Vol. 6 No. 32
August 8, 2005

Copyright © 2005
NCI Inc., All Rights Reserved

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… 
A note to journalists…
New York-Philadelphia trains stop; sinkhole disrupts
   Amtrak, CSX
Amtrak gets tough with CSX
DHS grants Amtrak $6.3 million
Carolinian derails; truckers die
Hialeah gets wheel-truing machine
‘Cat’ replacement will bring higher speeds to Corridor
  Safety lines… 
Healing leaves NTSB early
Deaths rising in Columbia Gorge
  Builders’ lines… 
Utah buying Bombardier double-deckers
  Commuter lines… 
NJT ready carry bulk of PGA fans
Dorn leaving FTA
First Ogden building falls at station site
Rails planted on Greenbush route
Fewer riders on Boston’s subways
Trans-Texas corridor lives on with
   rails, roads; 50-year ‘TxDOT’ project
  APTA Highlights… 
Cowen Dies; General Manager in Honolulu, Transit Industry Veteran
Kingsberry Named to Head DTC on Permanent Basis
FTA Administrator Dorn Nominated to World Bank Post
  Freight lines… 
UP, EPA at odds over lead contamination
UP calls them ‘Heritage Series’ locomotives
Gotham gets a tunnel plan it wasn’t expecting
  Wall Street lines… 
Rail traffic is up in July
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Across the pond… 
Two Koreas to open rail link
Subway hole finds Ottoman, Byzantine eras
Russians developing railroad mine detector
  We get letters… 
  End notes… 


A note to journalists…

The National Corridors Initiative is a bi-partisan, non-profit organization headquartered in Rhode Island with offices in Providence, Boston, and Mystic, Conn. Our primary readership is transportation advocates who favor balancing out America's highway-skewed transportation system, plus environmentalists, economists, railroaders (both labor and executives), political leaders at all levels of government, and journalists. Feel free to e-mail our CEO, Jim RePass, with questions, at jprepass@nationalcorridors.org.

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New York-Philadelphia trains stop;
sinkhole disrupts Amtrak, CSX

Two incidents last week disrupted Amtrak service for a time. In New York, a catenary outage stopped the trains for a time, and in Florida, a hole in the ground stopped them for several hours.

All Amtrak trains traveling between New York City and Philadelphia were canceled August 3 evening, inconveniencing thousands of commuters and other travelers. A train eventually left New York shortly before midnight.

Service was first shut down around 6:30 p.m. because of a power failure in Pennsylvania, according to a New York Times report. Catenary was knocked down between Levittown and Grundy, Pa., and service between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. was also reduced.

A commuter train on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority apparently knocked down the wires, officials said.

Trains on New Jersey Transit lines were also affected, but largely restored by the late evening.

In Florida, Amtrak service resumed August 1 near Deland after a sinkhole opened up under CSX tracks, causing delays for five passenger trains and hundreds of passengers. Several freight trains were also delayed, including the first one, whose crew found the sinkhole, went on the ground after rolling over the hole. DeLand is about 35 miles north of Orlando. In all, 1,212 Florida passengers were affected.

Amtrak spokeswoman Tracey Connell said train No. 92, the Silver Star on its northbound Miami-New York run; No. 98, the Silver Meteor from Miami to New York; and the northward AutoTrain, No. 52 from Sanford, were routed through Lakeland to Jacksonville to avoid the damaged tracks. All three trains were delayed, the Lakeland Ledger reported.

Some 195 passengers the Silver Meteor were bused from Miami to Sanford to board the train to make up for lost time caused by the delay, Connell said. DeLand is northeast of Sanford.

Work crews filled up the sinkhole that opened up just north of DeLand and installed a larger pipe to improve drainage in the area, said Gary Sease, a spokesman for Jacksonville-based CSX.

Engineers thought the tracks could be repaired a few hours, but rushing water from thunderstorms spilled into the hole, thwarting efforts to temporarily rebuild the roadbed, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

“The water is flowing so rapidly that we can’t get it to hold,” Sease said.

“We were able to repair the washed-out section to the extent that we can operate trains again going slowly over that area,” Sease said. “Our crews worked very hard through the night to get the line restored.”

Trains were limited to 10 mph over the area until the area was better drained. The track was closed for more than 16 hours, forcing delays and reroutes.

All trains operated normally Monday, except for two AutoTrains, which were canceled and resumed service on Tuesday, Connell said.

The two trains, in Sanford, Fla., and Lorton, Va., together had about 200 passengers.

Sinkholes occur when sand or soil beneath the surface begins to erode and falls into underlying limestone cavities, causing the surface to collapse. Several factors may contribute to the collapse, including drought, excessive water pumping, construction or heavy rain.   

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Amtrak gets tough with CSX

By Leo King

It looks like Amtrak is getting tough with the freight railroads for delaying passenger trains.

D:F has learned in a letter allegedly sent by Amtrak CEO David Gunn to CSX CEO Michael Ward in Jacksonville, Fla., specific lines are in question – the Empire Service route in New York, the Sunset Limited, which also operates over Union Pacific west of New Orleans, Florida service, and trains operating between Richmond, Va., and Washington.

Cliff Black, Amtrak’s director of media relations, would neither confirm nor deny the letter from Gunn was legitimate. He told D:F, “Generally speaking, these kinds of letters are sent as private correspondence and so we are not going to comment one way or another as to its authenticity.” The letter was apparently written June 8 but did not come to light until late July.

Gunn apparently wrote, “I am writing to call your attention to extremely serious service problems with Amtrak trains operating on CSXT, and to seek your personal assistance to improve the situation.”

Gunn cited upstate New York service, writing that “Unexpected major delays, approaching seven hours, [are] part of wider problems in your operation in New York State starting in mid-April. Amtrak has been forced to add time to selected schedules on an emergency basis to minimize public outcry.”

Trains 1 and 2, the Sunset Limited between Los Angeles and Orlando, Fla., were also on his list.

He cited “unexpected major delays (up to four hours) traversing CSXT’s Gentilly Yard in the New Orleans area over a period of several weeks.”

Gunn stated, “State-funded track and signal improvements were made to this area, and along CSXT’s line to Jacksonville, Fla., to avoid these problems. Yet, despite the fact that Amtrak’s eastbound Sunset Limited has left New Orleans on-time nearly every trip since our new schedule took effect March 8, after traversing CSXT the train has not arrived on schedule at Orlando even once, instead averaging over two hours late.”

In other Florida trains, he cited “recurring major delays, resulting in Amtrak’s flagship AutoTrain registering endpoint on-time performance of only 18 percent in April (down from 70s in late 2003), and Silver Meteor at 8 percent OTP.”

Trains operating between Richmond and Washington were also on his list.

“There are also significant continuing delays in the Richmond area, including a multi-hour blockage of your main line by freight trains north of Richmond on May 11.”

Taking a broader view, he wrote, “During April, delay minutes per 10,000 Amtrak train-miles on CSXT reached the highest level recorded on a major host railroad during the nearly five years that Amtrak has kept records in this format, other than spring/summer months on the Union Pacific. This despite the fact that Amtrak eliminated a train with some of the highest CSXT delays per 10,000 train-miles, the Three Rivers; and at great financial loss and passenger inconvenience Amtrak bused trains around CSXT’s North End Subdivision trackwork, thereby avoiding trackwork delays for these trains being counted in the 10,000 train-mile statistic. Yet CSXT delays still soared, and we have not yet entered the major summer heat order season.”

He added, “In April, delays per 10,000 train-miles on the other major host railroads all held steady or declined from March. Those roads are also doing track maintenance projects and are also experiencing record levels of traffic,” and he was critical of CSX practices.

“To a greater degree than Amtrak’s other host railroads, CSXT seems to have infrastructure that is struggling to handle traffic volumes, or serious dispatching problems, or a combination of the two.

“We know that you are attempting to address both. We know that CSXT is undertaking some major infrastructure rebuilding projects, such as the North End Sub and the Nahunta Sub, and we know CSXT has recently begun to add new Southern Region managers in your operations center to try to improve your performance. Amtrak is also participating actively with CSXT in adjusting Silver Service schedules to improve performance in light of recent run-time tests, current Amtrak train consists, passenger market needs, and CSXT’s One Plan freight schedules.”

Gunn noted, “All these are positive steps, but are somewhat long range. In the here-and-now, the service problems Amtrak is encountering on CSXT seem to have surpassed the ability of CSXT staff to influence or improve them.”

He wrote he was “looking to you to continue to address underlying infrastructure and dispatching problems, but at the same time charge your organization with minimizing delays to Amtrak trains, particularly the sudden, unexpected, extremely large delays encountered recently on the Empire and Sunset routes. These service problems are causing significant inconvenience to Amtrak's customers and significant Amtrak operating inefficiencies, leading to Amtrak revenue losses and cost increases. We simply must do better.”

He added that he wanted to meet with Ward “To discuss specific steps that CSXT can take, in cooperation with Amtrak, not only to prevent Amtrak service from deteriorating further over the summer, but to improve service to levels that are reasonable for the traveling public and are acceptable to our state partners.”

The letter was made public on a railroad enthusiast web site, On Track Online.    

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DHS grants Amtrak $6.3 million

Amtrak is getting a $6.3 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security. The cash will be used as part of the Intercity Passenger Rail Security Grant Program that will enable the company to support a number of security enhancements in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and Chicago hub area.

Amtrak Ink, the railroad’s employee newspaper, reports in its July issue, a required preliminary risk assessment must be completed in both regions “so that the railroad can address its most critical security needs first.”

The risk assessment, costing $750,000, brings the total monetary benefit to Amtrak to $7.1 million. Currently underway, the analysis will be completed by September 30, when the carrier’s fiscal year ends.

The preliminary risk assessment, conducted jointly by a DHS contractor and Amtrak, “parallels the existing Port/Mass Transit Technical Assistance Program prepared by the DHS Office of Domestic Preparedness and the results will be integrated into other assessment results already completed for the major transit agencies whose systems overlap with Amtrak’s.”

Once the assessment is complete, the bulk of the grant money will be accessible over 30 months, Amtrak said.

“This funding will make it possible to implement a number of specific technical programs that will enable the company to ‘work smart’ when it comes to protecting employees and passengers,” said Al Broadbent, Amtrak’s vice-president for security.

Amtrak will participate in a 30-month research and development program to test a new generation of surveillance software and equipment. Additionally, Amtrak will acquire portable radiation detection devices to be used in detecting “radiation dispersal devices” in stations and on board trains.

Several other projects will also enhance detection capabilities, including “PROTECT” – Program for Response Options and Technology Enhancements for Chemical Terrorism, – which will provide an early warning and crisis management system in the event of a chemical attack.

In another effort, grant money will be used for 10 additional K-9 teams in the Northeast Corridor and Chicago area that will detect and respond to explosive device incidents and calls for service. Amtrak also plans to acquire explosive-resistant trash receptacles that will minimize the effect of an explosive device detonated within. While these receptacles are already in use at many locations, the grant funds will allow Amtrak to purchase additional receptacles for stations in the Northeast Corridor and Chicago.

The grant will also fund the acquisition of four portable explosive trace detectors for use at select stations.

Elsewhere, four X-ray machines will be placed in stations throughout the Northeast Corridor and Chicago to screen packages, mail, carry-on items, luggage and other items. The funds will also go toward enhancing Amtrak’s current public awareness “See Something, Say Something” message, using a range of methods, such as publications, signs, station announcements and electronic communications.

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Carolinian derails; truckers die

Amtrak’s Carolinian derailed and a truck driver died August 2 along with his passenger after the truck driver ignored flashing lights and swerved around a lowered crossing gate, according to authorities.

Chris McCullough, 34, of Garner, N.C. and Keith Spence, 33, of Raleigh died, Raleigh police said.

The northbound Carolinian, train No. 80, had just left the Raleigh station with its 180 passengers and four crewmembers, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. After the crash, at least 14 passengers were taken to a local medical facility with injuries that were not life-threatening, police said. Uninjured passengers were taken by bus to the Raleigh Convention Center where they made other arrangements for travel.

Five of the train’s eight cars, including the engine, were knocked off the tracks but remained upright, police said.

Although Amtrak trains normally reach speeds of 79 mph, the authorized speed at the site of the crash was 50 mph, according to Amtrak officials.

The dump truck had left a rock quarry at about 12:18 p.m., police said. McCullough drove and Spence sat in the passenger seat. They were headed to a grading job with a load of stones, according to Spence’s co-workers.

The railroad crossing’s gate began to lower, eyewitnesses said. Red lights flashed while warning bells clanged.

Police said McCullough had had several traffic violations, including citations for speeding and driving with an expired registration.

“For an unknown reason, the driver of the truck did not stop and drove around the gate to the left,” said Jim Sughrue, police spokesman.

He noted, “The cab of the truck was directly impacted by the train at the crossing.”

In 2004, about 3,000 collisions occurred in the U.S. at train crossings, killing about 370, according to a report by the inspector general of the U.S.

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Hialeah gets wheel-truing machine

A wheel-truing machine is slated to begin operating any day now at the Hialeah, Fla., Service and inspection (S&I) facility that will improve cost and operational efficiency.

Amtrak paid $1.4 million for the machine and construction for the site, and in about two years it is expected to pay for itself. It will save Amtrak up to $750,000 per year. The device shaves steel off wheels to make them perfectly round again.

“Standard maintenance that includes proper oil and hydraulic fluid changes will lead to machine life between 20 and 30 years before replacement is considered,” said Amtrak Southern Division Master Mechanic Tommy Farr.

The machine is also projected to improve operations. It will allow Hialeah mechanics to true the wheels while they are still on the car, rather than the current process of taking each car to a drop table, disconnecting each bad wheel and replacing it with a “true” wheel and then moving the car – a job that averages about two hours.

Instead, the machine will be in the pit with the car passing atop, reducing the time the process takes by about half. It will also cut the replacement numbers by two-thirds because the mechanics won’t have to remove and replace an average of 1,400 wheels per year.

The machine may open a market for the Hialeah facility to provide service to other railroads, added Farr.

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Upgrading the catenary

Amtrak Ink

Sixteen feet above the track, the Perryville electric traction crews pull the slack from the catenary trolley wire as they stand on the catenary maintenance platform.


‘Cat’ replacement will bring
higher speeds to Corridor

Track speeds will soon increase from the maximum authorized speed of 80 mph to 125 mph on a 10-mile section of mainline Northeast Corridor track on Amtrak’s Perryville subdivision. It’s near the city of Havre de Grace, Md.

Contact wires, the part of the catenary system that make contact with locomotive pantographs to power the engines, are being replaced by the Mid-Atlantic Division’s engineering forces.

The group is on target for completing this project at the end of August.

“Our electric traction crews have been working on this project since April and have taken the tracks out of service without causing a single delay to the corridor,” said Deputy Chief Engineer Bob Verhelle.

That contact wire is also called the catenary trolley wire.

The wire crews are installing the new “336-trolley wire,” and removing the smaller, worn out “4/0-trolley wire” that is currently supplying the electricity to the locomotives. The new contact wire is wider than that being replaced and has the capacity to carry more current to the locomotive, allowing higher speeds, according to the August issue of Amtrak Ink, the employee monthly newspaper.

During a daytime, five-hour window, the existing 30-year-old contact wire is being replaced because it has become worn to condemnable limits, say electrical engineers.

The replacement process requires track No. 3 to be taken out of service after the rush-hour schedule in the morning for the duration of the four-month project.

After the electric traction crews string out the new contact wire in one or two mile increments, they string the wire while standing on the catenary maintenance vehicle’s hydraulically lifted platform to reach the 16-foot-high wire.

Securing wire in “pinson hangers” – those are special intermediate support hangers – crews pull the slack out of the wire to clear the path for trains to operate through the area later in the day. They call it “initial tension.”

The job happens in three stages.

First, the pinson hangers hold the new contact wires above the existing contact wire while the tension holds the new contact wire in the clear.

The crews then come back the next day during the scheduled track outage to verify that the wire has not lost tension and pull the contact wire tight.

The final stage involves transferring the new wire to the old wire’s position and putting the old wire in the pinson hangers, to be taken down in the next track outage.

Following the removal of the old contact wire, the crews start the entire process over again with a new section of track. The track is then restored to service every afternoon.

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SAFETY LINES...  Safety lines...

Healing leaves NTSB early

“In his final public appearance as a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, Richard Healing put his inner engineer on display” wrote National Journal’s Brian Friel last week.

The Journal reported that at the July 26 NTSB meeting, Healing said he was troubled by something the board’s career investigators had discovered when reviewing a fatal Amtrak derailment in Mississippi last year.

Passengers trying to escape a sleeper car on the derailed train couldn’t get the emergency window to open. The handle didn’t work. Perhaps, Healing said, the bolts holding the handle in place were too small. Whatever the reason for the failure, Healing wanted that concern emphasized in the board’s final report.

Healing’s last day at the board was July 29 – 18 months before his term was due to expire. His resignation leaves the board, which investigates the causes of most major aviation, rail, marine, and other transportation accidents, without a member who has a background in engineering or aviation. The lack of such expertise worries transportation safety advocates, who fear that the NTSB’s effectiveness will drop.

Healing’s departure also comes amid some internal turmoil at the board that has employee representatives warning that morale has sunk to a new low.

The NTSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating transportation accidents and then issuing recommendations on preventing future accidents. The agency has 400 career employees, including investigators and engineers, whose job is to determine the causes of accidents through on-site investigation and data analysis. The technical staff reports its findings to a five-member board, which decides on the final recommendations.

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Deaths rising in Columbia Gorge

Special to D:F

It wasn’t a Christmas tree layout – it was the real thing.

The “Safety Express” did a lap around the Columbia River Gorge last week to point out areas where a growing number of pedestrians and trains are mixing with tragic results.

Because many of the up-coming Lewis and Clark Bicentennial events will be on the banks of the Columbia River, state and rail officials fear what might happen as spectators cross the busy BNSF main line to see history re-enacted. In most areas, the explorers’ campsites are close to the trains.

Statewide, 105 people have lost their lives walking along or across BNSF tracks in the past six years.

The train itself was unusual – three historic passenger cars sandwiched between brightly painted diesels from BNSF and Union Pacific.

The BNSF locomotive led the way from Vancouver east to Wishram, and the UP unit took the lead as the train headed west on the Oregon side of the river.

About 100 people, primarily officers from police agencies and leaders of the upcoming Lewis and Clark Bicentennial, were shown potential problem areas where pedestrians are expected to cross the tracks for Lewis and Clark events, which started August 5.

Thursday’s train ran late, delayed by some of the 40 to 50 BNSF freight trains that use the gorge tracks daily. Lewis and Clark events had not started, but the Columbia Gorge Games in the Hood River area were under way and gave enforcement officers a look at the problems arising when tourists cross the tracks to get to the river.

“We are starting very aggressive enforcement in Vancouver and the outlying areas,” said Gus Melonas, a regional spokesman for the BNSF.

“Anyone on railroad property is trespassing, and police have orders to issue fines. The average fine is $200.”

Railroads treat anyone on the tracks or adjacent right-of-way as a trespasser. The one exception is a marked public crossing.

Melonas said Clark County’s record growth means more residents are building homes near tracks, and more pedestrians are using tracks as shortcuts.

“We have to educate them,” he said.

The railroads also are frequented by the homeless, who illegally ride the rails and establish camps.

“Washington and Oregon are the only states along the Lewis and Clark Trail that are making a safety effort for the Corps of Discovery II,” the name of the expedition’s re-enactment, said Lauren Danner of the Washington State Historical Society’s Lewis and Clark team.

She added that the Portland-Vancouver area is the largest metropolitan area on the trail.

Steve Mills, the safety and crossing authority for the BNSF, said his crews have placed 40 Lewis and Clark warning signs along the tracks between Vancouver and Pasco. He said fencing doesn’t work.

“Fences only stop those individuals who would obey a crossing gate,” Mills added. He said one Puget Sound area safety fence had multiple openings cut within hours of installation.

In addition to the thousands of spectators trying to follow in Lewis and Clark’s footsteps, “We will have thousands of ‘re-enactors’ near the tracks,” said David Nicandri, Washington State Lewis and Clark coordinator.

Melonas said two of the eight fatalities in the gorge since 2003 have been connected to the Lewis and Clark celebration. The two were killed separately while working on photographic projects along the trail.

“The crews say trespassing is getting worse,” Melonas said. He added that the railroads are concerned because trains extend more than three feet on either side of the rails. He said numerous people are killed while walking in what they consider a safe distance from the rail. The rights-of-way can extend more than 100 feet to the side of the tracks, and walking there also is illegal, he said.

“One of the problems today is that trains are quieter,” Melonas said. “The continuous rails have eliminated the ‘clickety-clack’ noise, and people are distracted by everything else that’s happening – their music, phones and friends.

No one today is used to being close to trains.”

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BUILDERS LINES...  Builders’ lines...

Utah buying Bombardier double-deckers

Sounder Transit Units

Bombardier Transportation   

Bombardier Transportation said last week the Utah Transit Authority awarded a $29 million contract for a dozen double-decker coaches with an option for up to 23 additional cars. The Utah cars are expected to be similar to these Sounder cars.

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Utah’s Transit Authority (UTA) awarded a contract last week to Bombardier Transportation for 12 Bombardier BiLevel commuter rail coaches.

The vehicles will be built at Bombardier’s Thunder Bay, Ontario and Plattsburgh, New York, manufacturing facilities. Delivery of the 12 cars is expected to extend from June to October 2006.

Valued at approximately $29 million U.S., the contract calls for the design, manufacture and delivery of the new commuter vehicles. The cars will be used to provide service between North Weber County and Salt Lake City, Utah in its first phase. Future phases will extend commuter rail 120 miles from Brigham City in the north to Payson in the south. The contract includes an option for up to 23 additional cars.

“The BiLevel car continues to be the most popular multi-level commuter rail car in North America with more than 750 BiLevel cars in operation with 11 public transit authorities across Canada and the U.S.,” said William Spurr, President, Bombardier Transportation, North America.

Bombardier recently began delivering double-deckers to a 12th operator, the New Mexico Mid-Region Council of Governments. They are expected to run on the new transit line, the New Mexico Rail Runner Express, by the end of 2005.

“We are very proud to be part of UTA’s vision to provide enhanced and reliable services for its passengers and look forward to a long term relationship with our new customer,” Spurr added.


COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

Rebuilding the catenary

For NCI: ©Joseph M. Calisi

Metro-North Railroad wire crews are building replacement catenary as part of a general rehabilitation between New Haven, Conn., and Grand Central Terminal in New York City as a westward commuter train whizzes by. The Pelham, N.Y. catenary work is in support of building a 45 mph at-grade crossover for the Northeast Corridor onto Metro North at CP 216. It stretches all the way from Pelham to east of CP 217 “East Shell.” Shell Interlocking is where eastbound Amtrak trains join M-N as far as New Haven. M-N kept the original New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad’s track numbering scheme. Eastward local is track 4, eastward express is track 2, westbound express is track 1 and westward local is track 3. The single, southernmost eastbound track at New Rochelle is designated track 6.


NJT ready carry bulk of PGA fans

William Duggan, New Jersey Transit’s vice-president for rail operations, went on a scouting mission last year. Duggan hopped a Long Island Rail Road train in Manhattan and headed out to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton to check out the transportation system put in place for golfing’s U.S. Open.

Three stops before the golf course, Duggan’s train was so packed it had to stop picking up passengers.

“That was the first lesson,” Duggan said, adding, “Be prepared for more volume than you might expect.”

With that in mind, the Newark Star-Ledger wrote last week, NJT will run almost 40 extra trains a day for the PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club this week. The tourney runs through Sunday.

Those trains will run to and from Summit station, where the PGA will provide 30 buses to shuttle fans the two miles to the golf course in Springfield. Summit station is part of NJT’s Morris and Essex line, but passengers can board trains at any station in the state and make connections – mainly at Secaucus Jct.

“We’re really hoping people take the train,” said Marc La Vorgna, spokesman for the New Jersey DOT.

“That’s the best way to avoid potential delays and being stuck in traffic,” he said.

For the 200,000 or so fans expected who don’t take La Vorgna’s advice, the options for getting to Baltusrol are pretty limited and uninviting, especially since nearby Route 78 can get choked with traffic on normal commuting days.

Then there’s the parking issue.

The only spots available at the club will be set aside for staff, volunteers and people with tickets from corporate sponsors.

On a regular weekday, about 3,165 people board trains at Summit station. Transit officials say the extra trains for PGA week – 37 each weekday and 38 on both Saturday and Sunday when 35,000 fans are expected – will provide enough capacity for five-times that many people to take the rails to the tournament.

To come up with all those extra coaches, NJT decided to cancel 13 trains on the Montclair-Boonton Direct line between 10 a.m. and 4:02 p.m. on weekdays.

The agency is advising customers who normally use those trains to take regular Montclair-Boonton trains to Newark Broad Street station and then switch to Midtown Direct into Manhattan.

In most cases, the transfer time at Newark Broad Street will be six to 12 minutes, NJ Transit spokesman Dan Stessel said, but people on the train that leaves Montclair State Univ. station at 11:52 a.m. on weekdays will run into a 31-minute delay when switching trains, he said.

Transit officials said they picked the off-peak Montclair-Boonton trains because they have the lowest ridership of the four lines going to Manhattan.

Not everyone was happy with the temporary change.

“This is a shabby way for New Jersey Transit to treat its regular passengers,” said Joe Grossman, a rider on the Montclair-Boonton line.

“Since there is probably very little parking at the golf course, people who want to go there will probably have to take the train anyway. Let them have a longer trip and leave the Montclair schedule intact. Let’s give working people a break for a change.”

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Dorn leaving FTA

Jennifer Dorn is leaving the Federal Transit Administration, pending Senate confirmation of her nomination by President Bush as U.S. alternate Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), one of two American representatives to the governing body of the World Bank.

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First Ogden building falls at station site

The first old building to fall for Utah’s new commuter rail line collapsed last week after machines began biting into it in the middle of the Ogden rail yard. The building was torn down August 2 as the first casualty of the Utah Transit Authority’s progress on commuter rail.

“This is the most exciting thing I have going on right now,” Tony Foster told the Ogden Standard-Examiner as he looked up at the building where the excavator chomped away at piles of rubble on the ground.

Foster is the second-in-command for Salt Lake City Commuter Rail Constructors, the company in charge of the 44-mile, $500 million project.

Bits and pieces of preparation work for the transit line have started this week, but the demolition began “real work” on the line.

The structure in the rail yard was just the first of several buildings to be removed to make room for a bridge to get commuter rail trains in and out of the Ogden Intermodal Hub, one of the seven train stops in Weber and Davis counties for the high-speed mass transit.

“This is going to be a good project once we get going,” Foster said.

The CAT excavator, run by Richard Kollmar of Magnum Contractors, knocked over brick walls like they were feathers and twisted steel trusses like string. An air conditioning unit hung precariously balanced by pipes and wires until the roof was whisked away.

The clumsy-looking machine actually organized the rubble very carefully, creating recyclable stacks of bricks, steel and wooden framing. The bleached bricks revealed an orange color in the four-brick thick walls as they came down. The old building housed rubble before it became just that.

Foster estimated the rail yard work would take a lot of fill and time to create the embankments necessary to get commuter rail from the Ogden Intermodal Hub near Wall Avenue and 24th Street over the rail yard tracks and the Weber River to the west side in order to access the rest of the commuter rail stops.

On the west side of the river, the track will then travel under Interstate 15 to get back to the Union Pacific line, said Steve Meyer, UTA project manager for commuter rail.

UTA and Utah DOT are widening the I-15 bridges. UTA is providing land needed by UDOT, and UDOT is helping with the necessary right-of-way for UTA.

Meyer said. the Ogden rail yard “is a really critical area schedule-wise to us.” The bridge will be 38 feet tall, 1,300 feet long and 250 feet wide. Meyer said the settlement of the natural ground is even more important because of the high water table in the area.

There will be an official groundbreaking later this month, though work has already begun along the line, as well as in the Ogden rail yard.

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Rails planted on Greenbush route

Construction has reached a milestone for the Greenbush, Mass. Commuter lines as the first 140-foot section of the entire Greenbush line was planted last week, the Weymouth News reported last week. It’s at a crossing at grade.

Sights and sounds of heavy equipment clearing foliage and installing drainage along the right-of-way, or echoes of rock-pinning machines and diesel engines regrading soil typically mark major construction areas.

Contractor Cashman/Balfour Beatty is doing the major work for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, and Cashman spokesperson Thomas Carroll said the Unicorn Avenue grade crossing is the first of many, but it’s still the first.

“It’s the first visual sign that it’s really a train line and to actually see that go in is pretty exciting,” he said.

Although the first 140 feet of rail is now officially in place much work still lies ahead before more rails are installed.

In Weymouth Landing, a shallow cut, which will allow trains to pass underneath Quincy Avenue in Braintree and Commercial Street in Weymouth, is being dug out.

The shallow cut will be about 30 feet wide and some 20 feet high. The tunnel will allow trains entering Weymouth Landing from either side to make station stops without disrupting traffic.

The Greenbush commuter rail line will run about 18 miles between the Greenbush section of Scituate and East Braintree, then on to South Station in Boston.

Passenger service is projected to begin sometime in 2007 and is tentatively scheduled to make 12 trips each way on weekdays. The train will have stops in East Weymouth and Weymouth Landing.

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Fewer riders on Boston’s subways

The number of people using the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority hit its lowest level in a decade during the first six months of this year, even as the number of people using public transportation in other large cities has risen.

On average, about 100,000 fewer people rode the MBTA’s subways, buses and commuter trains each workday than during peak periods over the past five years, the Boston Globe reported August 1, but bus and commuter rail ridership have increased slightly. The decline in ridership has contributed to the agency’s $20 million deficit.

The biggest decline in ridership has been on the subway, which saw a 15 percent drop since 2000, to an average of 598,200 daily subway commuters per day this year.

MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas said a focus on reliability, cleanliness and accessibility will bring people back to public transportation.

“Ridership is a measure or metric of the success of the MBTA,” said Grabauskas, who has headed the agency since May.

The ‘T’ numbers are estimates from the staff. It is impossible to count exactly how many people get on buses and trains each day, but T officials say the figures are kept each month, so year-to-year comparisons are generally accurate.

Meanwhile, ridership on other public transit systems around the country increased over the past few years as the nation recovered from the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Grabauskas said road improvements and cheaper parking in downtown Boston has made driving more attractive to commuters in recent months.

“We can’t rely on it being so awfully congested on the highways that people will take the T. What we have to rely on is making it a positive experience.”

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Trans-Texas corridor lives on with
rails, roads; 50-year ‘TxDOT’ project

The I-69-Trans-Texas Corridor is alive and well.

It could change the ways of life of people there, according to material presented August 2 by Texas DOT officials. 219 people viewed primary and alternate routes of the proposed corridor during TxDOT’s open house at a civic center in Lufkin, and was the seventh open house held in Deep East Texas this summer, The Lufkin Daily News reported on August 3.

The meetings mark a milestone in the uncertain timeline of events that must transpire before any highway or rail construction can begin. Discussion, planning and meetings on the proposed corridor began shortly after the state government in 1992 highlighted an area of Texas for a future interstate, but TxDOT is still in the first phase of the required environmental assessment study.

TxDOT began collecting information for the first phase of the environmental assessment study more than a decade ago with the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, both the U.S. and Texas Forest Services, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Historical Commission, according to TxDOT’s Doug Booher.

“Environmental studies take a lot of time,” Booher said as he listed the various aspects of the study, including environmentally sensitive areas (such as wetlands), archaeological significant locations, economically stressed communities, endangered species habitats and hazardous material sites.

Ground surveys won’t be conducted until the location of the four-mile wide corridor is finalized, he said.

“The first step is to whittle down the 80-mile-wide band to four miles,” he said.

This first phase is expected to conclude by late 2006 or early 2007, Booher said. Public comments on the proposed routes were accepted at Tuesday’s Lufkin meeting and will continue to be accepted through August 29.

Collecting information from the public of little-known areas that might be endangered by a proposed route – such as an old family or town cemetery, or a poor rural community that would be blown off the map – is a requirement of the study.

I-69 is intended to follow U.S. Highway 59 as much as possible, with public comment on that plan being taken into consideration, Booher said.

A significant difference in the proposed corridor displayed Tuesday night vs. those presented during the 1990s is including utility lines and railways by the Texas legislature, which in October 2002 officially incorporated the I-69 project into its Trans-Texas Corridor project. While the entire TTC project could take 50 years to implement, the I-69-TTC section is considered one of two “high-priority” aspects of the overall state plan, according to TxDOT.

“As envisioned, I-69-TTC would extend from Texarkana, Texas, and southwest of Shreveport, La., to Laredo and the Lower Rio Grande Valle,” a TxDOT brochure states.

“It would be up to 1,200 feet wide and would include separate lanes for passenger vehicles, three lanes in each direction. It would also include a total of six rail lines, one line in each direction for high-speed rail

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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.

Cowen Dies; General Manager in Honolulu, Transit Industry Veteran

James E. Cowen, president and general manager of Oahu Transit Services in Honolulu since 1992 and APTA chair in 1988-89, died July 19, two days after his 80th birthday. The agency operates TheBus fixed route service and TheHandi-Van paratransit.

Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann called Cowen “one of America’s top transit managers,” adding, “I credit Jim’s leadership at TheBus as the driving force toward Honolulu being twice named America’s Best Transit System” by APTA, in 1994 and 2000.

In addition to his term as APTA chair, Cowen headed the Rail Transit Committee in 1987, and received APTA’s highest honor, the Jesse L. Haugh Award, in 1990. Until his death, he was an honorary member of APTA’s board of directors and a member of the APTA Past Chairs Committee. He also was voted Public Official of the Year by Governing Magazine in 1991.

Cowen became the head of the transit division of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District in San Francisco in 1972. He joined TriMet in 1978, overseeing construction of the MAX light rail system, and moved to Hawaii in 1992 following his retirement from TriMet.

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Kingsberry Named to Head DTC on Permanent Basis

Stephen B. Kingsberry, who has been serving as acting executive director of the Delaware Transit Corp./DART First State since January 1, has been named to the position on a permanent basis effective July 1. He succeeds Raymond Miller, who left DTC to lead the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority in Tampa.

Kingsberry joined the Delaware agency as director of development in 1999. In this position, he was responsible for planning, marketing, customer service, mobility brokerage, and service analysis. He earlier was director of administration, finance, and public affairs for the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, and executive director of the Hunterdon Area Rural Transit Authority in New Jersey. He also worked for New Jersey DOT and New Jersey Transit Corp.

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FTA Administrator Dorn Nominated to World Bank Post

President Bush says he intends to nominate Jennifer L. Dorn, administrator of the Federal Transit Administration since 2001, to a two-year term as U.S. alternate executive director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, also known as the World Bank.

The nomination was received in the U.S. Senate and referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. No action is expected on the nomination until September, after Congress returns from its August recess.

Before joining FTA, Dorn was senior vice-president of the American National Red Cross. She earlier was assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Labor under President George H.W. Bush, and associate deputy secretary of transportation at USDOT in the Reagan Administration. Dorn also has served as president of the National Health Museum, and as director of the Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

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FREIGHTLINES...  Freight lines...

Union Pacific

Union Pacific is taking a look back at its corporate history and recognizing many of the elements – the “fallen flags” – that made the sprawling railroad what it is today. Its “heritage series” of locomotives will honor its people and former railroads. Each locomotive will feature a unique paint scheme, incorporating elements of one of the six major railroads that have merged with Union Pacific, beginning with the Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific. UP’s Mark Davis tells D:F “The heritage units painted this year are EMD SD70ACe locomotives. It has not been determined what make or model the other heritage units will be at this time.” The story is below.


UP, EPA at odds over lead contamination

Union Pacific is upset with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Railroad management made that clear in an August 1 press release, which stated, “Union Pacific strongly objects to an order effective today by the Environmental Protection Agency to force the company to pay the entire cost – tens of millions of dollars – of digging up yards to remedy problems created by others at the Omaha Lead Site,” the railroad stated in a press release on August 1.

The Omaha Lead Site is the location of residential properties that EPA claims were impacted by air emissions from two smelters formerly operated in Omaha. One was operated by ASARCO.

“UP’s only role was simply to lease land to the ASARCO lead smelter nearly 60 years ago,” U.P. countered.

“The lease, which covered only a portion of the smelter site, ended in 1946 when ASARCO purchased this land from UP. ASARCO continued to run its lead smelter facility on this land until the 1990s.”

Unlike several companies such as ASARCO that were specifically identified by EPA as causing the problem, “Union Pacific did not contribute any lead to the Omaha Lead Site – yet EPA has chosen not to go after those responsible, but instead go after a local company employing thousands of people in Omaha.”

Studies by the Douglas County Health Department and others show that a primary lead exposure source in Omaha is lead-based paint, yet, argues U.P., “EPA has arbitrarily ignored that problem in favor of digging up yards.”

UP said it is now calling on the EPA “to drop its legal actions and instead work with community leaders on a comprehensive solution.”

Bob Grimaila, UP’s vice-president for Environment and Safety, said, “The EPA continues to ignore suggestions by federal, state and local officials to develop a comprehensive approach to protect Omaha’s children from lead-related hazards.”

He added, “Union Pacific has offered $11 million to fund a comprehensive program to reduce risks associated with lead-based paint and lead in soil. The EPA has rejected this offer and instead is choosing the easy way out by targeting UP instead of the truly responsible companies.”

Grimaila said, “EPA is wrong on the facts, wrong on the law, and wrong on the science for a workable solution at the Omaha Lead Site. It is wrong for the EPA to waste tax dollars pursuing non-liable parties such as Union Pacific.”

He added, “Instead, the EPA should get to the heart of the matter – reducing the risk to young children in Omaha by identifying those at risk, addressing lead-based paint and other sources of lead, and educating Omaha citizens about how to prevent lead poisoning.”

He continued, “We believe that UP is not liable for the pollution caused by others and we intend to fight this administratively and in the courts.”

An e-mail query to EPA went unanswered.

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UP calls them ‘Heritage Series’ locomotives
New Engine


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A handful of brand new engines will get special paint schemes in the following months – paint schemes that come from a half-dozen UP predecessors, like fallen flags Missouri Pacific, Western Pacific and others.

UP chairman and CEO Dick Davidson unveiled the new “Heritage” series of locomotives that will honor the people and the railroads ingrained in UP.

“It is important that we take a historical perspective of who we are and how we got here,” Davidson said.

Western Pacific lines allowed UP to enter Oakland and San Francisco while MP doubled UP’s route miles.

He added, “Our reputation as America’s greatest railroad has been strengthened by the many lines that have become a part of the UP. It is time we pay homage to those railroads and the generations of men and women who helped to build a great nation and the foundation for our future.”

The first two locomotives in the series were unveiled on July 30 in Omaha, the railroad’s headquarters. Both locomotives, which pay tribute to the men and women of Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific, will operate across the UP system.

The pair will be followed in coming months by locomotives painted in the style of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (Katy), Chicago & North Western, Southern Pacific, and Denver & Rio Grande.

Through the years, a series of mergers helped Union Pacific create the strongest rail franchise in North America. The addition of MP more than doubled UP’s route miles, WP track led UP to the Ports of San Francisco and Oakland, Katy gave UP access to Texas through Oklahoma, Chicago & North Western brought UP to the Windy City, and Southern Pacific and Denver & Rio Grande Western provided the famous Sunset Route and a direct route through Colorado.

“Thousands of UP employees will soon reach retirement age, and to continue to meet our service demands, thousands of new employees will be hired to take their place,” Davidson said.

“We want to instill in these new employees the importance of UP’s rich history and the major role each of these railroads played,” he added.

The Heritage Series marks the fifth time in company history that UP has painted locomotives in colors other than the traditional UP “Armour Yellow” paint scheme. Previously, locomotives were custom made in 1991 to honor UP employees serving in the Persian Gulf War, in 1994 to call attention to the United Way Campaign, in 1996 for the Atlanta Games Olympic Torch Relay Train, and in 2002 for the Salt Lake City Games Olympic Torch Relay Train.

Gotham gets a tunnel plan it wasn’t expecting

Hours after the House of Representatives approved a big transportation bill on Friday morning, Rep. Jerrold L. Nadler informed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that it would get a $100 million federal grant to design and engineer a freight tunnel under New York Harbor.

Usually, news of such largesse would be cause for celebration, but the Port Authority did not ask for the $100 million, says it did not know about the grant, and is not very interested in the project, The New York Times reported on August 3.

“For us to say that we’re committed at this point in time and can commit any funds to it would be premature,” the authority’s executive director, Kenneth J. Ringler Jr., said last week.

The unusual circumstances surrounding the $100 million grant – which dwarfs all other individual appropriations for New York – reveal much about the peculiarities of federal transportation spending, in which huge appropriations are approved every few years in a manner that some deride as a pork opportunity for individual lawmakers.

In contrast to other projects in the $286.4 billion transportation spending bill, many planners view the cross-harbor tunnel as a worthy endeavor that could sharply reduce traffic congestion, reduce air pollution and improve the movement of goods throughout the region.

No agency has agreed to build the tunnel, which could cost $4.8 billion to $7.4 billion, depending on its width. Under the most optimistic estimates, construction would begin in 2009 and last at least four years.

To complicate matters, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, in a sharp reversal, has come out against the project, citing the objections of residents in and around Maspeth, Queens, where a freight terminal would be built.

The tunnel has been the dream of Nadler, one of the most prominent Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and it would run from Jersey City, N.J., to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. From there, trains would continue on to Queens using existing tracks that connect with the Long Island Rail Road and CSX, the giant freight railroad.

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

FEC on the move

For NCI: Bob Pickering

Florida East Coast Ry. No. 101 is led by General Motors Locomotive Group (EMDX) SD70M-2 Nos. 75 and 76 on their maiden run on FEC. The train is passing South Dorena at Bunnell, Fla., near milepost MJ 29, on August 3. No 74 is at the AAR test facility in Pueblo, Colo.



Canadian Pacific Ry. Ltd. declared a quarterly dividend of 15 cents Canadian per share on its outstanding common shares on August 3. The dividend is payable on October 31 to holders of record at the close of business on September 30.

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Bear Stearns upped Genesee & Wyoming (GWR) to “outperform” on August 4.

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Rail traffic is up in July

Both carload and intermodal freight registered gains on U.S. railroads during July, the AAR reported Thursday.

Carload freight was up just 0.1 percent (645) cars during the month, as U.S. railroads originated 1,270,003 carloads of freight in July 2005. U.S. railroads also originated 879,620 intermodal units in July 2005, an increase of 42,303 trailers and containers (5.1 percent) over July 2004.

Nine of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw U.S. carload increases in July 2005 compared to July 2004.

July’s carload traffic gains were paced by crushed stone, sand, and gravel (up 8,446 carloads, or 9.9 percent, to 93,431 carloads); coal (up 5,724 carloads, or 1.1 percent, to 520,241 carloads); grain mill products (up 3,789 carloads, or 11.1 percent, to 38,069 carloads); and grain (up 3,651 carloads, or 4.7 percent, to 82,077 carloads). Carloads of metals and metal products were down 6,884 carloads (12.6 percent) to 47,855 carloads, and carloads of nonmetallic minerals were down 5,154 carloads (15.3 percent) to 28,536 carloads in July.

For the first five months of 2005, total U.S. rail carloads were up 143,141 carloads (1.5 percent) to 9,957,446 carloads, as year-over-year increases in coal (up 98,201 carloads, or 2.5 percent); crushed stone, sand, and gravel (up 51,010 carloads, or 8.3 percent); and metallic ores (up 18,404 carloads, or 9.3 percent), among other categories, offset declines in motor vehicles & equipment (down 22,850 carloads, or 3.3 percent) and waste & scrap materials (down 19,137 carloads, or 6.2 percent). For the year to date, 13 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR saw carload gains for U.S. railroads.

“Coal originations showed a year-over-year gain in July despite the additional weather-related track maintenance that has slowed traffic on the primary rail line out of the Powder River Basin in Wyoming,” noted AAR Vice President Craig F. Rockey.

“That gain, combined with continued strength in construction materials and a favorable comparison in agricultural traffic, produced an overall increase in U.S. rail traffic.”

U.S. intermodal traffic, which consists of trailers and containers on flat cars and is not included in carload figures, was up 373,281 trailers and containers (6.0 percent) for the first five months of 2005 to 6,545,677 units.

Total volume for the five months was estimated at 950.8 billion ton-miles, up 2.3 percent from 2004.

Canadian rail carload traffic was down 10,422 carloads (3.5 percent) in July 2005 to 284,672 carloads, and down 11,895 carloads (0.5 percent) for the year to date to 2,273,321 carloads. Carloads of coal in Canada, which were up slightly in July 2005 (658 carloads or 1.9 percent) to 35,089 carloads, are up 11,034 carloads (4.4 percent) for the first five months of the year to 263,989 carloads. Carloads of grain for Canadian railroads were down 14.2 percent (5,120 carloads) in July to 30,947 carloads, and carloads of chemicals were down 1,793 carloads (3.3 percent). Traffic levels for the first five months of 2005 for Canadian railroads were up for 12 of the 19 major commodity categories tracked by the AAR.

Canadian intermodal traffic was up 2,331 units (1.4 percent) in July 2005 compared with July 2004 to 169,959 units, and up 28,774 units (2.3 percent) for the first five months of 2005 to 1,266,699 units.

Carloads originated on Transportación Ferroviaria Mexicana (TFM), a major Mexican railroad, were down 846 carloads (2.6 percent) in July 2005 to 31,390 carloads, while intermodal originations of 13,739 were up 642 trailers and containers (4.9 percent). For the first five months of 2005, TFM carloadings were up 720 carloads (0.3 percent) to 255,933 carloads, while intermodal traffic was up 7,365 units (6.9 percent) to 114,355 units.

For just the week ended July 30, the AAR reported the following totals for U.S. railroads: 342,800 carloads, up 1.3 percent from the corresponding week in 2004, with loadings down 0.4 percent in the East and up 2.6 percent in the West; intermodal volume of 223,358 trailers and containers, up 5.9 percent; and total rail traffic volume of an estimated 33.8 billion ton-miles, up 2.4 percent from the equivalent week last year.

For Canadian railroads during the week ended July 30, the AAR reported volume of 74,845 carloads, down 1.2 percent from last year; and 44,204 trailers and containers, up 7.1 percent from the corresponding week in 2004.

Combined cumulative rail volume for the first 30 weeks of 2005 on 15 reporting U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 12,230,767 carloads, up 1.1 percent (131,246 carloads) from last year, and 7,812,376 trailers and containers, up 5.4 percent (402,055 units) from 2004’s first 30 weeks.

The AAR is online at www.aar.org.

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STOCKS...  Selected Friday closing quotes...

Source: MarketWatch.com

  Friday One Week
Burlington Northern & Santa Fe(BNI)54.3854.25
Canadian National (CNI)66.1266.45
Canadian Pacific (CP) 37.8338.84
CSX (CSX)44.8045.54
Florida East Coast (FLA)45.2547.00
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)30.1530.27
Kansas City Southern (KSU)21.7922.56
Norfolk Southern (NSC)37.0237.21
Providence & Worcester (PWX)14.6514.51
Union Pacific (UNP)69.7270.46

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

Two Koreas to open rail link

North and South Korea have agreed to open rail and road links through the border that divides the peninsula in October, Seoul’s unification ministry said on Sunday, in a latest move to revive stalled negotiations, according to Reuters.

The agreement came August 1 as the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the U.S. meet in Beijing to negotiate an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear arms program.

“North and South Korea have agreed to finish construction of two railways as soon as possible and formally open rail and road links in late October,” Seoul’s unification ministry said in a statement.

The agreement also came after Seoul’s Unification minister Chung Dong-young met North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang last month when Kim had proposed opening a west coast railway line through the DMZ border before a rail link on the other coast is finished.

The western line is all but finished and would help boost use of the Kaesong industrial park the South is building just over the border in the North, while the east-coast route is through more difficult terrain and needs more work. Seoul said it has agreed to offer construction materials and equipment to the North as well as technical support.

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Subway hole finds Ottoman, Byzantine eras

The dusty pit next to the governor’s office here looks like any other archaeological dig. Workers chip away gingerly at a half-buried stone wall, carting off the crumbling bricks in a wheelbarrow.

The walls were originally the cellars of houses built 50 to 70 years ago in the early years of the Turkish Republic. Beneath them, archaeologists have uncovered a staircase dating from the late Ottoman Empire, perhaps a century or two old. And lurking beneath that is a genuine treasure: a stone arch that forms part of a cistern from the late Byzantine period, which ended in 1453.

The New York Times of August 2 noted from Istanbul that what sets this site apart is that the diggers are only a step ahead of the bulldozers. Machines will soon tear up this serpentine street in the heart of Istanbul’s old city to put in a station for a new subway line.

“If we find some more important things down there, maybe they’ll cancel the subway,” said one of the archaeologists, Oguz Erkan, with the halfhearted tone of someone who knows better.

It does not take an archaeologist’s training to see the risks of digging a railway tunnel under one of the world’s most ancient cities – a center of both Islam and Christendom – where remnants of civilizations and empires are piled on top of one another like a stack of history books.

Istanbul, however, is pressing ahead with the construction of the 47-mile rail system, which will connect the city’s European and Asian halves through a tunnel that runs beneath the Bosporus.

City officials say the $2.6 billion project, the Marmaray, is desperately needed to ease congestion in a metropolis of 10 million. The two bridges that cross the Bosporus are jammed with traffic, and the existing subway system, with one line and six stations, is inadequate.

The trouble is, the project’s engineers have concluded that the best route for the tunnel on the European side is beneath the old city, home to the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace, where sultans ruled the Ottoman Empire for nearly four centuries. The workers are likely to hit something of historical value every time they put shovel to earth.

“It’s extremely challenging because no other city has so many layers of cultural history,” said Ismail Karamut, director of the Archaeological Museums of Istanbul, which is helping to excavate four sites that lie in the path of the subway to assess their historic significance.

The tunnels between the stations will be deep enough to run below the historical ruins, he said, but three stations will require shafts for escalators and concourses that will have to be dug from the surface.

Istanbul’s deputy governor, Cumhur Guven Tasbasi, said the city would not hesitate to halt construction and reroute the subway “if we come across remains of an ancient city, or a theater or any ancient relics.”

The complete story can be found online at http://www.nytimes.com

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Russians developing railroad mine detector

The Russian Defense Ministry is developing a new gadget that would locate explosive devices on railroads, according to the Russian News and Information Agency, Novosti of August 3.

“Scientists are developing a new device that will be capable of identifying mines on railroads and their approaches,” said Colonel General Grigory Kogatko in Zagoryanka Village. He is the commander of Russia’s railroad troops.

He said mine detectors often fail to identify explosives on railroads because the tracks are metal.

The general said a total of 16,000 kilometers of railroad tracks were cleared during an anti-terrorist operation in Chechnya last year, and 13 sappers were killed.

“Fortunately, no one was killed this year,” he said.

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WE GET LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

Your July 25 report on Amtrak funding (“Senate subcommittee offers Amtrak $1.4 billion; bill moves to committee”) states, “Taken together, the House and Senate actions make it plain that Congress simply doesn’t have the stomach to close down Amtrak routes.”

I don’t think so.

My take on it would be, “Taken together, the House and Senate actions make it plain that Congress is not buying the Administration’s line to ‘save’ Amtrak by dismantling the national system, but rather that Congress sees the wisdom of maintaining Amtrak’s national system against the day when a more enlightened administration will join the legislative branch in a nationwide program to improve and expand America’s rail passenger service.”

John Schumann

Dear Editor:

Regarding “Comparing Raffaello to a box car” (D:F, August 1), The Shuttle’s main engines (not the solid motors) burn hydrogen and oxygen. If you remember your high school chemistry, that chemical reaction produces water. Very, very hot water. Hence, the Space Shuttle is the fastest steam engine ever built!

George Fleming

Dear Editor:

I have just started reading your website. I am impressed. I am an Amtrak supporter and anywhere I can find information, both good and bad, I enjoy. You seem to do a great job covering all aspects.

However, I am only a novice. Reading one story I ran across a publication called Amtrak Ink. This is an Amtrak newsletter by the description. Any chance that might be published on your website, or how do I get a hold of a copy (either print or online).

David Benedetto

Thanks for your kind note.

Amtrak Ink is published solely for Amtrak employees. We looked into publishing it on our site in its electronic version a few months ago, but after some friendly discussions, it was Amtrak’s position that it should remain solely for employees. Through special arrangement, they let us republish selected stories and photos (our choice), but not an entire edition.

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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.

Destination: Freedom is partially funded by the Surdna Foundation, and other contributors.

Journalists and others who wish to receive high quality NCI-originated images that appear in Destination:Freedom may do so at a nominal fee of $10.00 per image. “True color” Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG or JPG) images average 1.7MB each. Print publishers can order images in process color (CMYK) or tagged image file format (.tif), and are nearly 6mb each. They will be snail-mailed to your address, or uploaded via file transfer protocol (FTP) to your site. All are 300 dots-per-inch.

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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