator.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.


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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Earlier
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)52.1448.64
Canadian National (CNI)63.7659.76
Canadian Pacific (CP) 36.3534.88
CSX (CSX)45.5544.85
Florida East Coast (FLA)45.2544.67
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)29.3728.71
Kansas City Southern (KSU)22.0721.56
Norfolk Southern (NSC)34.8933.17
Providence & Worcester (PWX)14.2514.25
Union Pacific (UNP)68.4665.10


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End Notes...

We try to be accurate in the stories we write, but even seasoned pros err occasionally. If you read something you know to be amiss, or if you have a question about a topic, we’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail the crew at leoking@nationalcorridors.org. Please include your name, and the community and state from which you write.

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In an effort to expand the on-line experience at the National Corridors Initiative web site, we have added a page featuring links to other rail travel sites. We hope to provide links to those cities or states that are working on rail transportation initiatives – state DOTs, legislators, governor’s offices, and transportation professionals – as well as some links for travelers, enthusiasts, and hobbyists.

If you have a favorite rail link, please send the uniform resource locator address (URL) to the webmaster in care of this web site. An e-mail link appears at the bottom of the NCI web site pages to get in touch with D. M. Kirkpatrick, NCI’s webmaster in Boston.


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