Vol. 6 No. 33
August 13, 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… 
HSD changes orange flag to yellow
Ridership is rising: Downeaster may extend to Brunswick
‘Dock’ needs a big makeover
Northeast cops patrol Amtrak trains
‘Nan’ to be replaced starting in 2007
CSX, Empire State service: Many Amtrak trains are late, slow
    across New York’s northern tier
Woman sues Amtrak, Salinas for toilet access
Surfliner passengers, crew released from hospital
GP-15 switchers cut Amtrak fuel costs
AutoTrains get 80 new car carriers
Harper’s Ferry station restoration to start ‘soon’
  Labor lines… 
Two unions question CN’s safety
  Commuter lines… 
‘Orange’ takes step toward commuter rail
Georgia panel backs commuter rail
Connecticut solons want more rail security
Photo Item: Cesar Vergara
  APTA Highlights… 
Tulsa Transit Adds Service
State Partnerships Conference Meets in Conjunction
   with FTA State Programs Meeting
Flint, Mich., Voters Retain Transit Millage
  Freight lines… 
Guilford, NEC, P&W, VR would benefit: Deeper tunnel
   would bring big business to New England
Chicagoans disappointed in cash outlays
CSX carries bones from a valley
Mason upgrades CSX
Former B&P coal line returns to service
Engineer suing Texas sheriff's office
Jersey foes rap freight tunnel
Bill would charge rails for training
UP, CSX ready to move fruits, veggies
Railroad offers track as tax payment
Rail freight traffic rises
  Friday closing quotes… 
  Across the pond… 
Deutsche Bahn to upgrade its ICE-1s
Aussie rail strike would affect freight moves
  Opinion… 
Transportation troubles
  We get letters… 
  Off the main line… 
Retired railroader fights for Amtrak
  End notes… 

 

HSD changes orange flag to yellow

The Homeland Security Department lowered the terror threat level Friday for the nation’s mass transit systems, effective after the day’s rush hour.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said he would end the high alert for trains, subways and buses after 36 days of being at code orange in response to the deadly July 7 rush-hour bombings in London.

His order, which was effective at 8:00 p.m. local time Friday, was returning the national mass transit threat level to code yellow, signifying an elevated risk instead of the high-alert orange.

“While we are changing the threat level at this time, we continue to urge state and local officials, transportation authorities and the general public to remain alert,” Chertoff said in a statement.

“Public vigilance is very important, and we encourage all citizens to keep a watchful eye for items left unattended or suspicious behavior and report any incidents to local authorities immediately.”


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Amtrak Downeaster

For NCI: Mike Duprey

A beautiful fall day on October 11, 2004 finds Amtrak’s Downeaster passing through Rollinsford, N.H. about to cross the Salmon Falls River into Berwick, Maine. The train may travel some 40 miles farther into Maine, if the right cards fall into place

 

Ridership is rising

Downeaster may extend to Brunswick

A land deal between the state and the city of Portland, Maine in the works for nearly five years, could lead to Amtrak’s Downeaster extending nearly 40 miles to Brunswick, and a report out Friday showed the trains are gaining riders.

The deal gives Portland an easement on the old Union Branch railroad property along Marginal Way in Portland, key to a multimillion-dollar redevelopment, the Portland Press Herald reported last week.

In return, the city hands over a strip of land along Interstate 295 for the planned Amtrak extension.

An attorney with the Maine DOT sent a draft agreement to city officials on August 8, a DOT spokesman said. The only details left to resolve are wrinkles in the language.

“I presume that process will conclude this week,” said Greg Nadeau, the transportation department’s deputy commissioner for policy and communications. The agreement would then go to the commissioner’s office for signature.

Cloutier said the deal has moved unusually slowly, and he wondered on Monday if political factors have been at play.

Some state lawmakers earlier this year said the easement should be offered only if Portland granted an alternative right-of-way to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co., which wants to run from the Eastern Promenade to Hadlock Field. The train’s owner, Phineas Sprague, Jr., has been involved in a series of battles with City Hall.

Cloutier said the land transaction between the state and the city is not tied to the narrow gauge issue. He noted, though, that a committee formed by the city is looking into alternate easements for light rail, as requested by the state earlier this year. He expressed frustration about the state’s timetable for releasing the right of way along Marginal Way.

Ridership is reported to be up, and a rail official attributes the rise to faster travel times and rising gasoline prices. The number of riders was up 8 percent in May over the same month in 2004. It then went up 12 percent in June, and 9 percent in the first three weeks of July, according to Patricia Douglas, the acting executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, the agency that operates the Downeaster.

She said the number of train riders has jumped since travel time from Portland to Boston was reduced in April to 2 hours and 30 minutes, a savings of up to 15 minutes. She said rising gasoline prices also may have caused more people to switch from their cars to the train.


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‘Dock’ needs a big makeover

Amtrak and New Jersey Transit officials renewed their pleas on Thursday for federal funding to overhaul antiquated machinery that serves about 700,000 passengers a day, Hackensack’s The Record, reported on Friday.

The officials were joined by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who was given a tour of Amtrak’s Dock Interlocking tower that uses equipment as old as 76 years to move 365 trains a day over six tracks.

Lautenberg, who sits on a subcommittee that oversees Amtrak, is co-sponsor of a bill that would allow the passenger railroad to reorganize its finances. Under the bill, Amtrak could issue tax-credit bonds and cut debt and pension obligations from the annual appropriation it gets each year from the federal government, which President Bush has threatened to cut off.

Lautenberg said Amtrak, which has been dogged by equipment malfunctions, track problems and train delays, needs to become a bigger priority for the federal government.

“It isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity to keep our economy strong,” he said, adding that an efficient passenger rail system will take cars off the highways and some congestion from regional airline flights.

NJT boss George Warrington, a former Amtrak, CEO, said reduced Amtrak funding could cause significant problems for the state transit agency, which relies on the Northeast Corridor, and an Amtrak-owned tunnel under the Hudson River for access to Manhattan.

“A policy that starves Amtrak,” he said, “directly impacts the reliability and performance of NJT.”

At the interlocking tower, 31 switches and dozens of signals are controlled by equipment that in some cases dates to 1929, when the tower was built.

Amtrak official Keith Holt said the facility has become unreliable and needs about $16 million to be refurbished. The tower, he said, was responsible for about 3,500 minutes of train delays last year, and when equipment breaks down, railroad crews must manually line the switches for train movements.


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Northeast cops patrol Amtrak trains

In the latest in a series of security measures taken since the London bombing cases, the New York Police Department has teamed with other East Coast forces to beef up protection of Amtrak trains traveling between New York and Washington.

The increased security, which began August 8, involves police officers from New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland, Washington and other jurisdictions, according to the August 9 edition of the Washington Post.

The state and local officers will help Amtrak’s own police force patrol train platforms and watch for suspicious activity and packages on trains and tracks along the entire route each day indefinitely, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said.

Police have no information about a specific threat against the most heavily traveled route in the Amtrak system. However, in assessing security risks after mass transit was targeted in London, police officials were concerned that a route involving “two high-profile cities“ might be a target, and that the Amtrak police did not have the manpower to properly protect it, Browne said.

The police officials from the various departments and agencies gathered at NYPD headquarters a fortnight ago to coordinate the effort, which includes using bomb-sniffing dogs and police helicopters.

“It seemed to be a precaution that needed to be taken,“ Browne said, adding that the departments hope to cover the cost with federal funding.

Browne said police agreed that their combined effort needed “to appear to be random and unpredictable in order to defeat the kind of reconnaissance that al Qa’eda’s and other terrorist organizations are known to conduct.”


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NAN bridge to be rebuilt in 2007

NCI: Leo King

Amtrak train No. 170 flies across Nan and the Niantic River Bridge between East Lyme and Waterford, Conn. The century-old double-track span will be replaced in two years, says Amtrak.

 

‘Nan’ to be replaced starting in 2007

Amtrak will soon be rebuilding its 100-year-old drawbridge over the Niantic River in East Lyme, Conn., reported The Day, of New London, on August 10.

Construction will begin in late 2007 or early 2008, said Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black, at a cost of about $60 million to $65 million. The budget for the project would include funds to also rebuild a boardwalk, which is located along a narrow strip of beach and sea wall near the double-track line.

The project could take up to three years to complete. The new bridge would be located south of the old span, toward Niantic Bay. Train service is expected to continue uninterrupted throughout construction, Black said.

“Amtrak has been in frequent contact with the town,” he said. “The town is completely in the loop as to what’s going on.”


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CSX, Empire State service

Many Amtrak trains are late, slow
across New York’s northern tier

With freight traffic booming, temperatures in the 90s, and track work to be done, this hasn’t been a good summer for Amtrak across upstate New York. Many passenger trains are running 30 to 90 minutes late, and some delays are even greater, the Albany Times Union reported on August 10.

On August 9 afternoon, No. 48, the Lake Shore Limited, from Chicago to Albany, was running 2 hours and 40 minutes late. Meanwhile, no-name train No. 286 from Buffalo to Albany was running 2 hours and 47 minutes behind schedule, on a trip that’s supposed to take 5 hours and 15 minutes.

“I have to live the pain every day,” said Jim Turngren, who manages Amtrak’s Empire Corridor service across upstate New York. After some relief, “it’s going back to worse,” he added.

Turngren said Amtrak President David Gunn has written several letters to Michael Ward, chief executive of CSX Corp., about the problem.

While an Amtrak spokeswoman blamed the delays largely on track maintenance work, Turngren said increasing congestion along the line is also playing a part.

“There are 75 to 80 freight trains... through a 24-hour period in this corridor,” he said. When Conrail owned the route, some trains would use an alternate route through the Southern Tier. But Norfolk Southern, a CSX competitor, owns that route now.

“Their system is overwhelmed with the amount of freight they’re trying to move,” Turngren said.

CSX spokesman Gary Sease said 50 to 60 freight trains the route, but that with freight shipments up and track maintenance reducing parts of the line to a single track, it has been congested.

Another source of delays has been the hot weather this summer. When temperatures climb above 90, passenger trains must slow down as a safety precaution. That can add another 20 to 30 minutes to the trip.

Trains also are slowing down during heavy rainstorms, as a precaution against possible track washouts.

Amtrak conductors are making more frequent announcements to passengers to keep them updated on delays, Turngren said. Posters also alert passengers about possible delays, and scheduled running times have been stretched out.

Amtrak spokeswoman Marcie Golgoski said the track work between Albany and Buffalo is expected to be complete by September 5.

“That’s the date they’ve given us,” she said, referring to CSX.

CSX’s Sease said the work, necessary for safety and reliability, is winding up.

“That’s probably a good date,” he said.


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Woman sues Amtrak, Salinas for toilet access

A Salinas, Calif. woman who is unable to gain access to bathrooms at the Salinas Amtrak station is suing Salinas and Amtrak. Lynette Whitfield filed the lawsuit August 2 in federal district court in San Francisco.

The lawsuit describes efforts by Whitfield, who uses a wheelchair, to use the restroom while waiting for a train in October. Frustrated, the woman “was forced to relieve herself outside the station... while holding onto a bicycle rack adjacent to the side doors,” according to the lawsuit.

Whitfield soiled herself and her clothing and was unable to wash herself before boarding the train, according to the lawsuit.

“No one should have to go through what I went through,” she said. “I was humiliated.”

A year earlier, the lawsuit alleges, Whitfield was not able to fit her wheelchair into a stall and, with lack of handrails, could not maneuver from her wheelchair to the toilet.

When she complained to an Amtrak ticketing agent at the time, the agent suggested she sue, according to the suit.

Whitfield’s attorney, Andrea Asaro of San Francisco, said the action was taken after she and her client could not convince the city to fix the problem.

“No one wants to do this unless we have to,” Asaro said.

“We sent a letter to the city and spoke to attorneys for the city and its redevelopment agency,” she added.

“We sent letters to Amtrak and to Union Pacific, but to no avail. The idea is to get this fixed. Ms. Whitfield has family in Washington State that she goes up to visit and she needs to be able to use the station.”

Vanessa Vallarta, Salinas city attorney, said the city unsuccessfully attempted to resolve the issue with Whitfield and Asaro when Whitfield filed a claim against the city.

She said the city plans to make the restrooms compliant with American with Disabilities Act regulations when it renovates the station as it prepares to turn it into a transit center that will make it the hub of most commuter operations in the county.

“We’ve also been trying to set up some intermediate measures until that project is complete,” Vallarta said. Work is expected to begin on the ADA upgrades within the next couple of months, she said.

The lawsuit alleges that the old station off Market Street violates state and federal laws, specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act enacted in 1993.

“The station’s barriers to access unlawfully deny persons with disabilities full and equal access to these accommodations,” according to the lawsuit.

“It’s clearly out of compliance,” said Asaro. “The federal law was enacted in 1993, so it’s outrageous it has not been fixed since then.”

The city’s redevelopment agency owns the property and has leases and operating agreements with Union Pacific and Amtrak.

Vallarta said the station was originally built before 1892 and was last renovated in 1942. The major upgrade on the entire station is expected to begin next year.

The lawsuit does not specify how much Whitfield is seeking in damages, but her claim with the city sought $45,000.


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Surfliner passengers, crew released from hospital

All 18 Amtrak passengers and crewmembers taken to hospitals after their train collided with a dump truck on August 5 had been released by Saturday morning, officials said.

The two people in the truck were hospitalized with serious injuries, the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Calif. reported August 7.

The crossing where the crash occurred has flashing lights and gates that were functioning, Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said.

A control car that derailed was rerailed early Saturday, and railroad officials said there were no service delays on the line.

Passengers described “pandemonium” inside the San Diego-bound Surfliner when it crashed about 50 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles in the Somis farming area north of Camarillo.


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New GP-15 Switcher

Amtrak Ink

On the “O” track at the Wilmington shops, a new GP-15 switcher awaits its next job.

 

GP-15 switchers cut Amtrak fuel costs

Amtrak bought 10 new fuel-efficient EMD GP-15 “smart” switchers last year, costing $11 million, to replace 40 year-old locomotives that no longer meet environmental standards.

In service since mid-March, seven switchers are being used in the Mid-Atlantic division where they are used for work train and yard service. At Sunnyside Yard, three switchers are used in yard service making up trains and moving equipment within the yard.

This marked the first time Amtrak has acquired “smart” technology engines.

Some of the smartness is an automatic starting system that fires up the locomotive when adverse weather conditions occur that could cause systems to fall below critical parameters, such as freezing temperatures that could affect the engine block or cause the air brake pressure to fall.

The feature also shuts down the locomotive after weather conditions become favorable. The automatic cycling means the switchers do not have to be kept running constantly – and the result is expected to be considerable fuel savings, writes Amtrak Ink in its August edition.

An idle switching locomotive uses some three to four gallons of fuel per hour that can now be saved during the shutdown.

The new GP-15 switcher’s cooling system uses anti-freeze, opposed to the older models that were kept running to prevent freezing when outside temperatures reached 40 degrees or lower.

In addition to the auto-start feature, the new 1,500-horsepower equipment features a Caterpillar engine, unlike older GM-EMD engines – and includes a new diagnostic electronic package that features a control system for both the engine and the traction system.

Each switcher cost about $1.1 million, not including any traction motor combinations, which were supplied and built by Amtrak’s Wilmington truck and electric shops.

It was necessary to take delivery of the 10 GP-15s by the end of 2004 to be compliant with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Tier I emission standards, which set limits for exhaust emissions (such as particulates and nitrogen oxides) that can be released from a diesel engine. Tier I is the mid-point standard for lowering diesel locomotive exhaust emissions the EPA uses to define standards, with current requirements set as Tier 0, Tier 1 and Tier 2.

“The new equipment will reduce the total air emissions count from Amtrak fleet operations. Amtrak will be both reducing fuel use, especially with the current price of diesel fuel, and limiting exhaust emissions with this acquisition,” said Roy Deitchman, vice president, Environmental, Health and Safety.

“Amtrak Purchasing placed the order in April 2004, and the locomotives were built and delivered to Wilmington in only eight months, almost unheard of in new equipment acquisition,” said William Broome, director of New Equipment Acquisition. The 40-plus-year-old equipment was well past its expected life, and is being sold as scrap.


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New AutoTrain cars

Amtrak Ink

New auto carriers are ready for service at the AutoTrain terminal in Lorton, Va.

 

AutoTrains get 80 new car carriers

It took a while, but Amtrak will soon have 80 new bi-level auto racks on the property. Some are already there.

Fifty carriers were put in service just before the summer season – replacing 64 elderly carriers that were in poor condition. 30 more are to be delivered over the summer.

Amtrak acquired the auto racks from Johnstown America Corp. while the company was in production of a fleet of auto carriers for another railroad. Amtrak had the advantage of piggybacking onto Johnstown’s on-going production run, expediting delivery.

Predominantly comprised of aluminum, the carriers are significantly lighter than Amtrak’s older carriers. Because of the lighter weight, the AutoTrain consist will consume less fuel and put less wear-and-tear on the equipment.

Each newly configured vehicle carrier accommodates 10 standard automobiles or eight full-size sport utility vehicles or minivans.

“The old carriers could only fit eight of any kind, and severely restricted our reservation capacity. We could only take 29 SUVs or minivans on each train – but now we can now take up to 120, and up to 200 standard vehicles on a single train,” said Southern Division District Superintendent Fred Nardelli.

Each new auto carrier is 90 feet long and 18 feet 9 inches tall with a loaded capacity of 163,500 pounds.

The replaced 30- to 40-year-old equipment was sold to various companies as scrap.

The AutoTrain operates roundtrip daily between Lorton, Va., and Sanford, Fla.


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Harper’s Ferry station restoration to start ‘soon’

A historic train station in the Eastern West Virginia Panhandle will get a second life as restoration efforts are expected to begin soon, but no date was specified. Harpers Ferry station, built in 1894, will be restored to resemble how it appeared in the 1930s, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Superintendent Donald Campbell said August 5.

The town, MARC commuters, Amtrak and the National Park Service, will use the restored station, which could reopen by the end of 2007, Campbell said.

“It will be beautiful,“ he said, adding a nearly $2.1 million contract was expected to be awarded in a few weeks to help with the restoration. Plans include rebuilding a tower dismantled years ago and replacing the station’s rotted timber foundation with concrete.


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LABOR LINES...  Labor lines...

Two unions question CN’s safety

Two unions have joined a major environmental group in questioning Canadian National Ry.’s safety record after two derailments last week.

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference and Canadian Auto Workers are calling on Transport Minister Jean Lapierre to investigate CN’s maintenance, repair and inspection practices, according to the Toronto Globe & Mail of August 10. The unions contend the company’s safety record has declined since it was privatized in 1995 and began shedding staff even as it expanded operations.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club of Canada is demanding Environment Minister Stéphane Dion charge CN over the damage the spills caused.

The first derailment occurred August 3 when a freight train derailed and dumped 700,000 liters of heavy fuel oil in Lake Wabamum, west of Edmonton.

Two days later, another CN freight jumped the tracks over the Cheakamus River canyon north of Vancouver, spilling about 40,000 liters of caustic soda into the river, instantly killing thousands of fish.


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COMMUTER LINES...  Commuter lines...

‘Orange’ takes step toward commuter rail

The Orange County, Fla., Commission gave preliminary approval last week in Orlando – and $44 million – to plans for a metro train system to get people across Central Florida. The vote was 5-1 for commuter rail, with Commissioner Bob Sindler voting against the plan, WESH 2 News reported.

Sindler said he didn’t think the train would carry enough riders to merit the cost.

Attorneys, business professionals, a former Orange County chairman, frustrated I-4 drivers and bus riders, and even a 14-year-old boy who skipped class appeared before the county commission to discuss the possibility of commuter rail in Central Florida.

Commuter rail costs about one-fourth that of light rail, and it would cost about $473 million to put commuter trains in service. The proposed system would ultimately connect DeLand in Volusia County to Poinciana in Osceola County.

Local governments would pay 25 percent of the cost to build it, with federal and state taxes paying the rest.

Despite concern that the county could be saddled with a $44 million bill, staff members assured commissioners that a resolution is non-binding, which cleared the way for the vote.

Opposition was strong at the packed commission meeting. There were about a dozen people waving signs urging a “no” vote on commuter rail, but about a dozen others spoke in support of rail.

“Interstate 4 is going to be crippled by construction for years to come, and so you have an obligation to the future, as well as to the rest of the region,” said former Orange County Chairman Linda Chapin.

“The only legal decision on this issue can be decided by the voter with their nay or yea,” 14-year-old Brandon Simpson said.

Supporters insist it makes a lot of sense to put commuter rail along existing track lines because there are already established businesses there with workers who would use the train. They have called the commuter rail “vital,” and also say it will loosen the grip on I-4 traffic.

“Commuter rail will be a great benefit to this community. It will improve the quality of life,” said Richard Morrison, of the Florida Hospital.

“Please, fix our problems. Commuter rail at this time is not the solution,” said opponent Bob Bomia.

If all goes as planned for commuter rail, the Federal Transit Administration will review the proposal to see if it is worthy of a $235 million grant.

Commissioners said they will throw the deal out if the final agreements are not acceptable.

Volusia County became the first county to get on board the $473.4 million project to relieve congested I-4, noted the Orlando Sentinel.

The commuter trains would run on CSX tracks, and have about 12 stations, one in Volusia County, four in Seminole, six in Orange and three in Osceola. Service could start by 2009.

The first phase is expected to begin service in 2009 between DeBary and the Lynx central bus station in downtown Orlando, a 47-minute commute.

Volusia’s cost of $11.7 million is about 10 percent of the local share based upon 5.7 miles of tracks and one station in DeBary to be built at the planned western extension of Saxon Boulevard.

There are plans to extend the line to DeLand in the future. In about 20 years the train could transport about 9,000 people daily.


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Georgia panel backs commuter rail

The Clayton County Commission in Georgia has agreed with the Georgia DOT and the Georgia Rail Passenger Authority to take part in the proposed Macon-Atlanta commuter rail system.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on August 9 state officials think the 103-mile round-trip route will alleviate traffic congestion in the Southern Crescent as well areas farther south of metro Atlanta.

The Georgia DOT Intermodal Committee is scheduled to meet August 18 when it could make a pivotal recommendation on the rail plan.

The first phase of the rail system is set to begin in fall 2006 with trains to and from Lovejoy to Atlanta. Four trains will make the round trip, picking up passengers throughout Clayton and Fulton counties and taking them to Atlanta.

While Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell and three members of the Commission were happy with the agreement, Commissioner Wole Ralph was not. Ralph thinks commuter rail is a good idea, but doesn’t think Clayton County taxpayers should be saddled with paying the debt on it.

“I do not believe the state should ask the property owners of Clayton County to pay for rail services that will be used regionally by individuals from surrounding counties to provide them with increased access to Atlanta,” Ralph said.

Ralph’s thinking: metro Atlanta’s traffic problem, specifically in Clayton County, is a regional issue and not one to be solved by county property tax owners.

Clayton County taxpayers will be on the hook for an estimated initial $4.5 million annual debt, Ralph said.

“Those are not Clayton County roads,” he said. “There’s no reason Clayton County taxpayers should pay to alleviate traffic on state roads.”

Bell said he thinks the rail system is a great idea. He’s also talked of making more money on the line by adding diners to the trains.

Long-time commissioners Carl Rhodenizer and Charlie Griswell also said the rail line has been talked about for a long time and needs to move forward.

Rhodenizer said the debt estimates are high and will have an annual decrease to $31,000 by the fourth year.

“I think this sends a great message,” said Rhodenizer, a long-time rail proponent. “We want to accommodate our people in moving traffic.”

Griswell believes rail ridership will be solid and the entire plan should be an economic stimulant for Clayton County.

“Somebody’s got to step forward to get Clayton County moving again,” he said.

Two days later, dissent in the community emerged to trip it up, wrote the Clayton County News-Daily.

The appearance of opposition comes as several Clayton County officials rallied to keep the project on track amid the threat of it being killed altogether. Several Henry County residents, including state Rep. Steve Davis, R, have criticized the rail idea, proposing highway expansion instead. The Hampton City Council also has passed a resolution opposing the rail.

The most recent faction to line up against the 26-mile line through the center of Clayton County is a group of neighborhood associations concerned about the impact the rail could have on property taxes.

“We’re not so much in opposition to the train system,” said Synamon Baldwin, a resident in the panhandle who is organizing several neighborhood associations to speak out on the rail.

“What we’re concerned about is that we would be taxed to pay for it. Raising our taxes to support the rail deficit should not be a consideration and if so, the citizens should address it in a referendum,” she said. Baldwin’s group also is generating a petition against property taxes going toward the project.


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Connecticut solons want more rail security

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, D, and Rep. Christopher Shays, R, visited Metro-North Railroad’s Bridgeport station last week to talk with police and commuters while calling for more funding to secure the nation’s mass transit systems from attacks.

According to Shays’ office, the nation has allocated $22.7 billion for aviation security since 2002, but only $478 million for transit security.

“We’re spending a lot on aviation,” Shays said during a telephone interview after the visit. “We need to spend more on subways, buses and trains.”

Lieberman said America has been reacting to the terrorists instead of getting ahead of them, reported the Connecticut Post from Bridgeport on August 10.

Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the country poured billions into aviation security and is only now beginning to wake up to the threats against mass transit, Lieberman said.

“More people ride rail and mass transit than airplanes,” Lieberman said.

The problem appears to be one of cost.

Lieberman proposed spending at least $1 billion a year to increase security for mass transit systems across the nation, but Congress has only been willing to spend $150 million annually.

“We have to find the money,” Lieberman said, adding that the money is probably already there by way of existing allocations in the transportation bill and other sources, but to get that money, he said, Congress will have to reprogram some funds and allow states to use transportation money for security projects.

Funding for transit took a small step forward this year, according to both federal legislators.

Connecticut is sharing a $37.5 million transit security grant, awarded in April, with New York and New Jersey.

It has yet to be determined where the shared money will be spent, according to Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s office and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the parent organization of the Metro-North Railroad. Representatives of both offices said that several meetings have been held to discuss how best to spend the money.

Shays said he and Lieberman visited the Bridgeport station primarily to gather first-hand information on security measures that are in place.

Both said they were impressed by the cooperation they saw between Bridgeport, state and MTA police.

Shays said mass transit protection will not take on the same look as airport measures. He said there can’t be long lines in order to search everyone, but random searches may be part of the solution, as well as cameras.

Connecticut DOT Commissioner Stephen Korta said on August 8 that 500 cameras would be installed at train stations throughout the state at a cost of $10 million.


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The Circulator Transit

Cesar Vergar

The Washington, D.C. “Circulator” is a brand new Bus Rapid Transit-inspired system that is now running in the nation’s capital. Professional graphic designer Cesar Vergara tells D:F, “I had the good fortune of designing the exterior and other details of the system.” He adds, “Though it does not run on rails, it connects to many subway stations and Union station. Intermodality is the name of the game, and as I have been quoted as saying.” He noted, “The car of the future is a railroad car, and there is a bicycle waiting for you at the end of the journey. In this case it is a bus, and very much part of the solution.” Vergara has drawn designs for Amtrak and New Jersey Transit in his railroad work. That structure behind the bus is being reconfigured by the Museum of the District of Columbia. it was a city Library from 100 years ago, and is across from the new DC convention center.

 

 

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.


Tulsa Transit Adds Service

The Metropolitan Tulsa Transit Authority began operating bus service August 1 in the neighboring city of Broken Arrow, Okla., under a contract between the authority and the city.

Tulsa Transit will offer a fixed route in Broken Arrow, which will circle the business district every 30 minutes Monday through Friday only. The service will also deviate from the route to pick up customers in most other parts of the city, with advance reservations.


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State Partnerships Conference Meets in Conjunction with FTA State Programs Meeting

More than 200 representatives of state DOTs, state transit associations, public transportation systems, the Federal Transit Administration, and industry suppliers gathered July 26 and 27 in Arlington, Va., to participate in the 2005 State Public Transit Partnerships Conference. The conference, focusing on the important role of the states in support of public transportation, is a cooperative effort among APTA, the American Assn. of State Highway and Transportation Officials, and the Community Transportation Association of America.

For the first time, the conference was held in conjunction with FTA’s State Programs Meeting, which continued on July 28 and 29. Federal Transit Administrator Jennifer L. Dorn presented keynote remarks to a joint gathering of both conferences on July 27.


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Flint, Mich., Voters Retain Transit Millage

Three-quarters of voters in Flint, Mich., approved an August 2 ballot issue that renews a 0.6-mill levy for the Mass Transportation Authority. This millage funds bus routes throughout the city, and is added to a county-wide MTA tax of 0.8 mills.

Preliminary reports show 4,303 votes in favor of the measure, and 1,457 votes opposed.

MTA General Manager Robert Foy noted that the millage is “pretty well entrenched” since its initial approval in 1991. Prior to the most recent ballot, he said, voters had renewed it in 1996 and 2001.


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FREIGHT LINES...  Freight lines...

Guilford, NEC, P&W, VR would benefit

Deeper tunnel would bring big
business to New England

Graceful stone arches tower over the Guilford Transportation’s freight train as it plunges into a tunnel beneath the town square in Bellows Falls southern Vermont village, framing the train’s boxcars and tank cars – and the dilemma that the historic structure has posed for transportation across the state and region, wrote the Associated Press on August 8.

If there were just 7 inches or so more clearance to the ceiling of the 400-foot-long tunnel, it could accommodate double-stacked cars carrying containers from the port of Montreal or automobile rack cars from a deep water port in North Kingstown, R.I., not too far from Providence. It’s at Davisville site of the former Quonset Point Naval Air Station. The Providence & Worcester call there, and feeds a switching railroad, Seaview.

A $2 million appropriation from the federal government is designed to make that happen, promising to help spur a rail revival in the state that officials say could also help to trigger business development throughout New England.

That money likely will be spent before winter sets in, and state officials also are planning for the nearly $40 million in other rail improvements that Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., was able to direct to his home state.

It’s money that will pay for bridge and culvert rehabilitation and track improvements that will enable rail lines to connect eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S.

CSX – formerly Conrail in these parts – has its own route through the Berkshires.

When the work is done, perhaps within five years, Vermont railroads will be capable of carrying the industry standard of 286,000 pounds per railcar, allowing railroads operating in the state to compete with any freight moving on the nation’s network of rail.

“With the moneys that have been earmarked for the railroads, it definitely is going to impact business growth and it’s also going to impact and give us the opportunity to take more trucks off our already crowded highways,” said Charles Moore, regional vice president of Rail America, owner of New England Central Railroad based in St. Albans, Vt.

With the federal infusion of money, a very small amount in the context of the $286 billion transportation plan approved by Congress last month, state and rail officials believe that millions of dollars worth of freight will be flowing north and south between Montreal and southern New England and New York. Those were goods, generally in containers that came off ships, that either were shipped by truck or had to move by more circuitous routes.

When the Bellows Falls tunnel is rehabilitated by lowering its floor to accommodate taller trains – double stacks – more of that will get to places such as Boston and Hartford, Conn., Worcester, Mass., and New York on a more direct route.

The automobile port at Davisville now will have access to markets in Canada and the U.S. interior.

Railroad executives say the improvements could boost businesses already in the state, possibly attract new ones and contribute to the economic vitality of the region.

“If we intend to move freight through this state in an economic and efficient manner, we’ve got to begin to look to rail,” said Charles Miller, director of rail for the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

“It’s an underutilized resource... It’s a tremendous opportunity for the state. I think it can put us back on the map as far as rail.”

A great deal of the track down the western side of the state and on a line crossing the state from Rutland to Bellows Falls is 80 years old. Many of the bridges have long passed the century mark, so some of them will have to be replaced and others will have to be beefed up to handle the heavier loads – but it’s weight that won’t be pounding the highways, said David Wulfson, president of Vermont Ry.

“The railroad’s been overlooked for years,” he said. “Now that fuel prices are what they are and trucking costs are what they are, more people are looking at railroads than ever have.”

Railroad operators tout how much less expensive it is to ship with them than by truck.

Miller said rail can move 396 tons for every gallon of fuel it consumes. Trucking can move 136 tons for every gallon.

It all starts in Bellows Falls, long the bottleneck in the rail network. The tunnel, built in 1851, passes beneath a flower shop on one side of the village square and the old Windham Hotel on the other. The buildings theoretically could have been demolished to make clearance for trains. Lowering its floor was the much less disruptive alternative, one that has been done twice since the 1960s, Miller said.

“The Bellows Falls tunnel is a project that will benefit the whole state of Vermont and I think New England,” Wulfson said. “It opens up another transportation alternative.”


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Chicagoans disappointed in cash outlays

An effort to untangle Chicago’s snarled railroad traffic suffered a setback when Congress earmarked far less money for the project than planners had anticipated, Crain’s Chicago Business reported on August 15.

With a price tag estimated at $1.5 billion, the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency – “Create” is its acronym– program received just $100 million over the next four years in the federal transportation funding bill approved by Congress on July 29. Officials with the project, a landmark planning effort from the city, state, Metra and the nation’s six freight railroads, had expected at least $600 million and were confident they would get no less than $400 million.

The meager handout means freight delays, chronically blocked street crossings and inefficient commuter rail service on some routes will persist for years to come in the nation’s busiest rail hub.

“It was a big surprise,” says Merrill Travis, a Chicago DOT consultant on the project. “You hate to spit in the eye of $100 million, but it’s lower than our worst-case scenario.”

The Chicago area is the nation’s busiest railroad terminal, handling more than 37,500 cars a day. That number is expected to almost double to 67,000 cars by 2020, fueled by a surge in Asian imports from West Coast ports headed inland and shippers looking to avoid the high fuel costs associated with trucking.

The additional activity is being squeezed into a 2,796-mile track network loaded with choke points and creaky, outdated infrastructure. In Chicago’s Brighton Park neighborhood on the Southwest Side, for example, dozens of trains grind to a halt daily as a railroad worker manually throws switches where seven sets of tracks converge. Plans to electrify the switches have been bogged down for years by bickering among the railroads over cost and operational issues.

Freight car transit times through the region range from 22 to 36 hours. In comparison, trains traveling from the West Coast to Chicago can make the trip in 48 hours.

Canadian National Ry. Co. recently rerouted some traffic away from Chicago to avoid delays. Without a more efficient rail network, other railroads could follow suit. Memphis, another halfway point for many long-haul rail shipments, is already picking up some of the slack.

The funding shortfall also hurts the region’s job market. The railroads are one of the few local industries hiring, as they replace a generation of retiring workers. The companies expect to fill 2,000 railroad jobs, such as engineers and conductors, in the Chicago area alone by the end of the decade.

Construction employment for railroad improvements is expected to add another 2,700 jobs.

At the same time, supporters of the Create project estimate the region would lose 17,000 jobs over the next 20 years if system improvements aren’t completed and shipments are diverted elsewhere.

Just where the rest of the funding will come from is unclear.

No heir apparent has stepped into the void created when the project’s biggest congressional advocate, former U.S. Rep. William Lipinski, D-Chicago, ranking minority member of the House Transportation Committee, retired last year.

The two-year-old Create project has already received a pledge from the railroads for up to $212 million. Create officials estimate an additional $60 million might be available from the railroads and the state. That and the $100 million in the transportation bill should be enough to finance engineering work on some of the most complicated and expensive parts of the project and pay for a few street crossing separations.

But the railroads say they can’t afford to give any more after shelling out over $1 billion on local improvements since the late 1990s. One-third of the rail industry’s revenue comes from freight moving through Chicago, generating about $10 billion a year.

“We’re all experiencing very good indicators that there is going to be demand for freight rail,” says Thomas Livingston, vice-president of state relations for Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX Transportation Inc. “We’re in the process of recalibrating the project.”

Delays are particularly acute at locations where busy sets of tracks intersect, forcing some trains to halt to while others cross the intersections. The Create project calls for building bridges at six key junctions, including the one in Brighton Park, to separate rights-of-way. The estimated cost of the bridges alone is about $600 million.

Some of these bridges also would benefit Metra service to the southwest suburbs by allowing commuter trains to operate along uninterrupted routes.

The project also includes plans for separating 25 grade crossings and relocating a freight train line just south of the Loop that has long been considered an impediment to residential development.

Transportation experts note that efficient use of the available money over the next four years will be critical in demonstrating the need for continued funding when the next transportation spending bill is debated in 2009. The railroads, which for years balked at any cooperative effort in Chicago, where they all compete, will have to maintain their tenuous alliance on the project.

Speaking of the $100 million, Frank Beal, executive director of the business civic group Metropolis 2020, one of the plan’s backers, says, “It’s not nearly enough, but it’s a start.”


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Rockport Pier

All photos: CSX

CSX drags cars to the railroad’s Rockport pier facility three times a day carrying wet phosphate rock.

 

CSX carries bones from a valley

By Leo King
Editor

Bone Valley.

There’s a name that hard to forget, yet CSX has a lot of business in that west-central part of Florida.

W. James Langston, III, who is the manager for Phosphates and Bone Valley Equipment in Tampa, told D:F last week, “The Bone Valley is the Florida phosphate mining area, east of Tampa and south of Lakeland.”

A couple of companies, “CF Industries and Mosaic – formerly Cargill Fertilizer and IMC Fertilizer – mine over 28 million tons a year of phosphate rock for processing into various phosphate fertilizer and animal feed products,” Langston added.

Mason upgrades CSX

Analysts at Legg Mason upgraded shares of CSX Corp. Friday to “buy” from “neutral,” saying the company’s management team appears to “be in place for the long haul.” Analysts also looked favorably on CSX’s latest strategy to improve safety, increase productivity and its plan to target discretionary capital spending. Legg Mason’s target price is now $55.

“This has always been big business for CSXT and predecessors Seaboard Air Line, Atlantic Coast Line, and Seaboard Coast Line.”

Langston said “We move over 60,000 tons per day by rail from the mines to the plants, and the mines and plants to port. We also move product north to farmers all over the US and Canada.”

Therein lie big bucks and profits for CSX.

“Some $330 million in revenue for CSX comes from phosphate and other fertilizer products, including sulphur, system wide. Sulphur is used to process the phosphate. Nearly a third of that value is right in the Tampa Bone Valley area, and another third moves to or from the area.”

Langston makes the business deals for CSX.

“I handle the marketing – contracts, et cetera – for movements within the Bone Valley, and also manage the dedicated fleet that support this business.”

The Hooker Prairie Shuttle

CSX runs a train called “the Hooker’s Prairie Shuttle.” It makes three round trips per day carrying wet phosphate rock.

 

So why is it called, “Bone Valley?” Langston explains.

“The phosphate deposit is from decayed marine life, and within the deposit are ancient pre-historic animal bones and sharks’ teeth etc. From that, and the fact that the phosphate content of phosphate rock is measured using a term ‘Bone Phosphate of Lime,’ or BPL content, you can see where the name comes from. Of course, by most standards, there is not much of a valley.”

Most of Florida is essentially flat.

CSX runs a train called “the Hooker’s Prairie Shuttle.”

Langston said, “Twenty-eight power door 635XXX series cars make three round trips per day carrying wet phosphate rock. 66XXXX series rotary covered gons and 65XXXX series rotary covered hoppers carry export finished product to our Rockport pier facility. The building holds 100,000 tons.”

Elsewhere around CSX, the carrier stated on Thursday, from its Jacksonville headquarters, it plans to expand capacity on its existing rail lines between Chicago and Florida, and between Albany, N.Y. and New York City.

“These investments will enable CSX to meet demand for freight service to the rapidly growing Southeast while continuing to improve service in the populous Northeast,” said Michael Ward, the carrier’s chairman, president and CEO.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2006 and includes the installing of new sidings, signals and other infrastructure improvements “to facilitate the movement of more freight with improved service and reliability, he said.

The company said it will make infrastructure improvements to other parts of its 22,000-mile rail network.

Company officials said CSX Surface Transportation annual capital expenditures will be approximately $1.3 to $1.4 billion in the next two years. This compares to average Surface Transportation capital expenditures of approximately $1 billion in each of the past three years.

“Our goal is to make targeted investments for reliability and growth while increasing our customer service levels and financial results,” Ward said.

Over the last six quarters, CSX said it has recorded improved earnings performance in its core businesses, including two back-to-back quarters of record Surface Transportation earnings in the first half of 2005.

Company executives said last week that they “anticipate revenue growth of 4 to 6 percent annually over the next five years, primarily related to increased U.S. consumption, a rise in imports – which must be hauled across the country from ports to consumer markets – and tight transportation supply.”


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Former B&P coal line returns to service

John W. Mills, who spent most of his career as a doctor delivering babies, took a class to become a train brakeman at age 64.

He met half the requirements – you have to make four perfect runs on a train – but now, at age 79, he doesn’t think he will ever finish.

“With a bad, arthritic hip, I’m not sure I should be hopping on and off moving trains,” said Mills, of White Township, Penn.

Late last month, he had to settle for a red leather seat in one of the passenger cars as the newly restored Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad began operating again in the borough, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on August 8 from Indiana County, Pa.

The line, which last operated 12 years ago, was purchased by the railroad last year to begin moving coal from the Clementine Mine in Clinton, Armstrong County, to the Homer City Generating Station.

It will not operate as a passenger line, but to celebrate the completed work, dozens of dignitaries, rail employees and enthusiasts were invited to travel 16 miles along the tracks from Indiana to Homer City and back. Five passenger cars were brought in for the occasion, and two orange Buffalo & Pittsburgh locomotives pulled them.

The actual coal-hauling, which began over the weekend, will require five engines to pull 40 cars – each carrying 100 tons of coal – on a circuitous 100-mile route from south of Kittanning to the power plant in Homer City, said Kevin Bowser, director of marketing and industrial development with B&P.

His railroad has been interested in developing the line for more than four years. Bowser said its benefits would be many. Coal will be delivered to the plant faster and cheaper, and it will be safer, keeping approximately 40,000 coal trucks off local roadways each year.

The power plant burns about six million tons of coal annually, and B&P hopes to deliver one million tons during its first year. Bowser expects the train to make one round trip every day, likely in the late afternoon.

Restoring the line cost $9.6 million, which came from private, state and federal funding. The project helped Indiana County retain 700 jobs and created 70 more, state officials said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who was unable to take the leisurely, 15 mph run, attended the line’s opening and spoke briefly before the train departed from alongside a parking lot at Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania.

“It’s a great public-private partnership,” Rendell said. “As coal and railroads continue to come back, I think we’re going to see renewed economic growth.”

Bowser hopes to find other freight-hauling opportunities as the Homer City branch gets up and running.

As the train glided lazily by, neighbors along the tracks stood in their yards waving and snapping pictures. Motorists who were stopped at the many railroad crossings did the same. The train passed through cornfields and cow pastures, and for a while followed Marsh Run, which was high after a heavy storm that came on just as the governor arrived.

To get the rail line back in working order, B&P crews installed 16 miles of continuous welded rail, 41,000 cross ties, and 10 new switches. A total of 34 road crossings were rehabilitated, and about 30,000 tons of ballast was spread.

Track speed is about 40 mph, but management said as they travel through communities, including Indiana, they will slow to 10 mph.


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Engineer suing Texas sheriff's office

The Montgomery County, Texas, District Attorney’s office has dropped all charges against a railroad engineer arrested in June by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office for failing to identify himself.

Gregory Stokes, 29, of Conroe, told The Courier and Houston Community Newspapers Online he will pursue a civil suit against the Sheriff’s Office for wrongful arrest.

Stokes was arrested when a car hit the train he was operating for the Timber Rock Railroad out of Silsbee as it sat in a crossing at FM 149 and Shannon Crossing in west Montgomery County June 6. Stokes stopped the train as it was going through the crossing because he had noticed that the gates had not gone down even though the signal lights and bells were operating.

Two of the train’s conductors got off the train to alert traffic, and waved the train through because they saw no one approaching the crossing. After Stokes started backing up his train, a Chevrolet station wagon driven by Billy Dustin Smith, of Pasadena, drove into the train. Smith, 21, was not injured.

Sheriff’s deputies arrived on the scene, and when a deputy asked for Stokes’ driver’s license, he refused, citing federal law that doesn’t require train conductors and engineers to show their driver’s licenses when an accident occurs. The law is in place to keep train employees’ auto insurance rates from going up because their license numbers are on the accident report.

However, the deputy arrested Stokes for failure to identify himself and interference with public duties, both Class B misdemeanors. Stokes was booked into the Montgomery County Jail and bonded out for $1,500.

The deputy’s report noted that Stokes was “observed by three other law enforcement officers refusing to comply with the request I made for identification and making the task of completing the investigation impossible.”

A Department of Public Safety trooper on the scene advised the deputy that, by law, an engineer or conductor is only required by law to present his engineer’s card, DPS Sgt. Jovon Reed said in June.

“Per any peace officer’s training, the peace officer should know that is the identification he or she should be requesting,” Jovon said at the time.

Officials with the District Attorney’s office told Stokes’ attorney they were dropping the charges last week, according to Stokes.

“They said there was nothing to prosecute,” Stokes said. He also said a District Attorney’s official apologized to his attorney, but, “I have not heard a thing from the Sheriff’s Department.”

District Attorney Mike McDougal could not comment on the case because he wasn’t familiar with it, he said.


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Jersey foes rap freight tunnel

New Jersey officials are speaking out against $100 million federal transportation grant earmarked for design and engineering of a cross-harbor freight tunnel between the Greenville freight yard and Brooklyn.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, won the money for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as part of the $286 billion transportation bill that passed the House of Representatives and the Senate last month, but the windfall came as a surprise to Port Authority officials, who say they were not expecting the money, nor do they intend to spearhead the roughly $7 billion project.

“For us to say that we’re committed at this point in time and can commit any funds to it would be premature,” Port Authority Executive Director Kenneth J. Ringler, Jr. told The New York Times.

“The governors of our two states have been very clear where they feel our priorities should be.”

In New Jersey, officials are speaking out against the proposed tunnel for fear that it could hold up another pending project: a $6 billion passenger rail tunnel that will eventually stretch from Secaucus to a new station at 34th Street in Manhattan, reports the Jersey Journal.

“We are very happy that the Port Authority doesn’t seem to consider it a priority,” said David Donnelly, a special assistant to Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy. “It’s more important for Jersey City to find solutions to get commuters out of cars than it is to find a way to get more freight into New York City.”

Donnelly said the tunnel would also block trains trying to access Greenville warehouses through the national railroad network, a setup that would end up hurting local businesses.

Sen. Jon Corzine, D-Hoboken, also promised to keep his eye on the more pressing project.

“The priority of everyone is essentially to open mass-transit and unclog the streets,” Corzine said while recently speaking to reporters about homeland security at Exchange Place.


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Bill would charge rails for training

Proposed legislation would raise funds for training safety personnel and to develop evacuation plans in cities adjoining heavily used railroad lines.

California state Sen. Nell Soto, D, said on Thursday he is introducing legislation that would let cities bill railroads for the costs of training safety personnel to respond to derailments and for developing evacuation plans, The Press-Enterprise of Riverside, Calif. reported.

The proposal comes in response to an April derailment that forced the evacuation of some 300 people in San Bernardino. Speaking outside San Bernardino City Hall, Soto criticized “general confusion about the evacuation process.”

He said, “I have a lot of respect for the brave police officers, firefighters and other public servants who are the first to respond to this type of incident,” and added, “It is unfair, though, to expect them to draw up evacuation plans on the fly.”

Soto’s legislation would permit local governments to bill railroads for the costs of developing detailed plans. Her chief of staff, Paul Van Dyke, said it’s too early to say exactly how much such programs might cost.

He estimated the cost of developing a detailed evacuation plan for San Bernardino at around $20,000.

Both major railroads in the area, Union Pacific and BNSF Ry., oppose the legislation. Mark Davis, a UP spokesman, said his company already provides free training to safety personnel.

After the April derailment near Macy Street and Foothill Boulevard, firefighters evacuated two neighborhoods.

Some overturned railroad cars contained dangerous chemicals, including chlorine. During the cleanup, some 200 gallons of a liquid solvent spilled from a tank car. Officials said the chemical posed no danger, but on Thursday, several residents complained of health problems, such as breathing difficulties and skin rashes.

San Bernardino officials have questioned the value of detailed evacuation orders. In such situations, residents are directed out of the area, and officials may use neighborhood schools for emergency shelters. During a June hearing about the derailment, Battalion Chief Howard Bennett said a highly detailed, rigid plan might expose people to dangers they could avoid by leaving the area altogether.

Still, Battalion Chief Jess Campos said Thursday his department would welcome any extra money provided through Soto’s proposed law.


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UP, CSX ready to move fruits, veggies

Union Pacific and CSX have joined up to ship produce cross-country on a new high speed, dedicated unit train. The 55-car train will begin making the nearly five-day trip (124 hours) between Wallula, Wash., and Albany, N.Y., in first-quarter 2006. It’s being billed as a trucking alternative.

Railtex LLC will own and operate both of the new loading and unloading centers, as well as manage handling and distribution of product at each end. Such products as apples, pears, onions, and potatoes will be carried in 64-foot insulated refrigerator cars. They also have energy-efficient cooling systems and GPS monitoring to ensure proper temperature control.


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Railroad offers track as tax payment

Camden County, Ga. commissioners considered an offer on August 3 from bankrupt Durango-Georgia Paper Company’s St. Mary’s Railroad to exchange a 5-mile stretch of its track for tax relief.

The company offered the former right-of-way to the county as payment for $109,000 in overdue taxes and $84,000 in estimated taxes for the next three years.

Commissioners said that price would work out to a price of about $200,000 per acre for the property, or about 10 times higher than the last piece of rail property that the county converted to a bike and walking trail.

Commissioners did not act on the proposal.


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Rail freight traffic rises

Freight traffic on U.S. railroads was up slightly during the week ended August 6 in comparison with the corresponding week last year, the AAR reported Thursday.

Carload freight for the week totaled 330,667 cars, up 1.0 percent from last year. Carload traffic was up 2.8 percent in the West but down 1.1 percent in the East.

Intermodal volume, which is not included in the carload data, totaled 230,013 trailers or containers, up 7.6 percent from last year, with containers up 9.5 percent and trailers up 2.6 percent.

Total volume was estimated at 32.7 billion ton-miles, up 1.9 percent from last year.

Twelve of 19 carload commodity groups were up from last year.

Double-digit increases were reported in loadings of farm products other than grain, up 69.8 percent; grain, up 13.2 percent; and nonmetallic minerals, up 17.0 percent. Sharp declines were reported in loadings of waste and scrap materials, off 13.2 percent; and primary forest products, down 11.7 percent.

Cumulative volume for the first 31 weeks of 2005 totaled 10,288,113 carloads, up 1.4 percent from 2004; 6,775,690 trailers or containers, up 6.1 percent; and total volume of an estimated 983.4 billion ton-miles, up 2.3 percent from last year.

On Canadian railroads, during the week ended August 6 carload traffic totaled 72,437 cars, up 5.3 percent from last year, while intermodal volume totaled 39,725 trailers or containers, down 3.3 percent from last year.

Cumulative originations for the first 31 weeks of 2005 on the Canadian railroads totaled 2,345,758 carloads, down 0.4 percent from last year, and 1,306,424 trailers and containers, up 2.1 percent from last year.

Combined cumulative volume for the first 31 weeks of 2005 on U.S. and Canadian railroads totaled 12,633,871 carloads, up 1.1 percent from last year and 8,082,114 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 August 6 totaled 8,553 cars, down 2.8 percent from last year. TFM reported intermodal volume of 3,801 originated trailers or containers, up 0.8 percent from the 31st week of 2004. For the first 31 weeks of 2005, TFM reported cumulative originated volume of 264,486 cars, up 0.2 percent from last year, and 118,156 trailers or containers, up 6.7 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)55.2054.38
Canadian National (CNI)67.7566.12
Canadian Pacific (CP) 39.1837.83
CSX (CSX)44.6944.80
Florida East Coast (FLA)43.0545.25
Genessee & Wyoming (GWR)29.4330.15
Kansas City Southern (KSU)21.4021.79
Norfolk Southern (NSC)37.0537.02
Providence & Worcester (PWX)14.0014.65
Union Pacific (UNP)69.1969.72


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ACCROSS THE POND...  Across the pond...

ICE Trains in Germany

Deutsche Bahn

An Intercity Express 1 leaves Hannover Haupbahnhof in 2002.

 

Deutsche Bahn to upgrade its ICE-1s

By David Beale
D:F European Correspondent

Deutsche Bahn said last week that it will begin a major refurbishment and upgrade of its Intercity Express-1 fleet of high-speed trains. The first upgraded ICE-1 train set recently completed testing trials, and entered revenue service August 5.

In a press release, DB stated it has given the go-ahead to upgrade all 59 active ICE-1 trainsets.

DB lost most of one ICE-1 trainset in the June 1998 high-speed derailment in Eschede, Germany in which 100 people died, as well as a power car to an electrical fire in Hanua a couple of years later. The oldest of the ICE-1 train sets have passed the 7 million km (4.35 million miles) mark on the odometer and are 15 years old.

The upgrade package includes a major retrofit of the car interiors from the familiar green and white color scheme to ICE-3’s light gray and wood trim interior design as well as the same seat design used in the ICE-3 train sets.

With the new seats, removal of wardrobe closets and a conference room plus reconfiguration of the restaurant car and first class sections in each train set seating capacity is increased to 192 first-class and 506 in coach from the current 144 first and 421 coach (varies from trainset to trainset in the old configuration).

Passenger information displays at the ends of each coach receive an upgrade to color LCD flat screens which show upcoming station stops with expected arrival times and connecting train information updated in real time by an on-board satellite navigation system and digital communications system linked to DB’s dispatch centers. Most seats will receive 220-volt AC power outlets for laptop computers.

The power cars (locomotives) will be fully overhauled and equipped with newly designed wheel truck frames as well as GSM-R digital mobile phone, voice and text messaging devices for the locomotive engineers and provisions for future European-wide signaling, train control and train protection technology.

The coaches will receive higher capacity air conditioning systems and an on-board electronic seat reservation system. The upgrade package will cost approximately € 3 million per trainset and will be performed by Deutsche Bahn’s own ICE train overhaul center in Nürnberg over the next two years.

Some of the ICE-1 fleet is currently equipped to operate into Austria or Switzerland, which both have different signal and train control systems from DB’s LZB system, although all three countries share the same 15,000 volt, 16.7 Hz AC electric traction power standard.

No modifications are planned at this time to make the ICE-1 trains compatible with other countries overhead traction power supplies such as the 25 kv, 50 Hz AC system in France, Czech Republic, Denmark and Hungary; or the 3,000-volt DC power used in Italy, Poland and Belgium.


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Aussie rail strike would affect freight moves

The Newcastle, Australia, region’s freight rail operations were expected to be disrupted Friday, due to strike action by about 500 Hunter-based Pacific National employees.

The workers have joined more than 2,000 Rail, Tram and Bus Union members across Australia in the industrial action, and on Friday held a mass meeting at Carrington to discuss their options, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported on Friday.

The union’s state secretary, Nick Lewocki, says the workers and the company have been unable to agree on a pay increase and roster changes.

“This company is not serious with negotiations, it is serious about cutting back on benefits our members already have and they’re being very tough in regards to, I suppose, such things as a reasonable pay offer.... After 54 meetings they’re not prepared to put a pay offer on the table,” he said.


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OPINION...  Opinion...

Transportation troubles

By Michael S. Dukakis

Governor Dukakis wrote this essay for the August 6 Boston Globe. – Ed.

FOR THOSE of us who ride the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority on a regular basis, the news that ridership has gone down for the first time in years is not a revelation.

Service is deteriorating. Stations look shabbier. Graffiti is everywhere.

Escalators are invariably out of service. The public address systems in many stations are virtually unintelligible. Since the Romney administration took over, we have been treated to the wholesale spamming of the system. Buses and streetcars are covered with booze and bleach ads. Park Street has been turned into advertising heaven, and we are being submerged there in a welter of Dove Curves ads that cover virtually every square inch of wall space and feature a bevy of young women in their underwear.

In the meantime, you can hardly blame people for being concerned about security. In a move that began under the Weld administration and continues, starters and inspectors have been denied the opportunity to add their talent to the T’s security forces.

One of the best things William Bratton did as the T’s police chief in the 1980s was to provide these senior T workers with law enforcement training and turn them into special unarmed police officers that dramatically expanded security efforts and produced stunning reductions in crime on the T. As Scot Lehigh reported recently, subsequent administrations have stubbornly refused to use this resource to expand transit security and reassure the public. The current corps of starters and inspectors is ready to do the job at no additional cost to the MBTA. In light of our current concerns, T management ought to jump at the chance to enlist them in security efforts.

One has to wonder about our current transportation priorities, particularly as they relate to the region’s public transportation system. Millions of dollars that could extend commuter rail to Hyannis are being spent on a flyover at the Sagamore Bridge that, I predict, will do little or nothing for the summer backups that occur there and at the Bourne Bridge. Some $230 million dollars are being spent to add a lane to Route 128 between Wellesley and Milton – a project that seems to have little or no connection to the Commonwealth’s professed commitment to “smart growth,” and will inevitably make the backup at the Route 3 split even worse.

At least some of that money could provide important and needed improvements in commuter rail service to Worcester, Fitchburg and Lawrence or get us started on the extension of train service to Fall River and New Bedford.

The state’s current transportation planners seem determined to push ahead with a half-mile bus tunnel under Boston that will cost nearly a $1 billion while ignoring the enormous benefits that would result from the building of the North-South rail link and ending the absurdity of bringing trains into downtown Boston, turning them around at North and South Stations, and sending them back out again. The rail link project not only would dramatically improve regional rail service. It would take 60,000 cars off the road every day.

Finally, it seems clear that tying the T to a single penny on the sales tax as its sole source of state funding was a serious mistake. Sales tax revenue rises and falls. It is subject to all the vagaries of the economy. It is a poor way to provide the kind of financial base that our public transportation system needs.

Nothing is more important to the Commonwealth’s economic future than a first-class transportation infrastructure. It is anything but that. Our highways are in the worst shape they have been in decades. Potholes and rusting bridges are the order of the day. The T itself which, until recently, had been the best public transportation system in the country, is showing more and more signs of neglect. If there is one lesson we should have learned a long time ago, the failure to maintain our transportation infrastructure will cost us millions down the road.

It may be too much to ask a governor who clearly has his eyes on other things to find his way to Ashmont Station with the right fare in his pocket, but I don’t think we are asking for too much when we insist they get serious about the future of the Commonwealth’s infrastructure and what could and should be the best public transportation system in the country.

That means getting our priorities straight; putting first class maintenance at the top of our to do list; using all of the resources we have to guarantee that it is safe and secure; and making it what it should be—one of the jewels in the Commonwealth’s crown.

Former Massachusetts Governor Michael S. Dukakis is a professor at Northeastern Univ. He was nominated by the Democratic Party as its candidate for President in 1988.


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LETTERS...  We get letters...

Dear Editor:

Good coverage of the [Florida] sinkhole (D:F August 8, “New York-Philadelphia trains stop; sinkhole disrupts Amtrak, CSX”), but you forgot to mention P00131 (CSX’s designation for Amtrak No. 1), the westbound Sunset Limited. The Sunset was stopped just north of Sanford, Fla.

I was on No. 1. After sitting for several hours we backed down to the Sanford AutoTrain terminal where we waited alongside the AutoTrain several more hours until Amtrak decided to bus us to New Orleans. Near midnight they pulled out the AutoTrain so we could use the platform to detrain.

Overall, Amtrak personnel kept passengers well informed, and there were free sodas and chips in Sanford while waiting for the buses. With buses straggling in from Florida, the Sunset of July 31 left New Orleans about six hours late, using the equipment from the east bound which had been terminated there (New Orleans station staff were not as good on the information side).

Union Pacific then went to work on the train over the next two days, costing us another 12 hours. Due in Los Angeles at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 3, we in fact arrived at 4:00 a.m. on August 4 – 18 hours late.

On Wednesday night after feeding the sleeper passengers, Amtrak opened the diner for free to all coach passengers as part compensation. Amtrak also made sure passengers knew the additional delays were due to Union Pacific.

18 hours was double my previous worst time performance in 46 years of rail travel in North America. Ironically, the eastbound P002 Sunset Limited that arrived in Orlando on July 30 was actually early. In L.A., I proceeded north on P014, the Coast Starlight. Another good trip, but with UP delays added 10 hours to that run.

Overall, though, it was a great trip, great scenery, good food, and good crews.

Jim Langston
Clearwater, Fla.


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

Retired railroader fights for Amtrak

During a 33-year career as a railroad ticket agent, Kenneth Geispert of McCook, Neb. saw first-hand the convenience and economy of traveling on passenger trains.

Even now – 23 years after retiring – Geispert is urging Nebraskans to join him in the fight to save Amtrak service. He is particularly concerned about the California Zephyr route, which travels from Chicago to the outskirts of San Francisco and passes through McCook.

Geispert is asking residents to appeal to governors, senators and Congressional representatives for support.

Quoting from a newsletter he receives, Geispert asked citizens to “support the preservation, improvement and expansion of Amtrak rail passenger service all across the nation. Amtrak has many opponents, both in Congress and the Transportation Department, and its very survival is at stake.”

In this era of rising gasoline costs, Geispert says it makes sense for America to invest in Amtrak. He joins other Amtrak supporters in pointing out that Europe, Japan and Australia already make substantial investments to improve passenger service.

During his career, Geispert served as a ticket agent for the former Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (CB&Q), the former Burlington Northern and Amtrak. He started in 1949, the same year the California Zephyr made its debut, and continued on the job until the last day of May 1982.

He remembers many loyal passenger train users, including Dean Krotter of Palisade.

One of the problems faced by Amtrak is the lack of local promotion. With limited funds, local boarding times and rates are not advertised. Those wishing to travel by Amtrak must seek out information to make their travel plans.

For people who go to the trouble, there are advantages to rail passenger travel. Geispert said passenger trains are both economical and convenient, especially for trips to the closest cities: Denver and Lincoln. A bonus is that rail passengers have the advantage of a close-up look at the countryside.


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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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